Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 28 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

The Beast was almost wild with anxiety. Even his fears about the curse's creeping deadline paled in comparison with how much he was worried about Belle.

She should have been back by now. She should have been back days ago.

He had initially worried about her taking her father and leaving, but ironically the more time passed, the more sure he was that she had not run away again. She had said she would come back. His faith in her grew the longer she was absent. But that meant that his worry increased the longer she was gone, too.

Something must have happened to her and Lumière.


Mrs. Potts' voice interrupted his pacing. She and Cogsworth had come in on a tea tray.

"Anything?" he asked.

"No, sire. No sign of them. But don't give up hope. There's still time," Cogsworth said.

"I don't plan on giving up," the Beast replied. He went back out to the balcony despite the pouring rain to peer across the causeway, trying desperately to see a carriage rattling up it. Seeing nothing again, he went back inside and shook off.

"I can't stand it," he told the two servants, who had stepped back so as not to get hit by the torrent of water coming from his fur. "I wish I had the mirror. Then I'd just look to make sure they're all right."

The two servants exchanged glances. "Aren't you worried about the time, Master?" Cogsworth ventured tentatively.

"Of course I am," the Beast snapped, but it lacked the unbridled fury of just a few months ago. He softened even more at the desperate looks the servants cast him. "Of course I am. And I'm sorry things are this close. Don't you think I wish things were different? That I knew for sure Belle feels about me the way I feel about her? That we were all—human?" His voice caught a little.

"Never mind," Mrs. Potts said decidedly, though her voice sounded a little strained. "No more thinking that way. We brought you some late supper, Master."

"Thank you." Distantly, the Beast knew he was hungry, but he still only picked at the food. He couldn't stop thinking about Belle, and where she might be right now. She had the mirror. She couldn't be lost, could she? Or maybe…the baby?

He had even gone out to search the woods around the castle once or twice, when it became clear Belle was not coming back the same day she left. He hadn't gotten very far; only a mile or two. Still, there was no sign.

"I'm going out again," he announced after a minute spent staring at the same bit of meat on his plate.

"But, sire—" Cogsworth began.

"No arguments, Cogsworth," the Beast said. "Something's wrong. I know it. Belle wouldn't stay away this long. And Lumière would never disappear on us, either."

Cogsworth opened his mouth, and shut it again. "You are right, sire. Lumière may be a feckless, irresponsible, poor excuse for a candlestick, but you will never find anyone more loyal. And," he added with a glare at the two of them, "if you ever tell him I said that, I shall resign at that very moment and you can find someone else to run this household."

Belle was right about them. They really are friends, the Beast thought. It made him miss her even more.

"I'm going," the Beast said determinedly. "And this time I'm not coming back until they're found."

"Is there anything we can do to help before you leave?" Mrs. Potts asked. It spoke a great deal for how the curse's looming permanence must be weighing on her, and her worry for Belle and Lumière, that she didn't argue.

"Keep the fires in the Belle's room, the guest room we prepared for her father, and the West Wing warm and ready for our return."

"An excellent idea, sire," Cogsworth said. He bowed low. "It shall be done."

"Have a last cup of tea before you leave?" offered Mrs. Potts.

"No. Thank you. The sooner I leave, the sooner we can all come back safely."

The Beast made his way downstairs, trailed by the two servants on their tea cart. Coming down the main stairs, they were met by Babette, Lumière's lover. She hadn't left a particular large window next to the main doors since Belle and Lumière left.

"What's wrong, dear?" Mrs. Potts asked.

"Someone's coming," the featherduster gasped. She sounded close to fainting. "Someone is coming across the causeway."

"Is it…?" the Beast breathed.

"I could not tell," Babette sniffed. "The rain…"

"Look after her," the Beast ordered Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth. "I'll go see."

He practically flew across the vast main hall and threw open the doors. His still-damp fur was instantly soaked again, but he hardly noticed. He hurried to the edge of the causeway.

Someone was coming across. However, it looked far too small to be the carriage. Maybe something had happened to it?

No. As the figure came closer, he could see ever more clearly that it was no one he recognized. It might be too small to be the carriage, but it was definitely too big to be Belle, even Belle supporting her father.

The Beast started moving forward, for once curiosity overcoming caution at a stranger seeing him as a monster. This mysterious figure intrigued him. How had someone else found their way to the castle?

The figure halted about at half the distance across the causeway. It seemed to be shouting something at him. Even though he was not particularly far away, the Beast couldn't hear any of the words through the roar of wind, rain and thunder. Closer he went, until they were a mere ten feet apart. Finally, he saw the man clearly.

In size, he matched the Beast fairly well even though the Beast was an animal—the man was as tall, and nearly as muscled. He had long black hair that was coming out of its tie in the wind, causing tresses to blow across his powerfully-boned face. The man's square chin was particularly impressive. Like the Beast, he wore a billowing cloak. He bristled with weapons: a bow and quiver full of arrows, and at least one knife.

