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A Change In Me

By Courtney Allen

Romance

Part 1: Chapter 1

Belle's POV

"If you hold still it wouldn't hurt as much!" Belle exclaimed angrily. The Beast had just saved her from an entire pack of wolves in the forest and she was grateful to him, but his temper was out of control. She would not tolerate having him roar in her face like that, not again.

"If you hadn't run away, this wouldn't have happened," the Beast retorted, no longer yelling but the anger still clear in his tone.

"Well if you hadn't frightened me I wouldn't have run away!" she shot right back. The castle's servants were cowering behind a table to Belle's right; clearly none have them had ever argued with their master before. It was about time someone had.

"Well you shouldn't have been in the West Wing!"

"Well you should learn to control your temper!" The Beast had nothing to say in response and Belle inwardly smiled. He knew he had a horrible temper and by pointing it out, she had won the argument. "Now hold still," she continued, her voice softening. "This might sting a little." She brought the warm cloth once again to the wound on his arm. One of the wolves had dragged their claws against the Beast's hide and left four long scratches on the Beast's arm. The Beast flinched as the cloth touched his wound, but he did not shout at her again. A warmth grew inside Belle as she realized he was trying to keep his temper under control for her.

"By the way," she offered as she cleaned his wound. "Thank you for saving my life." She watched as the Beast's expression changed from one of pain to shock. He turned his head to look at her and for the first time Belle noticed how kind his deep blue eyes had become.

"You're welcome," he said simply, his rumbling voice as gentle as his eyes. Belle said nothing more as she finished cleaning and dressed the Beast's wounds. She had been proud of herself for sitting as close as she was to the Beast, willingly touching him to tend to his wound. But, despite the argument they just had, she had been touched by the fact that he had rescued her from the wolves, and the need she saw in his eyes before he collapsed in the snow. For a moment, she saw beyond his usual angry shield and thought she glimpsed a soul. And now she could see that there was clearly more to him than what she had seen before.

"There now," she sighed when she was finished cleaning and wrapping his arm. "Keep those bandages clean, all right? You should get some rest," she added, avoiding his gaze. The sudden kindness that had entered his eyes had unnerved her slightly and she was unwilling to see him look at her so.

"Thank you," he replied and Belle could not help but look at him in surprise; it was the first time the Beast had ever thanked her for anything and, based on how the servants slowly emerged from hiding, it was a shock to them as well. The Beast paused only another moment before rising from his chair by the fire and disappearing through the door into the shadows of the hallway. Belle sighed and collapsed onto one arm, suddenly exhausted by the emotional strain she had just undergone.

"Well done, ma cherie!" Lumiere exclaimed. "I cannot believe the master has actually listened to you!"

"That's more than he's done with any of us," Cogsworth said grumpily. "Lord knows we've all tried to get him to rest after he has been hurt."

"This has happened before?" Belle exclaimed, horrified at the thought that the Beast had been wounded so before.

"Oui, mademoiselle," Lumiere sighed. "When he was younger mostly, the master would go and hunt. We feared that the Beast within him would take over if he continued, and when he was wounded trying to take on a bear, we all begged him to stop his foolishness."

"A bear?" Belle was shocked, but after seeing his strength warding off an entire pack of wolves she could imagine the Beast would be a formidable enemy for even a bear.

"Now, now," Mrs. Potts said, interrupting Lumiere who was clearly about to elaborate. "I think you should be getting out of those wet things and get some rest." Still pondering the Beast's past, Belle stood to return to her own room and do as Mrs. Potts suggested, but a pain shot through her leg and sent her collapsing back to the floor.

"Belle!" the servants exclaimed anxiously and crowded around her.

"Belle are you all right?" Mrs. Potts asked worriedly.

"I. . .I'm not sure," she confessed, suddenly remembering the wolf that the Beast had torn off her the moment he arrived. The animal had begun to pounce on her and, though the Beast ripped it away before it could bite Belle, the animal's claw had caught her thigh and left a great gash there.

The tear in her dress was relatively small, but she had to cover the blood that started to seep through her dress with an extra cloth while she tended to the Beast. It might have been covered more easily by her apron, but she had left it in the room she was given before going in search of dinner earlier that night.

She had covered it, afraid that if she explained what had happened, the Beast would be angry with himself and most likely go into one of his bouts of rage. To do that would spoil the kindness she had glimpsed in him, and she wasn't sure she would tolerate that just now. It really hadn't hurt all that much until she tried to stand, but she supposed it was the adrenaline of the attack and the argument with the Beast that kept the pain at bay.

As she revealed the blood that stained her dress a little bit above her knee, the servants gasped and Belle flinched at their reaction.

"All right dearies, let's give Belle some privacy," Mrs. Potts requested, shooing out the male servants before asking to see Belle's wound. Belle lifted her dress to reveal the wound just above her knee. Unlike the Beast's wound, hers was still bleeding slightly. Belle was dismayed when she found it had left a stain on the carpet, but Mrs. Potts quickly consoled her.

"Let's get you cleaned up," the kindly teapot insisted. "We've become quite skilled at removing blood from fabric after the master's habits, so don't you worry about that. I'm afraid this might need stitches, however." Belle could see that the teapot was distressed at the fact that she could do nothing to help her, having no hands. Few of the castle's servants had hands, now that Belle thought about it. Lumiere and Cogsworth at least had arms, but not the dexterity of fingers that was needed for sewing stitches.

"I can do it myself," Belle insisted, though she was afraid of tying up the wound herself. She had done some minor healing for her father after his many accidents in his workroom, but it was quite another thing to take a needle to her own wounds.

"You are so brave," Mrs. Potts praised as Belle picked up the kit they had brought for the Beast, but had not needed to use. With a deep breath, Belle began her work, careful not to flinch when the needle poked through her skin. When she was done, Belle's hands were bloody and she felt faint. She rested her back on the chair the Beast had left empty as she sat on the floor. Mrs. Potts brought her a washcloth and some tea, but when Belle sipped it she suspected there was something stronger than tea mixed into the drink.

"To give you strength enough to return to your room," Mrs. Potts explained when Belle looked questioningly at her. "I assumed you did not want to call the master's attention to your wound."

"Thank you, no," Belle said, grateful for her thoughtfulness. Using the new, small strength the drink had provided for her, Belle pushed herself into a standing position. Her leg throbbed with hot pain, but she did her best to remain upright.

"I'll have the others clean up here while I go ahead and see that the coast is clear," Mrs. Potts offered and hopped ahead. Belle smiled again at Mrs. Potts' understanding and limped towards the door after her. The stairs were the hardest to get past; Belle had to take them one at a time like a small child just learning how to climb. Fortunately, once Belle had reached the top, it was only a short walk to her room. Her strength was quickly leaving her and she just made it to the bed before collapsing onto it.

"Oh dear!" Madame Armoire exclaimed loudly as Belle entered the room. "Belle, dear what on Earth has happened?"

"It's all right," Belle kindly shushed the wardrobe. "I was attacked by a pack of wolves. The Beast saved me, but I wounded my leg. He doesn't know, so please don't tell anyone." Belle doubted that the wardrobe would keep her secret, but she was too weary to be concerned about that now.

"Of course, of course!" Madame Armoire agreed. "Here, put on your nightdress and I'll see that your dress is washed and mended." Slowly, though she ached from her hard ride through the forest and the sharp pain in her leg that refused to leave, Belle did as the wardrobe suggested. She collapsed gratefully onto the pillows of her bed and fell asleep in moments, her dreams altering between the terror of wolves and the warmth of the Beast's eyes.

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