Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 31 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Two days after Guinevere's birth, Belle lay in bed in the West Wing with her daughter in her arms. Gwen was asleep, and Belle was enjoying a few moments of quiet thought.

Curled up on the couch he'd insisted on dragged into the bedroom from the parlor was the Beast—Alexander, she reminded herself. She'd done her utmost in the past few days to remember to call him that, though he didn't always answer. He looked embarrassed whenever she had to call him twice, or resort to using "Beast" if she wanted his attention.

It should have been odd for her to see the currently-sleeping young man and the Beast as one and the same, but it wasn't. She knew, by some inner sense that she couldn't define. He didn't look anything like the Beast, except for his eyes. He'd also changed a great deal from the boy in the portrait hanging behind him. The hair was the same unique red-brown-blond, and the face was still strong-boned, but the sharpness had been softened and filled out by adulthood. He was tall—not quite as tall as the Beast, but still a considerable height—and strong. She'd discovered she liked watching the muscles shift under his clothes when he wasn't paying attention. In fact, she was surprised to find how attracted to him she really was, despite her initial thoughts that the boy in the portrait would be handsome as a man.

He shifted a little on the couch. Belle smiled at his sleeping form. He was curled up in a way that made him seem almost bearlike. Maybe that was what made her so certain whenever she saw him that man and Beast were one—Alexander moved like the Beast. That same half-stalk, that same sense that he commanded all attention in a room but would rather it be anywhere else, the same expressions. The same way of running his fingers through her hair.

Gwen turned her head but didn't wake up. Belle rocked her gently, smoothing back the baby's dark hair. It was hard to believe after all the months of worry, anticipation and pain, she was finally here. And she was perfect and healthy, after all they'd been through.

If only Maurice could be here to share the joy in the birth of his grandchild. Belle had had Cogsworth send a very discreet messenger to the bookseller's house. With him, he carried a note Belle had written explaining that the baby had come early, and she would come to fetch him as soon as possible. She also wrote that Gaston was dead, and the Beast and the rest of the household were safe.

She'd left out anything about the changes in the Beast and the castle. There was no way to explain, though she felt terrible for keeping things from her father. Cogsworth and Lumière had both offered to deliver the message personally, but Belle declined in favor of someone her father hadn't met in his brief time in the castle. She wanted to try to explain in person, though she still didn't understand it all herself.

She'd been right in her guesses that everyone in the castle had once been human, and that the transformation had taken place ten years before. She'd also been right that Alexander's choices had been the cause. The way he and the servants explained it, they had all been placed under a curse when he refused a hideous beggar woman shelter at Christmas. The beggar had turned out to be a magical enchantress who cast her spell because of the coldness in his heart. She changed Alexander into what he was on the inside—a Beast—and the castle and servants into how he perceived them. Namely, objects, and dark and gloomy. Belle had thought Alexander's ugly qualities had had to do with his monstrous form, but now it seemed he had been like that before the change.

For second, she hadn't believed it. But only for a second. Then she'd remembered the creature she'd first met. It had taken her months to accept he'd ever been human. He'd changed a great deal since then. Who he was on the inside had become different long before the outside had changed two days ago. And it was the man on the inside she'd fallen in love with.

Apparently, that had been what broke the spell. He had to learn to love, and be loved in return before he turned twenty-five. The strange rose she'd seen in the West Wing was a marker, telling anyone who looked at it exactly how much time had gone by, and how much he had left. Her confession seconds before his death had put everything back to the way it should be, and saved his life.

It was odder still to realize he was in fact a prince; a prince whose disappearance at age fourteen had been little remarked upon in the rest of the country, so small was the province he'd inherited from his parents. When she thought of princes—real ones, not the ones in fairy tales that kissed princesses awake—she pictured a richly dressed older man eating delicacies off a golden plate and turning up his nose at them. Nothing like Alexander, whose manners until recently had been anything but refined. Yes, he lived in a castle surrounded by servants, but she hadn't really considered what it meant.

There was a great deal about him she was learning in a short amount of time.

It was all a lot to take in, and there were times her mind fought against the truth of it. But the truth of her love for him, and his for her, couldn't be denied. She could see it in the way he looked at her. It wasn't a possessive leer, like Gaston's. It wasn't the usual goggle-eyed stare men gave her because of her looks either. It was something else entirely. She'd never had anyone look at her that way before, and it sent shivers down her spine.

When she glanced at Alexander again, his eyes were open. He smiled and sat up. "Sleeping?" he whispered with a glance at Gwen.

