Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 13 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

What was she doing here? The Beast stared at the young woman before him. She held the hand he'd nearly crushed with the bell jar close to her chest as if afraid it might still be hurt. Her skin was rapidly losing all color, and he could almost feel her shrinking away.

"What do you think you're doing?" he snarled. What he really wanted to know was how she had gotten in the West Wing without him noticing. He had only been on the balcony, yet his ears hadn't even detected her opening the door.

She took a step backwards. "I…"

"Didn't I warn you not to come here?"


"Didn't I?"

"Yes," she said. "But I didn't mean any harm."

"That doesn't matter!" he snapped. "You disobeyed my direct order. Do you realize what you could have done?"

"I'm sorry…" She backed away even further, against a shattered wardrobe. He paused, his rising temper checked as her tone of voice registered in his ears: the very tone she had used to refuse dinner with him. That dead tone that masked all but the strongest emotion. Her face was set, also trying to show nothing, but he could hear the wardrobe creaking slightly as she trembled. Was this what had been going on behind her door that night? He knew she was afraid, but the signs were subtle—mostly that she was slowly edging away. His sensitive animal ears couldn't detect a hint of fear in her voice.

Where had the girl learned to hide her fright like this? Surely not in her few encounters with him. The Beast had never known anyone, before the curse or afterwards, who could hide their fear so well. Not even the clumsiest maidservant, who received a dressing-down from Cogsworth at least once a day, could pretend to feel nothing when the head of the household started in on her. True, Cogsworth was nowhere near as intimidating as he, the Beast, was. It made the girl's control all the more remarkable.

He took a half-step towards her, and she stiffened, shrinking further back into the wardrobe's wood. She seemed almost to be bracing herself to take a blow, though she remained composed.

Something stirred within him. It was something he only seemed to feel around her. His mind finally found the name for it.

Pity. He felt sorry for her.

"Go," he said, gentling his rough voice as much as he could manage. "Don't come up here again. Do I have your word?"

"Yes," she whispered. She was eyeing him so strangely, as if she couldn't believe he would just let her go like that. He couldn't believe what he was doing, either. She had violated his direct orders, and in so doing, his most precious sanctuary. She knew about the rose. She had been about to touch it, something not even he himself had dared to do. He should be furious, and when he'd first seen her in the room, he had been. Furious enough to hurt her without a care for the consequences. But something about the way she reacted to his rage had stopped him cold. He couldn't bring himself to punish her, though he knew he should to make certain she didn't disobey him again.

She turned to go. As she did, something in the way she moved caught his eye, and he froze in shock and suspicious horror.

She had removed the tattered apron she'd been wearing when he first saw her. As a matter of fact, the dress she wore was different than the original, and it fit her differently. Enough to show the small bulge at her waistline. He had seen such bulges before the curse, on female servants and courtiers. Sometimes the women tried to hide them for a time under layers of clothing, as this girl had done, but now there was no mistaking it.

Suddenly, he understood why something about her scent had caught his attention. As an animal, he had somehow sensed it in a way his human brain had not had the ability to understand. The girl was with child.

"You didn't mention a husband," he heard his own voice saying, almost casually, to her retreating back. This was very bad; he could hardly expect a married woman to fall in love with him, but it was far better than the alternative. The thought that he might have been sheltering an adulteress made him shudder. His father would be turning over in his grave.

Where is her wedding band, then? a small corner of his mind asked.

Sure enough, she looked down at her stomach. He'd been right about her pregnancy, at least. She sighed, a short, tense sound. "I don't have a husband," she said in a low voice.

"What?" He barely recognized his own voice in the threatening hiss that escaped.

She turned to face him. Now he could see the fear on her face, but he was past caring. "I'm not married," she said.

The brazen little…proclaiming it to the world as if she didn't care whether he knew. "But you're with child," he growled. It was a statement, not a question.

"Yes. I am."

"You…" The word he wanted drifted up to his lips out of the recess of his memory. "You're nothing but a whore."

It was what his father had called his mother, in front of their son and the whole court, when her infidelity had been uncovered. That single word had brought the once-proud princess to her knees. The Beast could think of no insult lower. He wanted to rant, but he was so angry he could not continue. How could he have been duped this way?

