Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 21 of 33

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Kissed by a Rose

The Beast woke one morning in late January feeling restless. Driving wind and snow had kept him inside for nearly a week. His animal body did not like being cooped up for this long. However, when he rose this morning, stretched, and peered out at the castle grounds, he could tell immediately something had changed. The wind was no longer trying to yank his fur from his skin. He pushed further beyond the curtain, and did not feel drops of icy cold falling onto him. The snow had finally stopped.

The Beast padded onto the balcony. The sight before him really was lovely, as Belle would say. He hadn't taken time to look…well, since moving into the West Wing. The castle turrets were sugar frosted, and the valley just a series of benevolent lumps that indicated where things were in the gardens.

Hoof and footprints, tiny dots below, showed Belle had already been out walking Philippe. This made sense, because yesterday she had been complaining that the poor horse needed exercise. The Beast had been careful to stay away from Philippe, not wanting to scare him, but he occasionally wished he could go on these walks, too. Apart from their walk together at Christmas, he and Belle had not done anything together outside.

Christmas. The memory of those two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, still glimmered like a small beacon of hope in his memory. Belle giving him her handmade gift, so shyly, and her pleasure at the dress he'd had Madame make for her, were especially vivid and bright. Maybe, just maybe, it was possible. She might have feelings for him. Most of the time he tried to squash this hope; he was still a Beast, how could she possibly think of him as anything else? Then he would remember her expression of surprised delight at finding out who her gown was from, and a tiny shiver would run down his spine.

And then there was the Yule log wish. He still couldn't think about that without some discomfort. He'd fully intended to wish for his own freedom, for the end to his nightmare at last. Instead, as his claws touched it, he'd inexplicably thought of Belle. In a moment of complete insanity, he'd wished for Belle's child to be born safely. The dangers of childbirth were well known to him; not even the nobility were exempt. One of his favorite of his mother's ladies-in-waiting had died giving birth when he was quite small, and her sudden disappearance from his life had left an impression on him.

But, still, he thought, all these weeks later: what had possessed him? Not that he believed any of the Yule Log wishes would come true, but why waste the chance? It was very frustrating to recall. He'd been twice a fool; first, that he'd actually allowed himself to believe in Belle's talk of the Yule log, second, that if he did accept the log's credibility, he'd used his wish on something other than release.

Things had returned to normal after Christmas between himself and Belle. They still read Arthur and Guinevere together nearly every day. Reading was slowly becoming easier, and as a consequence, more fun. It helped that he had Belle's book to practice with on his own. Her writing style was nowhere near as ornate as Arthur and Guinevere. He could read her whole gift without help thus far.

In fact, it wasn't a book in itself, but a bound collection of shorter stories. Some were fairy tales she had just transcribed—he could tell the voice wasn't Belle's. The rest of the stories, however, were things she'd actually experienced: anecdotes from her childhood, and from life in the castle. Of her time in the village she sometimes spoke of as her most recent home he learned nothing, but he did learn that she had grown up in many different large cities around France. Only three people remained the same in these stories: Belle herself, her gentle mother, and her absentminded father. Through them, the Beast saw a commoner childhood; the joys, the scrapes, the hard times, the amusements. He envied Belle, in a way. She'd had many other children to play with. He'd never had anyone his own age in the castle.

The rest of the stories were from Belle's last few months in the castle. Here, he saw the people he knew through Belle's eyes instead of his own. Things he hadn't realized or bothered to notice before were suddenly brought to his attention. As in her childhood stories, Belle was a keen observer of the people she was close to. She wrote of Chip's adventures in a way that always made the Beast smile. He'd also always assumed that Cogsworth and Lumière hated each other. In Belle's stories of them, he saw that their bickering actually masked a solid partnership. They might fight, but each knew his duties, his own strengths, and the other's weaknesses inside and out, and the household ran smoothly as a result. The pair might even be friends—Belle sometimes caught them doing one another favors without anyone else noticing.

The Beast shook his head. Belle was still showing him new things, even all these months later.

He decided, since it was a bright, clear day, to cure his restlessness by going for a walk in the snow. Maybe then he could get his mind off Belle, and the things she made him think and feel when she was around.

No such luck. Not five minutes into his walk, he came across a cloaked figure. It had its back to him, but he knew from the odd combination of grace and clumsiness of movement that it was Belle. She seemed to get bigger every week, now.

She turned at the last minute; his paws were very quiet on the snow. However, she did not seem surprised to see him.

"The baby was kicking. He always seems to do that when you're around. I should learn to pay more attention to him," she said with a gentle smile.

