Beauty and the Beast HSM Style

Chapter 10

The hallway remained dark and gloomy even as Taylor passed through. At first, those were just mere words to describe how the corridor looked on a side note. But the deeper into its midst that Taylor got the worse into it she could , it wasn't just a dark gloomy corridor anymore; it was almost like something out of a horror flick. Portions of the wallpaper were torn down or ripped off completely, revealing the bare naked walls underneath them that looked just as icy as the hallway. Any and all mirrors that hung on the wall were shattered, the glass from the objects clearly laying on the floor or else hanging from their loose frames by a thread somehow. Pictures were slashed with the marking of savage claws. The little bit of furniture that rested there was all wooden, completely destroyed right through the middle. Seeing all this in the dimness of the hallway, theoretically, would make almost anyone run in the other direction and realize that continuing on was a horrible idea.

But Taylor was different. There mere sight of the decked out haunted house-esque area only made her eager to continue. Yes, she was finding herself slightly afraid of what lay ahead but it wasn't about to convince her to turn in the other direction. If anything it only made her more curious. A minor curse so much reading has placed upon her, really. After all, she had not once read about someone who turned and ran at this sight; it heightened the drama and suspense to carry on. Not even the creepiest of eerie music could make her turn and flee with her tail between her legs - figuratively speaking, of course.

The corridor didn't carry on for too long, but it did end at a pair of two large wooden doors. The handles weren't the simple round or silver ones but rather in the shape of a ferocious creature. Taylor was able to determine it to be a wildcat. It was a quite fierce looking creature, really. Sharp fangs were sticking out of its mouth, the solid iron fur almost looked real with the way it was sticking up, and the simple look from it practically screamed, 'get out now!'. Taylor reached out for the cat-like shaped doorknob, then looked behind her. No one was following; she was alone. Good, that means she lost Zeke and Jason. Never hurt to make sure. At least they wouldn't have to come up with lame excuses to keep her away from this place anymore. No way was she leaving now anyway.

Turning back to the door, she grabbed hold of the knob and pulled the door open. Taylor poked her head inside first, to make sure the coast was clear on the other end. Though she could only see a small corner of the room Taylor know it looked just as bad as, or perhaps worse than, the hallway. The first thing she saw was the shredded carpet on the floor and some drapery torn into smithereens. She stepped in cautiously, as if the second she was thrown off guard something would attack her. The way the room was so destroyed and in such bad condition it could have been an extension of the hallway. Surely it had to be home to some kind of monster. Taylor walked in quietly and closed the door behind her. Upon a closer inspection of the room, Taylor saw that the room was most definitely not better than the hallway or the corner. It was the big picture she was looking at now. She continued making her way through the dark abyss. More drapery was ripped to pieces. The wooden dresser adjacent to the door was smashed in two. Priceless paintings could now not be sold for even a penny, as they were just as destroyed. Hardly any light was even able to enter the room.

And yet, even as she approached what almost looked like the near end of the room, something caught her eye. It was another painting, truly a masterpiece. It wasn't as abstract as the others had become with all of their tears; the painting remained strong and still but the middle looked like there were at least three sharp claw marks through it, causing the remains to dangle helplessly from the artwork. No, it wasn't like the others at all. Taylor imagined that whoever lived in the room was very cultural and classy - her kind of guy she might add, or what she usually thought he'd be like. But this work of staggering genius wasn't abstract; it didn't have a secret meaning behind it nor was it colorful or even just a beautiful piece of imagery. It was a self portrait. From where Taylor could make of it, it was a man. His skin was quite similar to hers, being of a caramel colored variety. Pieces of hair that weren't torn away by the permanent markings on the thin canvas were a much darker brown and seemingly curly. It almost seemed nostalgic somehow, like she'd seen that hair before. He just seemed so dignified, so strong in stance... But there was something even more that caught her attention. Normally the hair, especially if it were that unique, would be a dead giveaway of being something familiar. But that wasn't it which made Taylor so curious, feeling as though she wanted so much more insight. It was his eyes. They were just this incredibly dashing brown. A very deep, almost chocolate shade. They were so focused. So dignified. So gentle. And yet it almost looked like they were lacking in something. Not pride. Not confidence. An incredibly vague kindness...what could it possibly be missing? Love?

