Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 27 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Several days later, Belle sat huddled in her old cottage's cellar, Maurice's former workshop. Most of the tools and half-finished inventions were dusty. Belle's heart had twisted when she first saw this, given that this had once been one of the busiest places in the cottage. She and Maurice had been kept down here ever since Gaston had brought them back from the woods. Lumière had come in with them, tucked beneath Belle's cloak.

Lefou had been surprisingly attentive. He brought food from the tavern twice a day, and always seemed to be around the house when Belle peered out the narrow windows.

With the relative warmth and regular meals, Maurice was slowly improving. His fever was gone, and though he was weak, he was lucid enough to talk to Belle and Lumière for short periods of time. It was enough for him to confirm what Gaston had told Belle in the woods: he had indeed spent most of the last few months at the Maison des Lunes.

"It was awful," he admitted. "Monsieur D'Arc is not a nice man, and he tried everything he could to persuade me I had hallucinated the whole experience at the castle. How could objects talk, or a Beast speak like a human being? But I held out. I knew I was telling the truth. In fact, strangely enough, Belle, you not coming to take me home was a reassurance of my own sanity. I knew if you weren't the Beast's prisoner, you would have been to the Maison des Lunes every day trying to get me out." He smiled weakly. "I'm so glad you finally escaped!"

"I didn't escape, Papa. He let me go."

Maurice looked at her through eyes drifting shut. "That horrible Beast?"

"But he's different now, Papa. He's changed. He's really very…never mind. I'll try to explain later." Maurice had already fallen back asleep.

Maurice had accepted Lumière's presence happily. "I'm glad I didn't hallucinate you," was all he said.

"Myself as well, monsieur," answered Lumière with a bow.

One thing Maurice had not asked about yet was her pregnancy. She knew he had noticed; he couldn't fail to. She felt bigger every time he looked at her. Her back hurt so badly from sleeping on the dirt floor that she woke up every morning crying from the pain. Lumière would try to ease her soreness with his flaming candles, but not much helped.

"I won't miss this when the baby finally arrives," she told the candelabra.

They had been in the cellar for five days now. They had not seen Gaston at all during that time, and questions to Lefou fell on deaf ears. Belle had no idea what Gaston might be up to, but she knew it meant no good for all of them. Her panic increased with each passing minute, it seemed, though she tried to keep it hidden. Lumière was also very uncharacteristically tense and silent, but she put that down to worry about her and Maurice.

To compound matters, outside it was pouring rain. Not only did it dampen the mood in the cellar, but it also made it very hard to see one another.

"Belle?" said Maurice from the corner bench where she had made him a rough bed.

"Good morning, Papa," she answered, trying to sound cheerful. "Do you want some breakfast?"

"That would be nice, thank you. But you don't have to bring it over here, I can get it."

"No, Papa, you're still too weak to get up," Belle insisted. She picked up the plate Lumière had been heating.

"You shouldn't be waiting on me like this. Not in your condition," protested Maurice. He pushed himself up so that Belle could sit on the bench as well. She handed him the plate, which he set aside and took her hand. Belle studied him. His eyes were bright and clear, and he no longer looked so much like a skeleton walking. "Belle," he said gently. "Tell me what happened."

"Papa, you're not—"

"I'm well enough." He paused. "It was that scoundrel Gaston, wasn't it?"

Belle stared. "How did you know?"

"I'm not so sick that I can't count. You look just like your mother did right before you were born. Which tells me you were already expecting when I last saw you at the castle. I wondered why Gaston kept coming around." He raised his brows. "Does he know?"

"No. He thinks I 'betrayed' him with someone else after I disappeared. He can't count as well as you. For all our sakes, I plan to keep it that way."

Her father nodded. "A good plan. Then I take it…you weren't willing?"

"No." Belle's eyes filled with tears, and she looked away.

"Don't cry. We'll find a way to deal with all of this. Belle," he said, "why didn't you tell me? We could have faced it together, as a family."

"I'm sorry, Papa. I just didn't want you to worry. I was hoping to be away from the village before I told anyone." She explained her plan about the fair. "Now things are such a mess. I don't know how we're going to get out of here. The doors are locked, and the windows are all sealed. Even if we could get one open, none of us but Lumière can get out." If she hadn't been pregnant she could have fit out one of the narrow windows easily, but in her current state it was impossible.

"Now I'm sorry we sealed those windows to keep smoke from escaping. If we broke one…" Maurice suggested.

"Lumière and I discussed that. But Lefou would probably hear. He's always around. Even if Lumière could get away, it would take at least a day before he could get back to the castle. That leaves the two of us in here to get wet. Which wouldn't be good for you."

"Or you," pointed out Maurice. They were all glumly silent, staring at the rain beating against the windows. As they sat there, it occurred to Belle that she felt very peculiar. There was a lingering sense of anticipation in the air that had nothing to do with wanting to get out of the cellar. She had a strange urge to pace, which was not like her at all. The Beast was the one who paced when he was nervous. A slight cramp rippled down her back and made her wince, but her back had been in such pain of various intensities for the past few days this was nothing too unusual.

The squeak of the door lock made them all jump. Lumière dove behind a barrel. Belle and Maurice looked at each other but didn't move. It was the wrong time for Lefou to be bringing a meal. Who could this possibly be?

Down the stairs came a soaking wet Lefou…and behind him an equally wet, yet equally familiar face. And a very welcome one.

