Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 17 of 33

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Kissed by a Rose

"Uh, Belle?"

Belle turned around, and there he was. The Beast. She wasn't exactly pleased to see him; she'd been avoiding him as much as possible without being rude in the past few days. She told herself she was giving him time to think, but if she were really honest she had to admit she feared what he might say. Or do.

Now, looking at him, she thought her worries had probably been unfounded. There was no concealed malice or disgust in his face as he looked at her. She only read uncertainty in his eyes.

"Yes?" she asked.

He blinked, as if surprised she'd answered rather than just walked away. "How are you, um, feeling?"

"Why, fine." She hesitated. "Thank you for asking."

If anything, he looked even more awkward. "I…ah, that's good."

"I hope you're well?" Belle asked, determined to return his friendly gesture, no matter his motives.

"Yes. Yes, I am." He cleared his throat. "You ride very well."

"You were watching me yesterday?" Belle wasn't sure how she felt about this.

He shrugged uncomfortably. "I happened to see you when you started. It was an accident. But you're very good at riding. Did you train your horse yourself?"

"No," Belle admitted despite her surprise. "We bought Philippe trained for both riding and pulling. He was a compromise between my parents—Papa needed help carrying his inventions, and Maman wanted—" She stopped. This was starting to stray into painful territory, and she had no idea why she was telling him any of this. "Never mind." She spread her hands. "Philippe and I have been together a long time; we know each other pretty well by now. And he's so sweet and easy to handle, despite his size. Anyone would be safe on his back."

"I don't know about anyone," he responded.

Belle stared at him, completely taken aback. Either he was far more literal-minded than she'd guessed, or he'd just made a joke. Possibly at his own expense. The way his eyes were narrowed slightly at the corners made her think it was the latter.

Belle felt the corners of her own mouth creep up. She even managed not to think about his teeth when he smiled shyly back. Then she blinked and shook her head slightly. "Did you come to talk to me about something?"

"Why would you think that?"

The slight defensive growl in his voice told her she was right. "I just guessed. You had an air of purpose about you."

"I did want to ask you something."

"Of course." After baring her soul the last time he'd had a question, she felt ready for anything he might ask.

"I've got something to show you first. Will you come with me for a minute?"

Belle eyed him suspiciously. Then she scolded herself mentally for her suspicion. If he'd wanted to harm her in any way, he would have done so a long time ago. He'd had ample opportunity. "Of course."

Immediately, he swept his cloak around him and left the room. Belle followed. He took much bigger steps than she, and she was soon far behind despite her best efforts to trot. Belle knew if he got out of sight she'd never find him; she was still a long way from committing the castle's corridors to memory.

She rounded a corner and nearly ran into him. He'd been waiting for her.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"I went too fast," he admitted, by way of apology. "I didn't realize. I'll be more careful from now on."

"Thank you," Belle replied. They set off again, this time side-by-side. The Beast was walking on two legs instead of four again today, Belle noticed with interest. In fact, in most of the times she'd seen him in the past few days, he'd been upright. Looking more closely, Belle also saw that he was also wearing a shirt today, something she'd never seen before.

"What?" He'd caught her looking, and he sounded annoyed.

"I…I was just admiring your shirt. I like that color of cream."

"Oh." He plucked embarrassedly at a sleeve. "Lumière suggested it. I'd forgotten how uncomfortable shirts are. They pull my fur in strange ways."

Belle made a noise that she hoped was sympathetic. In fact, she was trying not to imagine what a shirt against so much thick fur must feel like. She had to agree with the Beast, it sounded quite uncomfortable.

They turned a corner into a hall Belle was certain she'd never seen before, not even on the tour with Cogsworth and Lumière. It was relatively narrow, and filled with sunlight from several tall windows. Surprisingly, there were no gargoyles or leering faces to be seen. "Where are we?" she asked, puzzled.

"You'll see," the Beast answered mysteriously. Belle considered refusing to move another step until she was told what was going on, but discarded the idea as childish. Again, she consoled herself with the notion that if the Beast had intended to do something awful to her all along, he'd have done it before now.

"Come on." The Beast beckoned her with a claw. He led her to a set of closed double doors, which, when opened, revealed a darkened room. Belle squinted, but she couldn't make anything out within. Was it windowless, or were the window drapes just very heavy?

The Beast strode purposefully inside. Belle trailed after him, still trying to see around her. Here and there were stabs of bright sunlight, but they were so thin and concentrated that they weren't useful for seeing anything. They also seemed to be impossibly far away, like oddly lengthened stars against a night sky.

Belle bumped into something and stifled a gasp. Her fingers felt grained wood, and as they explored more, she recognized the back of a chair.

"Beast?" she called, uncertainly, and jumped. Her voice had echoed, like it did in the vast entrance hall.

"Still here," he called back. "Hold on. And you should probably shut your eyes. The sun might hurt once I open the curtains."

