Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 14 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

He was warm. That was the first thing the Beast noticed as he returned to consciousness. He could no longer feel the individual piercings of cold that were clumps of snow in his fur.

The next thing he was aware of was the pain, especially on his arm. He moaned a little.

"Ah, he's awake," said Mrs. Potts' voice.

"Oh, dear," said another voice. This one the Beast recognized but couldn't place. "I was hoping to clean that bite before he woke. Never mind. Can you fetch some hot water, a basin, and a towel, please?"

"Right away, dear." A rolling sound.

"Mrs. Potts?" the Beast asked blearily.

"She went to the kitchen to fetch me something to clean your wounds," replied the other voice. He couldn't recall to whom it belonged. It was young, female, and matter-of-fact.

The Beast opened his eyes. He was in the castle, in his own front parlor, in fact ensconced in his favorite chair. For the life of him he could not remember how he had gotten there. The last thing he really remembered was blood on his arm, and numbing cold. Lumière, Cogsworth, Chip, and Babette were gathered before the fire in a tight, worried group. On one of the couches, with a heavy blanket draped regally around her shoulders sat…

The girl. Hers had been that practical voice he couldn't place. He realized with an odd feeling that he'd never bothered to remember her name. Her father had mentioned it, but it wouldn't come to mind. Something that started with a 'B,' maybe.

She met his eyes, and stood, the blanket still around her shoulders. "How do you feel?"

"I hurt," he grumbled.

A muscle jumped subtly on her face, as if she were restraining a grimace—or a laugh. "I know, and when Mrs. Potts gets here we'll do something about that. I meant, besides that. Do you feel weak, ill?"

He considered. "Not ill. Just tired."

"Ah." There was an awkward silence. The girl looked down at the floor, and the Beast also felt his eyes drifting in that direction. The words he'd said to her before she'd fled seemed to hang in the air between them. He felt he should apologize, but couldn't bring himself to do so. What if he'd been right all along? Then there'd be no need to apologize.

Mrs. Potts arrived right then, luckily. She smiled when she saw the Beast looking at her. "There you are, Master, you had us all quite worried! Here you are, Belle, dear."

Belle. Beauty.

"Thank you, Mrs. Potts." Belle took the steaming basin off the teapot's tray, along with the towel. She brought both next to the Beast's chair, knelt, and wrung some water into the cloth.

It was only then the Beast realized what she intended. "Oh, no. Keep that away from me."

She lowered the towel, and raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

"It's going to hurt."

"Just hold still. It will be over before you know it. We have to do this or your cuts might get infected. Then it will hurt worse."

The Beast just looked at her dubiously. Belle sighed, and glanced at the servants.

"You know, she is right, Master," Lumière said nervously. "It will get worse later if you don't make certain it is clean."

"No telling what those nasty wolves had for their last meal," Cogsworth added with a shudder.

"You see?" Belle turned back to look at the Beast. "If it helps, I already did my own." She held out an arm. It was bare, the sleeve nothing but ribbons. A long gash cut its way from wrist to elbow. He gulped as he remembered the reason that arm was bare: he had torn the sleeve in the West Wing. Had his claws cut her as well?

"You didn't do this," Belle said, as if she'd read his mind. "I cut my arm on a branch when I was thrown from Philippe. My horse."

It made him feel a little better. Still, he withheld the wounded arm. "I'll clean it myself. See?" He made to lick it.

"Don't do that," Belle said with a wince. "Just take a deep breath and it will be over as quickly as I can make it. The more you fight, the longer this will take."

"This wouldn't be necessary if you hadn't run into a pack of wolves," he grumbled as she reached for his arm.

She made an indignant noise.

"What?" he snapped. "You think that was my fault?"

"Who told me to get out?" she asked in a logical tone.

She'd touched a guilty nerve. "What were you doing in the West Wing, then?"

"Have you done anything but yell at me since I arrived?"

"Of course, I—" He stopped. That cool tone of voice was back. He blinked, and looked at her more closely. Her face was carefully neutral, but he could see the tension in her shoulders. Now that he thought about it, she'd mentioned something similar to Madame in the magic mirror.

He looked away. "No, I haven't," he said. Even to himself he sounded unbearably sulky.

She said nothing. When he dared a look, there was a real expression on her face. She actually appeared taken aback. When she caught him looking, she flushed a little, but her expression had shifted to a more thoughtful one. Without a word, she took his unresisting arm, and had a swab on it before he realized what she had done. He flinched at the sting but held himself still. His fur was prickling, and he realized it was the first time he had been touched in years. He handled the servants sometimes, like picking Lumière up in his capacity as candelabra, but the servants never touched him. It was a strange sensation.