Taylor never once removed her eyes from the non-returning gaze of the portrait's. Slowly she lifted her hand and gripped one of the edges of the torn material. Definitely some kind of canvas it was. She squinted as the end of the ripped picture got closer to filling in the puzzle that was the painting. But mere seconds before the last piece could be put in and the figure's identity would be revealed something else attracted Taylor's attention. From the corner of her eye was a mysterious pink glow. Turning her body she could see the light emerging from a table not too far from what looked like the balcony. The painting was wiped away from her mind completely as she made her way over to the bright light.

The closer she got to it, the more of it she was able to decipher. With a light that strong there was no way she'd be able to tell what it was being almost on the other side of the room as it. But there it was, and Taylor couldn't believe it. Sitting on a small round table was what looked like a glass container or perhaps and upside-down vase, which held underneath it a beautiful bright rose. It was the same rose we had experienced earlier, but as this was Taylor's first time seeing it, truly it was a sight to behold. Yet it didn't look vibrant or in full bloom. No, the rose was past that now. Numerous petals have already fallen from the flower and rested on the tabletop; the rose itself almost looked like it was on the verge of tilting if not on a slight tilt already. What intrigued Taylor was not only how much light was able to escape such a delicate creature but also the wonder of it. There it was, perfectly centered under its glass confinement almost appearing as though it were floating. Moving strands of hair out of her face, Taylor carefully removed the was keeping the rose trapped. But even more incredible, the flower didn't budge an inch. It remained in its exact same position. Surely this had to be remarkable. Taylor held out her hand to reach for the rose. Think about what it must feel like to hold it, and what it must have had to offer. Holding such an incredible work of nature had to evoke some kind of powerful emotions in a person or something. Imagine the feel of it on one's fingers and in an instant one could feel so much better than before. And the stem looked so think there didn't even appear to be a single thorn on it. The possibilities were endless! But sadly, Taylor would be unable to experience any of that for herself, to see if any of it at all was true. Just seconds before her fingertips, no, even her nails, could brush off against the flower, a shadow slowly came over her and suddenly the room felt chillier. But it wasn't because there was a window opened. Taylor didn't even take notice until a mighty roar snapped her back into reality.

With a portion of her facing the balcony, Taylor turned the rest of her body in the direction; and she saw that she was staring nearly face to face with the Beast. He grunted and if there wasn't anything colder than his breath it was the look he was giving her. A deep, icy glare and an even angrier frown than she had witnessed him wear before. Another deep, furious grunt escaped the Beast before he charged forward. Taylor jumped back a step as the Beast appeared right in front of her. But no, it wasn't Taylor that he was after. His back was actually facing her; he grabbed the glass that was the rose's protector and immediately covered it back up. He gripped the vase tightly, almost as if the rose underneath it meant everything to him. Numerous deep breaths escaped him upon doing so. The rose was safe now, so why act so concerned? What possible reason could there be for a rose to be the top priority and require the utmost protection? No one could know for sure at this point. The deep breaths coming to a halt, he slowly turned his furry head towards Taylor. It was in such a slow motion, like there was something to expect after this. And surely enough, there was. Now Taylor could see why the West Wing was forbidden.

"What are you doing in here?" he demanded, angrier than ever. His voice was low and cold in level and even though it was almost spoken quietly there was bound to be a high increase in not only his voice tone but also his rage.

While Taylor's stay at the castle was brief she knew one thing: she had never seen or heard the Beast so furious. Normally she'd wonder how his servants could even put up with could have recalled all of the things they said about him, or the amount of times they referred to him as 'master'. However for once in her life Taylor found herself too scared to even think.

"I'm sorry," was all she could say.

"I warned you never to come in here!" he bellowed. Yup, there was the voice increase.

