A Change In Me

Chapter 12

Belle's POV

Belle sat in the piano room just down the hall from the West Wing and listened as the Beast's roars shook the walls around her. She wrapped her arms around herself in her own sorrow, ashamed that she had made the Beast do something that made him so unhappy. He had given her everything since he had learned to be so kind, and she had done nothing but cause him pain. She hardly understood why the Beast felt such shame from the beauty he had just created, but she was determined to never ask such a thing from him again.

She stood slowly and ran her hands one last time over the instrument that so recently sent her dreams soaring at the hands of the Beast. With a sigh, she closed the door behind her and retreated to her room.

"Hello, dearie," Madame Armoire greeted her, but Belle could only summon a small smile. "What's wrong?" she asked. Belle sunk into the chair by her vanity, exhausted by her sorrow at what she had done to the Beast.

"I asked the Beast to do something I shouldn't have," she admitted finally. "I just wanted to know what he liked to do. He spent so much time doing what I like, I only wanted to return the favor. But it only made him angry and he ran from me. Again."

"You know," Madame Armoire began. "The Master's not all that used to having women around. He probably just got scared."

"Him, scared?" she said doubtfully. It was hard to picture the massive Beast as frightened of anything, especially her. But then she remembered the day he had presented the library to her, how he had twisted his paws together nervously. He's afraid of me? she thought to herself and tucked a stray hair away from her face. What an odd turn of events. "Do you think I should go talk to him?"

"You might want to wait a bit and let that temper of his run out," Madame Armoire suggested and Belle quickly agreed. She had been on the wrong end of his temper once and was not eager to relive the experience. So Belle waited in her room, unwilling to wander the halls and chance running into an angry Beast. He would probably stay in the West Wing for now, but it wasn't a chance she was willing to take. Her only other destination would be the library, but she was too distracted to try and read again anyway.

Hours later, Belle's empty stomach provoked her into cautiously seeking out the Beast to ask if he wanted to have dinner with her. Unwilling to go directly to the West Wing, though it was likely where he was to be, she instead tried to see if he was elsewhere in the castle. None of the servants had seen him since they had been in the library that afternoon, but Belle checked every room she could think of until there was no other choice but to go to the West Wing.

She timidly approached the dark doors, the massive creature that served as door handles staring at her as if daring her to approach them once again. Cautiously, she pressed an ear against the door but heard no crashing furniture or sinister growls. Gathering her courage, she knocked on the door and stepped back, ready for the Beast to jump out at whoever dared to intrude on his solitude. But nothing happened.

Belle dared to knock again, a little louder this time and jumped slightly when the door opened a crack.

"Belle?" she heard the Beast say, but couldn't see him through the shadow.

"I—I'm sorry if I'm bothering you," she started, her strength growing at his mild-tempered greeting. "But I was getting a little hungry. I wanted to see if you would join me for dinner."

"Not hungry," he grunted and the door started to close.

"Wait," she said and unconsciously put out a hand to keep the door open, though her tiny strength would be no match for the Beast should he truly want to keep her out. To her surprise, though, the door remained open. "Are you angry with me?" she demanded, trying to keep her voice even and calm.

"No," Belle heard him take a deep breath. "I'd like to be alone, please."

Please? Belle was so shocked to hear the word come from the Beast that she allowed the door to completely close. The soft click of the door fitting in its place recalled her attention and she realized how sad the Beast had sounded. She wanted nothing more than to burst in and demand what was wrong, why he was so unhappy, but the Beast's polite request still rang in her ears. If he had asked so politely, perhaps it was best to leave him alone.

Belle walked bemusedly back to her room, supper all but forgotten as she replayed the Beast's request in her mind. It was clear that somehow playing the piano had upset him, but was it because of himself as she first suspected, or had she caused his sorrow? Should she have demanded to be let in and wrestle an explanation from him?

"How'd it go?" Madame Armoire asked excitedly as Belle entered her room once again.

"He asked to be left alone," Belle said, still slightly in shock at the Beast's words.

"Oh, well that's nothing. . ."

"He said please," Belle interrupted and Madame Armoire, for the first time since Belle came to the castle, was speechless. "And not the rather sarcastic one my first night here, either. It was a sincere request. I thought it best to just leave him be. Something must be very wrong for him to say that though, don't you think?"

"I can't really say. Maybe one of the servants will ask him. Mrs. Potts is very good at that sort of thing."

"Mrs. Potts? Oh that's a wonderful idea!" Without another word, Belle rushed towards the kitchen in search of the motherly tea kettle.

"Good evening," Cogsworth greeted her as she pushed the swinging door open. "What can I do for you, my dear?"

"I was looking for Mrs. Potts. Have you seen her?"

"Over here, dear."

"I have a bit of a favor to ask," Belle began, sitting on a stool by the counter where Mrs. Potts stood. "The Beast and I had a. . .a misunderstanding earlier. I went to talk to him, but he won't let me in. I think something's truly wrong, though. Would you see if you could speak to him for me?"

"I suppose so," Mrs. Potts said slowly. "He was making a bit of a racket this afternoon, wasn't he?" Belle nodded but was too ashamed of herself to explain what she had done to provoke such a reaction. "I'll see what I can do. Why don't you stay here and have something to eat?" Belle could only nod again and watched Mrs. Potts leave.

"Well," Cogsworth huffed once Mrs. Potts left. "I've never seen anyone be able to break the Master's mood before, not even Mrs. Potts."