If he had expected the girl to collapse in guilt, as his mother had done, he was sadly mistaken. Instead, to his immense surprise, her head snapped up and she looked him full in the face. Her eyes were blazing pinpoints of fury.

"You dare," she snapped, in a hiss that matched his own. Her voice was low, but he caught every word. "How dare you judge me, when you don't know what happened? When you don't know what I've been through? When you don't know me? When you don't know anything?"

She might as well have slapped him in the face. He reeled a step back. No one had ever spoken to him in such a tone.

"Get out."

When she moved too slowly, he reached forward, for what purpose he had no idea, and his claws snagged on the sleeve of her dress. She yanked away with a cry of terror. Three deep rips were left in the wool fabric.

"Promise or no promise, I won't stay here!" she wailed. Covering her eyes with her hands, she fled. He heard her stumble through the suite and out the doors.

He didn't bother to pursue. He simply stood there, seething.

Of all the tricks for fate to pull. A single human girl had found her way to the castle in ten years of the curse. His hopes had begun to rise. But to find out she was pregnant by another man, a man she wasn't even married to…it was too much. To think of falling in love with a ruined woman like that—not even a human man would contemplate it. He felt cheated.

Her words came echoing back. "How dare you judge me…when you don't know anything?" The Beast snorted. Well, he knew all he needed to know about her. The only thing that mattered. He whirled around and stalked back to the balcony to watch and make sure she left. She'd said she would, hadn't she? "Promise or no promise…" Then she would be off his hands. He didn't even care that she was breaking their bargain. He'd be happy if he never saw her again. She deserved whatever would happen to her in the forest, for feeding him hope and then yanking it away.

He peered over the balcony just in time to watch her clatter across the stone bridge on her massive horse. He growled under his breath, still boiling with fury. Good riddance.

As he turned back, his eye was caught by the rose. Instead of informing him how little time he had left to break the spell, it flashed brightly. For a brief instant, he was back in that dream he'd had on the girl's first night. The one where he had, prophetically he now saw, turned her from the castle. The girl stood there, bundle in her arms, glaring at him just as she had moments before. She shimmered, and became the enchantress, but she continued to glare with that same righteous anger. She whirled her wand, and the Beast took a step back, covering his eyes.

He was back in the West Wing. The rose looked just as it always did. But now the Beast recalled the enchantress's words from that dream: "Take care. This is your last chance."

"Some last chance," the Beast said aloud.

"I once warned you about allowing appearances to deceive you," said his dream-memory.

"What do you mean?"

No answer. The Beast growled under his breath and began to pace. Things were clear. He knew what he'd seen. The girl had confirmed it, for heaven's sake. She hadn't even tried to deny she was having a baby by a man she wasn't married to.

"How dare you judge me…"

He stopped as if he'd hit a wall of glass. One of her accusations was true: he didn't know what had happened to her. He knew what she'd told him, and what he'd assumed. What if…?

He shook his head violently a few times, causing his mane to ripple. He hated this. He hated not being sure. That girl really did make him feel like he didn't know anything sometimes, that the world was different than the way he had perceived it all his life, and it was not a comfortable feeling. For that, he'd hated her. But maybe, just maybe, he'd made a mistake.

It was also true that he didn't know her at all. That was her fault; she'd told Madame she wanted nothing to do with him, and he had respected her wishes.

This was so confusing! The Beast did realize the girl was right about one thing: he'd judged too quickly. From the way she'd reacted, things might not be as simple as he'd assumed they were. And now she was gone. His last hope. The enchantress had as good as told him so.

His paw had already picked up the mirror before he'd consciously ordered it.

"Show me the girl," he commanded.

The mirror obediently shimmered, and cleared to show the girl and her horse. The Beast's chest tightened when he saw the outlines of wolves through the trees. An unarmed girl and her panicked mount stood no chance against a pack eager to fatten up for the long winter ahead.

"Show me how to reach them," he ordered the mirror.