Unnerved by this statement, the Beast elected not to comment on it. Instead, he said, "What are you doing?"

Belle showed him her skirt, which she held bunched in one hand so it formed a sort of basket. In it was a pile of breadcrumbs. "Feeding some of the birds that live around here."

"Birds?" The Beast squinted at the trees. Sure enough, small dark shapes hopped among the bare branches.

"If I do this regularly, I can get them to eat from my hands. I think I've done it with this flock enough by now that they might come to you, too. Here." Belle held out a handful of crumbs.

"Uh…" Belle's gesture left no room for argument. The Beast took the crumbs. "I've never done this before."

"It's easy. Watch." Belle held out a few crumbs on her palm. Immediately, three small birds dropped down and began gulping. They flew back to the trees as soon as the crumbs were gone.

"Now you."

The Beast tried to do as Belle had, but no matter how long he held out his paws, no birds came. "It's no good," he grumbled. "They know I'm a monster. They're smart to stay away."

"It takes patience. And maybe a few tricks. Here." Belle took his wrists and guided them towards the snow. Then she spread a trail of crumbs leading to his paw.

They waited, still as two garden statues. Then one small bird flew down. It pecked a few crumbs from the snow, then with a wingbeat, bounced into the Beast's paws.

The Beast stared. It was so small, and so trusting. His claws formed a thorny hedge around the little brown figure. Yet, he thought, maybe the bird thought it was safe within the hedge rather than believing the hedge would harm it.

He looked at Belle and grinned. Belle smiled back, and something in her eyes made his heart begin to pound. Parts of him tingled uncomfortably. He had no idea what he was supposed to do about these sensations. Then, to make matters worse, Belle took his arm and used it to lever herself into a standing position, which brought their faces quite close. For half a second, the Beast entertained the notion of leaning forward, and…well, kissing her. But then he recoiled from the idea. Not only would she be disgusted with the idea of kissing a Beast, but because of what had happened to her, she would probably not take kindly to any gestures of the sort. From anyone.

He'd have to bottle away any more such feelings, for both of their sakes.

And in the meantime, Belle's hand had moved from his arm to his shoulder, and she seemed to have no intention of moving it. He could feel the warmth of her palm even through his cloak, shirt, and fur.

Another sparrow flew down to join the first, distracting him. "You see?" Belle said, her hand still on his shoulder. She squeezed gently. "Actually, I've never seen them take to anyone so quickly."

"They like you. Maybe they trust your judgment."

"No, wild birds see more than that. They can sense the intentions of people approaching them. If someone rough comes up, they fly away in a great flock. They couldn't survive if they let just anyone get close."

Well, this was something to consider. Belle was clearly implying that the birds trusted him of their own volition. The Beast thought maybe that trust was misplaced. He could do a great deal of harm, without much effort. Yet for some reason the birds trusted him anyway.

He hoped the birds weren't wrong. He certainly didn't want to hurt them.

He glanced up to find Belle drifting away among the trees. She whistled in a decent imitation of a bird call, and a bird flew down to light on her outstretched finger. Fascinated, the Beast watched as Belle and the bird whistled to one another in a whole conversation.

How could anyone fail to see how special she is? he thought. She's made remarks about people thinking her odd because she reads, or only seeing her for her beauty. Why can't they see that she's really beautiful because of who she is, not how she looks? Even nearly seven months pregnant with a child that's not mine, I think she's—

Words failed him when it came to Belle, even in his own mind. She made him feel things he'd never imagined he could feel, had sworn he would never feel again after his parents died. He was even beginning to catch her growing anticipation about the birth of her child.

Things would change when the baby came, he knew. For one thing, the baby was supposed to arrive two weeks or so after the curse had been made permanent. Belle had given him the date, and his heart had sunk. However, strangely enough, it had also given him cause to think about afterward, if the curse was not broken in time. He'd always seen that moment as the end of the world, with nothing beyond it. But things would still go on. Belle's child would be born, she would become a mother, and he would be…what? A monster in the shadows? A furry animal companion that could talk? A…a…dared he think it? A father-like figure? The story of Mary and Joseph still played across his mind occasionally. Belle's baby was certainly not divine. The child had a very human father, one who, if Belle had anything to say about it, would not be part of his life. Did that mean someone else had to step in and fill the role? Could he, the Beast, do it, even trapped as a hideous creature?

He'd thought the baby would be terrified of him on sight. But the birds' reaction today had started to make him think maybe the baby would accept him for what he was. After all, neither the baby nor the baby's mother knew he had ever been different.

