"Belle? Belle, dear it's time to wake up." Belle heard Mrs. Potts voice coax her out of her dreams. "You must eat something, dear," Mrs. Potts said when Belle opened her eyes. Belle nodded obediently and went to sit up, but found that her arms did not support her weight. As she collapsed back to her pillows, she accidently jolted her leg and sent a white hot pain searing up her wounded thigh. Belle did her best not to scream, but she couldn't stop a sharp gasp of pain.
"What is it?" Mrs. Potts demanded.
"It's nothing," Belle dismissed her worried looks and took a deep breath. Summoning her strength, determined not to worry Mrs. Potts more than she already had, Belle reached for the tray of food that waited for her. She did not try to lift the tray, only picked a piece of toast and nibbled it obediently. When she had eaten half of it, she felt her stomach begin to churn unpleasantly. A sip of water helped calm it and she lay back down, doing her best not to groan.
"I'll tell the master you're still resting," Mrs. Potts offered.
"Is he all right?" Belle asked quickly, worried that his wounds might be hurting as terribly as her own.
"He's fine, dear," Mrs. Potts reassured her. "He's worried about you, though he won't admit it. And you're worried about him, too, aren't you?" Belle smiled, but said nothing. Mrs. Potts was far too perceptive to try and insist it wasn't true. "Rest now. I'll be back again later with fresh food."
"Thank you," Belle said as Mrs. Potts retreated to the hallway.
"That Mrs. Potts is so kind," Madame Armoire commented, but Belle could not respond, asleep before the wardrobe had barely finished her sentence.
"Is Belle all right?" the Beast demanded gruffly as Mrs. Potts hopped down the hall. He had taken to lurking in the hall near Belle's bedroom, not daring to go near the doors, but finding it hard to stay away.
Mrs. Potts jumped at his voice, clearly not expecting him to be there, but quickly recovered. "She is exhausted, master. But when woke her to eat something, she wanted to make sure that you were all right."
The Beast hoped that Mrs. Potts was telling the truth, though he tried not to let her see how pleased the news had made him. Belle was concerned about him! Well, it served her right to worry a bit after what she had put him through last night. When he looked in the magic mirror to see Belle pursued by the wolves, his heart jumped into his throat in terror. He was furious at her for entering his room; by trying to touch the enchanted rose that held his fate, she had nearly destroyed all hope, though she could not have known what her actions might have caused. But seeing her life threatened tore away his anger and filled him only with fear at losing her. Of course, she might have been lost to him anyway had she escaped safely through the woods, but he couldn't let her be harmed by those wolves.
"Thank you," the Beast said and continued pacing at the far end of the hall. Those two words were coming easier to him now; he had felt such joy at hearing Belle thank him for saving her and now he was beginning to understand the gravity behind those simple words.
A little while later, the Beast had decided to return to his chamber after seeing far to many servants pass him and smirk, knowing why he was so close to Belle's room. But he could not distract himself from the worry he felt for the girl.
Hours passed and still he had not heard anything about Belle since that morning. Surely Belle would have recovered by now; she was a strong woman and the Beast did not think Belle would tolerate lying in bed all day. What if something was wrong?
As if trying to confirm his suspicion, he strained to hear what might be happening outside his sanctuary. But of course few ever dared to go so close to the West Wing unless there was important business to bring his attention to. But would the servants dare alert him if something was wrong with Belle? So he waited a while longer, pacing the balcony as the stars began to appear in the sky above him. Finally, he could take no more and left his room, intent on seeing Belle despite the hour. Even if she did not want to see him, he would insist, if only to calm his fears. But there was no need to take such forceful actions.
As he strode purposefully down to Belle's room, he came across Mrs. Potts who looked flustered and scared.
"Oh, master thank goodness!" she exclaimed when she saw him. "You must come quickly. Belle—"
"Is something wrong?" he interrupted. Without waiting for an answer he bolted to Belle's door, dropping to all fours to increase his speed. He went to knock on the door, but suddenly he was afraid of what he might find. Before he could decide whether to enter or not, the door opened seemingly of its own accord and he looked down to see Cogsworth.
"M-Master," he stuttered nervously. The Beast stepped over him, having no patience to hear explanations when Belle was so close now. He looked around the room to find her and froze when he saw that she was sprawled on the floor only a few feet from him. It looked as if she had tried to reach the door, one arm lying straight in front of her as she lay on her stomach. The Beast went to her and knelt by her side. She was unconscious, but still breathing.
"What happened?" he demanded, his voice coming out in a low growl.
"She is ill, Master," Lumiere explained from where he stood by Belle's head. "I think she tried to get help, but she wasn't strong enough."
"What about Madame Armoire," the Best demanded, turning on the wardrobe as he spoke. To his surprise, the wardrobe burst into tears.
"I'm s-so s-sorry master!" she wailed. "I-I didn't hear her. I-I'm such a h-heavy sleeper!" The Beast raised his hand, fuming with anger for this useless servant. He had never struck a servant before, but she had caused Belle harm by her idiocy. Before he could deliver his blow however, Belle moaned and with that small sound came the knowledge that Belle would hate him for what he was about to do. He lowered his hand shamefully.