Belle did as instructed, just in time. There was a shuffling sound, and light streamed in. She kept her eyes shut and just listened as her eyes adjusted behind their lids. Her ears detected the Beast's claws on marble floors, another shuffle, another influx of light. She hazarded cracking one eye. The sun did hurt, but her eye quickly grew used to it. She opened the other, and waited for the dazzle to pass. The light grew brighter still as the Beast pulled back another curtain.

Belle gripped the back of the chair as her eyes registered what they were seeing. The reason the pinpoints of light from the covered windows had seemed far away was because they were. The room was huge; she'd never seen another like it outside the great sanctuary in the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. But this cathedral was even more wonderous: it was filled from floor to ceiling with books. Books were tucked into every possible niche in the room imaginable, except for the space left for the tall, narrow windows letting light from all directions.

"Oh…" Belle breathed, putting a hand to her chest. "Oh…"

The Beast came padding up to her. "What do you think?" He sounded nervous for some reason.

"Is this real?" Belle asked. Her voice came out breathless and squeaky.

"Of course. Where did you think I got your book when you were sick?"

"I never imagined…I pictured a room with a few shelves of scholarly works. All the libraries I've ever seen look like that. But this…I've never seen so many books in all my life. I think I may faint."

Immediately he looked worried, and took a hesitant step closer. "You won't, will you?"

"No, I don't think so." Belle fanned herself lightly with one hand, the other resting on the small bulge that was her baby. "But I feel like a child at Christmastide. I don't know where to look first." She glanced at the expression on his face, and couldn't suppress a laugh. "You were going to catch me if I fainted, weren't you?"

He nodded. "I was afraid you'd get hurt."

"Don't worry. I'm not going to faint. I'm fine. Just a little overwhelmed."


Belle was glad neither of them would have to find out what would have happened if she'd fainted. She wasn't sure how she'd feel about being carried by him, even if she were senseless when it happened. From the looks of him, he was thinking the same thing, in reverse.

He swept an arm out to indicate the room. "Do you like it?"

"It's wonderful. I could spend the rest of my life in here and still not read it all. How do you keep track of everything?"

The Beast cleared his throat. "It turns out, we don't. Cogsworth has informed me there hasn't been an official librarian here for at least a generation."

"That's awful!" Belle couldn't imagine the disarray the books might have fallen into in such a time.

"Things are still in a general sort of order. You'll see if you take a closer look. Subjects are still grouped together, for the most part. I think. The books don't really get moved around a lot. But nothing's organized, and…"

"You want me to do it?" Belle finished, trying to conceal her hope.

"If you think it's too much work, especially with…" the Beast trailed off, glancing at her stomach. Belle caught his meaning.

"Of course not! I'll work in here right up until the baby comes, if I have to!" Belle looked around enthusiastically. "I can start right now."

"Then do with this place exactly what you want. Think of it as yours, right down to controlling who comes and goes, if you wish." The Beast gestured at the shelves.

"Oh, thank you!" While she was still so happy she wouldn't think about it, she reached out and took one of the Beast's paws in her two hands. "Really, thank you. You've given me something beyond my wildest dreams. It's the nicest thing anyone's done for me in…my whole life. This is more than I ever dared hope for."

He looked at the paw, and then at her. She could tell he was considering pulling it back. Instead, to her surprise, he relaxed a little. "Don't thank me. It wasn't really my idea. The servants thought you might be getting bored with learning their names." He smiled a little. "They said you needed a project."

"I'll remember to thank them, too. I'd been wondering what I was going to do with myself. Everyone else seems to have jobs to keep them busy. They make time if I want to talk, but I always feel like I'm in the way."

The Beast nodded thoughtfully. Belle noticed at some point he'd taken his paw back from her hands. "I've never had words for it, but I've felt the same way for most of my life." He snorted softly. "In theory, their lives revolve around me, as their Master. But they don't seem to have time for me all that often. Does that make any sense?"

"I understand." Belle did, too. The servants were nice, and she liked them all a great deal, but they always had important tasks to do with running the household. Belle hated to keep them busy when she just wanted company. It seemed petty, somehow. "You get lonely," she said, half to herself.

"Yes," he replied, so quietly she almost didn't hear him. Belle looked at him with a lot more sympathy than she'd ever expected to feel for her captor. Ten years of being isolated. Surrounded by people—in a way—yet completely alone. She knew how that felt, only too well. She wondered how he'd borne it for so long.

She blinked, and found he was almost out the library doors. "Where are you going?" Belle asked, completely puzzled. Had he been offended by what she'd said?

"I thought you wanted to get started," the Beast replied. "You don't need me for that."

"Oh, but—" Belle halted. For some reason, she'd assumed he would stay around while she worked. Now that seemed silly. They'd never spent more than an hour together in a day before. Why should she expect that to change? Surely he had other ways of occupying his time. After ten years, he'd have to. Still, something made her blurt, "What are you planning on doing next?"

He thought a moment. "I don't know. I'll probably go up to the West Wing and pace for an hour or so."

