Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 22 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Belle waited in the dining room for the Beast to appear. Mrs. Potts and Chip came in and out on their usual cart, bringing in the dishes. Chip finally grew bored with this and hopped onto the table.

"Chip," began Belle cautiously. "Is there a…reason the Master has never eaten with me before?"

"I dunno," Chip answered. "He asked you the first time."

"I remember. I was just curious."

"I think it's just 'cause he's messy," the little cup said in a conspiratorial tone.

"Messy?" Belle repeated.

"Stuff goes everywhere when he eats. I've heard Mama talking about it sometimes." Chip glanced surreptitiously at the door to the kitchen.

"Oh." This seemed like an odd reason for the Beast to avoid her. Maybe he was embarrassed, but surely it couldn't be that bad. So many of his former beastly habits had faded over the past few months. He walked upright nearly all the time now and was rarely to be seen without a shirt on, though he still usually wore cloaks over the shirt. He hardly ever bared his teeth when he was frustrated anymore. Oh well, forewarned is forearmed, she thought.

The baby gave her spine a good kick. She sucked in her breath a little at the blow. The child was getting stronger every day. Taking after his father. Belle winced at the thought.

She turned, and there was the Beast. As always, the baby seemed to know when the Beast was around. The Beast also seemed to turn up whenever her thoughts started to grow dark, as if sent to protect her from them. His mere presence always lightened her mood. She was automatically smiling before she'd even had time to think about it. Then her brow furrowed in concern at his expression. "What's wrong?"


Belle knew him too well to believe him, but decided to let it go. Instead, she said, "I'm glad to see I didn't damage you too much with my snowballs."

Her reward was a small smile. "And I was going to say you take defeat well."

"Defeat?" Belle repeated. "Who got hit in the head with his own snowball?"

"Who ended the contest in a snowdrift?" he wanted to know.

"We'll call it a draw, then," Belle said quickly.

He opened his mouth, hesitated, and closed it again. "All right. Next time, I'll be ready for you."

"Lunch is served," came Mrs. Potts' apologetic voice from behind them. "I do hate to interrupt, but the food will get cold if the two of you insist on standing there!"

"Sorry, Mrs. Potts," Belle apologized. She made her way to one of the places and sat. She was dismayed to find that instead of the usual simple meal she ate in the middle of the day, there was an elaborate setting with three forks, three spoons, and two knives. She'd never seen more than one of each in her life.

No one else seemed to notice her discomfort. The servants were proudly setting dishes on the table, and the Beast was eyeing the platters, clearly lost in his own inexplicable nerves again. Belle hid her apprehension as well as she could and waited for the food to be set out. Once everything was in place, she ladled some soup into a bowl set nearby just for the purpose. At least this part of the table setting made sense. And Belle did love Mrs. Potts' vegetable soups. Even in the grip of strange cravings—pickles on wheat toast, among other things—she was always pleased to see a nice, steaming hot bowl of simple vegetable soup in front of her. She picked up a spoon at random, hoping it was the right one.

A crunching noise from the other end of the table made her look up. She couldn't restrain a small gasp. Chip had not been exaggerating when he'd said food went everywhere when the Beast ate. He was currently gnawing on a chicken leg, and bits of meat were flying in all directions. There were already stains on his clean shirt.

He looked up at her, chicken bone still halfway in his mouth. His expression would almost have been comical to Belle were she not so shocked. He looked like a child caught with a forbidden sweet. It was only because of Chip's forewarning that she was not also horrified by the truly incredible mess.

The Beast popped the bone out of his mouth and set it on his plate, a quick, embarrassed gesture. He looked so mortified that Belle felt pity dissolving her surprise. But she could think of nothing to say that would relieve the tension building in the room. She could sense the Beast was on the verge of fleeing to the West Wing unless she did something to forestall it.

She put her spoon involuntarily to her lips as she thought frantically of something to keep him in the room. The gesture caught his eye. She watched his blue gaze fasten on the utensil. Then he looked down at his own set of silverware as if seeing it for the first time. Hesitantly, he put down the chicken leg, sorted through the spoons with his claws, and selected one. Mrs. Potts poured him a bowl of soup. Belle found herself holding her breath as he gingerly dipped the spoon and brought it up.

A snag appeared as he tried to negotiate the spoon past his fangs. Belle's heart twisted with pity when he finally tried to dump the spoon's contents into his open mouth. Half of it spilled into the fur of his face.

