As always thank you TrudiRose, for being such a wonderful Beta.
Belle stood up from her seat to remove the tray from atop her books, and set it down on the chair Lumiere had left near the table, while her inner thoughts whirled.
It all makes sense now, no reason to worry, no one is hiding anything, paranoid, nothing’s wrong… of course they don’t want to talk about it, I suppose I wouldn’t want to talk about the night I was turned into a pot, or a candelabra, or…
She peeked up from aged, dusty pages, to look at him again.
Taking in his features, she tried to imagine waking up next to a body that was more animal than human, though it made her blush to think of it. She knew that the townspeople would think the worst—would think he, and their union, were revolting.
They tried to KILL him, she reminded herself. There’s no way that I can be married there anyway. They think he’s a monster.
And he’ll probably feel the same way.
Her stomach twisted in a fashion that was becoming familiar to her. Guilt ate at her.
Surrounded by all these human faces, and him permanently changed, and no one to blame but-
Beast snarled from the bed, loud and terrifying, causing Belle to jump out of her chair in fright. Facing him, she realized that his eyes were still closed.
Oh, he’s having a nightmare.
She relaxed and held the thick old book she’d been reading to her chest as she watched him lash out at his invisible antagonist, claws fully extended and making gouges in the bed clothes. His face shifted quickly from rage to despair, his hand fell to the mattress, causing a few liberated feathers to fall to the floor. Beast mumbled unintelligibly in a keening voice, as if pleading for something.
Feeling that it was safe to approach, and knowing that the doctor would have heard Beast’s sound of distress and would arrive at any time to help her if need be, she gathered a bowl of cool water and a soft rag from a cabinet across the room.
Belle kneeled down at the bedside, allowing the linen to absorb the water. Gently, she rubbed it over his closed eyes, on his protruding lower lip, and behind his velveteen ears. Gently, Beast pressed his face into the soothing touch, and gave a great shuddering sigh. Warm breath ran up the inside of Belle’s long sleeve, caressing her wrist, breathing life into a growing flame within her. A wave of tender feelings swelled in her belly and her chest, and she lowered her face to his, pressing a kiss to the arch of his thick, heavy brow.
Blue eyes were looking wearily up at her when she pulled away.
Her eyes widened.
“You’re still…” Beast’s deep, powerful voice sounded raspy from lack of use and dry throat. He licked his lips and continued, “You’re here.”
Belle felt the tears come, blurring her vision and narrowing her throat. Just as Mrs. Potts had predicted, all the redemption she could have ever wished for were in those two words.
“Of course,” she replied. “Of course I’m still here.” She wrapped her arms around his cumbersomely thick neck as best she could. And she held him with all her heart. “I’m so sorry,” she muffled into the ruffs of thick fur around his neck “I’m sorry I ever left.”
“No” Beast said quietly, “The thing…that really matters…is that you came…back.” While he spoke he lifted one of his arms to rest his hand gently on her shoulder, as if unsure of what else would be acceptable.
What he truly wished to do was pull her into the bed with him, to wrap his arms around her tightly, to never let her leave again. Had not the smallest movements been so difficult for him, he may have even tried.
In the fever dreams of his three-day sleep, Beast had witnessed many terrible and wonderful things. Time had been fluid and reality blurred. Many times Gaston had won the battle, hurting Belle while Beast was helpless to stop it. Many times Beast had won the battle, been relieved of his curse, happily married and well loved.
He hoped desperately that this moment was real. Her smell was everywhere, all around him and pervading the room, mixed with the smell of…
Beast’s stomach rumbled loudly when he recognized the scent of Mrs. Potts’ deviled ham, embarrassing him greatly. “Sorry,” he said gruffly.
Belle sat up and laughed softly, wiping her eyes. “Would you like something to eat? I have sandwiches; they’re fresh.”
Belle wondered for a moment, and then quickly realized how he must have known and decided not to comment. She got up from the floor and retrieved a sandwich from the tray, almost turning away before putting it back and simply taking the tray with her. When she turned around, Beast was struggling to sit up. Apparently his earlier battle had twisted his sheets around him, and his face showed a lack of tolerance with this difficulty. Belle placed the tray at the foot of his bed and joined him in his efforts.
“What’s wrong… with me?” he said slowly, his voice slurred.
Belle felt her insides freeze.
“Gaston stabbed you, you bled… a lot…” She paused, not quite sure how his illness had affected him or how to explain it. “The doctor doesn’t speak to me very much, but he’ll be here soon to-“
The doors burst open suddenly, and the doctor himself sprinted in, black leather bag clinking lightly beside him. “What are you doing, woman?” he cried. “His Majesty has been ingesting bland fluids for three days and you are going to feed him a tray of sandwiches?”
