Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 7 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

She said yes. The Beast was still partially in shock that the girl had agreed to stay in the castle in place of her father. Even after seeing his hideousness. The horrified gasp had been expected, though it pierced his heart. Her trembling assent afterwards, the Beast had not seen coming. He had thought she would flee as far and as fast as possible, leaving her father to his fate, and the Beast devoid of any hope.

Yet, she had agreed. Despite his amazement, the Beast had allowed the bargain to stand. He vaguely remembered his father offering such a trade to one of the petitioners that had come to court for redress. The man had refused, of course. No one would accept a punishment they hadn't earned.

Except this girl, it seemed. She had the courage to agree to take her father's place as a prisoner. The Beast could not understand it. There was nothing special about the man. He was old, and squat, and easily frightened. What she saw in him to merit confining herself to a musty tower dungeon for the rest of her life was unfathomable. The Beast had agreed with the old man: the girl was young and had a life still to live. Had she chosen to leave, the Beast had decided he would let her go with a warning never to return and to tell no one about the place, despite the fact that she was a trespasser as well. He would not make the same rash mistake again and have two unwelcome humans in his castle. One was far too much of a reminder of all he would soon be missing.

The Beast was still pondering the new state of affairs as he stalked back towards the tower where he had left the girl. She was very different from her father. She was certainly brave. Frightened she had been when confronted with a monster, but she had mastered her fear. She was beautiful, too, the little he had seen of her. Glossy brown hair; large, expressive eyes; and a slight glow about her pale skin. She also had an interesting scent. Granted, he hadn't spent much time around humans since his transformation, but there was something…unique…about the way she smelled. He had no idea what it meant, but it was intriguing.

Might it be possible? Could such a girl…?

"Master?" Lumière's voice broke into his thoughts.

"What?" the Beast grunted, baring his teeth. He did not like to be startled, and Lumière knew that. However, it was true that while he had been brooding, he had reached the top of the tower stairs and had been going to halt anyway.

Lumière jumped back, his candles flaring briefly, but recovered. "Since the girl is going to be with us for…" here he struggled to come up with a word that was not 'forever' and settled for "quite some time…I was thinking you might want to offer her a more comfortable room."

What a stupid idea! Of course she would stay in the dungeon, unless the Beast was trying to get her to love him. He growled wordlessly at his servant and stalked on into the tower room…where he found his pretty new captive crying bitterly.

Oh. What was he supposed to do about this? He hadn't seen anyone cry since his father's funeral. And he had been so wrapped up in his own grief he hadn't noticed much else. He had had no idea how uncomfortable it was to watch someone else's tears. Especially tears he had caused.

She looked up and saw him standing almost dumbfounded in the doorway. "You didn't even let me say goodbye," she sobbed. "I'll never see him again. And I didn't get to say goodbye." She buried her head in her hands.

The Beast felt worse than ever. How could he get her to stop crying? He ran a paw over his mane, completely at a loss. Finally, his mind dredged up Lumière's suggestion from a few moments before. Could he let her have one of the guest suites downstairs? He hastily thought back to their bargain. She had promised to stay here forever. But 'here' didn't necessarily mean in this dungeon. He'd been planning to do the same for her father, anyway.

"I'll show you to your room," he growled.

It worked. The girl looked up, tears still glinting on her cheeks. "My room? But I thought—"

"Do you want to stay in the dungeon? That can be arranged," the Beast demanded, gesturing at the dismal surroundings to emphasize his point. He tried hard not to show that leaving her in the tower was exactly what he had planned on doing until her tears stirred some odd emotion in him. Whatever it was, it made his insides squirm.

Sensing the question was real despite the hint of sarcasm, the girl quickly said, "No."

"Then follow me." The Beast whirled, grasping Lumière as he passed the candelabra's niche. His sharp ears heard the girl's footfalls, but he dared not look behind him. He didn't think he could bear more tears.

Belle reluctantly followed her new jailer down the winding flights of stairs and into the main part of the castle. She kept well back from him, barely in the circle of light from the candelabra he carried. Her footsteps marked its edge, the line between dark and light. She tried to keep her eyes low, but eventually curiosity overcame her. She had not had a chance to really examine her surroundings in her earlier wanderings.

What little she saw made her regret that curiosity. The stone walls were carved with ferocious snarling monsters that she had, until that point, been blissfully ignorant of. Above, gargoyles leered down like nightmares come to life. Indeed, the way the flickering candlelight slid over all of these figures, they seemed to shift and move. Their empty eyes followed Belle as she walked past.

The light began to dim around her. Belle realized that she had stopped walking to stare, and was now being left behind. The idea of standing in the dark, knowing those faces were snarling at her, was suddenly a terrifying one. With a gasp, she dashed back down the corridor after the retreating candlelight.

Her captor seemed not to have noticed her antics. His indifference only compounded Belle's feelings of isolation. She felt abandoned in her last extremity. When she needed comfort most, there was none to be found.

Tears began to leak silently down her cheeks. She closed her eyes to try to hold them in, and followed her captor only by the light flickering against her eyelids.

