A loud cry echoed within the storm. Heard from miles away, it was able to make anyone flinch in fear. Townspeople would look up at the sky, assuming it was a sign that everything would get worse. But the storm remained about the same. They then continued on with their nightly activities under the mere assumption that it was the wind or their imaginations. Little did they know how wrong they were. Things may not have gotten worse for them, but something certainly had gotten worse. Even for just a few seconds the storm raged on.
The men who had fled the castle and were helplessly trying to make it through the woods and back to their home had to stop dead in their tracks. They thought for sure that it was a wolf, howling at the moon and about to catch them as prey. But nothing had happened. All they had seen in response to the cry was the brightest flash of lightning and heard such a powerful roar of thunder. But it didn't make them run away in fear. Even though it should be more frightening than what they had been attacked by in the castle, they just weren't scared. All they did was lower their heads and walk on slowly. It was as if they knew that something bad had to have happened but they didn't know what.
Anything that the enchanted objects were doing, they stopped at an instant. They could recognize the cry from anywhere; they knew exactly who it was. Jack froze in his place as he held spatulas in his hands. Tiara's head shifted towards the staircase and her mouth dropped. Martha had to look up from where she was as she leaned up against the wall and the normally content wardrobe's expression fell. Boi stood with his legs parted and his tail just sitting flat out and his head up, only knowing who the cry was from but not why. Gabriella struggled to try and make her way towards the West Wing, moving as fast as she could now knowing what just had to have happened. Zeke and Jason were doing their best to navigate through the castle and find the easiest way to get there as well, only hoping that they weren't too late.
For it was the Beast that the cry belonged to. He could feel the sharp pain in his back as it stung at him. His spine almost felt like it was shifting at the sharpness of the weapon and his paw was instantly pulled away from Taylor's face. He attempted to reach behind him to try and pull it out but it made no different. As quickly as he felt something in his back, it was gone. For when the lightning struck the castle tower, the sword that was barely hanging on up there tumbled down with its sharp end facing downwards and the wind taking it on a dangerous path towards the Beast. It only took seconds for it to slash into his back on its own before tumbling back down to the ground. It had stabbed him in the fur and made a mark in his back before falling out and crashing into the stone ground. The Beast was sure that it had to be someone that attacked him purposefully and not just an accidental cause of nature. But he was unable to see behind him and may never know what had happened for sure. He felt dizzy and appeared on the verge of losing consciousness. He balance against the balcony was slipping and if he was there alone, he would surely fall to his doom.
But Taylor wasn't going to let that happen. She grabbed his paw and held it as tight as she could so he wouldn't fall. As she struggled to pull him over the banister and get the Beast on the safety of the balcony, her thoughts temporarily drifted to only moments ago. Things for that one second had felt so perfect. As happy as she has always been living with her brother on their little farm, that one second that she was reunited with the Beast was the happiest she's ever felt. He had indeed grown on her and she held a very precious soft spot for him. They had grown so close and it was easy to tell that he was no beast. But the villagers had never gotten the chance to see that gentle side of him; thanks to Sharpay, they were the reason that the castle and everyone in it had been put in danger. And evidently, it was now the cause of the Beast's suffering.
But no - Taylor couldn't put all the blame on Sharpay. She knew more than well that this was primarily her fault. If she hadn't shown them the Beast in the enchanted mirror then they would have never gone after him and come here. Sharpay may have gone after the Beast first, but Taylor was the one who instigated all of this. Whether this was an accident or not, it was her fault. Not Sharpay's for finding the Beast in the first place. Not Ryan for bringing the sword back which would be the thing to lead to this. Not nature's fault for guiding the sword right to the Beast's most vulnerable area. Not the sword's fault for landing where it had nor that it had lost its balance from its safe zone so easily. It wasn't even Troy's fault for trying to prove to everyone that the Beast really did exist. It was all on Taylor.
