Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 32 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Belle sat in the driver's seat of a simple farm cart, reigns in hands, dressed in a plain dress and apron. Philippe, steady as ever, pulled the cart on the path between the castle and the village. It was a week after the momentous events at the castle and she was finally strong enough for Mrs. Potts to allow her to go to get Maurice. The former teapot had only agreed because the wedding needed to take place as soon as possible in order for the castle to be ready for the Regent Council's visit.

Beside her sat Alexander. Like her, he was dressed in peasant garb, in his case a simple cotton shirt, dark breeches, and brown leather boots. His hair was pulled back simply away from his face. To anyone looking at him, he might have been just another commoner, not worth a second glance. At least, that had been the desired effect. To Belle, he was still a bright center in her heart, and it was difficult for her to imagine anyone overlooking him.

Seated in the cart, along with several stacks of books from the castle library, sat Lumière. He was also dressed in peasant clothes, which looked exceedingly odd on him given his usual immaculate appearance. He had insisted on accompanying Belle and Alexander, but every time Belle turned to check on him, he looked greener in the face from all the bumping of the cart. Now she knew why the servants had selected a carriage for them to rescue Maurice from the woods: it was well-sprung, and bounced nowhere near as much as this farm cart. Even Alexander had to grip the driver's seat relatively hard to keep from being rattled onto the road.

Gwen was back at the castle in the care of Mrs. Potts, though Belle had wanted to bring her. However, Mrs. Potts insisted the baby wasn't yet ready to go out among many people.

"She'll likely get sick," Mrs. Potts had said. "You want her well for the wedding, don't you?"

Belle had been forced to agree. This was the first time she'd been away from her daughter for any length of time, and her thoughts kept turning back to what the baby might be doing, and whether she missed her parents.

"Look!" Alexander pointed. "Two rabbits!"

Belle turned just in time to see two brown streaks with white tails vanish into the brush. She smiled. This was the fourth such comment in ten minutes. Alexander, at least, was enjoying every second of their outing, taking in all the sights he had missed after not leaving the castle grounds in over ten years.

It took them several hours to reach the village, though the path was no longer dark and overgrown. Once they did, Alexander stared around him with huge, fascinated eyes. "I've never seen a peasant village before!" he whispered when she nudged his ribs to get him to close his mouth. "Are they all this noisy?"

"Mostly," Belle said, smiling in spite of herself. "Someday maybe we'll take Gwen to see Marseilles, or Paris. Cities are even noisier than a little provincial town like this."

They attracted some attention as they drove through the village, though Belle detected nothing in the stares but curiosity. Her disappearance for half a year likely had caused some comment, especially since Maurice had been locked up in the Maison des Lunes for most of that time. She smiled and nodded at everyone she saw, just as she had always done in the past.

When they passed the bakery, the baker hailed them and Belle drew the cart to a stop. "Good morning, Belle," he said, as casually as if they had seen one another the day before.

"Good morning, monsieur," she returned, just as politely.

"And where are you off to?" he asked.

"The bookshop," Belle replied. "We have a delivery for the bookseller. And we're here to get my father."

"Ah," the baker said. His small eyes took in the cart, the books, Lumière, and Alexander. He nodded, as if satisfied. "Have you been well?"

"Yes, very well," Belle answered vaguely. Remembering protocol, she asked, "And how is your wife?"

"She's well. She'll be glad to know you're all right. She was worried about you, you know, when you vanished into thin air like that."

"She's too kind. I'm truly sorry for worrying her," Belle said.

"I'll tell her for you. Take care of yourself, Belle. We wish you well," the baker said. He nodded to all three of them. Belle thanked him and urged Philippe forward again.

Once they were further down the street, Alexander twisted around to look behind them. He shook his head. "You were right, Belle. The bakery is mobbed. Mostly women, I think."

Belle grinned, though she kept her eyes ahead. "With any luck, they'll all be making up their own stories now about where I've been. Traveling with book merchants, probably."

"What will they think when they next hear of you?" asked Lumière. "You're to be their princess."

"I hope never to have to come back to find out," Belle said. "But the ladies here are romantic. I can think of several wonderful untrue stories about the bookseller girl finding the prince the perfect book and falling in love."

"But you did do that," Alexander pointed out. "That's just not everything that happened."


The young man put his arm around Belle, and she snuggled close.

