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A Moment Echoes~Chapter 5

Thanks goes to my Beta Trudi Rose! You're the best!

For disclaimers, see chapter 1.

 

 

The last rays of a blood red sun spilled out over a breathtaking crystalline landscape. The castle’s usually perfectly maintained courtyard had been claimed by a thick layer of winter snow. The familiar shapes of plant life had been rendered strange and new under the icy coating and gleamed with the radiant hues of a setting sun.

If anyone within the castle had cared to step into Reginald’s room, they might have mistakenly thought that he was staring out onto the glorious sunset. But as the good doctor reached up with a wash rag and began to scrub the pane, perhaps they would have understood that he was not a man to appreciate such things.

Doctor Reginald had not been denied his mother’s love. His life before the curse had been an average one. Comfortably growing up in the cozy home of his parents, he had never suffered abuse, nor had his life encountered any great tragedy. The younger Reginald had not been one to play the common games of boyhood or show any great interest in the females of his town. Reclusive and antisocial, Reginald studied and read, excelled in his classes and eventually chose to become a physician.

 His parents, upper class citizens, were glad to have raised a son without any of the trouble that their acquaintances had had doing the same. They were proud of their mutual achievement and very much loved their son. Even so, they never did speak of the dark fist of bitterness that seemed clenched over their son’s heart. There were no musings between the couple of what its origin might be.

As Reginald grew, it became increasingly apparent that he would never marry. As he continued his education, he became more and more renowned for both his medical genius and his foul, stony disposition.

One day, nearing the end of his youthful years, he heard his colleagues discussing the royal family and chose to stay and listen as he ate his lunch.

“I hear he’s the worst we’ve had in a long while.”

“Oh yes, he’s completely unworkable. Every doctor they’ve sent has come back swearing never to return.”

“I’d bet all he needs is a good beating.”

“Pah! Try to get that one past the Queen. God bless her soul, she’s coddling that boy into a monster!”

Reginald wiped his mouth and asked, ”Is the position of Royal Physician open to all who would try?”

“Yes,” one man answered. “With the proper training and experience, of course.”

Reginald stood up to collect his foodstuffs, already considering whether he could carry his things to the castle himself, or whether he would need help.

“Of course,” he echoed.

Once Reginald had made his way to the castle and made himself known to the housemaid who answered the door, he was quickly escorted upstairs and down a hallway. As they reached a large, beautifully carved door, the angry hollering of a young boy could be heard within.

The simpering housemaid who had shown Reginald to the door looked up at him with big apologetic eyes.

“From what I hear, he has a rather painful earache. But he won’t take any of the medicine offered to him; says it tastes bad.”

“Has anyone tried mixing the tinctures with honey?”

The maid gave him a pitying smile. “Every single one. We even gave it to him plain. He still says he can taste the bitterness of medicine.”

The doctor paused for a moment, then braced himself, straightening his back. “I am prepared to enter.”

The maid obliged, stepping to the side as the decibel of the hollering doubled. She winced. “Best of luck to you.”

Reginald gave her a stiff nod and walked into the room.

He very nearly recoiled at the sight of the child’s face. Puffy, red eyes, swollen from tears, glared up at him accusingly as the boy sat on the floor. Surrounded by the fluffy innards of pillows and stuffed toys. The young prince’s nose ran unchecked, and with his tawny locks tousled, he looked more like a savage than royalty.

There was a moment of silence between the two of them. Stubborn wills met in each other’s gaze.

The doctor cleared his throat. “I have been informed that Your Majesty has an earache. Perhaps I could be of assistance?”

“No,” answered the child prince sullenly, crossing his arms over his small chest. Despite his posturing, it was easy to tell that the little prince was exhausted, wearied from the pain of his earache and his crazed refusal for help.

“Well,” answered Reginald, unfazed, “If I am so unsuitable, is there someone else that you would prefer to administer your medicines?” 

The prince narrowed his eyes at the doctor, suspicious and a bit surprised. No one had thought to offer him this before. His mind flitted to his mother’s sweet-smelling hands and her gently aging face, her soothing presence that had been so absent of late. For a moment the stabbing pain eased ever so slightly. But then he remembered that she was far away in some other country, arranging details for his elder brother’s marriage.

“No,” the boy said with a scowl, grabbing a handful of fluff and tearing it further apart.