Speaking of the baby's mother, where had Belle gone? The Beast glanced around, and found that while he'd been distracted, practically the whole flock of birds had come swooping down to land on him, no doubt looking for the last of the breadcrumbs. They were everywhere, from the tips of his horns all the way to the ends of his fingers.

"Wha—" he started to say, standing up rapidly. Immediately, the flock took off in a storm of feathers. The Beast covered his eyes until he could no longer hear the thunderous flapping of wings. Shaking his head, he looked around for Belle again.

And found himself face to face with a shock of white powder.

Spitting snow and shaking with an odd, almost giddy fury, his eyes found Belle. She was leaning against a tree, clutching her bulging belly and…laughing.

"What's so funny?" he growled. His wrath was fading in the face of her amusement. He'd never seen her laugh so hard before, and it wasn't easy to stay angry in the face of it.

"You," she gasped. "You should have seen your face…I'm sorry…we used to do this when I was young…I couldn't resist…"

"Oh, really? Well, turnabout is fair play." Bending over, he began to make the biggest snowball his paws could hold. When it was so heavy he could barely lift it, he raised it to throw.

And was hit with another snowball. The giant snowball teetered briefly in his moment of distraction, then collapsed, showering him with more white powder and knocking him on his backside.

"I'll get you for that!" he roared, surging to his feet.

Belle shrieked and started to run as well as she could toward the castle. Not a terrified shriek, his sensitive ears told him, but a shriek still tinged with laughter. He charged after her, thinking as he did so how nice it was to have made Belle laugh. Even if the joke was at his expense. When he did catch her, which came quickly given his greater strength and her condition, he was very careful to keep the game going while making sure not to be too rough. He swept her up in his arms and dumped her in the biggest snowdrift he could find at close range. Belle disappeared into the mound of white with another laughing shriek.

She resurfaced with a gasp, wiping powder from her face. "That's cold," she remarked.

The Beast just raised an eyebrow at her, and then they both began to laugh. He extended a hand, and she took it, allowing him to pull her to her feet. With great dignity she brushed snow off her skirt, and reached up to wipe a little from his shoulders. In turn, he knocked some snow out of her hair. It had come loose from its ribbon and hung in icy straggles around her pink-tinged face.

"Mrs. Potts is going to fuss," she said, shaking more snow from her cloak.

"Let her," the Beast shrugged. "What harm can some snow do?"

"She'll be afraid we'll catch cold." Belle drew her cloak in a little closer. "Still, this was too much fun to miss."

"Maybe we should go in, then," he suggested. He didn't like the idea of her getting sick again.

"All right. We can change into something dry, and then…maybe I'll see you for lunch?"

He froze. He'd avoided letting her see him eat ever since she'd arrived. He ate like an animal, complete with loud crunching and slurping noises and food getting everywhere. When he'd first demanded that she eat with him, he hadn't even considered what she'd think of his table manners. But he'd watched her eat meals in the mirror a few times since he'd rescued her from the wolves. She was dainty, and careful. She ate in small bites, with forks, knives, and spoons. She would no doubt be horrified with the spectacle of watching him eat. He didn't want her looking at him with horror.

He opened his mouth to refuse. "I…"

"I want to make up for turning you down so rudely that first time," she said, before he could finish.

Well, what could he say to that? She'd called him rude that night, and now she was admitting her own manners hadn't been impeccable, either. There was no getting out of it. "All right," he grumbled.

"Good!" She smiled. "I'll see you in the smallest dining chamber in twenty minutes. Unless you need more time," she added.

"No, I'll see you then." If she noticed his lack of enthusiasm; and given how observant he knew she was, she couldn't fail to notice, she hid it remarkably well. She nodded, and they walked silently into the castle together. Mrs. Potts met them, and fussed as Belle had predicted. She brightened considerably when Belle told her they wanted to have lunch together. Beaming, the teapot went to alert the kitchen.

Full of trepidation, the Beast went up to the West Wing to change. He winced as he glanced in the shattered mirror in the hall. He looked worse than usual. The drying snow had caused his fur to stick up in all sorts of odd directions. Why hadn't Belle said anything?

To his surprise, Lumière was waiting in the front parlor of the suite. "Ah, there you are, Master! Cogsworth tells me you are having lunch with Belle. I thought you could use my assistance."

"Yes, I can," the Beast answered. How the news had beaten him here, he really had no idea. Cogsworth and Lumière were even more efficient than he thought. After a moment, he added, "Thank you."

"You are very welcome, Master," the candelabra answered, beaming with delight. "Now, the first thing we will want to do is get that fur, ah, hair, in order…"

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 21 of 33

<< Previous     Home     Next >>