Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 30 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Something was wrong. Belle sensed it. She'd been put down somewhere comfortable, but now that reassuring presence was gone. She knew Mrs. Potts was close; she could hear the teapot's gentle voice, and that kept her from completely panicking. But it was somehow vitally important that the Beast be near.

"Try to relax, dear," Mrs. Potts soothed.

"No!" Belle moaned. "Where is he? What happened to him?"

Once the three men were in the hall, Cogsworth left to check on the rest of the household as they rediscovered their humanity. Lumière stayed, for which the former Beast was grateful. The two sat side-by-side on a small couch that had, like the other objects in the West Wing hall, mysteriously repaired itself. Well, the young man tried to sit, but he kept jumping up to pace. Lumière only stood when Babette arrived to help Mrs. Potts. The two shared a long, drawn-out kiss that only stayed a kiss because Babette was carrying a kettle of hot water and accidentally burned Lumière when he got too close.

"Ow!" the maitre d' complained, waving his arm around.

"Turnabout is fair play," Babette responded with a wink. "I've been burnt by you before." Then she went into the West Wing and shut the door behind her.

The young man could only watch in envy. He wanted so badly to bolt inside to see how Belle was doing. They'd come so far; why did they have to be apart now, when it mattered the most?

"Take a deep breath, Master," Lumière urged. He'd settled back onto the couch to nurse his burn. "Mrs. Potts was right when she said your father wasn't in the room when you were born. And he was just as nervous. This is something women prefer to do in secret."

"I wish it weren't," the young man grumbled. He started to pace again. "Why is it taking so long?"

"It has only been a few minutes, Master." Lumière eyed him. "If I may ask, how did all of this happen?" His gesture took in their humanity, and the change in the castle. "For us, one moment we were just coming to bring you aid for your wounds, and the next—we were surrounded by a cloud of little lights, and we were all human again as if the spell had never been."

"I'm not really sure," the young man replied, distracted for the moment. "You saw what happened with Gaston. I was—I was dying. Belle didn't believe it; she kept insisting I was going to get better. She wanted—" He paused. "She knew, Lumière. Somehow. She knew we all used to be human, and she never said anything."

"The girl is brighter than any of us gave her credit for," Lumière remarked with a glance at the West Wing door. "I remember sometimes we were careless, early on when we were not used to keeping it a secret, but I convinced myself she noticed nothing."

"She did. Belle notices everything."

"She kept her council very well. How much does she know about our history, I wonder?"

"I have no idea." The young man flung himself down on the couch beside his maitre d'. "I should have trusted her, Lumière. I should have told her I loved her long before. But I always pictured her horror when I, the hideous Beast, told her that I…" He swallowed. "I could never do it. If I had, things wouldn't have happened this way." He fingered the bloody shoulder of his shirt to make the point.

"Ah, but they worked out, no? You are alive, and you now know for certain that she reciprocates your feelings. What could be better?"

He wished he had Lumière's optimism. Instead, he bent over and buried his head in his hands.

He felt an unexpected hand on his shoulder. "Master," said Lumière, very quietly. "Things have been happening very fast, so I will say it while I have the chance: on behalf of all of us, thank you. You have given us back our lives."

That got the young man's full attention. Impulsively, he reached out and hugged the maitre d'. "Thank you, Lumière. You and the others never let me give up, even when it all seemed impossible."

The West Wing door opened. Both men spun to see Mrs. Potts standing there. Her eyes were solemn. "Belle keeps asking for you, Master. She's so distressed, I'm afraid she might hurt herself and the baby. It's against my better judgment, but…"

He was already up and practically past her before she finished speaking. She sighed, but it was a half-affectionate sound in the midst of exasperation. She closed the door behind them.

"Master, you have to be prepared. There will be…quite a bit of blood with the birth, and Belle will be in a lot of pain. If you feel ill, you can always come back and wait out here."

He met her eyes squarely. "She needs me," he said. "She and the baby."

To his surprise, he could see tears glimmering in his old nurse's eyes. "Look at you," she said, her voice thick. "You're all grown up into a fine young man. I'm so proud of you." She hugged him. He was shocked to find how much taller he was than she—before the transformation he'd topped her by barely an inch. He hadn't given a thought to possible changes in his human appearance over the last ten years until this moment. But like much of the aftermath of the spell, it would all have to wait.