Why was she doing this? He'd done nothing to endear himself to her, as she'd just pointed out. She had no reason to show him any kindness. In fact, thinking back, he had been completely powerless when he'd fainted in the woods. She could easily have left him there. He would have died alone in the cold, and she would have gotten on with her life with her father and, presumably, her unborn child. Instead, it appeared she had brought him back despite her own injuries and was now caring for him almost against his will.

"Why?" he blurted out.

She paused in cleaning the bite. "Why what?"

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because as wound getting infected is a terrible thing. No one deserves that, especially since it can be prevented. I used to nurse birds that my friends and I would find when I was younger, so I know what to do." She went back to cleaning.

So that was it. She saw him as a poor suffering animal to care for. Of course she didn't expect anything like gratitude, because animals couldn't show any. She did what she did out of some generous impulse. A few of the court ladies had been like this; bring a sick or injured animal to them and they would not rest until it was well again, even if the animal itself growled and savaged them.

Still, the girl had given up a chance at freedom. Had he somehow survived, he wouldn't have begrudged her her chance at escape. Much. It wasn't as if he still particularly wanted her here.

He felt her fingers go still, and glanced down. She was looking him right in the eye. "I also owe you a debt. You saved my life." She paused. "Thank you."

He was amazed. So she didn't see him as just another animal to nurse. She understood that he had decided to come after her despite ordering her out.

"You're welcome," he heard his own voice say. It was an automatic habit he didn't even know he'd retained.

If he thought he read her brief expression right, he would have said she looked pleased. Then she turned back to his arm. "Done," she said. "I need—"

"Bandages," Mrs. Potts finished. "Here, dear."

"Thank you, Mrs. Potts. You're a Godsend." Belle smiled at the teapot and went to fetch the bandages. She came back and wound the cloth around and around the Beast's arm.

"There. That should do it. I'll have to…" Belle staggered as she began to rise, and ended up clutching the back of the Beast's chair.

"Are you well, chérie?" aksed Lumière.

"Of course," she answered. She let go of the chair and staggered again. She put a hand to her temple. "I just have a little headache, that's all."

"Bed for you, dear," Mrs. Potts said firmly. "You must have over-exhausted yourself today. You too, Master. I'll bring you both some hot soup later. Come on."

They took Belle back to her room first. The young woman nodded to them both as Madame took charge of her. Awkwardly the Beast raised a paw in response. The door closed.

"I'm proud of you for going after the girl, Master," Mrs. Potts remarked as they walked—in her case, rolled on her tea-cart—to the West Wing.

"I just wanted to hear her story," the Beast said. "She couldn't tell me if she was dead."

"Her story?" Mrs. Potts repeated.

"She's pregnant," the Beast informed her "She's not married to the father."

"I know," answered Mrs. Potts.

"She told you?" The Beast struggled to contain his outrage.

"No. At least, not at first. She told us when I guessed she was expecting. And," she added, "I don't believe the poor dear would have told us otherwise until she couldn't hide it anymore. She's that afraid to be judged."

"What happened to her?" asked the Beast. Maybe he wouldn't have to ask the girl.

"That isn't mine to tell, sir."

The Beast growled.

"Try to understand, sir. I sense she's been through more than any of us know. And she may not be ready to tell you much at all even if you ask. She hardly told us anything, and she seemed in a telling mood. You must try to be patient."

The Beast growled again. They both knew patience was not a strong suit of his.

"You must try, if you want to know anything about her," Mrs. Potts asserted.

The Beast resolved to at least wait until tomorrow. Then he'd ask.

He thought he wouldn't be able to sleep, but it appeared that Mrs. Potts had been right about over-exhaustion. The stress of the day meant he fell into oblivion almost instantly once he reached his bed. The pain of his arm did not wake him once during the night.

Mrs. Potts brought in bad news with breakfast. Belle had developed a fever overnight and was not up to seeing anyone.

"She's in good hands with Madame, but she's very weak," the teapot reported. "Worn to the bone, and too much time out in the cold. Nothing a few days' rest and some good meals won't cure."

"Feed her whatever you feel will help," the Beast ordered, knowing he was lifting his ban on Belle eating without him.

"Thank you, Master," Mrs. Potts beamed. "She'll be happy to hear it."