The only thing Taylor feared for was her life. Not her freedom. Not her brother. But her life.

"Please, if you'll just let me explain..."

"Do you realize what you could have done?" he shouted. If that wasn't proof enough that the Beast was angrier now than he was five seconds ago, then his next reaction would be. "Get out!" Raising his mighty fist, the Beast knocked down a nearby chair and smashed it into pieces. Taylor had backed away some more before finally doing what any coward would do: run for her life. "GET OUT!" he screamed at the top of his lungs as Taylor pushed open the doors and ran as fast as she could out of the West Wing. And when the Beast screamed like that his voice was at its deepest and his fury was unfathomable. Yet somehow his anger and hatred disintegrated as Taylor disappeared from his sight. His shoulders slumped and his frown of such distaste became one of regret. Heaven only knew what must have been going on in his mind right now. But if any other witness were seeing it for themselves their first guess would have been that he was sorry for raising his voice and scaring her off, to put it in simplest terms. And now it really was hopeless.

Step afterstep Taylor rushed down the stairs. As soon as she reached the coat rack, she grabbed her jacket and threw it over her. Yes, she was that frightened. It felt like she had never even experienced fright, especially to this degree, until today. It had been one thing when she was afraid of a scene in a book, or even when her brother was taken back to the village to never see her again. This took scared to a whole new level. She hadn't even experienced fear enough to know the true extent of its abilities. And right now it was something that had taken complete control over her.

"Wait...where are you going?" Zeke gasped. He was at the foot of the steps now with Jason, most likely arriving there after realizing Taylor wasn't with them in the library. The two of them never looked more concerned. They could tell just from the look in her eyes that she was horrified. And what could they do about it? Nothing. Worried and anxious, the pair waited for an answer as Taylor stopped at the front doors.

"Deal or no deal I can't stay here any longer. I'm leaving," she told them.

"But you can't...don't..." Zeke stammered as Jason's jaw dropped.

But it was too late. A powerful gust of snowy wind entered the castle through the door and died down as soon as Taylor exited and closed the door behind her. Zeke's candle lights disintegrated from the cold wind and he and Jason felt as down as the weather. Nothing good could come out of this now.

Hooves stomping through the snow, Jimmie rushed through the cold with Talyor guiding him by the reigns. The blizzard was strong, but hers and Jimmie's wills were only thing they could really even do was run. It didn't matter in what direction they were going in, they just had to escape. Fear was their guidance through the storm as they fought through the snow's war. The sky was dark, in complete contrast of how white and clean the snow was. The trees were pure illustrations of what a haunted forest should look like. The branches were naked of all leaves and the way in which they stuck out over the path could make them think it was a hand reaching out to grab them. Twists and turns were evident throughout the place and Taylor and Jimmie were taking nearly every one of them. Even if for some reason they would want to return to the castle it would be near impossible to do it on their own. It wouldn't even make a difference if they had someone to help. That was the result of the maze they were now trapped in.

Howls began to echo through the forest and it certainly wasn't hard to tell where they were coming from. Moments later a pack of vicious wolves appeared from behind trees or under snow. No doubt they were the exact same one who had attacked Troy on his first journey to the castle. Whether it was the same amount, less, or more it was too hard to tell. The rush of the chase coursed through Jimmie as he tried his hardest to outrun them. And while the wolves took Taylor off guard, even she shouldn't have been shocked by their appearance. This was their territory after all, not to mention the perfect environment for them to thrive in. There had to be at least ten wolves on their trail now and quickly catching up. They growled and snarled, prepared to pounce at any unannounced moment. Everywhere they turned the wolves found the simplest of ways to catch up. One of them was even neck and neck with Taylor and Jimmie, its paws patting the soft snow in comparison to Jimmie's stomping hooves. It even went so far as to jump up with its teeth clenched, trying with all its might to bite the horse's neck. Jimmie yelped and shifted towards the opposite side, his hooves nearly hitting one another and surely enough he would have fallen on his side and been a goner. But with Taylor on the reigns that wouldn't be possible. Tightening her grip, she led Jimmie to skid towards the wolf and the creature never saw it coming. It was slammed right into a tree and knocked out cold. One down, hopefully nine or less to go.