Belle lay propped up in his large double bed, attended by Babette, who was wiping her forehead with a damp cloth.

"He's here, dear," Mrs. Potts announced. Belle's only response was to turn her head slightly.

He found a chair in a corner, picked it up, and pulled it close to the head of the bed, as close to Belle as he could get. "Belle," he whispered.

She turned even more at the sound of his voice. "I'm so tired," she murmured, almost inaudibly.

"It's nearly time, dear," Mrs. Potts announced from the other end of the bed. "When I say, you must push as hard as you can."

"Did you hear, Belle? It's almost time. It's almost over," he urged. "Keep going." Very gently, he began running his fingers through her matted, damp hair. It was much easier to manage with smaller fingers and no claws.

The change this simple gesture wrought was immediate. Belle visibly relaxed, and even seemed to grow slightly more alert. Her eyes opened, and she looked at him blearily. "Beast?"

"I'm here."

She put one hand up towards his face. Her fingers brushed his cheek, then trailed down to explore his chin, lips, the bridge of his nose, up to his eyebrows, then back down to his cheek. Her hazy eyes met his.

"It is you," she said. A small smile flicked across her face. Then she tensed again, and cried out. Still running the fingers of one hand through her hair, he reached down with the other and took her hand. She squeezed so hard he thought his bones were going to break, but he gritted his teeth—so much easier to do without fangs!—and remained steady.

Belle didn't speak again, and neither did he, though he kept holding her hand and stroking her hair. Babette leaned down from the other side of the bed to bathe Belle's sweaty forehead with her cloth. Two more birth pains came, and they were less than a minute apart each. At the end of the last, Belle doubled over, drawing her knees up.

"I see the baby!" Mrs. Potts announced. "As soon as the next pain starts, push as hard as you can!"

The young man knew better than to look, even though he very much wanted to see the baby, too. Mrs. Potts had said there would be blood, and he believed her. He didn't want to faint as he had in the woods. Instead, he kept his eyes on Belle's face, which was screwed up tight with agony and concentration. A small whimper escaped her lips.

"Push!" ordered Mrs. Potts.

Belle complied, her face even tighter. It was obvious from her clenched teeth she was trying hard not to scream again.

"The next one should do it," said Mrs. Potts. "We're almost there."

"We're almost there," the young man repeated, whispering it into Belle's ear like a secret. She turned and managed to smile at him again, though it quickly became a grimace.

"Now!" came Mrs. Potts' voice.

Belle's scream this time seemed torn from her. It went on and on, until the young man's ears were ringing a little. Or no…that wasn't an echo, it was…

Belle fell back onto the bed with a gasp. Out of the corner of his eye, the young man saw Mrs. Potts straighten up. There was something in her arms, and it was moving.

He dared a look. Sure enough, it was a baby, a tiny, pink, wrinkled thing still covered in beads of blood. But this blood he could stand to look at. There was nothing sickening or threatening about it. The baby was squirming a little in Mrs. Potts' arms, and crying with a surprisingly loud voice.

He could also see it was still connected to Belle through a strange-looking cord attached to its middle. Before he could ask about it, Babette came forward from where she had been standing. She held a sharp knife, which must have been one of the things she had brought up with the hot water from the kitchen. Deftly she tied off the cord with a bit of string and cut it. The baby continued to cry unabated.

"It's a girl," announced Mrs. Potts.

"A girl?" the young man repeated. He was a little surprised. For some reason he'd been expecting a boy. Now he felt silly. Of course Belle could have a daughter as easily as she could a son.

"A strong, healthy girl," Mrs. Potts elaborated, misunderstanding the question in his voice. She glanced at Belle, who was still taking deep, steadying breaths. Then she brought the baby to the young man, and held her out wordlessly.

For a second, he panicked. But his arms were already moving without his permission. Mrs. Potts handed the little girl off, then adjusted his grip so that he was supporting the head in the crook of one elbow. Small flecks of blood still on the baby's skin rubbed off onto his already-bloody, too-large Beast shirt.