The man also seemed to be sizing him up. He showed no surprise at the Beast's appearance. It made the Beast wonder what he'd expected to see when he approached the castle. The man's lip was curling, which, given what he was facing, was not surprising.

Finally, he spoke. "You're even uglier in the flesh."

"What?" The Beast was somewhat taken aback.

The man ignored him. "I can't believe she'd be crazy enough to choose a thing like you over me."

"You're Gaston," the Beast realized with a jolt. His own lip started to curl. He never thought he'd ever get to face Belle's tormentor, and he was unprepared for the rising tide of hatred that was starting to take him over. He crouched low, growling deep in his throat. "You hurt Belle. You forced yourself on her."

At last, Gaston appeared somewhat intimidated. He took a half-step back. Then he puffed his chest out. "I took what was mine," he snapped. "She taunted me for weeks, turning me down when she really wanted me."

"She never wanted you," the Beast snarled. "Why couldn't you have left her alone? She'll have to live with what you did for the rest of her life. Every time she looks at the child—"

"The child?" Gaston interrupted. "She said the child's yours, you monster."

They stared at one another. The Beast felt as though lightning had come out of the storm and hit him. Belle had said her baby was his? Not only that, but the vicious Gaston had believed such a thing was even possible?

"Tell me you're lying," Gaston finally said, so low the Beast almost missed it beneath the storm. "That demonspawn isn't mine. She would have thrown herself on my mercy right away if it were true." He seemed to be trying to convince himself rather than really speaking to the Beast.

The Beast tried to check his still-boiling fury and think somewhat rationally. Belle had never wanted Gaston to know he had fathered her child, or he would be able to claim them both. The Beast longed to know whether it meant anything that Belle had said he was the father. But Belle was not here to give the truth. And even in her absence, he vowed not only to respect her wishes, but take the responsibility it entailed.

"Yes," he said, wondering not for the first time if he had lost his mind. "I am the child's father."

With a yell, Gaston whipped out his bow. The Beast, stunned by the man's speed, realized what he was about to do a second too late. He dodged. The arrow sliced deep into his left shoulder instead of his heart. He stumbled back with the shock and pain. It hurt a lot worse than the bites from the wolves, mostly because the intense pain was concentrated in one small spot. But instead of fainting, he steeled himself and quickly broke off the arrow's shaft, dodging another arrow in the process. Belle and her baby needed him, wherever they were. He didn't want to die at this man's hands.

At some point during the long ride through the woods, it dawned on Belle that she might be in labor. The strange pains she'd dismissed as just from sleeping on the floor, or nerves, continued. And they got stronger, and more frequent, the further she got from the village.

Not now! she thought desperately. It's supposed to be another two weeks… She remembered Mrs. Potts saying it was possible the baby could come a week or two before its actual due date. Belle had half-joked she hoped that happened because she was ready not to be pregnant anymore. Now she regretted it.

Stay where you are! she ordered the baby. I have to save him first…you want to meet the Beast when you arrive, don't you? She hoped the baby heard, but she got the feeling he wasn't listening.

The pains were regular, but they were spaced decently well apart, so Belle figured she had some time even if the baby really was coming. Because of the poor condition of the road, she couldn't make Philippe go faster than a walk if she didn't want to be bounced out of the carriage.

At least she knew exactly where she was going. Lumière stood bravely beside her, holding the mirror and giving directions based on his requests to the glowing surface. Belle had not asked him to look for the Beast, or Gaston, through it. If he had looked at either, he was keeping whatever he'd seen to himself.

The Beast found himself disadvantaged in the fight in nearly every way. He went into it already shot, and Gaston somehow used his distraction by the agony to get between him and escape to the castle. Not only that, but he knew almost nothing about fighting, either as a human or as an animal. Gaston had a long-range weapon, while the Beast only had teeth and claws.

However, he did have sheer ferocity, born of his need to protect the woman he loved and her child, whom he might love as he got to know. He wanted that chance.

He also had the burning knowledge that he was right. This man deserved anything the Beast might do to him for harming an innocent girl.

He crouched low, ready to dodge more arrows. Gaston tucked his bow over one shoulder and drew his long knife. The big man charged. His knife flashed, and the Beast had to scramble to get out of the way. Into the opening the Beast lunged. Gaston slashed the knife again, forcing him to back away.

Back and forth they traded blows and dodges. Gaston did not manage to land another hit. One of the Beast's lucky swings with a paw caught the strap Gaston used for his quiver, dumping the arrows to the ground; another blow hit the tip of his chin. Blood trailed a line down onto the man's red shirt. The Beast was vaguely aware of a spreading dark stain from his own hurt shoulder, and the wound was definitely slowing him down. He could hardly lift his left arm.

Gaston noticed, and sneered at him. "You're weak. Give up. Belle would never have stayed with you. A woman wants a strong man who can fight for her, not some poor pathetic creature."