It was easier said than done. Moments later, one wrong move and the snow around them cracked completely. Taylor gasped when she saw that they were struggling to keep afloat in the freezing water. Jimmie was doing his best, lifting his heavy pony legs to keep him and Taylor above the water level. The wolves were doing much better, as it was their terf. Most of them paddled across the water. Some even tried to nip at Jimmie and Taylor as they floated on by. The few remaining ones, most likely three wolves tops, were drowning or on the verge of doing so.

Emerging out of the water, Jimmie pushed himself and Taylor onto the strong snowy surface and his hooves pounded against the snow, leaving minor wet footprints. However, whether a trail was left or not made no difference; the wolves followed them by sight and scent. One wolf, most likely the leader of the pack, made the first real attempt at Jimmie and Taylor. It jumped and tried to slash at Jimmie's neck. Jimmie yelped and skidded to the opposite side, causing him to nearly lose his balance again. As that happened, Taylor lost her place on the saddle as well as her grip on the reigns and collapsed into the soft frozen water. The reigns flipped over and became entangled with a nearby tree branch. Thanks to that Jimmie was now a sitting duck and who the wolves were after. Taylor may have been less than a few feet away but she could escape if she so desired. Jimmie no longer had that wolves surrounded him from every given angle and the poor thing was so scared and confused.

When one wolf lunged at him from behind, instincts took over and the Shetland struck the wolf hard with his hind legs. His front hooves stomped on the ground as he tried to scare them it wasn't enough. Jimmie may have been temporarily off the hook but that all seemed to end. As another wolf prepared to attack him, Taylor knocked it out of the way with a large stick, a fallen thick tree branch to be precise. But how she made it through the furry mob to a trusted companion? Most likely through a hole in the crowd that none of the wolves blocked, as they were still trying to get their paws and teeth on Jimmie. Jimmie did no longer have to fight as hard to keep them at bay, thanks to Taylor stepping in, but not even she was enough to block them off completely. The branch was a good shield for defence for a short amount of time; it just couldn't last too long. One wolf caught Taylor off guard. It jumped up, frightening Taylor and as a result dropped the branch and backed away into Jimmie. She watched as the wolf grabbed the stick in between its jaws and snapped it in two with its sharp to pounce on Taylor, it made the first jump and nearly reached her. As a reaction she let herself down into the snow, holding her arm in front of her as a shield.

And just when the carnivore was about to attack again something happened. A huge hairy arm got in its way. A loiud, powerful roar echoed and no response came from the wolf. Taylor's eyes went from snapped shut to wide open when she heard the roar. She didn't believe what she was seeing. The wolf wasn't on her nor were any of its pack ready to attack again. Standing right in front of her, actually defending her and Jimmie, was the Beast. Taylor was full of did he find them? Scratch that, what was he even doing out here? And protecting her and Jimmie? This had to be a dream; no way it was real.

But as hard as it was to believe, it was real. The Beast swung his arm once more and the wolf flew across the area, its body falling hard against even the soft ground. The pack saw this and was going to put a stop to it. No one disrespected their leader that way. Growling and clenching their teeth, one by one they began attacking the Beast head on. Now on all fours, the Beast fought off each one of them with his bare hands - paws, rather. He even went so far as to step forward so all they could see was him, and he would serve as a distraction from Taylor and her horse. So far it was working. The Beast was holding his own so well in the furry fight and didn't once hesitate in what he was doing. it even looked like the battle was in his favor. The Beast didn't let a single wolf get by him. He used his tail as a defense mechanism, swinging it to smack a wolf as it tried to run around him. He rammed a couple of them with his horns and swing after swing his paw nearly pushed every one aside. One smack was powerful enough to throw a wolf into one of the trees, leading to the snow falling from the bare branches and covering the creature.