At first she wondered who could have done this, and why they had attacked the Beast at such a climactic and meaningful moment. But from the angle she was standing at, Taylor could easily tell that no one was there. It really was a wacky cause of the storm. At first she had nearly jumped back at the Beast's cry. But it didn't take her long to realize that it was a roar of pain, not anger. And from the corner of her eye she could see the sword swirling towards the ground with a deep red stain on it. Her eyes widened at the sight, sure of anything else at that moment, that that was the reason. She knew what it had done to the Beast. Not wasting another moment, she tried pulling him onto the balcony. Though he was much heavier than her, it was a miracle that Taylor was able to get the Beast over the banister and gently lay him down on the floor. What Taylor was unaware of, however, was that the Beast had just enough energy in his hind legs to grasp the edge with his claws so he wouldn't fall and was barely able to aid Taylor as she pulled him.
Finally catching up with Gabriella, Jason and Zeke made it through the doors of the West Wing and rushed towards the now broken window of the balcony. None of them said anything as they dashed over. They all knew they were thinking the exact same thing. They had the same worry in their eyes. As the three got closer, they could feel the chilly breeze of the storm. But it wasn't just an ordinary chill; it was the kind that send shivers down their spines. It was the first sign that it was the end of everything. The group was only hoping that things would turn around or that it was a false alarm. They hoped with all of their hearts that their master was alright and that nothing had happened to him or Taylor. But their worse fears came to be when they came to a halting stop just in front of the window. Gabriella's eyes filled with fear and concern and she was trying everything she could to keep her lip from quivering. Maybe it was too soon to worry, but maybe they really did have something to worry about. Jason only let a faint gasp escape him as he then put his hands to his mouth. He couldn't even blink as he stared out onto the balcony. Zeke's eyes widened and he froze as soon as he stopped hopping. For a moment he shook his head in disbelief but somehow he was able to refrain himself from saying anything. They just stood in silence as they took in the scene in front of them.
Taylor gently lay the Beast down on his back. The rain was getting lighter now but it couldn't have felt colder and the sky couldn't have gotten any darker. She could see the Beast flinch as his bleeding back made contact with the ground but only barely relaxed into it. At first Taylor wasn't entirely sure what to make of this situation. The shock was still hitting her at full force and she was trying to piece everything together. If his back wasn't treated then it could get infected, and if it got infected then he could get sick, and if he got sick then he could die. But from the stain Taylor had glimpsed on the falling sword, she knew that it wasn't just a cut. The slash had gone deep past his fur and skin. If the injury was as bad as it looked, then the Beast couldn't have much time. But there had to be some way to stop it. Maybe if she could just stop the bleeding then he'd have a chance. If there was a towel or a cloth somewhere she could use...no, no, no! They were on the balcony and it was still raining. It was cold. Something was going to be the end of him if this kept up. There had to be something she could do. Taylor had never seen the Beast so helpless. Even when he had fainted from the fight with the wolves, he didn't look as bad as he did wasn't just exhaustion she saw with the Beast. She saw how pale he looked and it was a horrible sight.
The Beast hadn't moved an inch. He barely said a word or even let out a breath. At first Taylor was fearing the worst. She shook her head, hoping with all her heart that it wasn't true. She managed to bring herself to place a hand on his chest. It moved slowly, but the Beast was still breathing. It was slow and faint but he was alive. There was still a chance he could make it!
If it weren't for his faint breathing or the rain, then everything would have been completely silent. And it would have been impossible to do anything in that situation because then it would surely feel like all hope was lost. Taylor didn't want the Beast to think that. She had to get his attention somehow, and let him know that he would be alright. That everything was going to be ok. After everything that happened she wasn't going to lose him now. She just couldn't. He was the first anyone to treat her like a person. Alright, technically it was the enchanted objects that did that, but he made her feel different. They were both essentially the same. The Beast was an outcast of his own, always so different from everyone else. And so he shut himself off from the world, unlike Taylor who had continued to step out of her house and go on with the day like nothing was going on. The Beast had built a wall around himself, to keep the outside world away from him. But Taylor had been able to watch as he tore that wall down and she was able to get through. He didn't care if she wasn't as pretty or fashionable or whatever as all the other girls. He cared about her for who she is. And those feelings had been able to become mutual. But Taylor knew there was more to it than that. It wasn't just a sense of security and being themselves that brought them together. It was something had never felt anything like that before. And as painful as it felt now, she really didn't want it to go away.
