Eugene cracked an eye open to find a green blob with eyes sitting on his chest.
The "frog" was not actually a frog of course, but the chameleon Pascal, Rapunzel's constant lizard companion.
Pascal looked less than amused at still being called a frog, but the little guy didn't have much time to think about it because Eugene rolled over and planted his face into his pillow.
Only to snap his eyes back open a moment later when someone cleared their throat.
He rolled back over, upsetting Pascal again, to find the King standing at the foot of his bed.
Eugene blinked and then hopped to his feet, grabbing his shirt. "Your Majesty! Hi! Sorry!"
The King at least looked amused. "It's alright. It's early yet."
"What can I do for you?" Eugene asked as he hopped into his trousers clumsily, nearly falling over.
"I was hoping we could talk before my daughter wakes up."
Eugene stopped, his eyes wide. "Ah. Right. You want to talk. Before you say anything I would just like to tell you that nothing...bad or...or inappropriate has happened between me and Rapunzel. I swear. And...and nothing ever will." He stopped. "Wait. When I say nothing ever will, I mean-"
The King laughed a little. "You're as bad as she is, you know."
Eugene pulled his vest on slowly, looking confused. "How did you know my name?"
"Rapunzel told us," the King replied.
"Right. She would."
"And you do have your mother's eyes," the King commented.
Eugene stopped at that and took a deep breath. "Look, your Majesty. I appreciate that you remember my mother, but I don't really want to make a big deal out of any of this. It all happened a long time ago, and I'd rather focus on the here and now."
The King nodded. "Yes, then we should talk about your impending knighthood, and your intentions toward my daughter."
Eugene stared, eyes widening.
"While I had a great deal of respect and affection for your mother, Eugene, you've been a thief for a good number of years. Before we knight you...before I can give my blessing to any sort of long-term relationship you might want with my daughter, I need to know that you're turning things around."
"I am, Your Majesty," Eugene replied quickly. "I swear, I-"
He frowned at the older man. "Uh...how?"
"Well, that's up to you," the King told him, as he began walk out of the room.
Eugene followed him, feeling more confused than ever. "Me? But-"
"Now, onto the subject of my daughter."
He gulped as he caught up with the King, who was headed for the dining hall. "Right. Right. Rapunzel."
"Yes, Rapunzel." The King stopped and lost some of his bluster, his shoulders slumping. "I'll be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea what went on in that tower for those eighteen years..."
"From what I could tell, a lot of painting and a whole lot of hair brushing," Eugene replied.
The King rolled his eyes. "I meant... between that Gothel woman and Rapunzel."
"Nothing that even approaches emotional stability," Eugene said. "Look, she's confided in me a little but I can't really share without breaking her trust, which, let me tell you, not on the top of my to-do list, Your Majesty."
The King sighed heavily and nodded. "Yes. Of course."
"I'm sure she'll tell you when she's ready. It's only been a little over a week, after all. Give her some time."
"You're right," the King said softly. "She deserves some space." He took a deep breath and turned to look at Eugene. "Tomorrow night we're holding a ball to introduce Rapunzel to our allies from outside Corona..."
"And you want me to stay out of the way," Eugene finished, resigned.
"No, actually," the King told him. "There are going to be a number of princes from the neighboring royal families who are, no doubt going to take an interest in my daughter."
Eugene slowly raised an eyebrow, looking less than amused.
"I'm going to need you to escort her, and make sure no one tries anything inappropriate with her."
"Your Majesty," Eugene said, as he followed the King, who had started walking again. "I don't know if you've noticed, but Rapunzel doesn't really need me to defend her honor. Or her anything, for that matter. She might be a little inexperienced, but she can tell a few pretty boy princes to get lost."
"But with an escort, it's less likely she'll be put into that position," the King pointed out, stepping into the dining hall.
Eugene frowned. "Are you kidding? If your Valet and Madame Veronica treat me as if I don't exist half the time, how do you think a bunch of royal princes will treat me?"
"As a threat," the King replied, amused. "As they should. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm hungry, and could use some coffee. What do you say?"
"Your Majesty, good morning," James said as they walked in. "I hope you slept...well...Mr. Rider. You're here as well."
"He'll be joining me for breakfast this morning," the King said, patting Eugene's shoulder. "We're discussing tomorrow night's ball."
"I wasn't aware he was invited," James said hastily. "He doesn't have the proper attire for a ball, after all."
"That is easily fixed," the King replied. "Why don't you go see to that while we eat."
James sighed. "Yes, your Majesty."
Eugene watched the man walk out, closing the doors behind him. "Wow. He really doesn't like me."
"You're a thief, and you've got a smart mouth," the King replied, pouring himself some coffee.
"Okay. Both true facts."
"It's your job to turn things around."
"How?" Eugene asked.
The King quirked an eyebrow. "Don't steal things, and be more polite."
The King laughed quietly and shook his head. "Eugene, there are going to be people whose minds will never be changed. But that doesn't mean you should prove them right, because this isn't really about them; it's about becoming a better man for yourself and the people you care about."
Eugene blinked as he took a roll from a small basket. "Wow, your Majesty. That is...that is deep stuff."
"Yes, well. You don't rule over a country as long as I have without some personal reflection."
Rapunzel still wasn't used to letting other people dress her. In fact, she usually got up as early as she could manage so that she could dress herself without anyone protesting.
"I don't see why you can't just let the servant girls help you," Madame Veronica said casually as they walked to the dining hall. "It's their job."