When they arrived at the bookshop, the bookseller immediately put his head out the door. He waved at Belle, then went back inside. A minute later he and Maurice came to stand on the stoop. Maurice had improved remarkably in the past week. He was still too thin, but was no longer pale and his movements had energy to them again.

Belle leapt down from the cart and flung her arms around her father. He hugged her so hard she could barely breathe, but she didn't care. "I'm so sorry, Papa."

"You made the right choice, Belle," her father said, releasing her. "I might not like it, but from what I read in your note, you arrived at the castle just in time. I wish I could have been there for your daughter's birth, but I have years ahead with her to make up for it. What's she like?"

"She's the most beautiful thing," Belle gushed. "We've named her Guinevere."


"I—" Suddenly Belle was speechless. She turned back to the cart to the two men for help.

Lumière clambered down to the cobblestones. He grinned widely and bowed to Maurice. "'Allo, monsieur. I am glad to see you are safe and well after that dreadful cellar."

Maurice's skin grew ashen again. "But…you were…" He moved his two hands to indicate approximately Lumière's former height as a candelabra. Lumière nodded. "We are all restored, thanks to your courageous daughter."

Maurice turned to look at Alexander, who climbed from the cart to stand beside Belle and put a hand on her shoulder. The young man moved slowly, as if afraid to frighten Belle's father. He didn't say anything, just stood there towering over them all in his simple peasant clothes, his blue eyes fixed on Maurice. He hadn't worn a cape, but in that moment, who he was and what he had been was unmistakable to anyone who had seen the Beast.

Maurice went even whiter. "You." His eyes darted across Alexander's face, up and down his tall frame, and then to that hand on Belle's shoulder.

Alexander stayed calm, though Belle could feel him shaking a little. "It's me. And I owe you many apologies for what I did to you and Belle."

"I—I—well…" Maurice stuttered. He worked his mouth like a fish, but didn't seem to be able to make any more sound come out.

"What is going on?" the bookseller asked, breaking the tension. He was looking between all of them with an extremely puzzled expression. "Who are these people, Belle?"

Belle, Alexander, Lumière and Maurice all opened their mouths at the same time.

The bookseller held up a hand. "Hold on. I think, Belle, it's time you give that explanation you owe me. I have a feeling some things will sort themselves out if you do. Come inside, all of you."

"Yes, thank you," said Belle. She felt immensely grateful to the bookseller. He was so kind, and always seemed to know what to say. How could she possibly show her gratitude? A sudden idea occurred to her; but explanations came first. She took Alexander's hand, and led him into the store.

Out of the corner of one eye, she saw Maurice look at their joined hands. He shook his head a little, but she was certain there was a very small smile on his face.

On the way back to the castle, it was Lumière who drove the cart. Alexander, Belle, and Maurice rode in the back. They had left the bookseller behind in a state of shock, not only at the story they'd told, but at the offer to come to the castle as Royal Librarian. He said he'd have to consider it, but the consideration lasted only a moment before he accepted. Even as they drove back through the forest, he was packing up his small shop.

Maurice was also still in shock, though not quite as bad as the bookseller's. He kept eyeing Alexander as if completely unsure what to make of him. Belle had done her best to explain, but she knew Alexander was going to have to show Maurice how much he'd changed if he was ever going to win her father's complete trust.

At least Maurice had overcome his shock enough to give them permission to marry. Considering how much trouble Alexander had had asking Belle face-to-face for her hand, asking Maurice for his blessing had been much more straightforward. The young man had only stumbled twice over his words, and Belle was proud of him for it.

"Belle! Hey, Belle, come out!"

The furious shout startled all four of the cart's occupants. Lumière jerked Philippe to a halt hard enough to make the horse whinny in protest. Belle lurched to her knees to peer over the cart's rail.

Lefou stood there in front of Philippe. Another second and he would have been trampled had it not been for Lumière's quick response.

"Lefou!" Belle scrambled down out of the cart and approached him. "Lefou, are you all right?"

"You need to ask?" Suddenly, he had drawn a long knife and was pointing it at her. "You murdered Gaston, and yet you act as if nothing happened?"

Belle froze. "Lefou, I didn't murder Gaston. What happened to him was an accident." She didn't mention the prominent role Gaston had played in his own demise. That wouldn't help his grieving friend.

"You didn't stop him from dying, did you? You let it happen!" the short man accused.

"There was nothing I could have done," Belle protested. "He fell."