“Is Your Majesty very sure?” Reginald said softly. “Surely, as ill as Your Majesty has become, I could contact whomever you would wish with an urgent letter explaining how terribly they are needed.”

The prince looked up, becoming intrigued. “Really?”

Reginald gave the lonely child a rare smile. “I would very much doubt that anyone could ignore a doctor’s opinion on such matters, and I am very persuasive in my letters. If only I could examine Your Majesty’s ear to be sure of your illness…”

Jumping quickly up, the prince sat firmly in the chair nearest to the doctor. “If you’re lying I’ll have you put in the dungeon,” he threatened while the doctor gathered his things from his bag.

“I’ll be sure not to disappoint Your Majesty,” Reginald replied coolly.

He gently maneuvered the prince’s head to peer into the boy’s ear. A simple glance was all that was needed to confirm Dr. Reginald’s suspicions. “Your inner ear is very inflamed, a rather painful ailment indeed. Your Majesty must have been very brave to suffer through this far.”

The prince felt a bit proud, for it had been very painful, and he had been tempted to take the medicines offered to him, but he had prevailed.

“The letter will take a few days to deliver, as you know, the post is rather slow. Perhaps I could give you something to lessen your suffering while we wait for it to go through?”

The prince thought for a moment. It had been so long since he had last seen his mother, but the pain was so strong. “If she hears that I took medicine from you, will she still come?” the child asked softly.

“Whom?” Reginald queried, although he mostly knew.

“My mother.”

“She need never know. For all of her knowledge, you will only take medicine from her own hands.”

The prince bit his lower lip.

“All right.”

-

The doctor followed through on his promise, and a fragile bond was formed between the two of them. While Reginald was aloof and uncompromising, he continued to use the prince’s “inclination towards illness” to shepherd the Queen to her son’s bedside. All through the prince’s childhood he would fake and exaggerate sickness. Reginald would quickly distress the Queen with tales of near-death, unless her Highness would serve her child the medicines he refused from all others. All the while Reginald was revered and respected in a fashion that fulfilled his vast vanity, and he aged with the satisfaction of a job well-secured.

The Queen was unfailingly flattered by her son’s insistence of her presence. Although the prince was quite a horror during his tantrums, he was an unbearably beautiful child. She found great joy in the loyalty of this sullen, clingy creature she had birthed. But the Queen was fickle and easily disinterested. Her nature did not allow her to stay in any one place too long, and as the years passed, her age restricted her to her eldest son’s castle, near the sea. Letters of her younger son’s ailing health could no longer budge her, so she sent great riches in her place to ease her guilt.

The prince slowly became adjusted to her absence, used to the empty splendors of his royalty. As he grew from a lonely child to a bitter adolescent, his heart slowly hardened.

--

Up a few stairs, and down a few hallways, Belle lay in her bed, looking up at the canopy that hung over her while her mind wandered.

Oh, what would Papa say? I shouldn’t have been the one to suggest marriage. She rolled to her side. I started the kiss as well. She closed her eyes tightly in embarrassment. The kiss…

Belle adjusted her chemise, which had twisted uncomfortably around her from her tossing and turning. Heavy satin slid across her skin, and a warm blush spread over her face and chest.

I’m not going to be able to sleep like this.

Belle sat up, putting her feet over the edge of the mattress. If she pointed her toes she could just touch the plush, cream-colored carpet. In a flash she imagined cool, silken fur rubbing against her skin, a warm breath running down her neck, and a rumbling voice as deep as thunder…

But just as soon the thought hit, she pushed it away. Too appalled with herself to even reason with the warmth that spread and lingered inside of her, she pushed herself to a stand. With her robe donned and slippers covering her feet, she braved the barren cold of the hallway in search of a book to preoccupy her. As she held her candle before her, she wondered if the candelabrums in the library were still there, or if no one had replaced them with objects after the enchanted ones had transformed back into people.

--

Reginald had cleaned his room -- his entire room. He had cleaned under his bed, wiped his books and organized his clothing. It was not an overly large room, by palace standards, but large enough that in his human days, before the spell, cleaning it had tired him sufficiently so that he could sleep. But this evening, as the sky darkened rapidly, the aging man looked to his empty bed and felt a restlessness he had not felt since his adolescence.

“Perhaps a snack would do me well,” he mused.