The sad thing was, like everything else seemed to be lately, that all good things had to come to an end. One wolf managed to outsmart the Beast. It leaped and attacked him from behind, ripping at the fur on his back. The Beast roared and leaned back on his hind legs before going back on all fours and trying with all his might to get the wolf off of him. The grip that the wolf's teeth had on the Beast remained stronger. Barely. With just enough strength against it, the Beast took a risk; he slammed himself into a tree, back first, and smashed the wolf against it with great force. That could have either worked for him or against him. The wolf could have let its grip go and slip down, resulting in the Beast injuring himself and leaving the wolves with the perfect opportunity for their final attack. But the luck of the draw was on the Beast's side; the wolf didn't know what was coming and it lost consciousness from the back blow of the tree; it slid down into the snow. The Beast returned on all fours, wincing only slightly from the pain he felt. After all, the attacker had left a minor mark on his back, and additionally he felt the back blow from the tree as well.

And it didn't even stop there. Another wolf lunged forward seconds later and clawed at the Beast's arm. He roared in agony, as it was his good arm, his dominant one, the one with probably more muscles in it. He could see the slash marks on his arm and the red liquid slowly seeping to the hairy surface. But was the Beast going to let that stop him? Nope. It could have been obvious what kept him going, but to just those watching it was all a mystery. For all they knew he was just trying to prove himself tougher than some pack of wolves. Or maybe he was trying to keep them away from his castle. Perhaps it was even a life-long rivalry with them. Whatever the reason, it was sure keeping the Beast going.

Trying his hardest to use his other arm, the Beast continued to fight back. He tried clawing and hitting them, but because his arm was much slower the wolves found it easier to predict his every move. The alpha wolf stepped forward again and it howled, most likely leading the pack into one last all-out war. Poor Beast didn't even know what hit him next. Wolf after wolf, all of them jumped on him and scratched or bit. The next thing the Beast knew, his brown fur was completely covered in their grey and white fut. He fell to the ground as they all pounced on him, just one giant ball of fur on the snow. All else was completely motionless. Was the Beast still alive? Did he make it? Was it over? It was silent. The only things that moved in the ball of white and grey were the furry tails. Very few sounds were heard; maybe a few faint snarls, but aside from that nothing else.

Then, something unexpected happened. The snarls ceased to be. The wolves were now completely motionless. Somehow, some way, the Beast emerged from their bodies and the wolves tumbled off of him. A few fell motionless off of him before running. It was all or nothing now. The move that would decide it all. Some of the wolves may have run off like scardy cats but the rest remained where they were. With one final attack, they leaped toward the Beast. His arm still in pain, the Beast was going to try one last time to scare them off. Raising his scarred arm, he managed to knock away not just one wolf, but all of them at once. They were thrown right back into the snow a good few feet away. That was it; they were done. Some were limping and the rest barely had any strength, but they made a mad dash away from the Beast as fast as possible. Just to get away from the monster.

The Beast's hind legs were shaking. He was completely out of breath. All that escaped him were deep, heavy gasps before he started losing his eyesight. All was becoming dark to him as his eyelids grew heavier. The Beast turned to face Taylor, who was either shocked, more frightened than before, or a combination of the two. He could see her expression: her teeth were clenched probably biting her tongue to refrain herself from freaking out even more, her eyes were wide with what seemed like terror, and no body parts of hers moved except for her skirt, jacket, and hair which was all courtesy of the wind. And it was that look on her face, the shocked and scared look, was the last thing the Beast saw before he collapsed to the ground and fell into unconsciousness.

Taylor managed to let a gasp escape her after watching the whole thing in silence. She couldn't even describe how the Beast looked right now. All she could do was put it in the most obvious of terms. Exhausted. Hurt. Worn out. All seen from the naked eye. The girl couldn't even bring herself to look at him now. Staying in front of Jimmie, she turned her back so it faced the Beast. Silence returned. Everything that happened was just so unbelievable. Taylor remained quiet and held the same look on her face, replaying the events in her mind. They had argued. The Beast hated her. She gave up everything to save her brother. And yet...there the Beast was, laying motionless on the ground after saving hers and Jimmie's lives. But why? She had disobeyed him. She went in his sanctuary when he specifically told her not to go there. Invaded his personal space. Possibly risked the life of a rose - something that seemed more precious to the Beast than anything else.