Belle nodded. "I sent Mrs. Potts out to get some rest. I don't know whether she will or not, but she needed the break." They had been taking turns between them and Mrs. Potts when Gwen fussed, though Mrs. Potts had been trying to take on more than her share.

"How are you feeling, Belle?" Alexander asked.

"Still sore," she admitted. "And tired. But I'm getting better every day. I hope Mrs. Potts will let me get up tomorrow." She grinned at him. "Thank you so much for bringing me that book. Twelfth Night is a favorite of mine."

"Lumière recommended it," he admitted. "It looked too complicated for me when I tried the first page."

"You'll be there soon. And you'll like Shakespeare, I promise. He has a way with words no one else does."

"I trust your judgment," he said. He held out his arms. "I'll hold her, if you want to rest."

"Thank you," Belle sighed gratefully. They managed the hand-off without waking Gwen, and Belle took a long stretch once she was sure he had a firm grip on the baby. Alexander smiled down at the tiny pink form as he settled back onto the couch.

"You're so gentle with her," Belle remarked. "Anyone looking would think she was yours."

"She is."

"But what about—"

Alexander shook his head. "Gwen became mine that night just before Christmas, when you first put my paw on your stomach to feel her move. I felt it. I think you felt it, too. Something happened between all three of us that night. I didn't realize what it was until I saw Gwen's eyes. " He leaned forward a little, his eyes fixed on her. "I know what happened with Gaston won't ever go away, and I'm not trying to erase it. But you told Gaston yourself I was the father."

"I—" Belle stopped. She hadn't intended to imply to Gaston that the Beast had fathered her child. However, she was starting to realize that there was more to her 'mistake' than she'd initially thought. Deep down, she was discovering she had believed it. Alexander was right. She had felt something that night, something she couldn't explain. And Gwen had known whose daughter she was long before either of them. She had always been moving when the Beast was around.

Belle's eyes filled with tears. "You're taking on a huge burden you don't have to."

"I've been thinking about this since Christmas, Belle, ever since you read me that story about Mary and Joseph. It's true I don't really know what I'm getting into. My parents died when I was young. My father…he had my mother executed for adultery. He died a few years later. Everyone said he died of a broken heart."

Belle was shocked. "I'm…I'm so sorry, Alexander. I had no idea." She couldn't imagine experiencing such betrayal as a child. No wonder he had become so cold, so young.

"Don't apologize. It wasn't your fault." Alexander's face was set, and Belle realized how hard it was for him to talk about.

"You didn't have to tell me," she said.

"I do." For a moment, she could hear the Beast in his roughened voice. "You trusted me with your secrets, Belle. It's time I trusted you. And you have to understand. I know being Gwen's father won't be easy for someone like me. But I'll do my best."

"Someone like you?" Belle repeated. "Alexander, I can't think of anyone I'd rather be my daughter's father. No, you won't be perfect at it, but then I won't be a perfect mother. I've never done this before, either."

"Your parents at least were good to you."

"Weren't yours?"

She'd startled him. He blinked and sat back slightly.

"It seems to me all you can think about is how what happened between them took them both away from you. But didn't you have good times with them before that? Good memories that you can hold on to? My mother died, too, and it makes me very sad to think about her. Certainly I wish she were here to show me how to be the mother to Gwen that she was to me. Mrs. Potts is wonderful, of course, but it isn't the same. Still, I can't let any of that get in the way of all of the happy memories I have of Mama. She wouldn't want me to remember her by being sad. I doubt your parents would want you to have only angry memories of them."

"I spent a lot of time with my mother and her ladies-in-waiting when I was young," he said. His eyes were now far away. "We used to have fun together. The ladies liked to play all kinds of games when the lords weren't there. And I'd sit on my mother's lap on the days I had to be in court. I think…I know she loved me. I remember her pleading with my father when I turned five to let me be a child awhile longer. But my father insisted I start my schooling so that I could grow up to become a good ruler someday. It was hard, and boring, and all I wanted was to be back with Mother. I resented Father for awhile, until I got used to schooling. Then it was just the way things had always been."

"It sounds like he did what he thought was best for you," Belle remarked.

He nodded reluctantly. "There was a time when I wanted to be just like him. He always knew the right answer when someone came to court to ask for his help. Sometimes people weren't happy with what he told them to do, but they did it. But then, when it was my mother who was the one in trouble, suddenly Father didn't know the right answer anymore. He thought he did, but if it was right, he wouldn't have spent the rest of his life wishing he could change what happened."

"You're not your father," reminded Belle. "And you can learn from his regrets as well as your own."

"I'd never hurt you and Gwen the way he hurt my mother and me," Alexander protested.

"I know. And that's why I think you'll be a good father to her."