"It is not your fault," was all he said and he turned to kneel again by Belle's side. "Tell me what's wrong with her," he asked Lumiere, his voice as calm and soft as he could make it. Lumiere was silent, apparently searching for an explanation when Mrs. Potts came through the door.
"She was wounded by one of the wolves last night," the teapot explained as she hopped towards the fallen creature. "She didn't want you to know because she was concerned you would blame yourself for it. But this morning she was too weak to sit up and she barely ate anything. I suspected that the wound might have been infected. When I came back again today, she would not wake at all and she had a terrible fever. I have been searching through our stores of medicine for something to help her. She must have become frightened when she woke in the middle of the night and tried to find help." Madame Armoire wailed again at Mrs. Potts words.
"Will she live?" the Beast demanded, embarrassed that his voice sounded so tight with worry and emotion.
"That depends entirely on her," Mrs. Potts said sadly. "The medicines we have here are old and would only make her worse if we tried to use them."
"Well get more," the Beast hissed through his teeth and turned to lift Belle into his arms to return her to her bed.
She moaned when he moved her, but still did not wake. He could see beads of sweat on her forehead and her skin was far too warm where it touched his hide as he held her. When he placed her on her bed, he pulled the blankets up to her shoulders, realizing that she was only in her nightgown and it was highly improper for him to see her dressed like that. If he had been human, he would have blushed. When she was comfortable, the Beast took a step back from her bedside but was unsure what to do next. A large part of him wanted to stay beside her, but he was afraid of what Belle might say if she woke and saw him there.
"Master," Lumiere started. The Beast had forgotten he was there and whirled to face him, embarrassed that Lumiere had seen him during such a moment. "Perhaps you might sit with the girl while the others and I search for medicines. We would not want her trying to get out of bed again, would we?" The Beast knew that Lumiere was giving him an excuse to stay beside Belle and was angry that the candelabra could read his thoughts so easily, but nevertheless he was grateful for it.
"Very well," he grunted and a chair was summoned. He sat a little ways away from Belle where she might see him if she woke but would not be startled by being too close. And so he waited, waited for this woman who might be his only hope to wake up.
As he waited he thought back to Mrs. Potts words. She didn't want you to know because she was concerned you would blame yourself. Well, he did blame himself. If he hadn't acted like such a beast she would not have run from him. He watched in his mind's eye as he pulled the lunging wolf off of Belle, but he could not remember seeing it hurt her. He should have been more careful. She never told him she was wounded; if she had, he would have insisted that they take care of her first. Or would he? His wounds had hurt, too. He couldn't be entirely sure that he would have waited; he certainly wanted to believe he would insist that Belle taken care of first, but was it true?
He came out of his thoughts when Belle groaned and shifted, one arm emerging from the covers to dangle over the edge of the bed. After a moment's hesitation, not really knowing what he was doing, he dragged his chair forward a little bit and carefully moved her arm to rest on her stomach. He could see the sweat form on her face as the fever raged inside her. There had to be something he could do to help her. As if answering his question, he looked to his right and found a small clean towel on the table by her bed. Dipping it in the bowl of cool water Mrs. Potts had left, he carefully dabbed at the beads of sweat on Belle's forehead. As he did so, he realized how little he knew about this woman, though she had been living in his castle for days now.
He wanted to get to know her more, but he had to stop acting so shamefully. The selfish Prince had to be put aside, he knew, if Belle would ever speak to him after the way he acted last night. He willed himself to do better by this woman; she was so brave to have taken her father's place as prisoner and so stubborn to have argued with him, he who had been so used to everyone simply cowering before him. The least he could do was show her some courtesy. As he bathed her forehead, hoping he was doing some good, Mrs. Potts reentered the room. He dropped the cloth as if it had burned him, embarrassed to be caught doing such things. But Mrs. Potts only smiled.
"That will keep her more comfortable, that will," she said knowingly, nodding to the cloth that landed on the bed. The Beast nodded, but said nothing. "I've come to let you know that there is absolutely nothing in the castle that will do to help Belle. Lumiere and Cogsworth have offered to go into the village and take some while their doctor is sleeping. I don't much like the idea, but it's all we can do."
The Beast did not relish the thought of two of his servants sneaking in to the village. If they were caught, there was no telling how those ignorant villagers might react. What he truly wanted to do was go into the village himself, but his bulk did not allow him to move around stealthily enough to avoid notice. No, Lumiere and Cogsworth were Belle's only chance now.
"Very well," he growled. "But tell them to take the carriage to the outskirts, it will be faster that way. And take some gold to leave with the doctor."
"As you wish, master," Mrs. Potts said and left. The Beast sighed as he turned back to Belle, hoping those two bumbling servants would accomplish their task in time. Using the carriage he had sent Belle's father away in would speed their progress, but could Belle hang on long enough for them to return? Belle moaned again and the Beast's hope began to fade.