The view in the mirror swirled dizzyingly, but it backed to the castle and displayed the route he'd have to take to find the pair. The Beast tried to memorize a few landmarks, then put the mirror down beside the rose and started out of the West Wing.

He wondered what he thought he was doing, heading out to rescue a girl who a few moments before he'd been pleased to see the back of, and for good reason. The years of hopeless waiting had probably gone to his head at last. He'd lost his mind. But he did know that if he wanted to stand a chance of finding out her story, he'd better make sure she didn't die before she could tell it to him. If he really had made a mistake in turning her out, then he knew that if she were killed he'd have one more thing to feel terrible about for the rest of his life as a monster.

The servants wisely stayed out of his way as he stalked through the halls and out the front door. The Beast was glad; he didn't want to have to stop and explain. Especially since he had no explanation.

An icy wind blew through his fur, but for once he was grateful for thick snow. The horse's hoofprints were clear. He'd also hunted a little when he was younger, as royalty was expected to do. Though he'd lost interest when his father became ill, he did remember a few things. Tracking the girl would be quite simple.

The insanity of his plan hit him full-force after about ten minutes of running through the woods at top speed. The path was still clear, and he could tell where the wolves had begun the chase. But what good was he against a pack of wolves? He might be a monster with claws and teeth to match theirs, but he knew nothing about how animals fought. And he'd have to fight, if he wanted to convince them the girl was no prize.

He almost turned around and went back home right then. But he came to a tree buckled in on itself, with a dead wolf lying beneath it. It was quite clear what had happened: the horse had crushed the wolf between itself and the tree. Probably at the girl's direction.

His respect for her rose higher, unbidden. She was obviously clever as well as brave. Even under attack she had kept her head and fought back when she could. He might not have to fight all by himself. He continued on.

He bypassed a frozen pond that girl and horse had fallen into. Their prints were on the far bank, so he wasn't worried about searching the water.

The chase lengthened, and his muscles began to ache. He cursed himself with the little brain function he could spare for letting his quarry get so far ahead.

Then, suddenly, he was there. The horse was rearing and plunging, riderless with its reigns caught in a treebranch. The Beast couldn't see the girl, and for a moment his heart sank. Then his eyes found a flash of blue. She was pinned with her back against a tree, fending off half the pack with a broken branch. The Beast hesitated, afraid for a moment that she wouldn't realize he was on her side—at least for now—and bash him with the branch as well if he hurried in.

Their eyes met over the ring of wolves. Hers widened. He saw what was about to happen before it did and charged forward.

Her grip on the branch loosened. The wolves sensed weakness, and one of them leapt for her throat. She didn't have enough time to bring the branch up again, but the Beast was already there, knocking the wolf aside. It flew and hit a tree several feet away. The Beast spun to face the rest of the pack, the girl behind him.

He really didn't remember much of what happened next. Just small flashes. The entire pack jumping him, their claws burrowing into his fur. The girl using her branch to knock a few of them off his back. The horse's hooves flashing this way and that. A pain on the Beast's arm he barely noticed. A blur of teeth and claws and gray fur, mingled with the snarls of the wolves and his own roars…

And then he flung yet another wolf off of him, he heard a howling cry abruptly broken off…and it was over. The wolves were running yelping into the trees, tails between their legs. Silence descended abruptly.

All three of the small clearing's remaining occupants—horse, girl, Beast—stared at one another with wary eyes. Then, as if rehearsed, they all looked around. A single wolf lay beneath a tree. It was very still, and from the angle of its head the Beast could see that its neck had snapped. He turned away, feeling as if he were about to throw up. Had he done that?

At the movement, all of his hurts decided to inform him of their existence. A particularly intense pain in his right forearm made him look down. He immediately regretted it. A bite mark had torn a sizable chunk from his arm. Warm blood was everywhere, quickly freezing in dark clumps to his fur in the icy air. The Beast felt the world tilt at the sight of it. He'd never been comfortable with blood, his own or anyone else's. Lucky for him, you rarely saw blood in a royal palace.

I hope the girl's not hurt this badly, too. I still want to talk to her…was his last coherent thought before something that felt like a wall of snow hit him. Darkness descended, and he knew no more.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 13 of 33

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