"And after I helped you!" Lefou continued as if she hadn't spoken. He held the knife closer to her. Belle took a step back, tripped over a root, and fell.

"Belle!" cried Maurice.

"Lefou, don't!" she begged. As he stood over her, all she could think of was she hadn't come so far to leave Gwen and the Beast now. Was this how he had felt as he lay dying?

A shadow stepped between her and Lefou. "Leave her alone," said Alexander's voice. She could hear the iron control in his voice. "I'm the one you want."

"What?" said Lefou, momentarily taken aback by this new, unfamiliar, face. "Who're you?"

"Promise you won't attack anybody here, and I'll tell you," Alexander replied.

Lefou was obviously confused by this, but after heavy thought, he said, "I promise."

Alexander nodded. "My name is Alexander. I'm the one who pushed Gaston off the causeway of my castle, though Belle is right, it was an accident."

Now Lefou was looking between Alexander and Belle in utter bewilderment. The knife slid to the ground. Alexander reached down to help Belle to her feet. He pulled her into a tight embrace as soon as she was steady. Belle hugged him back, burying her face in his shoulder.

"Hey," said Lefou. "You're not pregnant anymore."

Belle stifled a laugh. "No. I had a little girl a week ago. Her name is Guinevere."

"Gwenny…" Lefou stumbled.

"We call her Gwen for short."

"Listen, Lefou. What will killing either of us accomplish?" Alexander asked. "It won't bring Gaston back. Your life won't improve. In fact, it will probably get worse, since you'll be pursued as a murderer."

"It will avenge Gaston!" Lefou replied, clenching his fists.

"But why, Lefou?" Belle pointed out. "Gaston was never nice to you, from what I saw. He kept secrets from you. Why would you want to avenge him?"

"He's looked after me our whole lives," Lefou said miserably. "And now he's gone. What else am I supposed to do? He'd do it for me."

"Would he?" Belle asked. Lefou's hesitation told her how uncertain of that he was.

"You were close to Monsieur Gaston, no?" asked Lumière, speaking for the first time.

"His best friend," Lefou answered proudly.

"And he had no other family?"

"No one. His Daddy died, oh…" Lefou started counting on his fingers. "Maybe…eight?…ten?…six? years ago? There weren't any other kids."

"So I see no reason why you shouldn't inherit all of his property," Lumière said. "You were closest to him, after all, and there is no one else to claim it. I presume he had a house, some land?"

Lefou nodded. "And horses," he said, as if not wanting forget this detail.

"Then it should all come to you," Alexander said.

"You can start your own life, and do whatever you want," added Belle, with a smile for Lumière. "Come back with us to the castle. We'll see it all arranged."

"The castle?" Lefou repeated.

"Ah, but the Master has neglected to tell you," chuckled Lumière. "Surely you knew you were threatening the prince of the province and his bride-to-be?"

"I…uh…no—" Lefou stared between Belle and Alexander. "You're getting married? To him? And you're a prince? I…"

"Never mind," Belle said, shaking her head at Lumière. It was all too much for poor Lefou to take in.

"What? It would have come out sometime," the maitre d' protested.

"It didn't have to be all at once," Belle answered. At least no one had mentioned that Alexander was the Beast Gaston had been hunting. "Come on, Lefou. While we're at the castle, I'll take you to see Gwen. You'll like her."

"Gaston's daughter," Lefou said wonderingly. Belle saw Alexander wince, but mercifully he chose to say nothing. She put a hand on his arm to soothe him. He smiled down at her, then boosted her up into the cart. He handed Lefou up, then climbed in himself.

"Let's go, Lumière. This is turning out to be a longer day than I expected."

But Lumière didn't move. He was staring at something in the road ahead.

"Lumière? Is everything all right?" asked Belle.

"Lumière?" Alexander tried. Still no response. Exchanging glances, Belle and Alexander made their way to the front of the cart, Maurice and Lefou not far behind. They peered over Lumière's shoulder. Alexander suddenly gripped Belle's arm, hard.

A gorgeous blonde woman in flowing green robes stood patting Philippe's head. The horse was calm under her touch, which reassured Belle a little. However, both Alexander and Lumière were acting as if she had two heads. Neither man could take his eyes off her, and Belle could feel Alexander's palm sweating through her dress sleeve. Lumière was shaking slightly.

"It's her," Alexander finally managed. "The enchantress."

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 32 of 33

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