Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 20 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Belle sat dumbly on her bed. Madame was already dozing in the corner, though she had mumbled greetings when the young woman entered. Belle was grateful. She needed time alone to think things out.

She'd been so excited when she felt the first flutterings of her baby inside her. She had kept it to herself, though she rather thought Mrs. Potts suspected what was going on. The last time the baby had kicked when the servants were around and Belle had gone still to savor the joy of it, she caught the tail-end of a knowing smile from the teapot. Thankfully, Mrs. Potts had said nothing. Belle did not like the idea of Lumière trying to feel the baby's kicks. The candelabra was always careful to keep his hands from burning anyone, except Cogsworth of course, but in his excitement Belle feared he might forget.

Yet, as time went on, her own excitement grew every time she felt the baby move. She wanted to share it with someone. And then the baby had begun to kick, harder than ever, just as she was finished reading the Christmas story to the Beast. It was so strong she felt sure he'd be able to feel it. Her need to share her joy had overwhelmed her, and she'd placed his paw on her stomach.

At first, she could tell he was embarrassed by her gesture. Then the baby had kicked, and he'd gone just as still as she. He'd felt it. For a moment, Belle knew they'd shared the same excitement.

Then she realized what she'd done. She rarely touched the Beast, and he never touched her first. Suddenly, she was inexplicably very self-conscious. In her panic, she'd asked simply to go to bed. He'd walked her to her room without a word. Maybe she'd offended him by asking him to feel the baby, or her abrupt ending to the evening, or both. It was hard to tell with him.

She was so confused. What was so inherently disturbing about what had just happened? Yet she was disturbed. She felt as though she'd done something incredibly important without realizing it. Yet in what way it was important, she couldn't put her finger on. Or why it bothered her so much.

She and the Beast had gotten to know one another quite well in the past few weeks. Belle even dared to think that they'd, tentatively, become friends. Certainly she enjoyed being around him, and he needed very little excuse to spend time with her these days. Belle hoped she had helped to ease the crushing loneliness he complained of sometimes. Just knowing he was around often kept her from being overwhelmed with worry for her father. Which was odd, because the Beast was the cause of their separation in the first place.

They knew where they stood with each other. Maybe that was what was bothering her. Feeling her baby kick inside her was something outside that comfortable space. They'd never done anything quite so…intimate.

Having decided on that, Belle settled down to try to go to sleep. But she tossed and turned for a long time before finally slipping into dreams.

When she did sleep at last, her dreams were more disturbed than they'd been for a long time. Several times she saw Gaston chasing her, but she was unable to get away because she was hugely pregnant, or carrying a squirming infant in her arms. She always woke up before she was caught, which was fortunate, because she was convinced something dreadful would happen to her or her baby if Gaston did reach them. The last time, just when Belle thought she was going to be caught for sure, a cloaked figure leapt between her and her pursuer. At first she thought it was the Beast; when he turned to look at her, he had the same eyes. Then the figure shrank, and became the boy in the portrait she'd seen in the West Wing. He smiled at her in a way that soothed her blind terror, for just a moment.

"Don't worry, Belle," he said, in a cracked adolescent's voice. "I'll keep you and the baby safe."

Belle almost believed him. He sounded so sure of himself. Then he turned back to face Gaston, and her panic returned. Gaston was well over a head taller than the boy, hugely muscled, and angry as a bull. The boy only had determination.

"Wait," Belle begged. "I can't stand to see you killed, for me. I don't even know you."

"Don't you?" the boy asked without looking at her.

Gaston raised a ham-sized fist. The boy tensed his shoulders and crouched, ready. And Belle knew him. "No!"

Belle sat up with a gasp. Across the room, Madame also gasped as she woke.

"What's wrong, dear? Are you in pain?"

"No…no," said Belle, trying to get her breathing under control. "I just had…a bad dream."

"Ah. Well, you certainly gave me a turn. Do you want to talk about it?"

