“Let’s go home” Belle’s voice was barely a whisper, her fingers trembled tracing over the rose shaped trinket her Father had so perfectly captured in painting after painting.
Within moments, she and Adam stood once more in the great library-with no sign they had ever left save the rose in Belle's hands. For the first time she finally had evidence from her Mother, but it somehow made her death impact her like it was fresh. Now she knew, she knew why her Father never spoke of it. Had it been the Enchantress's magic that she felt she had so clearly seen her mother's death bed? The dying woman planting a final kiss on the rose bell, as she watched her husband and daughter depart forever? The rose was stuffed down into the pockets of her skirts, so she could bring her hands to her eyes in hopes of slowing an onslaught of tears. Adam was momentarily stunned-this was the exact opposite he meant this adventure to insight-perhaps as a gift of the Enchantress it could only bring sorrow. Sympathy had been so foreign to him as a selfish young man-it was difficult to recognize until he was left to face it now in himself-finding the words inside he longed to hear when he himself lost his Mother.
“She must have…loved you more than anything in her world, to let you go to prevent you from plague, rather than keep you close for her own comfort.” He wanted to touch her, put a hand upon her shoulder-even embrace her, but he wasn’t about to presume this unbecoming form on her when she already was in such dismay. After all he stood nearly two feet higher than the lithe girl. Belle had never heard the Beast’s voice so tender, and it hadn’t even occurred to her it could be possible even after their newly found common ground in the garden. True, she was no longer afraid of the thunder like rumble that was the tenor of his voice, but this much emotion was striking a new cord.
“That is,” She tried to gather herself, “This is incredibly kind of you to say.” Normally she was capable of being strong, as she so saw it, for her Father. Her weeping over the loss of Maman would not bring her back, and it would only serve to wound her already lonely Papa who did so much to keep her happy despite being a widower. “I am making such a fuss, when you were trying to do something kind for me weren’t you, I-“ She began but Adam interrupted, this time not for the sake of debate.
“I wouldn’t call the loss of one’s mother a fuss.” He said gruffly, having spent enough time around her to recognize she would cling to her rational reasoning even in the most emotional or daunting situations. After all she tried to climb out a window on her first evening here (He had learnt from Mrs.Potts), rather than weep for her own situation. It gave him pause she was even trying to apologize after such a hardship for his feelings-had he really been so self-centered she would assume he thought like so? It was embarrassing to consider he could be so utterly obtuse.
“It was years ago-“ Belle again protested with her nervous exhale of a laugh she often did to contain feelings.
“I lost my Mother over twenty years ago, and I-“ Adam had been so determined to correct her he hadn’t expected to stumble into his own emotions as he felt an old wound stir within-his entire posture tightening. “I-well,” The brief flicker of his own vulnerability seemed to resonate within Belle as the girl finally stopped her protesting and looked up to meet his gaze. The library became deathly silent, for a space that either one might suddenly exit to avoid confronting their grief. However rather than incline to the self-serving impulse Adam found himself leaning into another one, and that was to do something to lessen the pain Belle was currently facing. He was never well skilled with words unless there was a book in hand, so he finally resigned to whipping out his silk handkerchief from his coat pocket and nearly forcing it into her hand. Somehow though, it worked. Belle was not accustomed to someone perusing her to indulge sorrow.
“Lumiere and Mrs.Potts told me the story, your Mother was also taken by sickness…” Belle said softly. Adam resisted the urge to roll his eyes and make a comment about gossiping servants. Had it been anyone other than her, he surely would have been angry such a personal story was being shared. However, the moment he found her brown eyes-looking upon him with something he could hardly recognize, it wasn’t just pity, it was understanding, all of the tension left his body in an exhale.
“Yes,…and so I say to you, especially, to learn the true horror of it now, I wouldn’t-…well I wouldn’t put a time limit on your mourning.” Was this making any sense-he wanted so badly to make a difference, she had never looked like this-even when he dragged her Father away in such a callus manner. Even then there had been fiery defiance in her eyes-but now he could only see the agony and loneliness in them. “You don’t have to rush your grief as if this is ‘Hamlet’.” He added, hoping if anything books would resonate with her.
Belle smiled, that small nervous self-containing laugh again, but something in his tone struck her deeply. The chuckle faded to a whimper and she finally lifted the handkerchief to her eyes as tears began to run freely over her flushed cheeks. Carefully, Adam reached out a cautious paw to her shoulder which shook with sobs. The contact somehow gave Belle the permission she didn’t even know what she was awaiting, and she took a step forward allowing her forehead to fall against the beast’s great chest. Adam was for a moment in shock-before he felt a great surge of tenderness, and relief he could be comfort to her instead of a source of fear. With careful motions he patted a soothing paw against her back.
Moonlight shone within the library, and the only sounds outside of Belle’s muffled sobs were that of distant clicking glass-the preparation of evening tea, and with the enhanced hearing of a beast he heard even further-the wolves outside, Candanza’s distant longing playing, the banter of the servants. All of it faded away as his senses became fixated on caring for the trusting wonderful girl in front of him. It felt a mixture of a mere few seconds and hours, but it was only a couple minutes when Adam finally found his voice.
“The servants will think I’ve been horrid to you, if you’re seen in such a state, let me escort you to your room.” He admitted reluctantly, wanting nothing more than to live in the library if he could keep this closeness.
“No no, you have been nothing but a friend,” Belle gathered enough of her breath to respond, lifting her head as she took a step back. It hadn’t occurred to her how very exhausted she was until he mentioned returning her room. She nearly protested it was a silly thought he could upset her this way, and it suddenly dawned on her how much he really had changed before her in these last few months. Was this the same creature who had terrified her enough to run into a wolf infested forest? This bashful companion who enjoyed a good romance, though he would never admit it? “I really am grateful for the experience,” she stressed and allowed herself to be led from the library by the glow of a single (thankfully non-sentient) candle he held.
“I’ll show you Paris another time.” He reassured her, as they carefully crept around the corridors. The last thing she needed was a barrage of questions from his well meaning but at times overbearing staff. Somehow, they managed to reach her bedchamber without being caught. To each of their relief, Madame Garderobe (the former Soprano international treasure, turned wardrobe) was still in one of her deep slumbers, each snore sounding like the brief scales from a vocal exercise. ”Good Evening-“ As Adam turned to leave his sleeve snagged, as though a lose nail had ensnared the fabric, but with a second glance he recognized it was Belle’s small hand.
“Can you stay with me,” She began, her eyes darting toward the floor a moment, “for a little while longer…” Despite her embarrassment she managed lift her eyes back to his. If he had flesh instead of fur, surely she would have seen the color he felt rising to his cheeks. For a moment Adam was transformed back to his fully human self-memories pouring in of his grand parties-except for the one that lead to this miserable curse. Those memories were usually too painful to consider, how he’d once been such a handsome and powerful man that any beauty he gave a smile to, would find herself in his bed that evening. The fact Belle was capable of such-he would have never guessed-it never occurred-
“I do not believe I have the concentration to read this evening,” she motioned to the stack of books on her night stand. “I feel I will be too consumed my melancholy thoughts unless I speak to someone,” The innocence of her request brought a shame to him for even considering she was capable of such wanton intention. Adam attempted to disguise his faux pas as a mere clearing of his throat...
Continued on AO3