Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 10 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Though Madame pleaded for the rest of the evening after Belle's argument with the Master, the young woman remained firm. She would not agree to have dinner as per orders. However, as the night wore on, Belle did find her resolve weakening as her hunger grew. She knew she should be keeping her strength up because of the baby.

At last, she curled up on the bed and pretended to sleep. She waited until she heard a faint humming snore from the corner, then got up and slipped to the door. For a moment she was afraid the light from the corridor would wake Madame, but the wardrobe did not stir when Belle put her head out. The corridor was deserted; snow fell peacefully against the frosted glass of the enormous windows. Moonlight, made even brighter by the snow, streaked the dark carpets. There was plenty to see by and make certain she didn't trip over anything—or anyone.

Belle didn't really remember the route to the main hall, but it wasn't too hard to find: eventually all the corridors led back to that vast entrance chamber. Belle discovered, looking over the balustrade, that she was on the second floor. From there, it was easy to make her way down.

She paused to listen. Nothing seemed to be stirring. But as she held still, her ears thought they detected a slight rattling sound. She followed it through a set of double doors and into a small, empty, dining parlor. It looked recently scrubbed, and Belle wondered with a slight stab of guilt if this was where dinner was supposed to have taken place. The servants seemed to have gone to a lot of trouble.

The rattling was definitely louder in here, however. It sounded like pots and pans crashing together, and was coming from another set of doors at the far end of the room. This boded well for finding the kitchens, Belle's original goal, but it seemed as if someone was still awake. She had intended to sneak into a pantry and hide something away so that no one would get in trouble for feeding her.

It couldn't hurt to check. As she approached the door, she began to detect voices in amongst the clanging.

"—stubborn," said a male voice irritably. It sounded very much like the stuffy mantel clock who had come to announce dinner. "After all, he did say please."

A new voice, one Belle recognized as Mrs. Potts' warm tones, said, "But if the Master doesn't learn to control that temper, he'll never—"

Belle had started forward at the sound of the teapot's voice, hoping for a sympathetic ear. However, as she entered the kitchen, both clock and teapot whirled as if they had been caught doing something they shouldn't.

The clock recovered first, though in Belle's opinion he overcompensated. "Splendid to see you walking about, mademoiselle!" he exclaimed heartily. He waddled forward and bowed low. Belle politely knelt in order to be more on his level. "Do forgive me, I never properly introduced myself. I am Cogsworth, head of the household."

"It's—" Belle started, but another figure pushed the clock out of the way and took her hand instead.

Cogsworth sighed. "This is Lumière. Our maitre d'."

"Enchanté, chérie," said Lumière. He was a familiar-looking candelabra with three branches; Belle recognized him from her climb to the tower dungeon. He began to kiss her hand effusively. The gesture made Belle uncomfortable; she hated men tonguing her hand when they first met, as if her looks qualified her for special treatment. Also, the two branches which served him for hands were quite warm. She drew her hand away as politely as she could.

"It's nice to meet both of you," she said. "I'm sorry if I'm interrupting anything."

"Not at all, dear, we were just cleaning up, putting the teacups to bed, you know," said Mrs. Potts. "Let me also introduce you to Monsieur Joli, our masterful head chef."

"So you're the one causing all the fuss," said the enormous stove in the corner. Belle jumped, and steadied herself. She had thought she was getting used to things speaking that shouldn't be able to, but apparently she still had a long way to go.

"It's a pleasure, monsieur," she said, sweeping a curtsy. "I do hope I haven't caused you any undue trouble."

"It was nothing I can't make again, on the right occasion," answered the stove modestly.

"Goodness, child, where did you learn such a splendid curtsy?" Mrs. Potts asked approvingly.

"My mother taught me," Belle admitted. "She was from a very minor noble family, but her older brother gambled away all their money. She fell in love with my father, so they eloped and she never looked back. At least that's the story she always told me. She taught me all sorts of things commoner girls aren't supposed to know—reading, writing, drawing, dancing. One of those things was how to curtsy."

"Where is this paragon now?" asked Lumière.

"She died of ague six years ago," Belle admitted sadly.

"Je suis désolé," Lumière said. "I did not mean to pry."

"No, no," Belle waved her hand. "You couldn't help but ask. I still get very sad, but I can talk about it."

"I'm sure she's very proud of you," said Mrs. Potts.

Belle winced. "I don't know what she'd say if she could see me now."

Mrs. Potts tilted an eyebrow on her china face, as if trying to work out what had caused such a bitter statement. Belle did not feel compelled to elaborate.