Belle considered, and decided on a half-truth. "It was about the baby's father."

"You dream of him often?"

"Not so often anymore. I used to almost every night the first few months. Things got better when I came here."

"You feel safer here."

"I think so, yes. I don't know why the dream came back tonight." Belle was fairly sure she did, but of course she wasn't going to say so. She leaned back on her pillows with a sigh.

"Shall I get Mrs. Potts to bring you a nice hot cup of tea?" asked Madame.

"No, thank you," said Belle. "I wouldn't dream of waking her just for a nightmare."

"Very well, dear, if that's how you want it. Remember, I can ring for her anytime if you can't sleep."

"Thank you, Madame." Both of them settled back down, and Madame was snoring again in minutes. Belle lay awake, thinking with surprising clarity on what she'd just discovered.

How had she missed this before? She had suspected, ever since seeing that portrait. She'd dismissed it then. The notion that anything as animal as the Beast could ever have been human had seemed outlandish.

She hadn't given the idea any real consideration since. Not even as she came to know the Beast, and realize her first impressions had failed to encompass everything that he was. He might be a monster, but he was one in form only. Like the servants, he looked like one thing, but was clearly—she now saw—something else.

He was the boy in the ripped West Wing portrait.

It was so obvious, now that her mind had made the final connection in her nightmare. The eyes, of course. There were also the small gestures, almost unconscious, that he made whenever he spoke of himself. He'd look down at his paws, and scowl, or look away. He hated his body, because it wasn't his own.

How long had he been a Beast? Belle knew that answer almost immediately. Ten years, of course. All the hints that something had happened to cut the castle off from the outside world a decade before pointed to it. Something had happened, and everyone in the castle been changed from human shape to the way they were now.

How? And why? Belle had no explanation. She knew so little about magic, except what she'd read in her books. And maybe magic actually worked differently in the real world. Still, it was a place to start. She was willing to bet that strange rose in the West Wing was tied in somehow.

Oh, this was silly, thinking about magic in the real world. Belle half-expected to wake up and find she'd actually fallen asleep again. But for that to be true, then she'd have to have dreamed the past two months as well. The things she'd seen were undeniable.

She felt she'd known the truth for a long time. And she'd been treating the Beast accordingly, in fact, even unconsciously. She'd begun to take for granted that he might look like an animal, but he could think like a person. Yes, he had a temper and could be violent, but so could many humans. He could read—he'd had someone to teach him, before he was changed.

If he was the boy in the portrait, and it had been ten years, then he was no longer a boy, really. He was a young man of her own age. Which explained the few times she'd caught him staring at her the way the men in the village used to stare when they thought she didn't notice.

Belle sighed with frustration. Why had it taken her this long?

She didn't sleep for the rest of the night.

It was hard not to stare at the Beast when she saw him the next day, looking for human features. There wasn't much to see except his eyes, of course. The rest was all hair and fangs and claws and horns. Belle tried to picture what he would look like human based on her memories of the portrait, but all she could really recall were the eyes, the odd color of his hair—nothing like the Beast's solidly brown fur—and the strong-boned cheeks. And that she'd thought he'd be handsome if he were older. That thought brought heat to her face, so she pushed it away.

"Are you all right?" His growling voice interrupted her thoughts. "You're very pale."

"Oh! Yes. I'm just a little t-tired." She stifled a yawn around the last word.

"Madame told me you had trouble sleeping last night," said Mrs. Potts, who happened to be in the room.

"I had nightmares," Belle admitted.

"Next time, come to me, whether you think you'll disturb my rest or not," Mrs. Potts admonished firmly. "I have a very soothing tea that puts you right back to sleep."

"She does, too," the Beast put in, with the air of one trying to be helpful.

Belle felt a stab of pity at this. How did he not have nightmares every night, after what had happened to him?

