Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 16 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

The Beast wasn't sure how long he stood stunned. Belle had vanished, and he felt no need to find her. In fact, he hoped he didn't see her again until he'd sorted out his feelings.

He'd never before heard the term she'd used. Rape. It was an ugly short word, and the quick razor way her musical voice spat it out made it even worse. Almost worse still, his lack of understanding had forced her to elaborate. He'd been longing for her to stop after the first sentence. But he'd unleashed a flood, and she went on, talking about how the man had believed her to be taunting him, had grown impatient—the Beast wanted to cover his ears.

And then she stopped on her own. By that point, the Beast had begun to feel some indignation on her part. Had she really had no other recourse? Was there nowhere she could go to make this right, to make that man pay for ruining her?

If she was to be believed, the answer was a firm 'no.' And she was clever; he knew that. If there had been a way out, she would have found it.

That was probably what struck at him the most, though her accusation of preferring to believe her guilty hit him hard. In the end, it was not really that which bothered him, though it was galling realize how naïve he'd been. No, what really shattered him was he'd been brought up to believe justice had to prevail. Hadn't his mother been condemned for just that reason? Even the Enchantress' curse had been a punishment of sorts for not letting her in.

But here was a situation where justice had not prevailed, where an apparently innocent girl had been harmed and then all but blamed for the crime. And there was no choice for her but to endure, because she was a powerless peasant female.

The Beast almost frantically thought as far back as he could remember. Had there ever been a case like this in his parents' court? Not that he could recall, though of course he'd only been to court once a week. What would his father have done had this come before him?

There was no answer. He wasn't even certain he wanted to know. If tradition was already established in cases like this, with the girl simply married off to her tormentor to avoid scandal, then his father might have held with tradition rather than look further. Or maybe not. The Beast was a little startled to realize how little he knew about his father. He had spent most of his life longing to please his father, wanting to be like him, with no real idea of what that meant. He knew the Prince had had a reputation for justice, but in a situation like this, what did it all mean?

That left, of course, what to do. There was no help from his past life, and certainly none from his current one.

A slight metallic ching told him Lumière was near. The Beast pushed open the door a little further to find the candelabra on an end table just outside the door. A look told the Beast his maitre d' had heard everything.

"Is she right, Lumière? Did she really have no other choice than marrying the man?" If anyone would know, it would be Lumière. Cogsworth paid little attention to things outside the household, and Mrs. Potts would probably refuse to answer.

"She is unfortunately correct, Master." Lumière's long-nosed face was sad. "And she is very brave to choose the path she did."

"You mean deciding not to give in and get married, or agreeing to stay here?" The Beast now saw why she might have considered changing places with her father a good option, if her other choice was to return home and marry a man who had forced himself upon her.

"Both," Lumière replied. "And we must also consider a mother's protective instinct. She may have wanted to shield her enfant from the influence of his father."

"Choosing to risk me over that does not speak well for her options. Or for the child's father," the Beast said a little ruefully, glancing down at his clawed paws.

Lumière glanced at him sharply, as if he'd said something unexpected. Whatever had surprised him, he kept it to himself. His response was bland. "I suppose not, sir."

"Lumière?" the Beast asked tentatively after a few seconds. "What would…what would my father have done? About Belle."

The maitre d's face went blank. "I am not sure, Master. I am not sure. Your father was a fair man, and tried to do his best by his people, but he was also a very busy man with many cares. He simply did not have time to closely investigate every case brought before him. He was also quite…traditional, shall we say? I think it likely—" He stopped.

"—he would have had her marry the man no matter what she said," the Beast finished. He heard himself sigh. "I thought so, somehow, from what little I remember about him."

"As I said, I cannot be sure," Lumière said scrupulously. "But there are other things to consider when you think of your father. You were shielded from such things because of your youth, but it is relatively common for young women jilted by former lovers to claim they were forced in order to escape responsibility for their actions, or out of desire for revenge."

