A Moment Echoes. Ch4
Many thanks to my Beta TrudiRose!
Beast was awakened by the sudden movement of his sheets being flung from him. He grunted and looked groggily about, trying to find where they had landed.
A haughty voice began to speak. “Oh good,” it said. “Perhaps now that you are able to move about so freely, despite my strict orders not to do so, I will not have to bear the complete burden of your weight as I bathe you.”
These words confused Beast, as the tone reminded him of his childhood doctor’s. But he clearly remembered that the doctor had been turned into a thermometer. This voice was coming from too far up to possibly be a thermometer; it was at least the height of a man.
Beast paused for a moment as he thought this through, his ear twitching forward and then back, and he finally turned his head to solve this mystery. His eyes rested on Dr. Reginald’s back as the man, turned away from Beast, wet a rag in a bowl of steaming water. Beast blinked and looked to his own hands, observing the powerfully angular shape of his knuckles as he flexed them, the abnormal length of his padded fingers, the tips of his claws. The fog in Beast’s mind vanished completely, and the glaring light of the truth seared him.
When the doctor turned back towards Beast he was startled to see the monstrous form towering over him.
“WHAT HAS HAPPENED?” Beast bellowed. The doctor clutched at his chest and seemed to faint, falling to the floor heavily. The panic and crushing clarity in Beasts’ mind made the colors in the room around him sharp and unbearable; he barreled to the door on all fours, crashing through them. Lumiere and Babette jumped away from the doors just as they burst open.
“Sacre Bleu!” Lumiere whispered in horror as Beast turned to look at them. The expression on his furred face was one of crazed despair. His wide blue eyes traveled over them as they clutched each other: fully limbed, man and woman, pink fleshed.
“No!” Beast cried. “No, no, NO!” His last syllable came out in a mighty roar as he struck the floor with his fists. He felt as though the air was hot and heavy all around him. He was unable to breathe it. His chest heaved to compensate. Pressure…in his mind, there was so much pressure, crushing him, making him dizzy.
Books fell from Belle’s arms and lay abandoned on the floor as she sprinted towards Beast’s voice. Oh no, oh no, oh no. The words repeated in her mind like a mantra as she ran.
He heard her footsteps as she came down the hall. He turned to face her, and her expression of heartbreak broke his anger. The weight of his panic shifted and released him. He sank to the ground in exhaustion and despair. His vision was suddenly impaired by tears that would have otherwise shamed him.
“Why?” he implored in a strained and throaty voice. “If it was going to be like this, why did you let me live?”
Belle kneeled before him, placing her hands on either side of his face, her fingers gently winding into the fur there. She met his eyes. She whispered, “I don’t want to be without you.”
Beast looked away, down to his hands, the leathery black pads of flesh that rested on his palms. He closed his eyes. “You can’t… care about, me, like this. I’m-“
Belle cut him short, finishing his sentence, “--the man I love, the man I’m going to marry.” Her voice was strong and sure, leaving no room for argument. Even while her insides tightened.
Beast’s eyes darted back to her, ears perked. “What?”
Lumiere cut in, “Oh ho! There are to be two weddings then.”
Belle looked at him in confusion. “Two? Who else is getting…?” Belle trailed off as she realized that Lumiere and Babette’s arms were still linked.
Beast suddenly felt dazed. Now that the power of his anger was gone, he felt weak. He wanted to speak to Belle alone, but the words wouldn’t form, and he might pass out before he got the chance. Both Babette and Lumiere had become so used to his emotional outbursts that neither of them seemed to be affected. They chatted amiably about wedding details that needed planning. Beast looked over at Belle, his eyes meeting hers, and saw that she also seemed anxious.
“Uhh…” Beast began.
“Could we have some privacy for a little while?” Belle requested gently to the standing couple. “We need to talk about some things…alone.”
A look of realization came over Lumiere’s face. He put his arm around Babettes’ waist and began to subtly lead her away from the two sitting on the ground. “But of course,” he said in a conversational tone, giving Babette a look when she turned to him with a questioning expression. As they walked away, their footsteps echoed with the silence of withheld whispers.
Once they had gone, Belle looked sheepishly at Beast. “Um, do you want to go back to the room, or…?”
“Yeah,” Beast answered, slowly, as if afraid that too much sound would take back what had just happened. Belle rose up from her kneel and offered a hand to Beast. Beast took it, but stood up on his own, knowing she couldn’t help him up. No one could.