They held each other's eyes. It was Gwen who broke the silence, waking up with one of her gentle mewing baby sounds. She opened her blue eyes and focused on Alexander's face for a full five seconds or so before going cross-eyed with the effort. He smiled down at her. Just looking at his expression, Belle knew she wasn't wrong about the kind of father he'd be.

There was a tap on the door, and Cogsworth entered.

"Your Highness," he said with a bow to Alexander. Then he bowed almost as deeply to Belle. "Mistress Belle."

Belle's insides squirmed a little. All the servants had been treating her with more deference than they had before the spell was lifted. She supposed it was out of gratitude for helping to break the curse, but it still made her uncomfortable.

"Yes, Cogsworth, what is it?" Alexander asked, sounding a little impatient.

"I do apologize for interrupting. We've received correspondence from the province's Regent Council. They've been running the province since the death of his Highness's father," Cogsworth explained to Belle. To Alexander, he added, "I took the liberty of writing to inform them of your…recovery."

"Recovery?" Alexander repeated with an eyebrow raised.

"From the debilitating illness that kept you from claiming your rightful place as ruler upon reaching your majority."

"Illness?" Belle and Alexander both choked at the same time, Belle with amusement, Alexander with annoyance.

Cogsworth looked affronted. "What was I supposed to tell them?" he demanded. "Your Highness has long passed the age when you should have taken the throne."

"He has a point," Belle soothed. "I don't really like lying, either, but you can't exactly tell the truth. My father got a taste of that; they'll lock you up."

Alexander glared at her for a moment, then sighed and relaxed. "I suppose. What did the Council have to say, Cogsworth?"

"On paper, they are delighted with your return," the heavyset man admitted. "In person, they may be less so. After all, they have ruled the province for nearly fifteen years. Even if they were happy about relinquishing that power, which some of them may not be, the most honorable souls will wonder if your Highness is able to rule well after so many years of isolation." He paused, and his posture lost some of its formality. "Master, if I may say, this will not be easy. It will take a considerable amount of work to regain your rightful place. However," here he gave a short nod, "I believe you are up to the challenge."

"I'll do everything I can to help you," Belle said.

"As will we all," Cogsworth agreed. He gave Alexander a significant look, then shot his small, dark eyes towards Belle for a moment. "I shall leave you two to discuss this news. Remember, all of us are willing to offer council at any time."

"Thank you, Cogsworth," Alexander said with a nod. Cogsworth bowed to both of them and departed.

"What did he mean by that?" Belle asked.


Immediately, Belle was slightly on her guard. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He tucked Guinevere carefully into the cradle that had been set up near the bed for the purpose. Gwen did not object, but settled down to go back to sleep. Alexander came back to sit on the bed next to Belle. "I just don't know how to start."

"Does this have to do with the Regent Council?"

"In part, though I didn't know Cogsworth had contacted them. I'd hoped to have a little more time to get used to things."

"Maybe it's better not to get too comfortable, if these past two days aren't how things are going to be for the foreseeable future," Belle pointed out. Sensing he was dodging her original question, she asked, "What was it you wanted to talk about?"

"The future," he admitted. He looked at her, then away, choosing instead to watch Gwen sleep. "Our future. Belle, I love you. I can't imagine the rest of my life without you in it. When you were gone…everything was wrong. I…will you…"

Suddenly Belle understood. "Of course I'll marry you. I can't imagine the rest of my life without you, either."

Now he did look at her. The look in his eyes made her heart begin to pound wildly. He leaned over and kissed her, and Belle was suddenly very aware of every place their bodies were touching. A shiver ran down her spine, which unfortunately twinged where she was still sore from giving birth. The pain brought her mind back from the dizzying heights where it had been swooping during their kiss.

She pulled back a little. "What does getting married have to do with the Regent Council?"

"What?" he said, obviously still distracted.

"You said what you had to talk to me about had to do in part with the Regent Council. But what you really wanted was to ask me to marry you, right? So—" Then a thought occurred to her. "Oh. Will they object so much to their prince marrying a commoner who has a child out of wedlock?"

"Um, well, not the way Cogsworth explained it…"

A noise at the door made them both turn. Standing there were Cogsworth, Lumière, Mrs. Potts, Madame, Babette and Chip. Mrs. Potts had her son in her arms, and Babette and Lumière were holding hands.

Belle flushed, and she could see Alexander's ears were going red. "I didn't know we had an audience," she said.

"I didn't either," he growled. "What exactly are you all up to?"

"Forgive us, Master," Lumière said smoothly. "But Cogsworth told us you were going to propose the lady, and we wished to be on hand for the momentous event. It seems we arrived too late. Are we to offer congratulations?"