"You don't think—"

"No, I have seen enough to be almost entirely certain that is not the case here. Belle has been badly hurt, and she is bitter and angry. You have seen this, I think. You have also seen how little she wishes to speak of what happened. She is not the kind to escape responsibility, not after what she did for her father. Nor do I believe she wants any sort of revenge."

"Why not?"

"Because if she were, she would be trying to persuade you, or one of us, to exact vengeance for her, since she is powerless," Lumière replied bluntly. "She has not, yes?"

"Of course not." The Beast couldn't imagine Belle doing such a thing. It just didn't seem in her nature. What little he knew of it, anyway. "She seems more resigned than anything," he mused aloud.

"Oui, we thought so as well," Lumière agreed. "But you see why your father would wish to be cautious."

"Yes. I think I do."

"There is one more thing." The Beast could hear clear hesitancy in Lumière's voice. Every word was careful and deliberate. "I tell you this only because it is something your father would have considered. The girl did have one option when she discovered she had conceived. There are ways to…to be rid of unwanted children before they are born. Usually with the aid of a skilled midwife or wise woman. Of course, that would only have helped her with the child, not the continued advances of her suitor."

The Beast felt nauseated. This was just as sickening as realizing a man could force himself on a woman. "But that's…that's killing the child," he said weakly.

"It is. I did not want to tell you of this, Master. Indeed, Mrs. Potts was of the opinion that I should not. But I feel you must know if you are to understand Belle. To do that, you must have all the facts before you, even those you do not want to hear."

"I'd have been happier not knowing. Maybe I don't want to understand the girl anymore."

"It is too late for that," Lumière said, with a trace of his usual humor returning to his voice. "After all, you asked her."

That annoyed the Beast. It had been his own burning curiosity that had started the discussion in the first place. He growled under his breath. Then something occurred to him.

"Why didn't she, then? Take that option you mentioned. It would have made her life easier. She could have hidden what happened, maybe run away. She might still have found a husband, one she liked."

"That is a question for her, Master."

"You're as bad as Mrs. Potts," the Beast snarled. "Why won't anyone tell me anything when I ask?"

"The girl did," Lumière reminded him innocently, though he had backed a few paces up on the table.

The Beast's growl was louder this time. Lumière leapt back, but once it was clear there was nothing further coming, he added, "I will say, Master, that the girl may have felt as you do, that to kill a child would be unbearable. But I honestly cannot tell what reason she might give. And it is useless to speculate. If you wish to know, you must ask."

"I won't make that mistake again," the Beast insisted. "Not after what happened this time."

Lumière shrugged. "That is entirely up to you, Master. And now, if you will excuse me, I must go to the kitchens. Shall I send Mrs. Potts out with lunch?"

"No. I want to be alone for awhile. But…send someone to find Belle and see if she's hungry."

Lumière left, and the Beast went up to the West Wing. Once there, he stalked onto the balcony to survey the landscape. No more snow had fallen for a week, so there were many patches of brown to be seen now instead of endless whiteness.

The conversation with Lumière had, surprisingly, soothed the Beast's mind somewhat. His thoughts were no longer whirling in tight little circles like a sparrow with a hurt wing. He was still upset, but at least he could begin to sort a few things out.

Belle was innocent. That at least was a relief to know. He'd been wrestling with himself all week, seeing Belle flaring up at him again. "How dare you judge me…" He hated being wrong, normally, but the more he'd seen of the girl, the harder time he had seeing her as a jaded seductress. She was straightforward whenever she had something to say, which wasn't often. She'd look right at him if he spoke, as if she were truly interested. She had adjusted to the way he looked, and to the servants, amazingly quickly.

And she clearly needed a place of sanctuary to have her child. The castle was as cut off from the outside world as one could get. Now that he knew some of what had happened to her, the Beast found he had no objections to having her around. The servants had certainly taken to her, he thought with a wry smile. They would work hard to make certain the girl was as comfortable as possible.

As for his original hopes for her? They were in shambles. Belle could have sanctuary, but he could not see himself coming to love her. She was a ruined woman, carrying another man's child. That, and he already knew far more about her than he was comfortable with; he wanted nothing more.