All the Beast's fury came rushing back. "You don't know Belle," he snarled. He leapt forward, but wasn't fast enough. Gaston easily evaded him.

"It's over, Beast," he said, chuckling cruelly as he watched the Beast stumble back to get out of knife range. "Belle is mine!"

Something cold, a kind of icy clarity, took over the Beast's mind, though it was still red-tinted with rage. This…monster…thought he could own Belle, like a horse, or the shirt he was dripping blood on. "Belle belongs to no one," he hissed, "Not to me, and least of all to you." And he flung himself forward, heedless of the danger of the knife.

His reckless charge apparently took Gaston by surprise. The Beast had the knife knocked away and the man off his feet before he could do more than lift a hand. Using his good right arm, the Beast towed his helpless prisoner to the edge of the causeway and held him out by the throat, ready to drop him to his death hundreds of feet below.

Gaston screamed and struggled, but he was helpless before the Beast's righteous rage. "Please, let me go! Don't hurt me! I'll do anything you want! Just don't…" He looked down at the empty air below his feet and struggled harder.

This was it: the Beast could drop him and be done with it. Belle and her baby would finally be safe. He wouldn't even have to watch the man die, as he had with his mother.

His mother. The Beast heard that axe swinging again, the terrible noise roaring in his ears as it cut through bone and ended her life. He saw his father, dull-eyed and ill, refusing to leave the West Wing. No one would mourn Gaston the way the Prince had mourned his beloved, betraying wife.

A betraying wife. Now in his mind the Beast sat beside Belle as they read Arthur and Guinevere, while in the story the Queen betrayed her husband, realized her mistake, and went back. Arthur forgave her, had been willing to give a second chance.

And Sir Gawain. He had raped a peasant girl, should have been put to death for it, and instead was given a chance to redeem himself. He became one of the greatest of knights, which would never have happened had he not been given a riddle that helped him realize his mistake. Mercy had taught him a lesson.

If he, the Beast, dropped Gaston into the valley, Gaston would never have the chance to realize his own mistakes.

And who was the Beast to judge? After all, he'd been given a second chance of his own, in a way—transformation. Because of it, he'd met Belle and been changed in so many ways.

All this the Beast thought of in a flash. Justice would be served if Gaston died right here for his crimes. But was it the right thing to do?

No. No. No, his mind chanted. I'm not what I was. I've learned more from the past ten years than that. I'm not what I was. I'm not.

Carefully, the Beast pulled Gaston back onto the causeway. "I let you live," he growled. "In exchange, you leave this place and never bother Belle again. If you don't, then I'll find you and make sure you get the full punishment you deserve for all you've done. Do you understand?"

Gaston, still pale and trembling, nodded reluctantly.

"Then get out." The Beast flung the man to the ground and staggered away. It was alarming how weak he felt. His knees threatened to give with every step. He hoped he could make it back to the castle. Or that the servants would realize something was wrong and come to fetch him before he bled to death out here in the middle of the causeway.

The rain had lessened while he'd been distracted. He also noticed that it was getting a little light out. Dawn would come soon.

The morning of his twenty-fifth birthday.

A noise made him spin back towards the forest. Across the causeway raced an open carriage he recognized. Belle was at the driver's seat, and he could make out Lumiere beside her with the mirror.

"Beast!" Belle nearly screamed. First she pulled Philippe up to a sharp stop barely inches from him. She flung herself down out of the driver's seat somehow, and then she was in his arms.

"Belle," he whispered into her tangled hair. "Belle, you're here."

"I came to warn you," she sobbed. "I tried to get here in time, but we were so slow. Gaston, he's…" She pulled back, taking in his still-bleeding shoulder. "You're hurt!"

"Mrs. Potts can help," he tried to reassure her. He examined her soaked, white face. There were dark circles under her eyes, and she looked a bit wild. She winced, drawing away from him a little.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"The baby's coming. Soon." Suddenly her eyes went behind him and grew huge. "Watch out! Gaston, no, don't!"

The Beast tried to turn, but he was far too slow. Something pierced his back and ripped. Belle screamed, and it sounded far away. Momentum kept him swinging, and he felt his failing arm collide with something huge and heavy with enough force to knock it aside. Another scream, this time a man's voice. The scream seemed to drop away, and then there was a long silence.

The Beast blinked. He looked at Belle, but her eyes weren't on him. They were looking past him, at a spot on the causeway wall.

"What…" he tried to say. It came out a breathy gasp, and then the pain hit, hard. His whole back was on fire, and he could feel warmth trickling there, too.

"Gaston…" Belle managed to croak out, her face even whiter. "You hit him…he fell… The knife! Did he…?" She started forward, arms outstretched.

"Yes," the Beast attempted. But the sound had barely made it past his lips before his legs collapsed beneath him.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 28 of 33

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