Yes... Yes, it was all clear to her now. Taylor's head snapped back to look at the Beast, seeing him in the same position he had been in for a good couple of minutes. He had given her restrictions for a reason. It was his castle, after all. Monster or no monster he needed privacy just like everyone else. What business did Taylor have to go in rooms that she was not welcome in? Who gave her the right to violate the rules of the castle? And despite her misbehavior, the Beast still came to her rescue. Taylor could probably pin as much blame on him as she was putting on herself right now; but honestly, she just couldn't. Not after what he did for her. She just didn't have the heart to. He had been…. Brave. So protecting. So caring. For that one moment, Taylor wondered how some one like that could be turned into a hideous creature.

Taylor slowly stepped away from Jimmie and went over to the Beast cautiously. Jimmie lowered his head, watching very closely. Even if his reigns were still caught in the tree branch he wanted to spring into action at the last minute and save the day. Sadly for Jimmie, pulling a Rocketman superhero act would not be necessary. Taylor was hesitant at first, but did end up kneeling down next to the Beast. She heard a faint breath escape him which caused her to flinch. When she realized it didn't mean he was getting up, she stayed down at his level, her knees in the snow. It was no wonder his breath was so faint and tired; the fight must have taken a lot of energy out of him. Taylor sighed. There should have been something she could do. Removing her jacket, she placed it over the Beast. After unhooking Jimmies reigns from the branch, with the horse's help of course, she got the Beast onto Jimmie and they began making their way back to the castle as the blizzard finally began to die down.

Everyone in the castle gathered around as soon as they returned. Taylor took charge of everything they needed to do and it was all done. A fire was started in the fireplace, the Beast was brought to rest in his chair, Gabriella boiled some water, and everyone waited anxiously for their master to awaken. As the Beast lay with his damaged arm hung over the chair's arm, Taylor stuck a cloth into the hot water she poured from Gabriella into a bucket. She squeezed the excess water off the cloth, following the simple medical procedure so easily. After all, that's exactly what it was - just a typical medical protocall.

A low groan escaped the Beast and everyone's eyes fell on him. He was awake...sort of. But Taylor paid no attention. She knew what she had to do: repay the Beast for rescuing her. That's just what she was doing all this for. As stubborn as the young lady was, she knew when she was in debt to someone. But as mentioned, this was all it was. It didn't mean she actually cared for the Beast...not really, anyway. One thing she did take from the experience, after everything said and done, was that he was no monster. In a monster's body, maybe, but the man - or whatever he was - under all that was no monster.

Not saying a word, Taylor stood up from the floor and walked over to the Beast. She placed the warm cloth on his wound. And of course, right on contact with it the Beast let out a roar of pain and annoyance, causing her servants to jump back in surprise. He turned his head right to Taylor and yelled in her face with such force that he could blow dry her hair at the highest possible setting.

"That hurt!"

"Well you should have been more careful when you fought those wolves," she retorted, straightening her posture.

Wolves? The enchanted objects exchanged glances. None of them asked any questions when Taylor returned...except for Donny and Jason of course. But hey, Jason was the silly one and Donny had his big imagination. But even then their questions went unanswered. But if it all was bad enough to involve just couldn't be good. As a matter of fact, neither could this. Not with the two of them raising their voices at each other. Put all of it together and it was just plain surprising. But the argument that was about to arise, that by now was plain predictable.

The Beast thought for a minute to think of a good comeback. "Well you shouldn't have run away in the first place," he said with a smirk. Yeah, that would show her.

Or not. "If you hadn't fightened me then I wouldn't have run away," she argued.

"Right, you just had to be so stubborn and do things your own way," the Beast replied.