The Beast was left alone to distract himself from his pain. Even walking hurt, and to make things worse, he was also very stiff. Eventually, he found himself wandering down to Belle's door without any real plan on what to do when he got there.

Mrs. Potts emerged just as he arrived. "There's no use hovering, Master. These things take their own time."

"What will make her better faster?"

"I can ask and see if she wants anything." Mrs. Potts vanished back into the dim room. The Beast tried to peer into the shadows after her, but all his eyes could detect was some vague movement. He heard low voices, though he easily picked out Madame's fluting tones.

Mrs. Potts emerged again. "She says she'd like a book to pass the time."

"A book?" The Beast was confused. Why would she want to study while she was sick? That was one of the few things that had gotten him out of studying when he was young.

"I can fetch one," Mrs. Potts said, reading the uncertainty on his face.

"No, I'll do it." The Beast surprised even himself with this response.

Mrs. Potts blinked at him. "Very well, sir." She left on her cart, presumably back to the kitchen. Chip peered at the Beast from behind his mother all the way down the hall.

The Beast hadn't been in the library in years. He paused at the large double doors. They seemed to lead into a dark and mysterious cave rather than just a room full of books. True, the room itself was cavernous, but he'd never realized how different it would look dim and shut and musty. He shook his head. It was just the library. He went to find Lumière or one of his fellow candlesticks.

Five minutes later, he had opened the curtains on a few windows in the library, and a candlestick-page had hopped back to its regular duties. The Beast surveyed the library. Now to find a book. But which one? This library boasted thousands. Finally, he went to the one section he remembered—the schoolroom section. From it he selected a book at random, closed the curtains again, and padded back to Belle's room.

Madame permitted him entrance, dubiously. Belle was propped up in bed, her face flushed and her hair disheveled. She looked surprised to see him enter alone.

As he approached the bed, the Beast couldn't help but notice Belle's nightgown was very fine and hugged every curve. She was covered up to the waist, but his mouth went dry just from what he could see.

"Yes?" Belle asked curiously when he was silent too long.

He hastily cleared his throat. "I brought you a book. Mrs. Potts said you said it would make you feel better."

Belle's eyes lit, but she still looked a little uncertain. "Thank you. That was very…thoughtful." She reached out, which shifted her nightgown and caused the Beast's face to flush hot, but he handed over the book.

"A Brief Historie of the Kinges of the Illustrious Realme of France," Belle read out. "Ah…thank you very much."

Something in her face—not her voice, which was again carefully neutral—told the Beast she was not entirely thrilled.

"You don't want a book?" he asked.

"No, no! I want to read. I've just…never read this one before." She hesitated. "Is it…one of your favorites?"

"My favorite what?"

"Favorite book?"

"No. Why would it be?" Favorite book? He was confused again.

"I was just curious, since you picked this particular one, and Cogsworth mentioned your library was quite large."

"It is," the Beast agreed, not sure what this had to do with it.

"Never mind," Belle said quickly. "I'm sure it will be very interesting. Thank you for thinking of me."

"You're welcome." Again, the response was automatic. Task completed, the Beast turned and left the room. He didn't dare look back, either to see what expression the girl wore or for another glimpse of her cuves.

Once well away, he paused and took a deep breath. What was wrong with him? He really had lost his wits. Fetching the book didn't worry him too much, though he'd never had to fetch something for someone else in his life. That was what servants were for. However, in this case he felt justified in doing servants' work for the sake of satisfying his own curiosity. The faster the girl got better, the sooner she could explain why it was not a bad thing to be pregnant without being married.

No, what bothered him was his reaction to her. Oh, he'd known the major differences between a woman's body and a man's years before the curse. One didn't grow up in a royal court and not learn some things. He knew perfectly well how babies were made—he'd seen servants in secluded corners a few times. In fact, his most specific explanation had come from Lumière after he'd caught the maitre d' and Babette the maid together once. And he vaguely recalled, in the last year or so before the curse, becoming inexplicably uncomfortable in the presence of women like Madame and Babette who were well-endowed. The spell itself had ended that—there were no longer any women with voluptuous curves about to look at.

But this. This went beyond just feeling vaguely uncomfortable. These were actual physical symptoms for which he had no explanation other than the sight of a woman's chest under a thin nightdress. He wished he could talk to Lumière about it, but his stomach squirmed with embarrassment at the very thought. He'd have to keep this to himself. And avoid the new resident if there was any possibility she wouldn't be fully clothed.

Why, oh why had she come here? She had brought nothing but trouble in her wake.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 14 of 33

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