She slowly brought her hand up to his cheek and stroked it, her fingers gently roaming through his fur. The Beast winced for a moment, but he appeared to relax easily at her touch. His eyes slowly began to open and he moved only slightly. It took a moment, but he was finally able to move his head to face Taylor. His eyes were barely opened, but his eyes were shining just enough through them. But as much as Taylor wanted to see the life in them that she had seen before, there wasn't any in there. The brightness that once filled his eyes was slowly fading away.
But somehow the Beast just didn't see it that way. He was breathing heavily, but he was able to form a small yet weak smile. He had never felt so hurt or worn out before. He could feel the energy escaping him and knew there wasn't much time left - for him or the spell. No matter what happened first it was over. As much in disbelief as he still sounded, there was only one thing that was keeping him awake at this moment and that was getting a smile on his face. And he was looking right at her.
"You came back..."
His voice was hoarse and strained, but he was speaking. But that was only going to make things worse. Taylor knew that he would start spitting out things like 'don't worry' or 'I'll be ok'. It wasn't alright. He wasn't going to be ok. There wasn't nothing to worry about. Whether she liked it or not, and as much as she tried to tell herself not to believe it, this was going to be the last time she'd talk to him.
"Of course I cam back," Taylor replied softy. What would ever give him the idea that she wouldn't? "I could never leave..."
She saw the Beast continue to breathe heavily. He was running out of energy fast. He looked so exhausted...no, there had to be more time than this! There was no way he could let some stupid hit like that do him in. Taylor wrapped her arms around him and hugged him, resting her head against his fur. As cold and damp as it felt from the rain right now, it still felt so nice. There was still a bit of warmth left in it. What she would give for him to be alright and just....
"This is all my fault," she confessed. The guilt was just too much for her to harbor anymore. Whether the Beast needed to know that Taylor was the reason for his current condition right now or not, she had to tell him. She just really hoped that he didn't hate her for it. "I shouldn't have told everyone. And if I got here sooner maybe I would have been able to stop it."
The Beast shook his head lightly. Why he wasn't blaming Taylor for this, she'd never understand. But he certainly didn't hate her. He could tell her that right now. He could confess everything and let her know how he felt before it was too late. Maybe it was his stubbornness that controlled what he said or maybe he just thought otherwise...maybe he even went so far as to think in the back of his head that she didn't feel the same way. But whatever the case, what everyone thought he would say to her was not what came out of his mouth.
"Maybe...it's better this way..."
Taylor blinked and picked her head up. What was he saying? That it was good that he was dying? That it was good that all of this happened? That it was good they could never be together now? What was he even thinking saying something like that? Taylor shook her head in disbelief. surely what the Beast was telling her wasn't true. She had to get him to snap out of it somehow. The creature laying before her in its most tired, vulnerable, and hopeless state was not the creature that she.... Taylor continued shaking her head as she picked it up from his fur and looked at him.
"Don't talk like that."
There had to be a way to get hope into him somehow. It was slim, but maybe he really would be fine. But he wouldn't be if he didn't believe he would. If he was talking the way he was now it really would be the worst. All Taylor had to do was get some positive thoughts into him. Maybe that would get them somewhere.
"You'll be alright. We just have to get you a warm blanket and some bandages..." she said, gently running her hand down his chest.
The Beast only responded with a faint cough. That was not a good sign.
"We're together now. Everything is going to be fine," she tried. "I'm here. I'm not leaving. We're together."
Yes, she was saying all of that for a reason and it wasn't just to try and get him to think he was going to be better, or even to feel better. He had to get better, he just had to. Taylor knew that he could. Or maybe it was just that the shock of all this hadn't fully hit her yet. Maybe, despite how smart she was, she just didn't realize how bad this really had gotten and that nothing she said was going to work.
From inside the West Wing, Zeke, Jason, and Gabriella could see and hear everything that was going on. Zeke was a bit taken back by it all. He always assumed that when there was a chance for the spell to be broken, nothing would go down like this. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He almost looked...depressed by it. And it took a lot for Zeke to get depressed. He glanced over at his friends and they all exchanged looks. Jason looked the most hopeless right now. He really didn't think that there was a chance for anything to get better no matter what they did. Or maybe he was just a sucker and totally fell apart with any kind of sob story. No one was ever able to prove that. Gabriella was trying to look her best to be hopeful, but that still didn't stop the look of concern and worry on her face. She couldn't even force out a smile. And even if she could, it would mean nothing. Her eyes had enough fear in them to make anyone afraid. And when any of these three felt bad and looked hopeless, it was hard to believe anything would turn around.
