Title: Make Me a Match
Summary: Eugene is baffled by Rapunzel's sudden interest in a matchmaker.
Rating: T for colorful language and innuendo
Written for the Tangled Fic Exchange.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
Make Me a Match
Eugene fidgeted in his chair. He wasn't supposed to lounge during petitions—no legs stretched out, no hands behind his head, no propped chin. Sure, lounging might be more comfortable, but it also gave the impression of being disrespectful of the King and Queen and unsympathetic about people's concerns. Or so he'd been told. But sitting poker straight for hours on end was torture and it was absurdly hot this afternoon. A lock of his hair was sticking to his forehead, no doubt tarnishing his natural good looks, which was a damn shame too. He surreptitiously pulled at the collar of his shirt, checking first to make sure the Queen's ever observant gaze wasn't trained on him.
In checking, he happened to notice Rapunzel twisting in her chair, both hands gripping one of its gilded arms and looking even more engrossed than usual in what passed before her. Reaching over, he poked her in the side and nodded towards the dais, where the King was intently listening to yet another petitioner.
Drawing his brows together, Eugene mouthed, 'What?' He hadn't exactly been listening, so there was no telling what had set her mind spinning.
She spun in her chair, leaning towards him. "What's a matchmaker?" she whispered.
"Uh, someone who makes matches for people," he whispered back, still looking over Rapunzel's shoulder to make sure the Queen wasn't watching them. She didn't exactly get angry; she ended up Disappointed, and somehow that was a lot worse. Rapunzel seemed unconcerned by her mother's potential reaction to their tête-à-tête, however. She continued to stare at him, as if his statement hadn't been the least bit enlightening. It probably hadn't been. "You know, puts people together romantically, matches them up with suitable matches—matchmaker," he tried again.
Her face brightened. "Oh my goodness, Eugene, this lady is a matchmaker."
He failed to see how this was such exciting news. He spared the current petitioner a brief appraisal. She was an elderly lady, a little bent over with a red kerchief covering her white hair.
"Do you think she'll make a match for me?" she asked, biting her lower lip in barely contained enthusiasm.
He blinked once, twice. Finally finding his voice, he whispered hoarsely, "For you?"
She clasped her hands together at her chest, nodding quickly. "I'd like that more than anything."
Maybe he hadn't quite explained this properly. He cleared his throat. "We should talk about this later. Your mother is giving us a look." Thankfully. Anything to end this line of questioning, even queenly disappointment of the first degree.
Rapunzel turned back to face the petitioners, hands folded primly in her lap once more, but he could see the notion still dancing in her eyes.
A match for Rapunzel?
He wiped his suddenly sweaty hands on his trousers, as he stared blindly at the continued parade of petitioners.
Eugene collapsed on his bed, the air leaving his lungs in a whoosh. For once he was glad that he had to keep his door ajar while Rapunzel visited him in his bedchamber, because at least it resulted in some cross ventilation from the open balcony window. If he wanted time alone with her uninterrupted, he had ways and nighttime was a much better bet.
"Hey Blondie, you wanna fan me?" he murmured, as he unhooked his vest and shrugged his arms out of it.
She ignored his suggestion as she climbed atop the bed, holding Pascal in one hand.
"Today was so interesting," she said, as she crossed her legs underneath herself and placed Pascal in her lap. There was no hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"Oh, yeah, I was riveted." There was plenty of it in his.
"You should have been there," she said earnestly to Pascal, scratching him lightly atop his head.
"Trust me," Eugene said, rolling his head to the side to address the frog pillowed in her skirts, "you were way happier in the garden."
Pascal squeaked, tilting his head either in agreement with Eugene's assessment or in appreciation for Rapunzel's ministrations. Eugene wasn't sure which.
"We have a duty to listen to the petitions of the people, Eugene."
Now she sounded remarkably like the Queen, instead of simply looking like her doppelganger. He wanted to remind her that the duty was all hers, but the remark sounded petulant even in his head, so instead he whined, "You couldn't breathe in that throne room."
"It was a little warm," she admitted, stroking the nape of her neck.
He watched the tips of her fingers slide over her skin and into the mess of cropped, dark locks. He watched for a half beat and then he made the monumental effort to sit up.