"Yes, I think so," Belle said when Alexander didn't seem inclined to answer. "That, is, unless you think the Regent Council will try to keep us apart?"

"I'd like to see them try," rumbled Alexander, again the Beast evident in his voice.

"I doubt they will object to you personally, once they have the chance to make your acquaintance," Cogsworth said to Belle, ignoring his Master. "As for your pedigree, which might have been an issue, I took it upon myself to look up your mother's name after you mentioned that she came from a noble family. If she was the Celeste d'Este I found in one of my noble histories, then she was the granddaughter of the fifth Count d'Este before her brother, the heir, ruined the family. It isn't a great deal of noble blood, of course, but it is enough to silence any real objections."

"My mother's maiden name was Celeste d'Este," Belle admitted. "And it fits with the little she told me about her childhood. Thank you, Cogsworth. That saves us a great deal of worry. But what about Gwen?" She glanced at the sleeping baby. As if her name had triggered something, Gwen started to cry. Mrs. Potts put Chip down, and the little boy proceeded to Gwen's cradle. He gave her a finger to hold, and she quieted immediately to grasp it and examine this new person with her cross-eyed stare.

"Thank you, Chip," Belle said gratefully.

"As for Guinevere," Lumière said, "What the Council does not know won't hurt them."

"I think what he means is if we're married, and I acknowledge Gwen as my daughter, then she is," Alexander explained.

"Quite right, sire," Cogsworth put in, "Particularly if you are married before either of you meets the Council. They will assume, without any need for subterfuge on our part, that the marriage predates the child's conception. I can assure you no one in this household will ever breathe a word to the contrary. They are too grateful to their Master and future Mistress for restoring them to think of disloyalty. And even if such an egregious breach of trust were to be made, as long as the Master claims paternity, that ends any dispute."

"But…" said Belle, her mind whirling a little, "…but that makes Gwen the heir to the province—a princess! Surely…"

"You'll be a princess, too, Belle, if you marry me," Alexander pointed out. "Does it bother you that much?"

"No, but—isn't it important that a child who's of the royal line inherit?"

"If, in the future, the union produces a male heir, then his claim would supersede that of a female, even a female born first," Cogsworth announced, oblivious to the embarrassment this remark caused both Belle and Alexander.

"If we don't," Alexander added very quietly, his ears still a brilliant crimson, "Then we'll deal with it when the time comes."

Belle reached out, took his hand, and squeezed. She was nowhere near ready to think about more children, even children with the man she loved. It was good to know there would be no pressure, at least not from Alexander, to produce an heir.

"So, Cogsworth said after a pause, "When shall we plan the wedding?"

"Once I've been able to fetch my father," said Belle at once. "I wouldn't dream of getting married without him there."

"Of course, of course," Lumière replied soothingly.

"And nothing elaborate, please," Belle requested. "A quiet ceremony."

"Oh, but your marriage should be—" Cogsworth started.

Alexander cleared his throat. It was a small noise, but enough of a growl that it stopped what Cogsworth had been going to say.

"Small it is," Lumière said, but he looked just as disappointed as Cogsworth.

"We'll have a big celebration some other time," Belle said, trying to compromise, "Just not this soon. Maybe when the Regent Council comes to visit? They are coming sometime, right?"

"They wrote that they plan to come here to see his Highness in a month's time," Cogsworth reported with a respectful nod.

"Well, that's perfect, then," Belle said with a smile. "That way you have enough time to plan everything down to the last detail rather than putting things together quickly. You can give the project all the attention it deserves."

"Very true," Lumière said with a nod. Both male servants looked much happier and even Mrs. Potts looked pleased.

"We're going to have a party?" Chip asked.

"A wonderful party," his mother agreed.

"I can't wait!" the little boy grinned. "When can we get started?"

"Right away, if you wish," Lumière said. "Come. We'll go to the kitchens and begin." Chip jumped up happily, and he and the rest of the servants left one by one with slight bows and murmurs of congratulations.

Belle sighed and leaned back on the bed. "I hope they don't make a habit of appearing like that when we're alone in the future."

"They won't. We'll lock the doors next time," he assured her. "I'm glad you asked for a quiet ceremony. I dread what Cogsworth and Lumière working together would have come up with for our wedding if you hadn't said something."

Belle laughed. "Well, now that we are alone, and Gwen miraculously went back to sleep after all that commotion, would you like to read Robinson Crusoe? Hopefully Gwen will cooperate long enough for us to get a little bit in."

His eyes lit. "I'll go get it."

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 31 of 33

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