He felt dizzy on his feet, but he would have rather fallen flat on the floor than walk on all fours in front of her. Especially now.
They returned to the room that had been Beast’s sickroom and shut the door behind them. Both were silent, insecurities and questions hanging in the air between them. They glanced at each other as they both wondered what to say. Beast scratched behind a twisted horn, looking at the floor and noticing, for the first time, that Belle was not wearing stockings. He wondered absentmindedly if she the rest of her body was as pale as her ankles.
Belle ventured first, “I didn’t mean to sound pushy. I just sort of assumed that you would want to also. Because that’s what people do when they love—“
She was cut off by a long feeble groan coming from beneath the table. Belle spun around to face the sound and gasped. “Doctor!” She hurried to the table and bent down to look at him, not noticing the look of discomfort on Beast’s face, “Are…you all right?” she asked. “What happened?”
Despite his weakened state, the doctor still managed to summon up his characteristic sarcasm in reply. “I was checking the floor for mites, and decided to take a nap.” He looked at her with disdain. “What does it look like?” He pushed himself shakily up, letting out a low moan as something in his body popped.
Belle spoke softly but intensely. “There’s really no need to be so rude.”
The Doctor turned to Beast, as if Belle had not spoken. “Your Majesty, should you wish to truly recover from your injuries, I suggest that you not welcome any chatty help into these chambers while you are still resting.”
Beast, somewhat miffed, looked over to Belle and saw the scowl on her face. He looked back at the doctor “Who are you talking about?” His voice was stormy, and his shoulders hunched defensively.
The doctor backpedaled, “No one in particular, Your Highness. Perhaps you’d like to lie down now? I’m sure all of this… activity has left you tired.” The old man’s voice seemed to hover between neutrality and patronization, not quite giving himself over to a tone that might provoke anger from the prince.
Very tired, but not wanting to follow the suggestions of a man that Belle obviously didn’t like, Beast huffed and stood straight. “No” he said, “but I want you to leave now.” He paused, wanting to say something clever or witty, but words fell away from him.
The doctor blinked. Sounding astonished, he said, “I’ve yet to bathe you, Sire, and there are still medicines that need to be administered…”
Beast’s ears flipped back, and heat climbed up his neck and into his cheeks. His eyes flicked to Belle, and his stomach dropped in humiliation as he saw her attempting to look distracted by the ceiling. His hands reached for his cloak, wanting to disappear in the wave of purple, but he only found empty air and clenched his fists instead. “Leave. Now,” Beast growled. And Dr. Reginald hurried out, forgetting his black bag on the table.
Once the man had shut the door behind him, Belle walked to the bed and sat with a heavy sigh. Beast followed, glad to be able to sit without looking weak.
“I don’t understand why he hates me so much,” Belle said.
Beast gently pressed the side of his hand to hers on the bed. “He’s just that way,” he reassured her, “He’s been the castle’s doctor for a long time. He doesn’t like anybody.” Beast wrinkled his nose. “No one likes him either.”
Belle laughed. “Where has he been all this time?”
Beast looked at the floor, taking a moment to respond. “Well, he was in a box.”
“What kind of box?”
“A small, musical one.”
Belle looked horrified, “You put him in a music box?”
Beast put his hands in front of him, as if deflecting her accusation. “I didn’t do it!”
“A few of the servants. Everyone was so fed up with his complaining that they locked him in a music box.”
“For all those years?”
“They let him out occasionally, but he made everyone so miserable…”
“That he was never out for long?”
Beast nodded, “Yes.”
Belle thought this over, and finally asked, “What was he?”
Belle snorted at this, and looked over to see if Beast was smiling. Her mirth died when she saw his face.
“But now…” he continued, looking away. “Now he’s human again.” His hands drew together to rest between his knees, and his shoulders slumped with fatigue. Belle bit her lip and placed her hand lightly on his forearm, silently trying to comfort him, unable to think of a reply. He needs something, she thought, he needs me to DO something. His face was turned away, his lips inaccessible. She got up on her knees on the bed, and when he looked up to see what she was doing she leaned forward and held him tightly across his chest, reaching as far around him as her arms could go, head tucked beneath his chin. Beast seemed shocked, frozen in disbelief.