Her own face burned as he turned to look at her. He was clearly ashamed. Now she understood why he had avoided eating with her. How humiliating, for someone who used to be human to have to eat in such an animalistic way. She had been wondering in the back of her mind how he'd degenerated to this point. Now she understood. Eating any other way was virtually impossible. Unless…

Deliberately, she put her own spoon down. She shoved all the utensils aside, and picked up the bowl itself. The Beast's face brightened as he instantly caught on to what she was doing. He did this same with his bowl. Their eyes held as they silently toasted each other and drank the soup. Belle thought she heard a sigh of relief from one of the servants. Probably Lumière or Cogsworth.

For the rest of the meal they avoided anything that required utensils to eat. Belle was fairly certain the servants wouldn't mind, and that they'd even tell the chef to fix 'safe' dishes when she and the Beast ate together in the future. At least she hoped they'd continue to have meals together sometimes.

After lunch, the two of them walked to the library together. About halfway there, the Beast swallowed, and said, just loud enough for her to hear over their footsteps, "Thank you."

"For what?" asked Belle, trying to stay casual. "There were too many knives and forks. I had no idea which things to use for what. It was easier to just ignore them."

That startled a throaty chuckle out of him. "If I remember what my teachers told me, you start on the outside and work your way in. At least until you learn what each of the forks and so on are actually for. I always thought the whole idea of having one fork for fish and another for vegetables was a strange one."

"Is that what they're for?" Belle laughed. "Maybe you can teach me sometime."

"I don't remember much of it. I learned a long time ago, and I…I haven't had to use it since then."

"You know more than I do. That way I'll be ready the next time the servants decide we need a formal lunch."

They smiled at each other, and continued to the library.

That was the first of several times they ate together. Not every meal, but a few times a week for the next few weeks. The Beast found his initial nerves about what Belle would think of his clumsy eating gradually slipping away. He knew she noticed when he made mistakes and food slipped onto the table or himself, but like many other things, she discreetly and kindly chose to say nothing. In turn, he never commented on her occasional odd choice of food. He did mention this to Mrs. Potts after Belle asked for herrings and cranberry preserves one day in early February.

"Ah," said Mrs. Potts knowingly. "Those are cravings, Master. Any expectant woman has them, and they can be quite unusual. I remember when I was carrying Chip—" She stopped, for which the Beast was grateful. The time around Chip's birth had been painful for him, coming so soon after his own mother's execution. Mrs. Potts shook herself and continued. "As I say, they're quite common among women in the family way, and they're different for every woman. They'll go away once the child is born, and she'll be right back to eating normal things again."

"Will she change?" asked the Beast. "I mean, after the baby comes. I've never known her not pregnant." What he meant by this was, will she still be the Belle I've come to know?

"For the most part, she'll be the same. Some women get very irritable and are easily upset when they're pregnant. Belle seems to be lucky in that area, at least so far. You'll have to be very careful around her in the final few weeks, though. Any small thing may distress her. You just have to remember that it isn't personally directed at you, and keep her as comfortable as you possibly can."

"You said, for the most part. What might change?" he asked.

"Well," said Mrs. Potts delicately. "She won't have as much time to spend with you. She'll be focused on the baby. Especially for the first few weeks, as she gets used to being a mother." For some reason, the teapot looked worried.

"Oh, is that all?" said the Beast with a shrug. "I knew that." In fact, he'd thought of it weeks before. At some point it had occurred to him that once the baby arrived, Belle would have to feed it and dress it and do all the other things it couldn't do for itself. He'd slowly been coming to accept that if he wanted to spend time with Belle at all after the baby was born, he'd better get used to having the baby there, too. It really wasn't so different from now, he reasoned. The baby was there all the time, just inside Belle. And maybe, if Belle and Mrs. Potts would show him how, he could help take care of the baby himself, so that Belle wouldn't have to do it all.

The thought of not reading with Belle as much had bothered him at first, but these days he'd come to terms with it. He was a good enough reader now to keep going on his own, and if he stumbled over a word he could always ask Belle later when she had a moment to spare. He'd nearly finished her Christmas gift, and they were fairly close to being done with Arthur and Guinevere. Maybe Belle could help him pick a new book to read for himself before the baby came, and he could keep working on it regardless of whether she had time to help him.

"Good," said Mrs. Potts, pulling his thoughts back to her. She'd looked relieved. "And now, if you will excuse me, Master, I should get back to the kitchen."