Belle laughed, then stopped at the snarling curl of his lips. "You were serious," she realized with some horror and amazement, one hand flying to her mouth. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea. I didn't mean to be cruel." She swallowed. "Are you…do you spend a lot of your time in the West Wing?"

"Most of it," he snapped.

"Oh." Belle bit her lip. "Well, would you mind staying to help me, then? I'd appreciate it. And I'd like the company."

"I don't think I'd be much help." The Beast held up his massive paws. "These are more built for destroying books than paging through them."

Belle could tell he was working into a temper. She was tempted to tell him he could go pace his anger off and she'd handle things without him, but knew that to be the coward's way out. "You never know until you try," she answered calmly.

He folded his arms. "And if I try and it doesn't work?"

"Then we've learned something. And we'll have to use our heads to find ways for you to help. Deciding you can't and giving up before trying is a sure way to fail." Belle folded her own arms.

He stared at her. She could see the fur rising a little on the hackles of his neck and braced herself for a roar. His eyes went up and down her determined form, and he seemed to deflate. "Where do you want to start?" he asked sulkily.

Belle pointed to a set of shelves at random. "There's as good a place as any." She set off determinedly towards the chosen shelf, with the Beast trailing behind. Once there, she selected a book and handed it to him. He stared it as if he'd never seen a book before.

"Open it," Belle urged. The Beast hesitated, then, using his claws very delicately, he took the book's cover and flipped it open. He stared at the frontspiece in confusion, then dropped the book to the floor. Belle jumped at the echoing crash.

"What's wrong?"

"I—I can't." He turned and started stalking towards the doors.

"Wait!" Belle ran after him, reached up and gripped his shoulder. At that moment, she didn't even consider her own danger.

He spun around. "Leave me alone. I can't!"

"Can't what?"

"The letters. They're all…funny. They don't look like words anymore!"

"That doesn't sound right." Now that she was fairly sure he wouldn't leave, Belle went back and picked up the dropped book. She read the cover, and had to wait a moment to still her own beating heart.

Arthur and Guinevere. A copy more luxurious than any she'd ever held before, but it was the same beloved story.

She turned slowly back. "Here, try again."

He took the book, squinted at the cover, then tried to hand it back. "Really, I can't. The letters don't make any sense anymore."

"I don't understand. You used to be able to read?"

He nodded.

"If I can ask, how long as it been since you tried?"

"Uh…" He looked upward as he tried to remember. "At least eleven years. Maybe more."

Belle struggled to contain her horror. She couldn't imagine not reading for so long. Such a poor reaction would not help him; it would just make him feel worse. "Maybe you've just forgotten what the letters look like, since it's been so long."

"I can't help you with the library then. I'll see you tomorrow, Belle. I'm glad you like the library."

"Don't go yet. You just need to remember. I'll help you. We can start today, right now if you want."

"What about the library?"

"It can wait."

"Why would I want to read? I never needed it before," he grumbled.

"If I'd had to read nothing but books like the one you gave me, I might agree with you," Belle smiled. "You've never seen the world of books like I have. They can take you to exciting places you never dreamed existed."

He raised an eyebrow, clearly disbelieving.

"I'll show you." She reached out and took the book from him. "This is one of my favorites."

He took a step backwards, still shaking his head.

"I'll make you a deal," Belle coaxed. "I will read the first chapter of this book aloud to you. If at the end of the chapter you don't want me to read any more, then I won't mention re-learning to read again. If you want to keep going, however, then I'll help you read the next chapter yourself. We'll go from there. How does that sound?"

He hesitated a long moment. Then he sighed. "Oh, all right." His tone said clearly he expected to regret it.

"You'll like it, I promise," Belle said eagerly. "Come on, let's sit down." She led him over to a large couch by a fireplace. He sat delicately, as if afraid it would collapse under him. Even after Belle sat as well, he still perched on the very edge of the cushion. Belle elected to ignore this and hope he'd relax as the story went.

She opened the book and turned reverently to the first page. There was a reason she'd bet the Beast would want to continue: the first chapter ended with the death of King Uther, Arthur's father, putting baby Prince Arthur's life in uncertain jeopardy. Things were resolved in the next chapter with Arthur growing up safely in the house of a poor but loyal knight called Sir Ector, under the wise guardianship of Wizard Merlin. However, the Beast wouldn't know that. Belle felt a little cruel, but she told herself it was for a good cause. He'd never experienced how much fun reading could be. Maybe he'd even be less lonely, if he met the friends she'd found hidden in the pages of books.

She wondered briefly what she was getting into. A part of her still argued she should want nothing to do with her captor, after all the cruel things he'd done to her. A larger part wondered what had happened in his past to make him like that. His cruelties, in hindsight, seemed almost…unwitting. As if he didn't know any better. And there seemed to be something more to him, something underneath, buried beneath years of anger and loneliness.

Maybe she didn't know what she was getting into. But she did have a sense that somehow, she was doing the right thing.

She began to read.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 17 of 33

<< Previous     Home     Next >>