"Wouldn't you rather have been outside?" he suggested, as he brushed her choppy hair up off her neck. "Just the two of us?" He finished his question by blowing across her neck.
Her shoulder scrunched to meet her ear. "Eugene," she murmured, sounding conflicted. "Someone could walk by."
He glanced toward the door—no guards wandering by, no errant kings or queens.
He hummed in response, kissing her squarely on the ridge of her neck. She tasted of salt, because even princesses sweat and not always from overheated throne rooms either. "I'm just trying to cool you off," he said innocently, his hand trailing up her arm. "My actions are completely above suspicion," he mumbled against her ear.
He was just about to drag his teeth over her earlobe when her hand came up and covered his face.
"We're embarrassing Pascal."
Indeed, as he peeked through her splayed fingers he could see that the frog had hightailed it for the carved headboard of his bed and had turned a deep shade of pink.
"Why don't we ignore him for the moment," he suggested, trying unsuccessfully to nip one of her fingers, but she was pushing his face away most resolutely, mashing his nose in the process.
"I can't just ignore how it makes him feel."
Eugene could. Pascal wasn't so bad, but he was a frog. Frogs shouldn't even get embarrassed.
He groaned, slumping back and uselessly trying to push his rolled shirtsleeves up higher. Add frustrated to really freaking hot. He would have taken the damn thing off, but there would be no easy explanation if someone wandered in on them with his shirt missing. As nice as it was when Rapunzel investigated the planes of his chest with her deft fingers, now really was not the time.
She pushed back her hair, collecting herself once he was a safe distance away from her on the bed. Sighing, she looked from Pascal to Eugene. "I really need the help of that matchmaker. Do you think she'd help me?"
"You're the princess. Everyone is just dying to help you." That sounded more resentful than he'd intended, but this whole topic made him feel really pathetic.
"You think she'd charge a lot?" Her brow furrowed in concern, as if the King and Queen wouldn't shell out whatever amount necessary to make their daughter happy. Even if that included showing Eugene Fitzherbert the door, and he liked to congratulate himself that they were kind of fond of him and would be sorry to see him go if that was the case. "I suppose it would be worth it even if she did…of course it would be." Rapunzel looked very serious when she was arguing with herself.
Eugene rubbed the back of his neck and grimaced. "You really want the services of a matchmaker?"
"I don't think I can find a match on my own. I've thought about it and I wouldn't even know where to start."
He had the urge to throw his arms out wide and say—hello, the guy who died for you, sitting right here!—but the words dried up on his tongue.
"I mean, how do you go about finding a match? I don't have a clue: you just turned up in my tower." She looked sideways at him as she tucked her hair behind her ears in a way that he would have taken for flirtation if the conversation hadn't undermined the effect.
As unquestionably charming and irresistible as he was, Eugene always had a niggling doubt that given a choice Rapunzel wouldn't have chosen him as a guide, let alone as a boyfriend. He'd simply been the first guy to scale her walls.
Yes, she'd hit a nerve.
"Well," he scoffed, "finding them might not be your forte, but you certainly know how to seal the deal, don't you? A little barbaric, knocking your suitors over the head with a frying pan. Effective, but a little unconventional in terms of romancing." But everything about Rapunzel was unusual. And seeing the world through her eyes remade it for him into a place he liked a hell of a lot better. The threat of having that taken away from him made him jittery and bad tempered.
"You weren't a suitor—you were an intruder."
"This is serious, Eugene," she lectured him softly.
"You might try a personal ad," he offered coolly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"A personal ad?" she parroted back, looking as if he was finally giving her some useful information. "What's that?"
"You place an ad in the newspaper, describing what it is your little heart desires: single white female seeks clichéd prince charming, white horse, and sprawling castle." Of course, she already had all of that except the prince charming.
"You list what you want and someone just gives it to you?"
"Yeah," he sniffed, "I'm sure you'll have dozens of responses by week's end." His prominent presence here in the heart of the royal family had been the only thing between Rapunzel and the suitors thus far. "The Royal Post won't know what hit them. Mountains of mail."