The silence behind the Beast was starting to make the hair on the back of his neck crawl. After her passionate outburst in the tower, the girl had said nothing else. No questions about where they were going, the rules of her captivity, what had been done with her father. He wouldn't have known she was there if he didn't periodically swivel an ear around to check for her footsteps. Most females he knew filled quiet space with chatter—Mrs. Potts, Lumière's feather duster love Babette, among others. This girl's silence was slightly unnerving.

The Beast heard what might have been a gasp from behind him. It was almost a relief; a sign of life. He turned to look back.

His heart sank. The girl was crying, again. Not lusty sobs this time, but a slow leaking of tears that seemed almost unconscious and was somehow worse than sobs. That strange emotion smote him again. A nasty, clawing feeling in his stomach that told him he had done something wrong and should probably try to fix it.

Lumière had clearly noticed the look on his Master's face. "Say something to her," the candelabra whispered. "Something comforting. It will make you both feel better, I guarantee."

Comforting? The Beast didn't think he could do comforting. Anything he said came out as a growl or a roar. An animal's voice twisted for human speech. Still, Lumière's last suggestion had been a good one. What could it hurt?

The question now became what to say. The Beast groped for the polite conversation he had overheard courtiers use with one another, and said the first thing that came to his lips: "I…hope you like it here."

Silence. The Beast glanced at Lumière, who only gestured at him. What else would cheer her up? If she had a room downstairs, she might as well have the run of the whole castle. The suite doors only had locks on the inside, for the guest's convenience.

That was it! He would try to treat her like a permanent guest. In his parents' day, there had been many minor nobles who lived here all year round but were still considered guests. Maybe if she felt more at ease she'd stop crying.

He tried again. "The castle is your home now, so you can go anywhere you like. Except the West Wing." No one had been allowed there except the royal family and their servants. Besides, the rose was hidden there.

"What's in the West—"

The Beast's relief at hearing the girl speak quickly turned to annoyance. She had no business asking! His word was law in this castle. He could not be questioned.

"It's forbidden!" he snapped. The girl leaped backwards, and did an odd thing: she put one hand over her stomach as if to shield it. Strange, but the Beast didn't pause to give it much thought. He growled at her and continued down the corridor.

He did catch Lumière sighing, very softly.

There was one guest suite that was kept clean. Not by any order of the Beast; he happened to know the former wardrobe mistress, Madame de la Grande Bouche, had been transformed into a wardrobe so enormous she could not leave the room. Not only would he not have to wait for the room to be dusted, but the girl would be in good hands. Or whatever Madame used these days in place of hands. The Beast remembered her to be a boisterous, cheerful woman. Her refusal to allow his often-ugly moods to bring her down had annoyed him as an adolescent, but he had a feeling his new captive might benefit from Madame's presence.

Some vague instinct from his past made him open the door for the girl. She shot him a quick, unreadable glance before stepping inside.

Remembering his resolve to treat her as a guest, the Beast said, "If you need anything, my servants will attend you. You just have to ask."

"Dinner. Invite her to dinner," Lumière hissed. Apparently just attending to the stranger wasn't enough.

Beginning to lose his temper again, the Beast snapped at the back of the girl's head, "You'll join me for dinner. That's not a request!" And slammed the door.

He fled down the hall towards the sanctuary of the West Wing. What had possessed him? He never did things just to make the servants happy! They were always making suggestions, but his was the final word. True, he had been annoyed with Lumière, but annoyance with the servants usually meant he did the opposite of what they wanted rather than giving in. Which must mean…

The Beast sighed and ran a paw through his mane. He wanted to see the girl again. He wanted to know if she was the one he'd been waiting for, if she was even capable of loving a monster like him.

But how could he, if he wasn't even sure the monster could love her back?

He began to pace.

Belle stood stock-still as the door slammed behind her. Tears continued streaming down her cheeks. Nausea swept over her, and she barely contained the urge to vomit. Using the door for support, she slowly slid to the floor. It was too much. The baby, Gaston's threats, the long sleepless night, losing her father, her hideous captor, the frightening castle, and now being ordered to dinner and told she had no choice. It was all too much. She hovered on the brink of consciousness.

Something firm, something that almost felt like wood, took her arm and lifted. Belle obediently staggered to her feet. Another wave of nausea took her, and she leaned heavily against whatever had helped her up. She was led slowly across the dark room. It occurred to her as she went that the thing she leaned against had contours very much like an upright wardrobe. But that couldn't be right; it was moving. Her brain didn't seem to be functioning properly any longer.

Her knees touched something soft that gave wonderfully beneath them. It could only be a bed, or a couch. She felt the weight of her cloak leaving her shoulders, though she didn't think her own hands had removed it. The whole world was fuzzy, blurred around the edges, and nothing was making much sense. Belle didn't have the strength to wonder anymore.

She collapsed on the bed—it was a bed, she could feel the coverlet and pillow beneath her—and instantly the welcome blackness of sleep closed around her.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 7 of 33

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