The baby's cries grew softer, then turned to slight gurgles. Amazed, he gently traced her features with the barest tip of a finger. Already the baby took after her mother. He could see a little of Belle in the delicate chin and cheekbones. The damp shock of brown hair was just the barest shade darker than Belle's.

Then the baby's eyes popped open. She went cross-eyed with the attempt to focus on his face, then closed them again.

He stood still, stunned. The baby's eyes were a clear blue, very different from Belle's green-brown. The blue eyes might be a feature from Gaston—he hadn't had much time to check the man's eye color—but for an instant it had been like looking in a mirror.

"Belle," he breathed, sitting back down in his chair, "We have a little girl. She's beautiful."

Belle already looked better. Her white face had gotten some color back, and her eyes were tired but had regained a little of their sparkle. She scooted up a bit against the bed's headboard, and as soon as she was settled the young man passed her daughter into her arms. Belle smiled, tears at the corners of her eyes.

"You're right. She is beautiful," she said wonderingly. As he had done, she traced a finger across the baby's face. The little girl's eyes opened at the sound of her mother's voice. She kept them open a bit longer before closing them again.

Belle looked up at him. "Her eyes…they look like…"

"Mine," he finished, his voice just as amazed as hers. "Were Gaston's…?"

"Yes, I think his eyes were blue, but they were lighter." The baby gurgled, and Belle rocked her gently. "It's funny, but I assumed from the beginning she'd be a boy. I somehow couldn't imagine Gaston fathering a girl."

"I did the same thing. I mean, I thought she'd be a boy, too."

"But now it means I have no idea what to call her."

He knew what she wanted him to say, but for the moment chose to ignore her hint. "I think you should call her Guinevere."

"Guinevere," Belle said, testing it out. "Gwen for short, maybe. I do like that. More than Arthur for a boy. But are you sure you don't…"

"No. I don't think I'd be comfortable with a little girl in the castle with my name."

Belle smiled, but she said, "You know what I meant. We could change the name a bit to suit a girl."

"No, Belle."

"All right. But will you at least tell me what your name is? 'Beast' just doesn't suit you anymore. Actually, it hasn't for awhile."

He let that pass without comment. "My name was—is—Alexander." The words felt strange coming out of his mouth again after all these years. He hadn't thought of himself as Alexander in…it felt like forever. "But you can still call me Beast if you want to. Being called Alexander will take getting used to as it is."

The baby seemed to think they'd spent enough time with their attention off her. She began to cry again. Belle rocked and shushed her, but nothing seemed to work.

"She's probably hungry," suggested Mrs. Potts, who had gone into the West Wing parlor with Babette to give the three of them a little privacy. She returned carrying a bundle of linens for the bed. "Master," she said with a very slight respectful bob of the head, "Belle and the baby—"

"Guinevere," said Belle and Alexander at the same time.

"Guinevere. What a lovely name," the matronly woman approved, "Belle and Guinevere need some rest, alone. Perhaps you should tell the household the good news?"

He was still reluctant to leave, but Belle nodded. "I'm sure they'd like to know. And maybe you should change clothes?"

Alexander glanced down at his enormous, torn, bloody shirt and breeches, and his bare feet. "Maybe you're right. But there's one thing I want to do first."

"What's that?" asked Belle.

"I…" He swallowed hard. "Can I kiss you? I've been wanting to for so long, but I would never do it without asking, after Gaston…"

She blinked. Then she smiled, a slow, tender smile that lit up her whole face. "Of course. I've been waiting to be asked for a long time, too."

Very carefully, he leaned over and cupped her face with both hands. She tilted her head up expectantly. Their lips met. And, with the baby still wailing in Belle's arms, they shared their first kiss.

If asked to describe it, Alexander would have said Belle kissed the way she did everything else in life. She was gentle and passionate, and a little stubborn. It was he who first pulled back, though only to a mere inch away.

"I love you," he whispered.

"I love you, too," she replied.

Alexander touched baby Guinevere on the head to show her she hadn't been neglected while he kissed her mother, then left to find different clothing and announce her birth to the expectant household.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 30 of 33

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