She slipped from the bed, her skirts dragging and catching on the coverlet to expose two lovely calves as she hit the ground. He scowled at those perfectly turned legs even as her skirts fell back in place and she hurried over to the headboard, stretching out a hand for Pascal, who was beginning to fade back to his normal green.
"I'm going to go get to work on that ad," she explained, as she placed Pascal on her shoulder. "So I can find the perfect match as soon as possible. This is so exciting!" she squealed, looking to him for agreement that was not forthcoming before spinning away.
He watched her scurry from the room, staring dumbly after her.
Eugene sat dully at dinner with the King and Queen. The sound of clinking knives and forks and glasses was the only sound during the meal after the long hot day. They were exhausted from hearing petitions; he was exhausted from trying to figure out his impossibly weird girlfriend. He didn't always understand her. They were different. Very different. But he wanted to understand her.
Of course, if Rapunzel was present there would have been some lively conversation despite the heat and general fatigue, since she never seemed to wilt or fade, but she had failed to materialize. It wasn't completely unheard of: sometimes she got lost in her painting or in an elaborate geometry equation and forgot what time it was, but she always eventually joined them with a smudge of yellow paint across her cheek or ink stains on her fingers.
The large clock standing along the wall chimed her noticeable absence once more, however, and Eugene could see by the King's slight frown that her father was beginning to grow concerned. The Princess' reappearance had not assuaged all the King and Queen's anxieties in regard to their daughter.
"Maybe someone should go look for her," the Queen gently suggested, placing her hand over her husband's.
Eugene knew he was Someone. He often knew the Princess' whereabouts better than the palace staff and could be counted on to ferret her out.
"I'll be back, Princess in tow," he promised, as he pushed his chair back with a heavy scratch of wood on marble tile.
It didn't take much imagination or intuition to find her, as she was in her bedchamber, where she should have easily heard the dinner chime. She was hunched over her writing desk, wearing the same pale yellow gown as earlier, with several discarded pieces of wadded up paper scattered around her on the floor.
He knocked at the open door, leaning casually against its frame. "Blondie," he called, when she still continued to stare at the page before her, quill gripped tightly in her hand. Her head finally snapped up. "You've missed half of dinner."
"I'm not hungry," she said, waving him off and turning back to her writing.
It really was too hot to eat and he'd spent most of dinner pushing his food around on his plate. Instead, it was his plan to slink off once the sun went down to find ample adult refreshment to help numb his mind.
He shoved off the door and strolled into the room. "Look, if you don't come down and have some dessert you'll have your parents thinking you're sick. It wouldn't be much of a sacrifice: strawberry sorbet." Her favorite.
She sighed, resting her quill in its holder. "I'd come down, but I'm having trouble writing this."
He slid his hands into his pockets, trying to appear relaxed, although he had a sinking feeling he knew what it was that had her so absorbed. "Writing what?"
"The personal ad."
"Slow going, huh," he responded flatly.
"Yeah. I want to be sure to ask for all the right qualities in a mate, but I'm not sure what those are."
Mate? Eugene would have cursed, but the coughing fit that overcame him preempted the string of vitriol that almost tripped off his tongue.
She hopped up from her desk, all bare feet and wide eyes, and came over to pound him on the back. He attempted to shrug her off, but her helpfulness would not be deterred. As his coughing petered out, he could better make out her worried little patter of words, the same sort of effortless tenderness she usually bestowed upon Pascal and the children of Corona.
Flynn would have turned his nose up at it, but Eugene loved it, loved everything about Rapunzel cooing and petting and fussing over him. He wouldn't admit it out loud, but he wasn't going to stop her either. So, he would have pulled her into his arms for a kiss if he wasn't increasingly concerned that perhaps to her there was no difference between the frog and the street urchins and himself. Why else would she think she needed a mate, when he was standing right before her?
His girlfriend may have been fretting about finding a match for herself, but perhaps that was his fault. Maybe being on his best behavior all these months had dulled his undeniable animal magnetism. Maybe he needed to spice things up a bit, remind her why she'd fallen for him in the first place.
If he could only figure out why that was.
"I'm fine," he finally managed, as she soothingly petted his arm.
"Will you help me?" she asked sweetly with eyes so round and sincere that he was certain his heart would crack in half and then he'd beg her not to look for someone else.