"You're the one who acts like you rule the castle," she informed him.

"I do rule the castle!" he insisted.

"Since when?" Taylor questioned.

"Since..." Oh wait, he hadn't thought of that. "Since ever!"

"Then you shouldn't be so arrogant," Taylor continued.

Ok they were back to that again. Now how could the Beast one up her? "Well you shouldn't have been in the West Wing." Yeah, let's see her top that. The Beast had this argument in the bag now. It was almost as though he were enjoying their fighting.

And yet again Taylor had the perfect counter. "Well you should learn to control your temper."

D'oh! She got him again. Man this girl was good! With no way to fight back, recalling how many times he was told that (especially by Gabriella and Zeke), the Beast rested his chin on his paw half pouting. Yeah, like he was really going to give her his full out puppy dog face. Not only would that get him nowhere with Taylor but it would also make him seem like he was the unmanliest...person-ish guy ever.

Taylor's look softened as she watched the Beast. For once she wasn't going to try fighting with him. After what he just did for her, she felt like he didn't deserve it. No one deserved to be yelled at after risking their life for someone. And although Taylor would never admit to it out loud, or probably at all, it was probably the sweetest thing she ever saw.

Removing her gaze from him, Taylor gently placed the cloth on his injury again. "Hold still. It may hurt a little."

The Beast jerked back slightly, biting his tongue to hold in a growl. May sting a little? No, it did sting a lot. But he was sort of controlling his temper. It was progress. And he didn't even open his mouth to say anything. And dispite how cold Taylor's voice had proved to be, her touch was one of the gentlest he'd ever felt. Was it supposed to make him act worse - or in this case, better - than he usually was?

"By the way..." Taylor added softly, her focus still on healing his arm. Like she said, she knew when she owed someone. The Beast most definitely deserved it. She bit her tongue at first, however, imagining that she would never have to say anything like it to him. But she was going to because she was trying to be the bigger man...bigger woman, rather. Not the childish puppy dog-faced person like he was being. "…Thank you. For saving my life."

For a second the Beast was stunned. Did she really just say that? It was completely unexpected and yet he shouldn't be surprised. Taylor was...kind of an honorable person. It was easy to see how someone could hate her and respect her at the same time. The Beast gave her credit. She had brains and beauty. He was the first to admit the latter. The him they were a newly found quality of hers. He surely wasn't going to hold that against her. It was only more of a reason this had to work. But if she ever knew he just needed her to help him become human again…. It didn't even matter. Something like love couldn't fade away so easily. The Beast accepted that, if anything else. He just wanted it to work at first, just force himself to love her because that may be his only shot.

Yet there was no way it could be turned around. With the qualities Taylor was showing what reason was there not to love her? Plenty of reasons to...lave her. Ok, he made that word up to combine the words love and hate. There were plenty of reasons to have those mixed feelings and he could see them easily. But if he could now see her gentler side and look past everything he hated about her then maybe, just maybe, he could help her look past his flaws, too. Looks may have been all that mattered to him at first, but now it was easier to look at more than those. Hopefully Taylor would prove to see through all his fur and find a good person behind it all. And that was a lot of fur. But he was willing to try. He had just fled the castle to go after Taylor and...ok he didn't know what at first, but he had ended up saving her instead. He really was more than a beast.

And although the rose had already begun to wilt and there was a matter of time before the last petal would fall, the rose that was the heart inside the Beast was only beginning to blossom.

Slowly turning his head to face Taylor again, the Beast's normal angry, ferocious look became kinder. Calmer. Thankful. She wasn't leaving him to try and heal himself, but trying to help him. The enchanted objects continued to watch, some moving closer knowing that the Beast wouldn't snap again. At least not today. Hey, it was good enough for them. They watched as the Beast just looked at Taylor and all she was looking at was his arm. The silence was awkward at first, but then finally the Beast let words just as soft as Taylor's escape his mouth.

"You're welcome."

And when Taylor lifted his head to look at the Beast once more, their eyes locked.

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