That conversation had been a few days ago. Now, it was fairly late evening. Dinner had been a few hours ago. The Beast had left Belle in the library, poring over a new book she'd discovered in a corner. Cogsworth had called him out for help settling an argument between three of the maid-featherdusters, and it had taken some time to sort out exactly what the problem was and work out a solution that suited everyone. Cogsworth had taken to involving the Beast somewhat in the running of the household since Christmas. Why, the Beast wasn't certain, because things had been running smoothly for many years without his intervention, but he had discovered that his mere presence tended to speed things along, especially among the lower servants who were still a little frightened of him. He had also found that he enjoyed coming up with a fair solution that made everyone involved think they'd gotten the better end of the deal. He wondered if his father had felt the same, dispensing justice in his court. Or maybe it was Belle's influence again. The Beast had noticed she was very good at smoothing over arguments between Cogsworth and Lumière so that the pair never even remembered they'd fought.

He entered the library, and stopped. Most of the candles had gone out. One or two were flickering stubs, here and there, giving the cavernous room a slightly eerie look. The fire was down to mere embers, though it was still giving off significant warmth. It was far too dark to read.

As his eyes adjusted, he saw Belle curled up on their usual couch, head on one armrest. An open book rested on her chest, and her knees were drawn up as tight as her stomach would allow. Clearly, she had read until she could no longer keep her eyes open.

The Beast paced forward until he was just a few steps away. He stood staring down at the girl on the couch. A few straggles of brown hair had come loose from their ribbon to brush her face. She wore a tiny, peaceful smile on her lips. One hand still rested on the book, the other embraced her bulging belly, a clear protective gesture even as she slept.

A rush of emotion overcame the Beast as he looked at her. She seemed so fragile. His animal instincts sensed, without really seeing it, the gentle beat of her pulse at her neck, and the second heartbeat of the child within her. Yet he knew Belle was anything but helpless. She had the sort of bravery that could weather a storm, rather than charge an attacking army. She was strong in a way he wasn't. When her old life had been ripped away, first by the man who'd forced himself upon her and then by the Beast himself, she hadn't tried to hide herself in a hole. Instead, she'd grimly kept forging ahead, living day by day and hoping things would get better. He admired her so much for that. He thought she was brave, and wise, and funny, and passionate, and stubborn, and kind, and he…and he…

He loved her.

The thought was like a physical blow, and he caught himself from staggering back a pace, afraid any noise might wake her. He found a chair at his elbow and gripped the back of it as he fought to come to terms with this new realization.

How had this happened? He'd made a decision, so long ago, at his father's graveside, that to care about anyone as deeply as he'd cared for his parents was too dangerous to risk. He'd walled himself away. The enchantress had cursed him, and love became even less relevant in his bestial state. And then Belle had arrived, practically at the last minute, and was found to be with child by another man. Again, the Beast had vowed he could never love her. It was impossible, inconceivable.

Slowly, bit by bit, day by day, Belle had invaded his mind and heart. Not that she had deliberately tried to do anything to earn his affections. All she had done was be herself. She'd dressed his wounds because she was kindhearted, and didn't want anyone to suffer. She had shown him the pathway into books because she loved them herself. Those two things had been the beginning. Everything else since then had been a further widening of the crack she'd opened into his heart.

She'd taught him so many things, most of them simply by forcing him to see, in her own subtle way, that his way of looking at things was not always how the world was. He'd resented her for a long time for this, wished occasionally that he could go back into his safe nest of ignorance where all he thought about was his next immediate need. But he'd changed too much, because of her. He thought about others, not only Belle, but the servants as well, of their thoughts and feelings. He couldn't go back now.

He looked at Belle again. Now he knew what Lumière and Mrs. Potts had meant that October night when they said that love took time to grow, and yet you knew it in an instant. His love for Belle had slowly been building up over the months, and he was only just now coming to see it for what it was.

The terrible thing was that she'd never love him back. It would be cruel of him to expect for her to feel about him the way he felt about her. She was still badly hurt by the manner of her child's conception. Physical intimacy of any kind, even something as innocent as a kiss, might remind her of that night. He couldn't stand to think of hurting her in such a way just to satisfy his own wants.

It was painful for him, but he'd have to accept that he'd always be a Beast. His heart was given, but he had to be loved in return for the spell to be lifted. Even if Belle were someday ready to give her love to someone, it would certainly not be by his crucial twenty-fifth birthday. That was just a little over a month away. If he were going to do what was best for Belle, then he should keep his feelings to himself.