She had to stop this. He didn't want to be pitied; she wouldn't, in his shoes. She'd just have to continue treating him as she had been: as a friend, and someone else who was lonely in the castle. With that in mind, she continued the day, determined to act as if nothing had happened the night before. Things settled into their usual pattern, frantic as it had become as Christmas approached, and Belle found it relatively easy to slip her new revelation into the back of her mind. There it stayed, though it sometimes surfaced at odd moments.

She went to bed early, and did not dream at all.

Belle went to bed the night before Christmas Eve full of anticipation. There was a great deal to do to get ready for the party on Christmas Day. The only official acknowledgement of Christmas Eve, however, was the Yule log tradition before everyone went to bed. The servants all planned to stop into the main parlor before they turned in for the night, touch the log, and make their wish. Belle would carry the log to those of the staff unable to move, assisted by Cogsworth, who would make certain everyone was accounted for.

Christmas Eve dawned chilly and clear. The out-of-the-way upstairs parlor chosen to host the celebration was mostly decorated, and Belle spent the morning supervising the final touches. Then Lumière shooed her outside, wrapped warmly in a heavy fur jacket, to get some fresh air. There she found the Beast seated by the small pond in the castle's pocket valley. They walked through the snow together, discussing Sir Lancelot's obsession with Guinevere. When Belle's toes were frozen, they went back inside to warm up. Belle settled down with a cup of hot cider in the parlor, and the Beast disappeared, presumably back to the West Wing.

Before she knew it, it was time to take the Yule log around. Each of the stationary servants touched the log when Belle held it out, looking very happy to make their silent wish for the new year. Then it was back to the parlor, where the servants trickled in as work concluded for the day. Cogsworth had a long list of names to check off, which Belle found very comical. Lumière obviously thought so too; he kept catching Belle's eye, glancing at Cogsworth's plump form buried under its mound of paper, and chuckling. Belle privately thought the head of the household looked like an overworked Saint Nicholas.

She had not expected to look up at the very end of the evening, when only Cogsworth and Lumière were left in the room, to see the Beast standing in the doorway. Belle suppressed the urge to hide the log behind her. She had promised to keep their Christmas festivities from him, but so long as he didn't recognize the log, they were probably safe.

"Good evening, Master," Lumière greeted. "You are not too late."

"Too late?" Belle repeated, then frowned. "You told him we were doing this tonight. I promised him I wouldn't—"

"Ah, but we did not," Lumière told her cheekily. Belle and the Beast both glared at him, and he made a small effort to look contrite.

"Did you come to make a wish?" Belle asked. The Beast nodded dumbly. She held it out, he took it, turned it over once in his paws. Then he handed it back, and left. That was all.

Belle held the wood tight to her chest, and wondered what he had wished for. And why he had come at all. After everything he'd said about Christmas and wishes…

Lumière's voice broke into her thoughts. "And you, chérie? You are the last."

"Oh. Yes." Belle looked down at the log. What did she want to ask for? There were so many things that came to mind. Usually she spent days working out what she was going to ask, but she'd been so busy recently she hadn't had time to think about it.

I wish…I wish…

I wish the Beast could be happy, was the first concrete thing that jumped into her head. Belle immediately wanted to withdraw it, but the wish was made. She set the log down by the fire, and went upstairs in a daze.

Why did I wish for that? was her last coherent thought before she fell asleep.

Christmas Day was grey, and the lowering sky threatened snow. Belle was pleased for the most part; she liked a white Christmas, though the sky's color was a little foreboding. The baby gave a gentle kick, as if in agreement.

She did not see the Beast all day. Mrs. Potts reported that he'd asked to have his meals brought to the West Wing. Belle still held out hope that he'd changed his mind, especially after his unexpected appearance the night before, but it appeared she hoped in vain.