Beast seemed struck. “Monsieur Reginald?”
The doctor looked towards Beast with eyes of blazing disapproval. “Lie back down, Your Majesty. I will excuse the young woman and then we can conduct our business.”
Beast looked around dazedly, confused on where the ‘young woman’ the doctor had so flippantly referred to might be standing. Of course the doctor could not have spoken about Belle in such a manner?
But Belle was leaving, shepherded by the doctor’s hands.
“I didn’t mean any harm,” she attempted to explain.
“Of course not,” replied Reginald in a sarcastic tone, “You, an uneducated woman, were merely trying to care for grievously injured royalty without any guidance whatsoever.”
“It was just sandwiches!” Belle said indignantly, but the man was already shutting the door behind her.
Belle’s mind raced as she stood fuming in the hallway. “What an awful man!” she said aloud, contempt dripping from her voice. “If Gaston had been a doctor…” she muttered to herself as she went towards the library, not sure what to look for now that Beast was awake.
Beast looked towards the door, not quite understanding what had just happened. The foggy feeling that one wakes up with after having overslept was wrapped thickly around him.
“Belle…?” he said, his voice fading, “Where…?”
His eyelids felt heavy, and although his stomach still called for Mrs. Potts’ sandwiches, he felt himself giving in to the warm pull of sleep again. It had not yet occurred to him that his childhood physician had transformed into a human again and he had not. He drifted into dreams without thinking what that might imply.
“Parfaite!” Lumiere cried.
Babette smiled proudly as she maneuvered her pancake to do yet another flawless flip in the air, landing back into the pan it had originated from neatly.
“I might be able to feed you yet,” she purred, “Although it’s a little late for breakfast…”
Lumiere’s hands were wrapped around her slender waist as he stood behind her. He inhaled deeply through his nose as Babette leaned into him, letting the pan rest on the stove.
“It could not be helped,” he said playfully, “You cannot rush nature.”
“Mmm,” Babette replied, pulling his head gently closer for a kiss. “Who would want to?”
Their faces were just inches apart when Cogsworth rushed through the wooden door that led to the kitchen. “The master!” he hollered, causing the pair to look at him in disdain. Cogsworth realized what he had walked in on and cleared his throat, looking a little bashful. “He’s awake. I, ah, I thought the castle might want to know,” he said to the ceiling. Then he turned and shut the door behind him.
Cogsworth had officially informed the entire castle’s remaining inhabitants of the Prince’s regained consciousness. Now that the task was done however, he floundered at what else there was to do. Before the curse, his job had been to organize the overwhelming swarms of maids, attendants and servants. It had been an exciting, demanding job for an excitable and demanding man. The number of them that had gone on to different lives after the curse was lifted had left him with very little to manage. He was surprised to find himself empty without the chaos, a nagging loneliness that was now more acute than it ever had been.
Perhaps Mrs. Potts is about; we’ll have some tea and be lonely together.
He walked into the dining room. The grand windows filled the room with striking afternoon sunshine. The long polished table gleamed, and he was surprised to find Mrs. Potts sitting at the end of it, patting her styled hair.
“Mrs. Potts! You look lovely,” he said as he walked to where she was sitting. “Planning to take a day off with a handsome fellow?” he said jokingly, sitting down at the table next to her.
Mrs. Potts seemed bashful. “Well, actually…”
There was a faint voice at the end of the hall that led to the front door. “Mrs. Potts?”
Mrs. Potts stood up quickly; her face was full of excitement. “Maurice! I’m in the dining room!” she called.
“Where’s the dining room?”
“I’ll be right there!” she replied, laughter in her voice.
When Mrs. Potts turned back to Cogsworth, he was looking at her aghast. “When did this come about?”
Mrs. Potts touched her cheek softly, “It was rather sudden, but…” She looked wistfully back towards Maurice’s direction. “Well, I’d better be going, before he gets lost looking for me.”
“But…” Cogsworth sputtered, but Mrs. Potts was already making her way towards the hall.
“If you want any tea, there’s some on the stove,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll be back soon.”
“I’m certainly not very likely to go back to the kitchen,” Cogsworth muttered, unheard. He rested his elbow on the table and perched his chin atop his hand, looking down at his reflection in the polished surface. “I suppose everyone’s paired off then.” He glared down at himself. “I was better off as a blasted clock.”
- Current Mood: tired