The Beast suddenly realized he'd been standing there watching Belle sleep for several minutes. It was a good thing she hadn't woken up. She would also be stiff, and cold, if she spent the whole night on the couch. She needed to go back to her room.

He didn't remember deciding to do it, later. He just found himself bending over and gently sliding his arms under Belle, after first placing her book on a table nearby. Within seconds, Belle was cradled against the Beast's chest. Her weight was almost nothing in his powerful arms. With utmost care, he made his way out of the library and out into the hall.

About halfway to Belle's room, she stirred. The Beast froze, trying to readjust his grip without waking her. Whatever happened, he didn't want her to panic at finding herself in his arms. But instead of waking, she snuggled closer to him, burying her face into his loose shirt. Her small smile grew bigger.

She looked so happy. The Beast wanted to stay still and savor this, but still feared her reaction if she woke up. He continued on to her room, where a very surprised Madame admitted him. He laid Belle on her bed, and stood watching her for a second longer. Her smile slowly faded into a vaguely confused expression, as if she were wondering in her dreams why she'd been put down. Involuntarily, the Beast saw his paw stretch out and smooth her hair back from her face. Then he turned and fled.

That night in the West Wing, he couldn't sleep for a long time. Belle's peaceful, happy expression as he held her close kept drifting across his vision.

He stood looking at the rose under its bell jar. For once, it did not taunt him with how much time he had left. But it was nearly wilted. The Beast sighed, and closed his eyes.

"Go ahead and wilt," he told it. "It doesn't matter anymore."

"You've given up, then?" asked a voice from behind him.

He whirled to find the enchantress standing at the entrance to the balcony. Like the rose, she glowed faintly, so that he could easily make out her outline in the dark.

"This is new," he told her, attempting to change the subject. "You're not going to make me relieve my nightmare again?"

"It didn't seem necessary this time. Answer my question." It was a command.

He sighed again. "I haven't given up. I've just accepted the inevitable. Your curse can't be broken."

"Of course it can. You love that girl. Considering what you were when we first met, I am truly amazed you were able to find your heart again."

"It's because I love her that the curse won't be broken. She can't love me back."

The enchantress tapped her wand against her chin. "Because you're a monster physically? Would it make a difference if you were human? If only for a day, so you could explain?" She flicked her wand at him. He felt his skin tingle briefly, and sparkles of light obscured his vision for a moment. When his eyes cleared, he brought a paw up in front of his face, only to find it was a human hand. He flexed his fingers, and couldn't keep himself from smiling wistfully.

Then he put it down to his side again to hide it from view. "No."

"No?" A smile flickered across the enchantress' face. "Are you sure?"

"Would it make a difference to how she'd feel about me? Maybe, in the future. But she's not ready. I only have a month left. It would be cruel of me to ask for her love so soon after what that man did to her."

"You seem certain of how she feels. Do you have so little faith in your personal charms?"

"Don't make fun of me," he growled. It sounded odd coming from a human voice. "We both know what I am. I don't deserve an amazing girl like her."

"I see." The enchantress regarded him for a moment. "Is it the baby she's carrying, then? I could—"

"NO!" He didn't even want to hear what she'd been going to suggest.

"Well, then what's standing in your way? What do you have to lose by asking her?"

He closed his eyes in pain. "Everything."

"So it's a matter of courage, then. I suggest you find yours soon." She gestured at the rose, which flashed. His skin tingled again, and he was a Beast once more. She gave a decisive nod. "I might also suggest that you trust your girl. She may feel more for you than you think. I wish you luck in the next month."

"Wait!" He held out a paw.


"My…my servants," he stumbled. "They didn't deserve what happened to them, because of me. If I don't…can you…"

Her eyes narrowed. "Asking for favors, now, your Highness? You have changed." Her smile was mocking. "But I'll see what I can contrive. Don't you dare use this as an excuse for not trying to break my spell! If you do, then I can promise nothing will change, for you or your servants."

He looked down. "Yes, ma'am."

Her laugh sounded pleased, almost startled. Then she waved her wand, and was gone.

The Beast sat up. The first thing he did was look at the balcony, and then the rose. Both seemed the same as ever. The rose even told him, with its usual courtesy, that he had a month and seven days to break the spell.

He looked down at a paw, then back at the rose. "What was that about?"

Was it even real? And do I dare pretend it wasn't?

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 22 of 33

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