"He's not angry anymore," Belle replied as a plate and several serving dishes moved in front of her. "When I tried to talk to him he seemed so sad, as if his whole world had collapsed." She picked up her fork and tried to muster the ambition to eat, but found that her guilt at causing the Beast's sorrow made eating undesirable.

"I'm sure she'll sort it out," Cogsworth reassured her, his rather pompous attitude forgotten as he tentatively patted her hand. Belle smiled gratefully at him and allowed him to coax her into taking a few bites of food.

"You got him to play the piano?" Belle heard Mrs. Potts ask a little while later. Belle had remained in the kitchen to wait for Mrs. Potts and, though Cogsworth protested, started doing dishes to pass the time. Belle turned at Mrs. Potts' words and dried her hands on a dishtowel.

"Yes," Belle said slowly. "I only wanted to know what he like to do, since he's been spending so much time listening to me read. I didn't know he would force himself to do it just because I asked. But oh it was so beautiful! I've never heard such music before in my life. Is he angry with me?"

"No, dearest. He's a bit ashamed of himself, actually. You see, he hasn't played since before. . ." Mrs. Potts trailed off as if unsure how to continue.

"Since before he was a Beast?" Belle suggested and heard the servants gasp. "I know he used to be human. Why else would he have learned to play and then suddenly stop? His hands became paws. I've known for a little while now, I think. I won't tell him I know," she said hastily. "I'm sure he doesn't want to be reminded of that."

"And we all thank you for that," Mrs. Potts sighed. "It was a difficult time while he adjusted to being what he is now. I think being reminded of what he used to be was too painful for him."

"I won't ask him to play the piano again," Belle easily promised. "Do you think he'll come out of his room soon, though?"

"It's hard to say. He doesn't want to do anything to displease you, you know. But he has suffered such a heartache today. Best give him a little time."

Belle waited two days for the Beast to emerge from hiding. Two days of eating alone, two days spent reading by herself in the library, two days of walking the grounds without his warm presence beside her. She couldn't help the loneliness that started to creep into her heart without the Beast. Though the servants were friendly enough company, they had their chores to attend to and would not let her help. Belle wondered how the Beast had endured possibly years as she spent the past two days.

She had never really minded being alone; goodness knows that after she left Paris there were so few people who would talk to her, let alone befriend her. Books had always been enough company for her during those lonely times, and Papa of course. But now her books only filled part of the void the lack of the Beast's company created.

There had been several times during those two days where Belle was sorely tempted to march into the West Wing and convince the Beast to stop being so foolish. But she remembered to keep her own temper and simply waited for the Beast to come out by himself like the timid deer he seemed to be imitating.

As the sun set outside the library's large windows that second day, Belle began to wonder if the Beast would come out of the West Wing. Had she done enough harm to keep him away for good? Her heart sunk as she realized the Beast might never forgive her, never give her the chance to apologize for the wrong she had done to him.

She watched the sun set as she sat by one of the windows, absentmindedly flipping the pages of a book rapidly over her thumb and wondered if the Beast would forgive her for forcing him to remember his humanity.

"Mademoiselle?" Lumiere's voice interrupted her sorrowful thoughts. She looked down and smiled at the candelabra though her thoughts were still with the Beast. "Dinner is ready," he said and Belle thought he looked too excited for such a simple announcement.

"What's going on?" she asked, spinning on the window seat so her feet touched the floor.

"Why, nothing, ma cherie," Lumiere insisted. "We are all simply worried about your lack of appetite recently." Belle nodded but suspected that the servants were up to something.

Her answer came as she stepped into the small dining room she and the Beast had been using since they started dining together. The first dining hall the servants welcomed her in was far too large have a comfortable meal, so Belle had almost immediately insisted on using this smaller, more friendly room.

As Belle stepped into the room, she noticed that the Beast was sitting at the table in his usual chair. She was so shocked to see him there, as if the past few days had not happened, she couldn't help the little 'oh!' of surprise that escaped her. The noise had drawn the Beast's attention to her presence and he immediately stood.

"Hello," she said simply, so eager to apologize to him and yet unsure if she should even mention what had happened.

"Hello," he replied, looking as uncertain as she felt. He rubbed the back of his neck and shuffled his feet before finally stepping towards her and lifting his downcast eyes to meet hers. Belle met his gaze steadily, trying to find a similarity to the Beast's blue eyes with those of the boy in the portrait she glimpsed in the West Wing. Could they be the same person?

"Are you hungry?" he gestured to the table laden with steaming plates.

"Very," she replied and followed his lead to her seat. "Mmmm, roast beef," she sighed happily.

"You, uh, you said it was your favorite," the Beast muttered.

"It is, thank you." Belle grinned at the Beast, flattered that he remembered what her favorite dish was and cared enough to make sure it was served the night he decided to reappear. She decided to interpret it as a peace offering.

As the dishes served themselves, she watched as the Beast avoided eye contact with her, looking very ashamed of himself. Belle had to say something to let him know everything was all right. That she, too, was ashamed of what had passed just a few days ago.

"I, um. . .It was very lonely these past couple of days," she finally said, glancing up at the Beast from her plate.

"Really?" the Beast said and Belle was somewhat pleased to hear the note of surprise in his voice.

"I even found myself reading out loud to thin air once or twice because I'm already so used to you being there." Perhaps this was an exaggeration, but she had truly missed his company.

"I'd like to hear another story," he said and finally met her eyes. The moment their eyes met, Belle knew that the Beast had forgiven her and, based on his careful smile, everything was all right between them again.

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