“The last time I really held you,” she started, her voice sounding shaky, “I thought you were going to die. I thought you were dead, I just…” She took a breath. “I’m just so happy you’re alive, nothing else matters, nothing else…”
She was crying, Beast knew. He could smell the salt that he had only ever smelled in tears. He could feel her breath rustling the fur on his neck and the warmth of her cheek just above his heart. Surely, it would be alright if he put his arms around her now, gently, to let her know he knew she was upset. But she was already only just balancing on her knees to hold him, and if he wanted her any closer, she’d have to be moved. It was almost natural to put his arm just above her knees, to wrap his other arm around her slender waist. How easily his great muscles lifted her and brought her closer to him. How smooth his movements were…even while his heart trembled with the fear that the slightest wrong could revoke this entire miracle. That this blessing was as fragile as the rose that had ruled his life for so long.
He held her stiffly to him while she sniffled herself into composure. His back was aching from his straight posture, and his hands felt perilous. Any movement was risky.
Belle wiped her eyes and looked up to his face. Light was fading in the room, and the last rays of the sun made the loose hairs around her head glow as if she bore a halo. Beast was reminded strongly of the angels that graced the stained glass windows of churches: full of both fury and mercy, innocence and wisdom, all at once, housed in the bodies of women. There was a moment of silence when their eyes met, and her lips parted.
“I love you, Beast,” she whispered.
Beast trembled, but closed his eyes and gathered his courage. His hand gently cupped her face, and he brought his face imperceptibly closer to hers.
“I love you, Belle.”
He ached to kiss her, her lips soft and inviting and pink. He longed to brush his thumb over her full bottom lip, and taste it. But for all of his wanting, he remained still, a stone grotesque that clung to the haunted foundations he had been born into. His eyes darkened, and he looked away.
But soon he felt the light touch of her hand on his, and looked to see her eyes encouraging him. “It’s all right,” she said softly, then closed her eyes, and tilted her face to him, offering. His heart thundered in his ears, his vision sharp and precise in his nervousness. It took all his will to simply push through his irrational fears.
The moment his lips touched hers he felt a rush of energy surging through him, a feeling of daring that frightened him. She tasted like honey, and tea, and spice. Her lips were like rose petals against his own. When they parted, there was a soft smacking sound that sounded like thunder-clap to him in the quiet room. It had been a simple kiss, almost chaste, and Beast knew that he was breathing much too hard because of it. He felt the pressure building, a small twinge of discomfort. He needed to put her down, now.
When Belle opened her eyes, she was immediately concerned. It seemed that the black of Beast’s pupils had nearly consumed the blue of his eyes, and the fixated look that he gave her was eerie. But he blinked, and all was well when they reopened. He shifted her in his arms and cleared his throat.
“Ah, Belle, I think I’d like to lie down. Uh, excuse me.” He set her down on the floor beside him, and hurriedly lifted the sheets and situated himself beneath them, lying on his side and facing her. He fussed with the folds of the sheets while he spoke, watching his hands all the while. “Thank you, for, uh…” He squeezed his eyes shut and restarted. “It’s been a long day. I need to sleep now.” He turned abruptly over. “Good night.”
Belle blinked. “Well, would you like me to read you something?”
“No, thank you. I’m really…tired, you should go to your room and I’ll, uh, see you in the morning.”
Belle bit her lip. “I’ve been sleeping in here, since you’ve been ill.”
Beast’s ears rose, and he turned just slightly, so that he could see her from the corner of his eye. “Really?”
“Yes, in the chair, just in case something happened. If something went wrong or you woke up.”
Beast was silent, his mind unable to accept the simplicity of what she was saying.
“You don’t have to do that anymore,” he finally replied, his heart heavy as he said it.
“I never had to--” Belle stopped herself. ”Well, good night.”
When Beast heard the door shut he waited a few minutes, listening to her footsteps fade as she walked down the hall. Once he felt it was safe, he climbed silently from the bed and locked the doors. His tail flicked behind him as he went back to the cool sheets and soft mattress. Before getting in, he removed his pants, sighing deeply as the pressure was relieved somewhat. As he shifted his weight beneath the insulated comforter, he paused and lightly ran his fingertips over his own mouth, wondering what she had felt when he had kissed her. He recalled it, trying to remember if he had touched her with his protruding teeth. But the memory revealed nothing, simply sent another wave of sweetness coursing through him. He grunted quietly into his pillow, his fingers still resting on his closed mouth.
- Current Location:The Universe Is One
- Current Mood: high
- Current Music:Purple Haze