He'd promise to be the boyfriend she deserved. He'd stop taunting Maximus. He'd make friends with the Captain. He'd sing duets with her while Hook Hand played the piano. He'd offer to marry her.
What a stupendously pathetic proposal that would be.
She tugged at his arm, trying to draw him towards her desk. She looked hopeful, as if he would know just the right things to put in her personal ad, so she'd find the perfect match for herself.
"Sorry, I'm not going to help you write that."
"Why not? Don't you want us all to be happy?"
She had the same Disappointed Face as her mother, he realized, and it was almost as effective. Almost, but she was simply asking way too much of him.
"That's more selflessness than I can muster, babe. Dying for you was my limit, okay?" It couldn't hurt to remind her what she meant to him, right? Even if it was a little manipulative.
She frowned. "I wish you'd be a little more enthusiastic about this. It's our future."
If their future included some other guy, Eugene had no intention of sticking around. Flynn Rider wasn't so much of a distant memory that he couldn't play at that game again. Shitty as that sounded.
He pulled his hand free of hers. "I'll tell your parents you're not coming."
He didn't wait for her answer.
The week passed and Rapunzel didn't bring up finding a mate again. Perhaps she had just misunderstood the whole matchmaker thing to begin with, figured it out, and let it go, like the other multitude of misunderstandings that had cropped up since she'd emerged from eighteen years of forced isolation. So, he let it go too. Brooding wasn't actually all that enticing, he had to admit, so he tried to pretend the whole fiasco had never happened and practice that winning smile of his instead.
Besides, it was hard to be huffy when she was painting invisible words on his back with one of her paintbrushes.
He'd come to visit her in her airy studio and found her hard at work on a painting of Pascal. One of many in fact, as there were dozens of Pascal paintings propped and drying against the walls.
"None of these do him justice," she'd frowned, eyes narrowed and hand to her mouth, judging her latest attempt.
"You've done plenty of really good paintings of Pascal." One hung in the Corona National Art Gallery, and he couldn't see what was wrong with any of these either.
"It's important that I show him off to his best advantage. Make him as appealing as possible."
A stool was serving as a pedestal for her model, but Pascal had passed out, curled up in a shaft of sunlight. Apparently this had been one likeness too many for the poor little guy. Eugene couldn't help but feel for him: he'd sat more than once for Rapunzel's endless sessions and they were exhausting. The end result— his striking likeness preserved for posterity—was gratifying. Rapunzel knew how to capture a guy's nose, no problem. But the process he could do without.
"Look at that face," he'd said, gesturing to the painting she was still working on: "He couldn't be more… more frog-like." Another painting's expression was practically come hither, which was sort of weird, but hey, whatever. "I'm sure amongst this extensive collection you've created you can find one that you like. You just need some distance from it. Perspective. Come on, take a break with me," he'd coaxed, trying to draw her away from her work with an arm looped around her middle.
She'd finally conceded, saying, "I am out of canvas."
That didn't usually stop her.
In his best Flynn Rider voice, he'd promised, "I'll be your canvas, sweetheart."
He hadn't expected her to take him up on his teasing offer, but she'd grabbed a clean brush and helped him roll one of his sleeves up another inch or two, before directing him to keep his eyes shut—no cheating!—as they sat facing each other, cross-legged on the floor. He'd quickly frustrated her with his inability to properly guess what it was she was drawing on him, however.
"Your arms are too small."
He'd opened his eyes and stared down at his tanned arm cradled in her small hand. "My arms are big and muscular. They're exceedingly manly arms."
"No, I need a bigger canvas. Or a smaller paintbrush," she'd mused, glancing around the room.
He'd show her. "I have a better solution."
And that's how he'd ended up unhooking his vest, unrolling his shirtsleeves, and pulling his shirt over his head.
She hadn't said anything during his process of disrobing, but her freckles had disappeared in a flush of pink when he'd emerged from his shirt.
How's that for animal magnetism? "See? Bigger canvas," he'd said nonchalantly, turning his back to her.
Remaining indifferent was another story. As usual, she managed without any apparent effort to turn the tables on him.