"Belle! Maurice!" exclaimed the town bookseller.

Belle hurried as fast as she could to fling her arms around him. "It's so good to see you!" she exclaimed. "But…" she pulled back and looked from one man to the other. "What's going on?"

Lefou couldn't meet her eyes. Belle turned to the bookseller.

"Lefou came bursting into my shop not five minutes ago saying he needed my help. He wouldn't tell me what it was about," the older man said. "I had no idea you were both down here! This place looks like a prison. What's been happening?"

They all looked at Lefou. He swallowed, then finally burst out, "Is it true the baby's Gaston's?"

"You heard us?" Belle asked. Sudden panic gripped her. "You didn't tell him, did you?"

Lefou shook his head, sending water flying from the end of his short pigtail. "He hasn't been around much. He just told me to watch the house and get you food. Did you know that if you sit next to the kitchen fireplace you can hear every single thing that's going on down here?"

"No," Belle admitted. She didn't spend enough time in the kitchen to really listen.

"There must be a walled-in chimney or something that carries the sound," Maurice said from his bench. "If things ever get back to normal, I'll have to test it."

Lefou still looked uncomfortable. "I'm awfully sorry, Belle," he blurted. "I had no idea what Gaston…what he did to you. He never told me about any of it." He finally met her eyes, and Belle saw a pained look of betrayal there.

Now she thought she understood. Lefou had thought Gaston told him everything. Finding out he was wrong had wounded him deeply.

"Thank you for letting us out, Lefou," she said. She moved to touch his shoulder, but he stepped back.

"I'm not doing it for you," he said roughly. "I'm doing it because Gaston's son deserves better than to be born in a dusty old cellar."

"Thank you anyway. You don't know how much this means," said Belle. "But why did you ask the bookseller for help?"

"I knew he was a friend of yours. I thought maybe he could hide you and your father for a little while, until you can get out of town. Gaston will be gone all day. He said this morning he'd found some suspicious tracks and was sure he'd find the castle today. He's been searching in the woods all week."

"What on earth does he want to go to the castle for?" asked Maurice.

"He thinks Belle betrayed him with that monster from her mirror," Lefou replied. "He's off to kill it and restore her honor." He looked at Belle, then away. "He's also going to kill your child once it's born. He said it's an…oh, what's that word…an abnormalation."

"An abomination?" Maurice offered helpfully.

Belle put a hand to her stomach. "Gaston thinks…the Beast is…oh, no…" Thinking back, she realized she had said things in the woods that might lead Gaston to believe the Beast had fathered her child. Not that she would mind the Beast being the baby's father, but not in the literal sense. And Gaston's jealous mind had jumped to the literal conclusion. Oh, what had she done? Now she'd put the Beast in danger, too, when she'd tried so hard to keep him out of it.

"I have to go," she said at once. "I know how to get back to the castle. I have to warn the Beast."

"But, Belle…" Maurice protested. "You can't…the road…your condition…"

Belle swung towards Lefou. "Is the carriage we arrived in still here? And our horse?"

"The carriage is out back, where no one can see it from the road," Lefou said, taking a step away. "And your horse is in the stable. I've been looking after him, too, same as I do for Gaston's horse."

Belle now turned to the bookseller. "Can you hide my father until I get back? Take care of him?"

"Of course," the bookseller agreed at once. "Anything for my best customer. If you promise to tell me the whole story when there's time."

"You won't believe half of it," Belle warned.

"That's all right. Tall tales are half the reason I got into my business. I sense this one might write me one of my own and make my fortune," the bookseller shrugged. "Maybe I'll retire to Paris with the money. I've been wanting a change of scene anyway. And people that understand the joy of reading as much as you and I do."

"Thank you," said Belle gratefully.

"I'm not leaving you," Maurice asserted. "You can't go off alone, with a baby coming so soon. And certainly not back to that awful castle. I know you told me the Beast let you go, but what if he tries to keep you again?"

"Papa, please. The Beast has changed so much. He's been very kind to me these past few months. He's such a good friend, and a good person. He would never try to keep me against my will. I was going to take you back there to recover before Gaston caught us."

This shook him hard. "But, Belle—"

Her eyes filled with tears. "This is all my fault. I can't let him die because of my mistake. He's suffered enough. I have to make this right, somehow."

"I still don't see any reason for me to stay behind. If you can manage in the carriage, I can manage, too."

"Papa, don't you see? Gaston is willing to hurt anyone he sees as an obstacle to possessing me. That's what he was doing by putting you in the Maison des Lunes, and that's what he's going to do to the Beast. He even did it to Lefou, by keeping secrets from him. If you come, who's to say Gaston won't threaten you again? At least this way I know you'll be safe. Please," Belle begged. "I'm worried enough about the Beast, and the baby. I don't want to worry about you, too."

There was a long silence. Finally, Maurice said in a defeated voice, "All right, Belle. I never could say no to you when you put your mind to something. But please, just promise to be careful. I want to see you, and my grandchild, safe and sound as soon as possible."

"Thank you, Papa." Belle went and hugged him hard. He hugged her just as hard, then gently touched her belly. As he did, Belle felt another cramp along her back, but she brushed it off as nerves. Then she went to the corner and fetched Lumière, who with his eyes closed looked for all the world like an ordinary candelabra.

"We'll save him," she whispered, more confidently than she felt. "I promise."

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 27 of 33

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