Yes, he kept occasionally having physical reactions to her. But they were mild, and easily dismissed. He'd kept them to himself without much difficulty. He doubted even worldly, sharp-eyed Lumière or disturbingly observant Mrs. Potts had noticed. Cogsworth, of course, would remain in blissful oblivion. Lucky him.

And Belle herself? The Beast sighed, regretful despite his resolve. She was pretty, after all, and she seemed kind. But he could hardly expect her to love him. Not with everything else she had on her plate. A baby on the way, and a terror in her past that nothing would erase. He wouldn't blame her if she never wanted to look at a man again after being forced, let alone a creature like him. There was no chance at all, and certainly not with the short amount of time he had left. A glance at the rose was all he needed to confirm that. The situation was hopeless.

That resolved, the Beast paused. It was only then he realized he'd been pacing. Despite sorting out what to do about Belle, he was still very disturbed by all he'd learned that day. Once again, the girl had managed to completely turn his world on its head simply by existing.

He wished she'd stop it.

The rest of the day he spent in the West Wing, deep in thought. Finally, just before the last rays of the sun vanished, he concluded that the next time he saw Belle he would act as if nothing had changed. She was still a guest—well, prisoner—who had saved his life. He was still a Beast who had saved hers. They wouldn't exactly avoid each other, but the castle was big enough that they wouldn't have to see one another often. Once the child was born, things might change, but the Beast wasn't ready to think about that yet. For now, this was how things would be.

Belle kept to herself for the next few days. She still walked her horse in the mornings and she and the Beast still met in the parlor afterwards, but these meetings were usually very brief and completely silent. It was now always Belle who left first.

"She's uncertain. Give her more time," Mrs. Potts said when the Beast asked her if Belle was feeling sick again. Which was not an answer.

Three mornings later, the Beast happened to glance out his window in time to see Belle trotting slowly on her horse's back in the courtyard below. He hadn't seen her ride since the day she'd run away. Drawn for some reason, he went out on his balcony to watch.

She did not go very far, or ride very fast. Instead, she put her horse through paces as if they were in a riding ring. The massive horse might have been bred as a cart horse, but he was clearly trained for riding as well. The Beast wondered whether Belle herself had trained him. She was obviously a good horsewoman, from what he could tell.

Lumière and Cogsworth found him there.

"Oh la la, what a sight, no?" grinned Lumière.

The Beast glared at him. "I wasn't watching her. I was thinking how long it's been since I've seen anyone ride a horse like that."

"It has been many years," agreed Cogsworth. "The girl is exceptionally accomplished at horsemanship."

"She is also devoted to her horse," Lumière added. "She insists upon caring for him herself when she brings him back to the stable."

"What else does she do with her day?" the Beast asked curiously. He knew what he did, and he had a pretty good idea of the daily routines of the servants. Belle had no such routine.

"She usually explores the castle, and sometimes the grounds," Cogsworth informed him. Of course the clock would know; he'd see it as his duty to make certain the girl did not need anything during her day. "She has visited each of the staff who is unable to move, and is making an effort to address everyone by name."

"But there are at least a hundred servants," the Beast recalled. He knew them all by sound, but even he could not remember all the names of the feather dusters and other knickknacks.

"Indeed," Cogsworth replied. The head of household sounded annoyingly pleased that his Master had been able to deduce this. The Beast bit back an irritated rumble.

"Perhaps the girl is bored," suggested Lumière. "Not that learning everyone's name is not admirable, but she will eventually come to the end of such a project."

The Beast had not lived with these two for the better part of his life and not learned to recognize when they were leading up to something. It was better to see what they had in mind and get it over with rather than let them continue to dance hints around him. Then he could decide whether to act on it or not. "What do you suggest?" he asked resignedly.

Lumière and Cogsworth exchanged satisfied glances, and the Beast suppressed a sigh. He was really in for it this time.

"Master, do you remember that the girl likes to read?" asked Lumière.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 16 of 33

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