The paintbrush on his back felt preposterously soft. All the hairs on his arms were standing at attention as she made a slow swipe from his shoulder blade down to his hip. He twisted his shirt in his hands. A line, an arc, a loop, a dot. His nostrils flared. He was torn between wanting her to stop this acute torture and flipping around to increase it.
"There. What did that say?"
"Uh…" He hadn't really been paying attention, but he made a stab at it, "Eugene."
She poked him with the opposite end of the brush. "Not even close. Were you even paying attention?"
"Of course I was. This was my idea wasn't it?" he said, sounding appropriately affronted. "Your letters are sloppy."
She smoothed a hand across his back, as if erasing her work and then her brush made contact with his skin again, just at his shoulder. He really focused this time on the downward swoop towards his hip, because it was better to try to figure through this word she was drawing than let his mind wander to…
Did I just arch my back? No, way. It was just a damn paintbrush. He couldn't be undone by a paintbrush.
Or maybe he could.
"Sorry." Sorry he'd ever taken his shirt off. Little had he known that flimsy, white thing was a veritable suit of armor against the Temptation that was Rapunzel.
Her brush stopped and he exhaled a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, falling against him, her cheek pressing into his back. "You are paying attention."
"Your letters weren't as sloppy this time," he muttered, trying to ignore her hands snaking around his chest. Prince? Maybe she hadn't forgotten about her stupid perfect match after all.
"Wait, wait, I'm not finished," she said, sitting back upright, so that he suddenly felt the loss of her.
Her brush began to draw along his back once more. He stopped her after the first four letters: "Charming." Great. Awesome. Terrific.
"Just what I want," she purred, pressing a kiss between his shoulder blades. He began to untwist his shirt, preparing to pull it back on even as her fingers traced some unreadable patterns at his waist. "Prince Eugene, so very charming." He froze, his hands gripping the shirt tightly. "I wrote one for you too, you know, for fun."
"Wrote one what, babe?" he asked, his voice carefully level.
"A personal ad. Princess of Corona seeks handsome, reformed thief, good with sticky windows."
Okay, she officially made no sense. But her hands had found the waistband of his trousers, and suddenly, trying to figure through her shenanigans this past week seemed markedly less important. Maybe she really was crazy enough to actually think of him as her Prince Charming.
He cleared his throat. "Your hands were writing something else just a second ago."
"They have a mind of their own," she admitted with a sigh.
Parts of him suffered from the same condition. "They wrote something a little longer, so it's a good thing I was paying close attention, using my top-notch observational skills."
Her nose rubbed against his shoulder. "What did they say?"
"Something like: will you be climbing up to my window tonight, you handsome rogue?"
She giggled. Her head ducked under his arm, nudging it aside to make room for herself, and she looked awkwardly up at him. "You're good at this game."
"I'm good at a lot of things. You want me to show you some others?"
At first it was a light sensation on his chest. Once upon a time that would have been enough to wake him, but he hadn't had to worry about being robbed in the middle of the night for some time and his reflexes were dulled. Then there was something by his ear. A noise that was annoying and threatened to pull him out of his sleep altogether. He fought it, brushing his hand across the pillow with a sleepy grunt.
A tongue in the ear was what finally did it though.
"Pascal," he groaned, punching the mattress with a clenched fist and squeezing his eyes tightly, because he didn't need to open them to see who would be perched on his pillow. He was very familiar with this disgusting sensation: frog tongue in ear.
But maybe Rapunzel was the one that had brought her rude pet to him in the middle of the night. He opened his eyes, scanning the dark room for signs of his girl.
Pascal hopped atop his chest and immediately began gesturing, bobbing, and chirping.
"What is it, froggie—is Rapunzel in trouble?" he asked flatly. "Did she fall in a well?"
The frog waved his little green arms and whirred.
"Do you know what time it is? Unless there's a fire, I don't want to be woken up." The frog was relentless, and Eugene had an unpleasant thought. "Is there a fire?" The frog paused to shake his head, allowing Eugene to feel secure in being irritated and not concerned. "Then go back to Rapunzel's bedchamber and climb in bed." He scrubbed his face, mumbling, "It's what I'd do." If there weren't guards outside her door waiting to practice using their handy frying pans.