"So, how may we serve you this evening?" asked Lumière.

"I…well…" Belle was reluctant to bring up her original purpose in leaving her room. These people-objects were all pleasant, but she didn't want to ask them to deliberately disobey their Master. It certainly wouldn't be right to try to divide their loyalties like that. "I couldn't sleep…and decided to explore," she fibbed.

"And you happened to find your way to the kitchens?" asked Cogsworth meaningfully.

"Cogsworth! What an ungracious thing to say to the lady!" Lumière scolded.

Belle flushed. "I heard noises…I didn't think anyone else was awake but me."

"We had a lot to do today, what with one thing and another," Mrs. Potts tactfully put in. "And the head staff is usually up later than the rest."

"I'll go if I'm interrupting anything," Belle offered.

"Oh, no, of course not. Come along to the parlor, dear, and I'll fix you a cup of tea. We can get to know one another better."

"May I remind you, Mrs. Potts, that we are under a strict injunction—" began Cogsworth.

"Nonsense, Cogsworth," Lumière said, his eyes beginning to gleam. "The Master merely said the girl wasn't to eat without him. He said nothing about drink"

"But—but—" stammered Cogsworth.

Mrs. Potts ignored this. "Go on, child. Lumière, show her the way, will you? And get a fire going, if you don't mind."

"It will be my pleasure," Lumière said with a low bow. "Right this way, mademoiselle."

As she turned to follow the candelabra into the dining room, the edge of Belle's vision caught Mrs. Potts watching her through slightly narrowed eyes. However, there was nothing she could say as her escort was already hopping ahead. She followed him silently through the dining room, across the main hall, and into another room. This one was roughly similar in size to the dining hall. Belle perched on one of the well-stuffed chaises while Lumière started a fire in the enormous fireplace. As light filled the room, she could examine it better. Several other chairs and couches were placed around the room, commanded by one tall upholstered chair in the center. The floor was covered in a luxurious Persian carpet, and there were peaceful landscape paintings on the dark-paneled walls. In all, she decided, it felt much more…lived-in…than most of the rest of the castle.

"This is a lovely room," she commented.

"It is très comfortable, no?" he agreed. "It is one of the few in which the Master will spend any length of time."

Belle looked nervously at the door. "He's not coming here, is he?"

"No, no, chérie," Lumière soothed. "I believe he is already asleep, and no one will wake him unless the matter is urgent. Unless you wish to see him?" He looked hopeful.

"No, thank you," Belle said in the calmest voice she could manage.

At that moment, Mrs. Potts arrived along with Cogsworth and the tea cart. "Here we are, child," the teapot said. The teacup into which the tea was poured was not Chip; this one was silent as Belle sipped from it. She sighed and sank back onto the chaise.

"May I ask you a personal question, dear?"

"Of course," Belle answered dreamily, thinking that she could sit like this for quite some time.

"How far along are you?"

"Three mon…far along…what?" Belle sat bolt upright. The words had come out without her permission; she had been caught off guard, and after all the weeks of watching her tongue she had for some reason begun an honest answer. She opened her mouth to make some excuse, and then saw the look on Mrs. Potts' face. The matronly teapot knew, and there was no use denying it.

"Three months," she admitted miserably, putting her hands over her face. She closed her eyes and waited for the harsh words, or at least a gasp of horror.

Neither came. Belle peeked between her fingers. Mrs. Potts' expression was a mix of sympathy and sadness. Lumière looked utterly shocked, and Cogsworth was peering between them in puzzlement.

"What's going on?" he demanded.

Mrs. Potts sighed. "I leave him in your hands, Lumière. I'll be back in a minute or two." She started out the room on the cart.

"Where are you going?" Cogsworth wanted to know.

"Back to the kitchens to wake them all and get them to put a good supper together."

"What? You know perfectly well—"

"I won't have someone who's eating for two starving in this castle. Not while I'm housekeeper."

"Wait…" Belle put in with some surprise. "You don't have to…I never asked…" In fact, she was amazed. Since she'd discovered it herself, she hadn't told anyone her secret. She had expected nothing but disgust and scorn from anyone who found out, except for her father. Now from this near-total stranger she was receiving not only kindness, but even greater care.

"I know you didn't, dearie. But you've got to keep your strength up while you're expecting. It's very important." She rolled out towards the kitchen.

"All right, Lumière, I demand to know what this is all about," Cogsworth said.