"I just don't need that level of looking after," Rapunzel told her. "I admit that I'm new to a lot of things, but I can put on my own clothes. Heck, I can make my own clothes."
"What for?" Madame Veronica asked, slightly amused.
"Fun," Rapunzel replied. "To pass the time."
"I don't see how that would be any fun," Madame Veronica commented as she opened the door for the Princess, who bounded into the room. "Princess Rapunzel, we do not galumph into a room as if we are a charging rhino. We enter smoothly. Gracefully."
Rapunzel watched her tutor with a confused, bewildered look as the older woman glided into the room.
"Light footsteps, Princess."
Rapunzel opened her mouth to say something but stopped when she heard some quiet laughter from the table. She whirled around and found Eugene and her father laughing behind cups of steaming hot liquid.
She put her hands on her hips. "And what is so funny?"
"Nothing," Eugene replied with a grin.
"Nothing is funny, Rapunzel. We're not laughing at you," the King said.
"Sure you're not," she said. She walked over, attempting to have the lighter footsteps Madame Veronica showed her, and leaned over Eugene. "What are you drinking?"
"Coffee," Eugene replied.
"What is coffee?" Rapunzel asked, peering into his cup.
"You wouldn't like it," the King said. "It's very bitter."
"Princesses don't drink coffee," Madame Veronica said as she walked over. "They drink tea."
"I like tea," Rapunzel commented, taking a seat next to Eugene. "Can I try some coffee?"
"No you may not," the King replied. "It's for perking people up, and you, Rapunzel, do not need perking up."
She pouted a little but brightened up when she peered at all the food. "This looks great! Where's Mother?"
"Out in the garden," the King replied. "Your mother doesn't enjoy breakfast. She always waits for lunch."
"We have a garden?" Rapunzel said, smiling. "I've never had a garden before. Can I learn to garden?" she asked Madame Veronica.
"I, myself, don't know a thing about it,." Madame Veronica told her, pouring them both some tea and handing a cup to Rapunzel. "You'll have to ask your mother to teach you."
Rapunzel nodded and sipped her tea, but wrinkled her nose, and reached over to grab the sugar.
The other three diners watched as she poured a ludicrous amount into her cup.
"Want some tea with your sugar, Blondie?" Eugene asked, amused.
"I like sugar," Rapunzel defended with a little laugh.
"God help us all," Madame Veronica muttered behind her own tea cup.
The King cleared his throat. "Rapunzel, Eugene and I were just discussing-"
Eugene cut him off abruptly and took her hand. "Hey, Blondie. Your dad says there's a ball tomorrow. Wanna be my date?" He grinned charmingly at her and she laughed, delighted.
"I would love to be your date," she told him. "Promise to behave yourself?"
"I'll do my best," Eugene replied.
Madame Veronica cleared her throat. "Princess Rapunzel. That is not the way you act with a gentleman."
"Then it's a good thing Eugene isn't one," Rapunzel smirked.
"Hey!" Eugene laughed. "I can be a gentleman!"
"Oh, this ought to be good," the King mumbled.
"Can you curtsy like a gentleman?" Rapunzel asked.
"Gentlemen bow, dear," the King said. "Ladies curtsy."
"Oh," Rapunzel said, blushing a little. "Right. I knew that."
"Please eat your breakfast, Princess," Madame Veronica said. "We have lots to do today."
"And I have to put Eugene here to work," the King said.
Eugene blinked. "Me? I'm working? What am I working on?"
"You are going to be consulting with castle security," the King informed him. "You're going to find all our problem areas and fix them."
"Who better than a former thief?" the King asked. He patted his shoulder once again. "You'll do well. Don't worry."
Somehow, Eugene wasn't as certain as the man sitting next to him.
On the table, Pascal patted his hand reassuringly and then skittered back to his spot on Rapunzel's shoulder, where he'd been hiding, presumably from Madame Veronica.
Who must have spotted him, because she nearly dropped her tea cup. "Princess! What have we said about...frogs-"
"Chameleon," Rapunzel corrected.
"I don't care what he is, Princess. He has no place at the dinner table. Or anywhere roaming about the castle. We need to get him a cage."
Eugene stopped moving, with a forkful halfway to his mouth. He blinked and looked at Rapunzel.
"A cage?" Rapunzel said, as Pascal moved closer to her neck.
"Yes a nice cage," Madame Veronica said. She tried to hold her ground, but was clearly afraid of Pascal. "With some things to eat and a little rock to-"
"You want to put the only friend I had for eighteen years...in a cage?!"
The King sighed. "Madame Veronica, you're going to have to grow some thicker skin about the Chameleon. He's harmless, and they're inseparable."
"Your Majesty, it is unclean-"
"Unclean?!" Rapunzel cried.
"That slimy creature is-"
On her shoulder, Pascal had turned a bright, angry shade of red, and seemed to be mimicking rolling up his sleeves.
Madame Veronica held her head up high. "Lizards have no place with royalty."
"Then I guess I don't either," Rapunzel snapped, as she got to her feet. "Lessons canceled!"
Eugene was on his feet before Rapunzel had made it out the door, but the King grabbed his arm.
"Let her cool off," he said.
"Eugene, trust me on this. I've been married for a long time."
He sighed and slumped back down in his chair. He gave a glance to Madame Veronica and shook his head. "That was pretty spectacular, huh? I mean, wow. Y'know, she beat me with a frying pan a couple times and she didn't even know who I was. I'll be curious what she does to you."
Madame Veronica huffed, and crossed her arms.