Pascal ran to the end of the bed, chirping and pointing toward the door. He refused to leave even when Eugene shook the sheets. It may not have been a fire, but whatever it was, the frog clearly thought it was important.
Eugene frowned. "Okay, hold on. Avert your eyes," he said as he slipped from the bed yawning. He stumbled about the room, looking for his trousers until he found them slung over a chair. "I really don't want to scale a wall right now," he grumbled, as he slipped them over his hips.
But Pascal continued undeterred to squeak and gesture as he found a shirt and pulled it on.
"Fine, I'm coming," he said, scooping the frog off the bed and depositing him on his shoulder. The little guy latched onto his collar, when he threw open the balcony door. "So, I guess you do realize that if I fall, you're taking a tumble with me."
"And you still want to do this?" he asked, staring up the wall and testing a stone he knew made a good handhold. This wasn't his first clandestine rendezvous with Rapunzel. Not even this week.
A squeak confirmed it. They were really climbing this wall.
He was relieved when his hands found the ledge of her window and pulled himself up. He'd never fallen yet, but his first fall would no doubt be his last.
His feet hit the floor and he immediately saw her: she was draped over her desk, her head burrowed in her arms, her shoulders shaking.
"Babe," he said, striding over to her.
It had been months since he'd found her in a state like this. Months since something had reminded her of her tower or Gothel in a way that shattered her.
He crouched down to be closer to her eye level and rubbed her back over her soft, white shift.
She sniffed, one eye peeking out over her arm and from behind a short curtain of hair. She mumbled something that sounded like his name.
"Your little buddy came and got me," he explained, looking sideways at Pascal, who was still attached to his shirt.
She turned in her chair and threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him backwards on his heels.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he said as he carefully eased them back until they were entangled on the floor.
He waited patiently, while she wet his neck and shirt collar with tears. Pascal, on the other hand, had escaped for drier conditions atop the desk.
If she wanted to talk, she would, and he would listen. If she wanted to cry herself to sleep, he'd tuck her in when she was done, and then he'd sit on the floor until the sun crept over the horizon and he had to shimmy down the castle wall.
"Pascal is so good to me and I've been a bad friend," she finally said, sitting upright in his lap. Her eyes were red and her upper lip swollen from crying.
That sounded totally insane. "Babe, there's no way."
"I tried, I really did."
He stroked her hair, completely at a loss as to what she was on about. "Course you did."
"I got a note."
"A bad note." From the look on her face it had to be.
She wiped at her face with the heel of her hand. "From the matchmaker lady. Do you remember her?"
Did he ever. He tried not to go stiff, but his hand was immobile against the small of her back and not responding to him.
"She says she won't be able to help me. And no one responded to the personal ad I placed either. I waited for a week and nothing. If the Corona Gazette had only printed the picture like I wanted maybe someone would have written me…"
"Babe, you're killing me with this matchmaker stuff." Apparently his mouth was still working.
She bit her lip. "What?"
"I love you. I've said that, right?" It had taken him a while, but he was fairly certain he'd told her. More than once.
"Okay, so I don't particularly relish the idea of you having some woman find you a different boyfriend. I feel like maybe you need to tell me something." Like: thanks for everything, now hit the road.
She wiped again at her eyes, her mouth quirking slightly. "The matchmaker's not for me."
He frowned. "Not for you."
"No, why would I need a matchmaker?"
He scoffed, "I dunno. You've got me right here," he boasted, although his stomach was still in knots.
"Of course I do, silly."
"Silly," he deadpanned.
"The matchmaker was for Pascal. But she says she can't help with animals." Her brows drew together. "As if he's just an animal."
As if on cue, the frog peered over the edge of the desk and began chattering a little angrily.
"Pascal?" he repeated. It was both totally confusing and a monumental relief.
"Yes, of course. You didn't really think I meant…"
His hand came to life once more, snaking up to cup the back of her head and draw her towards him forcibly. Their lips came together a little off-center, but he corrected the impreciseness, drawing her bottom lip between his. She tasted of tears, and he didn't like that one bit. Not nearly as much as when she tasted like strawberry sorbet or Bordeaux wine or sweat. His other hand smoothed across her cheek, wiping away the dampness he felt there. He lost his mind for a moment when her lips parted against his. He swallowed back his impatience as his tongue met hers, but it still wasn't enough. Nothing was enough, so he tugged her just an inch closer, so he could feel the outline of her, soft and arching against him, her fists balling up his shirt at the shoulders. The little encouraging noise she made rang in his ears and vibrated in his mouth. It was almost enough to make him forget.