Upon arriving in the kitchen, he found a pot of tea warming on the stove.  His spirits lifted slightly as he took the pot, and finding biscuits nearby that were to his liking, gathered them up as well.

Making his way towards the banquet table in the dining hall, he was startled to see Cogsworth sitting there, staring out the window.

After many years of knowing Cogsworth, Reginald had come to admire the man for his work ethic and propriety. But on this night, alone beneath the light of innumerable stars, Reginald was struck by Cogsworths’ subtly feminine way of holding himself as the short man gazed wistfully. The doctor paused, suddenly regaled with a thousand moments in his memory that clearly gave the other man away. The girlish enthusiasm, and emotional outbursts, combined with his well-groomed appearance had always charmed the doctor. But it wasn’t until this moment that Reginald had ever dared to hope.

With the teetering uncertainty of a child’s first steps, Reginald made his way to the chair across from Cogsworth. The older man extended the plate of biscuits to Cogsworth as the rotund gentleman turned towards the doctor.

“Should you so happen to desire one, I believe there are more than enough biscuits for us both to enjoy,” said Reginald in an airy tone.

Looking startled, Cogsworth obliged with an small “Thank you,” and took a biscuit. Feeling awkward, both looked towards the table rather than at each other.

“How is the Master?” Cogsworth inquired, attempting to break the silence.

“He is well,” replied Reginald, “But truthfully, he has always been a very robust boy. And he is damn near invulnerable as a Beast.” Reginald took a breath. “Truthfully, he would be just as well if I had never treated his wound at all, and…” Reginald looked to his hands, gathering the words. “I fear I may have outlived my usefulness.”

A silence followed. Then a pudgy hand rested on his on the table.

“Well, I’m not so sure about that. I believe that a trip to the market is on my list of things to do, and I would be thrilled for you to join me,” Cogsworth offered gently.

The two men smiled at one another against a backdrop of stars in the grand windows. Then Cogsworth excused himself, leaving Reginald to ponder a sky that seemed strangely new and fascinating.

--

Belle settled into a sofa near a fireplace. It had taken some work, but she had managed to get a flame going. There had been just enough wood. Proud of her accomplishment, Belle chose a book from her selections and began to read, enjoying the effects that the flickering light made on the page. But soon her eyes were heavy, and she felt herself giving way to sleep.  Resolving to wake up early and go back to her room, she stretched herself along the length of the sofa. The book rested on her chest, rising and falling smoothly with her breathing.

 

 


Don't forget to reveiw!


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
shiegra
Mar. 10th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
I was with you right up until the moment you tried to imply that stereotypical indicators of 'femininity' were somehow markers of homosexuality. Beast - for example - is no more or less likely to be gay than Cogsworth, and I find the promoting of that kind of ridiculous stereotyping kind of distasteful. There are, actually, no magical signs that will 'give someone away.'
lamenthatic
Mar. 11th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
I can understand why you would find it distasteful. In fact, Bravo for saying so. If I were straight, I'd probably be pretty embarrassed. I'm not trying to promote stereotyping. After all, Reginald is a rather 'straight' seeming character (or at least he was meant to be read that way). Yet, he is just as gay as Cogs is in this fic. I simply used the behaviors Cogs shows in the movies and linked them with the behaviors of the more 'visible' gay guys I've met.

Part of the reason Reginald is such a grouch is because he has never had the bravery to pursue other men. Possibly because there really IS no way to be sure if the other person is gay. (And being outed for hitting on someone straight could get you killed back then.)

But when he realizes all of the possible hints that Cogsworth displays, it emboldens him to take the chance.
(I have a tendency to go for butch chicks for the same reason. Visibility decreases the chance for awkward 'Oh, uh, I'm not gay' moments.) Notice how Reginald is still rather reserved? How he keeps his walls of formality up? He's still being cautious, because he's not quite sure of things yet, but he's hopeful.

LOL, long response. I had to type it out though. I hope you won't stop reading. :) I hope I explained well enough.
shiegra
Mar. 11th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Well, I read the other chapters after this and felt a little better - I waffled over commenting on the chance that it was a character's point-of-view thing, but I've seen it meant seriously so often, and the third person omniscient threw me off a little. (I'm kind of touchy on this one, though.)

You explained quite well. It was reassuring.
lamenthatic
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:59 am (UTC)
Hooray! :D I figured that was probably the case. I admire people that are willing to step up like that.

By the way? Fabulous Icon.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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