They looked back to the pair and could see the Beast trying to open his eyes again. But every time he opened them a little he had to close them. They would open a few seconds later, but then it would just be a repeat. He was able to keep them open a little longer as he lifted his arm. He moved it slowly, but soon enough he was able to brush his paw against Taylor's cheek again. He could feel his fingers going lightly through her hair, thinking about how nice it felt. He wasn't going to let his stubbornness control him this time. The Beast had never been one to let his feelings out. If anything, he would keep them bottled up somehow. But now wasn't the time to do it. If he was going to give this girl even a hint about how he felt he was going to do it now. There was no turning back.
"At least...at least I got to see you...one more time."
Taylor's eyes widened at his statement. She was trying to digest everything. Last time? At least? Her? There was no way he could be thinking that this was the end. It was almost starting to make her lose hope. There was just no way... Why was he even saying that? A lump was forming in her throat and Taylor was trying so hard to ignore it. Feeling his paw on her face, she gently placed her hands on it. That felt so nice.... Was he trying to tell her that this was the last time they'd be able to talk? To do this? That she'd never be able to feel this again? Her touch on his paw was gentle, but then just thinking about all that almost made her tighten her grip, doing everything she could not to let him go. It seemed to be working. She really didn't want to let go.
But the next thing she knew, the Beast's paw was slowly lipping out of her grasp. It fell down to the ground first and the Beast rested his head back on the ground. His eyes almost looked like they were rolling to the back of his head, like he was losing all sense of vision. His chest was barely moving, even looking to the point where it seemed to have stopped. It was so hard to tell. And then he closed his eyes and became motionless.
The shock of everything was finally hitting Taylor. Everything that she didn't want to believe was happening. Even now she was trying so hard not to believe that what she was seeing was real. She could feel her chest moving up and down heavily, almost to the point where it felt like she was hyperventilating. This couldn't be happening. It just couldn't.
"Beast?" she asked almost in a whisper. "Come on...you have to wake up.... Please."
This almost always happened in one of her books. The worst of the worst would happen and then everything would turn around somehow. Maybe it would happen now. Sure it wasn't a fairy tale, but there was a chance wasn't there?
But this wasn't one of her books. This was nothing like a fairy tale. Fairy tales had happy ending. Almost all of her books had happy endings. Alright, the Romeo and Juliet one didn't have a happy ending, but at least the two of them got to be together. Ok well they both died...but at least one didn't have to live without the other. But this…. This wasn't like any of the stories. And the worst part of it probably was, this was even worse than Romeo and Juliet.
She shook her head in disbelief. Everything was finally sinking in. He got struck by the sword by some freak accident. He got hurt. He ran out of energy. He ran out of life. All of that just happened. And there was no turning back. There was no way to make it better now.
Her voice was cracking now. The water she felt on her face wasn't just from the rain anymore, but from her. Those were tears. This was the first time that Taylor had cried in front of anyone, whether they could see it or not. The full shock of the situation had finally hit her.
"Please don't leave..."
She was begging for him to stay even though she knew it would do no good. But still, there had to be some way to turn it around. But nothing happened. He was still motionless. She lost him.
Taylor buried her head in his chest, wrapping her arms tight around him. She thought it had been bad when this beast took her away from her brother. She thought it was bad enough when he snapped at her. She didn't think anything could have been at a lower point. But in the middle of all that something had changed. And now things were reversed. When she wanted him gone, he was there to stay. And now that he was gone she wanted nothing more than for him to wake up and tell her he was alright. This was as low as it went. Nothing could get worse than this. Now Taylor understood the heavy pain she felt in her chest and why she was so willing to show her emotions when every other time she kept them hidden.
Finally, she willed herself to say what she'd been wanting to since she got there. And she knew it was going to hurt even more. It wasn't supposed to hurt. It was supposed to feel magical and wonderful. but what probably hurt the most about saying it now was that he'd never hear it and he'd never knew how she felt. The words came out in a whisper, but she still willed them out and her heart grew more heavy. But there they were. The three most important words that everyone has been waiting for years to hear.
"I love you."
And that's when the last petal fell.