It was hard to think too much about the Beast, however. With him out of the way, the servants burst into a peal of happy anticipation of their first Christmas in years, and swept Belle along with them. She couldn't turn a corner without running into someone else singing a Christmas carol. The upstairs parlor was a full four-part harmony, one which she gladly joined in. Thus the day passed very happily until evening.

After dinner, the whole household gathered to sing Christmas carols, dance, and exchange gifts. Belle kept finding herself glancing at the door, but the Beast did not surprise her again. It was hard not to be disappointed. Still, in all, Belle had a wonderful time. The servants had somehow conspired to secretly make her a Christmas stocking and fill it with small gifts like sweets, necklaces and hair ornaments, ribbons, and toys for the baby. There were so many things they were spilling out of the top of the stocking. Belle was delighted, and could not stop thanking them all.

At last, the celebration broke up, with cries of "Merry Christmas!" echoing down the halls. In all the commotion, Belle managed to slip away unseen. She first went to the library, where she'd hidden her Christmas gift for the Beast, and then made her way nervously to the West Wing. She climbed the stairs for the second time, and made her way down the shattered corridor to the double doors. Instead of opening them, however, she knocked.

It seemed an age before the Beast opened the doors. "Belle!"

"I'm sorry to bother you, and I know I promised," she said in a rush. "But I came up to give you this." She held out her small wrapped package. "Don't think of it as a Christmas gift if it bothers you. But I wanted to give you something."

Delicately, the Beast took the gift. "I—thank you, Belle." He unwrapped it to find a hand-bound book. His expression went blank.

"I wrote and bound it myself," Belle explained. "I hope you like it." The Beast still stared at the book as if not sure what to do with it. Belle, relieved that he hadn't handed it back, said, "Well, good night," and turned to go.

"Merry Christmas, Belle," the Beast said from behind her.

Belle turned in surprised pleasure. "Merry Christmas, Beast." She smiled at him, and he actually smiled back. Then he retreated and shut the door.

Belle practically skipped back to her own room. If it hadn't been for the baby and the danger of falling, she would have literally danced the whole way. She had thought her feelings of well-being could not be any greater, until she opened her door.

"Merry Christmas, dear!" Madame said, putting on the light as Belle came in.

"Merry Christmas, Madame!" Belle returned. She was a little puzzled, as they had exchanged greetings that morning, but then she saw her bed.

Spread on it was the most beautiful gown she had ever seen. It was made of yellow silk, and the skirt was tucked and flounced so that it looked like the tumbling base of a waterfall.

"Madame!" Belle gasped. She picked up the dress and spun gently with it. "This is gorgeous! When did you have time to do it?"

"I have my little ways," Madame smiled smugly. "I have to have something to do when you're not here."

"Oh, thank you! This is the most wonderful dress!" She held it up to herself. "I wish I could put it on, but I think I'll have to wait until after the baby comes for it to fit properly."

"That's what we thought, dear. Something to save for celebrating the birth of your firstborn, when you're recovered, of course. And don't thank me. It wasn't my idea."

"Whose idea was it? Mrs. Potts? Lumière?" Madame shook her head. "I can't see Cogsworth thinking of this." Suddenly, Belle's jaw dropped open. "Not…"

"Chip helped you make that book, remember? He told his mother, and she and the others helped convince the Master it wouldn't be right not to give you something in return, Christmas traditions aside. The dress was his idea, though. I have no idea how he thought of it."

Belle stroked the material. "I would never have dreamed to ask for something like this. But it's perfect. I'll have to thank him."

"Oh, don't!" Madame exclaimed. "I wasn't supposed to tell you anything. It was just going to be from all of us to you. As a thank you for coming here and rearranging our lives for the better."

Belle shrugged. "It was really just chance that I came. But all right. I'll thank the head staff when I see them tomorrow. And I won't say anything to the Beast. Still…" Belle twirled again. "This is wonderful. I can't imagine a better Christmas surprise."

"You're welcome," said a low voice to the glowing mirror its owner held in one paw.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 20 of 33

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