Foreheads pressed together, he broke the kiss before he forgot where he was or the promises he'd made to himself about Rapunzel. With eyes closed, he took hold of her shoulders and shifted her back, gaining a little breathing room. He needed it, he was breathing heavily.
She released his shirt from her crushing grip, and he opened his eyes to watch her test her lips with her fingers. They were even rosier than before.
"That was fantastic," she said sweetly.
He exhaled and ran his hand through his hair. Yeah, fucking fantastic. Which is why he had to stop.
"That's what I want for Pascal. I have to find some other way, because nothing I've tried has worked and Pascal needs a mate. I can't let him down."
There was something about women: once they were in a relationship, they wanted everyone else to be in one too. "You're assuming he wants a mate," he said, pressing a chaste kiss to her brow as his pulse began to slow. "Maybe he's the consummate bachelor."
"No, we're so happy and he's all by himself. If he had a mate, we'd all be happy."
The little guy shook his head and covered his eyes with his front feet.
"Are you sure about that?" Eugene asked, nodding towards the rosy colored frog. "That doesn't look like the face of a frog that wants a girlfriend."
Rapunzel craned her head around to decide for herself. "He's just shy."
"How old is he? Is he even old enough for a girlfriend?" That had always been one of the few details he cared about when seducing a girl: how old are you? Why shouldn't age be important in this case as well?
She ignored him, pressing on doggedly, "It's my job as his best friend to find someone for him."
"I don't know. Don't you think he'd find his own mate if he really wanted one? He probably knows where to go to find lady frogs better than any of the rest of us do."
She tilted her head. "May-be."
"Besides, you got to pick who you wanted to be with even though I was a wanted criminal at the time. You got to give Pascal the same choice. You might not pick the frog of Pascal's dreams for him."
"I know him pretty well," she hedged.
"Yeah, but maybe he's into dudes." She gave him a fearsome look and he put up his hands in surrender. "Hey, I'm just saying."
She looked back up at Pascal. "I just don't like the thought of him being left behind."
"Behind? Are you kidding?"
"Now that you've got me, he's got the freedom to find a special lady, because he knows you're taken care of," Eugene reminded her, tugging on her waist, so she rested against his chest once more.
"You think so?"
"Absolutely. So, instead of trying to find him a mate, you might just work on finding him his own digs."
She pressed a hand over his heart. "His own digs?"
"Yeah, a happening bachelor pad. Someplace he can entertain lady friends."
"I could do that," she said, her eyes lighting up with the prospect of a new project.
"Of course you could. It'd be someplace he doesn't always have to watch us make fools of ourselves. A swanky retreat. Just the kind of thing I always wanted."
Pascal seemed to approve of this notion. He turned a bright, sunny yellow and grinned from ear to ear—if he had ears, which Eugene could only assume he did.
Rapunzel was right. They could all be happy.
"You wanted to be alone," she reminded him, poking him in the chest. "On an island."
"Well, I didn't exactly chuck that dream. I am surrounded by piles of money. The Royal Treasury is just across the way," he said, gesturing over her shoulder. "And my tan's not bad."
"Eu-gene." She pursed her lips and he could tell she was biting back a giggle.
"Although, I'd be a hell of a lot more rested if Pascal hadn't woken me up. I need my beauty rest."
"You're pretty even without sleep," she said, reaching up to trace the length of his nose.
"Oh, you know it, sweetheart," he said, lowering his voice seductively.
"If you're alone on an island, it's a waste being pretty," she said knowingly with squinted eyes.
"Yeah, but I don't want that anymore, Blondie," he said, flipping her onto her back and crawling atop her.
She squealed, and he scrambled to cover her mouth. She'd get him killed yet.
She mumbled something against his hand. It may have been 'sorr-y' in that cute little voice of hers. God, she was impossibly adorable.
He waggled his brows. "Now I just want to be alone with you."