Lumière sent Belle a long-suffering look that almost made her giggle. "I had forgotten just how much of a monk you are. Has no one explained to you about the birds and the bees?"

"What has that got to do with—"

This time Lumière rolled his eyes. "Did your maman never take you aside one day and explain how les petites femmes et garçons are made?"

"No, of course not, my father did, but why—" Cogsworth stopped. He started at Belle with his mouth open. For a second, she was fairly sure his pendulum had missed a swing. If his face had been made of skin, it would have been ashy pale. "Oh, dear," he said distinctly. Then he collapsed onto the carpet.

"Hmph," grumbled Lumière. "Typical. No, you don't have to get up, mademoiselle."

Belle got up anyway and carried Cogsworth to a spot on the chaise beside her. He was surprisingly heavy for an object of his size. She propped his head up with the corner of a pillow.

"He will be all right, won't he?" she asked anxiously. This was more the sort of reaction she had been expecting, though not to such an extreme.

"Of course, of course," Lumière reassured her. "He just has to get used to the idea."

Mrs. Potts arrived again on her cart. "Dinner won't be long," she announced. She caught sight of Cogsworth. "Oh, dear. I was afraid of this. Here, I brought a towel soaked in nice cool water. Put it on his head, child."

Belle did so, marveling that Mrs. Potts seemed to take everything in stride. Even Lumière didn't seem particularly upset by the news that she was going to have a baby in six months or so.

Once they had Cogsworth situated and Belle was gently wiping down his face with the cool cloth, the questions started. Belle had been dreading them, but she felt she owed these two some truth after they had been so thoughtful.

"You're not married, are you, dear?" asked Mrs. Potts first, very gently.

Belle looked away. "No."

"Promised, then?"




"Do you…ah, have a sweetheart waiting back home?" asked Lumière, just as gently.


"Who fathered your child, then?" This blunt question earned Lumière a stern look from Mrs. Potts.

"Someone I'd prefer never to see again," Belle said to her knees.

"Forgive us, dear, but we're a little confused. Did you two have an argument?"

"In a way." Belle sighed, and drew herself up into a small ball, hugging her knees. "I never wanted him near me in the first place. And then one night he came while my father was away—"

The knock on the door was polite.

"Hello, Belle."

"Good evening, Gaston. What brings you here?"

"I came to see you, Belle. Why else?" He handed her a bouquet of flowers.

"Oh. Thank you very much." She had already avoided being seen too much in Gaston's company, but his attentions were slightly flattering. She knew she didn't want to end up with someone like him, though. She'd read about his kind before: the sort who just saw her as another trophy for his friends to admire. Still, he had made the trip to see her. It would be rude not to offer a return favor. "Will you come in and have something to drink?"

It was not long before she was regretting those words.

"I'm so sorry, child. No one should have to go through something like this."

"I wish there were something we could do, chérie."

Belle came out of her memory slowly. "There's nothing anyone can do. I just have to make do." She realized there were tears coursing slowly down her cheeks. "It's actually better here, in a way. At least now I don't have to worry about village gossip. Or being forced to marry the child's father. I couldn't have kept it a secret much longer."

She looked around. Mrs. Potts, Lumière and even a slightly bleary Cogsworth were gathered at her sides as if protecting her.

"Some supper will make you feel better," Mrs. Potts finally said.

"Yes, indeed! We must make this a spectacular feast for our two guests!" Lumière exclaimed. He hopped to the floor. "Come along, Cogsworth! We shall teach this new little one about fine cooking! He shall be a gourmet before he even arrives!"

"Wait for me!" Cogsworth scuttled after him. "And do try to keep it down, Lumière. No fireworks. Or popping the champagne bottles. The Master will have our necks if he wakes up…"

"How were you going to tell the Master?" asked Mrs. Potts when the two had vanished.

"What?" asked Belle, still trying to keep her mind from unpleasant memories. "Oh. Him. I hadn't really thought about it. And I wasn't sure he'd care, either way."

"You should tell him, rather than have him find out," Mrs. Potts advised.

"I had hoped to…avoid him for awhile," Belle said uncomfortably.

"I understand. But it might be important that he hear it from you."

"Why?" asked Belle, but Mrs. Potts seemed suddenly to have become deaf.

"Come on, dear, dinner should be ready for you."

Belle followed her on the cart, still pondering with amazement that she had fallen in possibly the one place on earth where its inhabitants seemed not to judge her. Or at least be willing to put their judgments aside. For the first time in quite awhile, she felt a small flare of hope.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 10 of 33

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