A Change In Me

Chapter 20

Beast's POV

The Beast woke as if being dragged to consciousness from a deep sleep, groggy and confused, and stood a bit unsteadily. He went to rub his face to push the drowsy feeling away, but stopped when he caught sight of his own paws. Except they weren't paws. . .they were hands. Human hands. He turned them over and back again, somehow not fully believing they were his own. But they responded to him as hands should and the Beast slowly realized that he was human again. But how?

Belle! He whirled around to see if she was still there, to convince himself this wasn't all just a dream. She was there, to his immense relief, looking extremely confused but very much real.

"Belle," he said, and put his hands to his chest in surprise. His voice was so much different now coming from human sized lungs. "It's me," he insisted and took her hands in his own, noticing how perfectly they slid together now, his paws—hands—no longer completely overwhelming her tiny hands.

He watched as her expression tilted into one of uncertainty and his heart started pounding, praying that she would believe him. He stood extremely still as Belle's hand cautiously came up to run through a lock of his hair. He had to let her see the Beast within this man he had become, and to do that he had to avoid frightening her away. As she looked up to finally meet his eyes, he watched as Belle's expression lightened as realization came to her.

"It is you!" Her words were music to him, almost unable to believe that she was able to see into his soul as easily as she had. But this was Belle; if anyone could overcome such odds, it was she.

He smiled as her hand moved to caress his cheek and raised his own to brush a stray lock of hair away from her face, the silkiness of her hair more pronounced on his skin than it had been with fur. He found he could not break her gaze, nor did he want to, her beautiful brown eyes were holding his own so strongly. Unsure what he was doing, but knowing it felt right, he leaned closer to Belle, his heart thudding so loudly in his chest he was afraid she might hear it. But Belle only closed her eyes and lifted her face to his.

Encouraged by this, the Beast leaned closer, closing his eyes but opening them briefly at the last minute to check his direction before their lips met. All his nervousness was forgotten as what felt like lightning tingled through him at the touch of Belle's lips on his. Swirling wind seemed to push them closer together, his arms pulled her more tightly to him and her hands obligingly wrapped around his neck.

When they broke apart, though he had no intention of straying far from Belle's side, he looked around to see that his castle had been returned to all its former glory. But if he was human again, and the castle had been set right, that only meant. . .

As if to answer his unasked question, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts came bounding out into the shimmering stars that fell from the clear morning sky, one by one all returning to their human form. His heart threatened to burst with his happiness; the enchantment was broken! He embraced his three loyal servants, his dear friends, and heard the distance cheers of other servants as they undoubtedly returned to their former selves as well.

Unable to contain his joy, feeling as though he would burst with it, he turned back to Belle and twirled her in the air, making her laugh that wonderfully beautiful laugh of hers. When he set her down, he immediately bent to kiss her again. She was his savior, his miracle, his love, and he could not bear to be parted from her again.

"You did it, Belle," he said softly as they broke apart, smiling at her. He stayed close to her, ready to kiss her again. "You've saved us."

"I—I have?" she asked, her voice confused but her expression one of joy.

"Yes, my love," he replied and his heart skipped a beat at his own daring to address Belle so. "Your courage and your love have broken the spell."

"I think you had better explain this to me. Starting from the beginning," she suggested.

"Very well," he chuckled and kissed her once again. "But first I'd like to check on my servants. I'm sure there's a bit of confusion now." To his surprise, Belle's eyes widened to shock as if she had just remembered something important.

"Papa!" she exclaimed. "I forgot all about my father!"

"He's here?" he asked, trying to remember if he saw the older man beside Belle when she arrived, though he supposed he had been a bit distracted at the time.

"Yes, and I'm sure he's very confused just now. May we go find him?"

"Lead the way," he said and beamed as Belle reached down to entwine her fingers in his to lead him back through the castle.

He could not help looking about them as they strode through castle; the West Wing had been returned to its whole and proper state, the gargoyles had transformed into the beautiful statues they once were, and all around him servants were discovering their regained humanity. He grinned at them, shaking their hands when it was offered, never remembering seeing such joy in their faces.

"Oh, Papa!" Belle cried as they came to the entrance hall and he directed his attention on a very confused looking man. He froze, allowing Belle to slip out of his hand to embrace her father, suddenly realizing what this interaction would mean. He had imprisoned this man, treated him cruelly, and tore him away from the only family he had. How could Belle's father ever forgive him for such a horrible thing? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, he moaned to himself.

"Papa, I want you to meet someone," Belle was saying and led her father to him. His heart pounded in fear now as the older man eyed him curiously. "This is—why, I don't even know your name!" Belle exclaimed and looked at him with a small, guilty smile. He searched his memory for an answer to this simple request, recalling with some difficulty that he had many names, as most royals did, but none that he could remember liking.

"Adam," he grunted amiably. "My name is Adam." It was as good a name as any of those that belonged to him, and he seemed to remember that was what his mother had called him.

"Adam," Belle said, seeming to taste the name as she spoke. He couldn't help but feel his heart leap as Belle called him by name for the first time. "Papa, this is Adam. Adam, this is my father, Maurice."

Without thinking, overcome by the knowledge of what he had done to this man, Adam sank to his knees before Belle's father and hung his head, his shame washing over him.

"Adam?" he heard Belle's voice call to him in confusion.

"I—I have to apologize to you, monsieur," he began haltingly, unprepared for this but knowing it had to be done. "I am. . .was. . . the Beast who locked you in my dungeon and took your daughter from you. There's nothing I can say that will make it right, except to try and convince you that I've changed. Belle has seen to that." He dared to glance up at Belle and was encouraged by her smile to keep speaking. "I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I swear I will try and make it up to both of you."

Silence hung in the air for a moment and Adam cringed, hoping this man would accept his apology.

"Well," Belle's father began. "I'm not sure what's going on here, but if you really are the Beast, Belle has already done her part in convincing me to give you a second chance." Adam glanced up, first at Belle and then to her father, not expecting this information. Belle had spoken to her father about him?

Maurice was smiling at him, the older man's face nearly level with his own though Adam was on his knees. "You have nothing to worry about, my boy." Adam sighed with relief at his words.

"Thank you, monsieur," he said gratefully and stood, glad he had made peace with him but somewhat surprised Maurice had agreed so quickly.

"Papa," Belle began but her voice cracked and Adam was surprised to see her eyes glistening with tears. She cleared her throat and spoke again. "How are you feeling, Papa?"

"Fit as a fiddle, my dear," he said, taking a deep breath as if to emphasize his point. "Like I said, I don't know what's going on here, but it seems to be agreeing with me." Belle giggled and Adam was provoked into a smile. He couldn't help the small wave of gratitude he felt towards the Enchantress for this; if she could heal his own wounds and return the humanity to an entire castle of servants, then it was only right that she could cure Maurice's illness as well.

"You should stay here," he suggested eagerly. Belle raised an eyebrow at him, and he tried to rephrase his statement. "Um, I would be glad if you would stay in the castle, monsieur. In a proper room. As long as you like." Adam tried not to glance at Belle again, but he couldn't help looking to her for approval.

"Aha," Maurice said slowly. "And I suppose this invitation would have nothing to do with wanting to keep my daughter here as well now, would it?" Adam started to stammer an apology and Belle began to try and explain, but Maurice only chuckled. "I would be happy to accept your invitation, even if it is for selfish reasons," he said and the humor in his voice was not lost on Adam.

"Lumiere," he called to the passing servant. Adam restrained a smile as Lumiere glanced from him to the pretty maid just a short ways away and realized he had interrupted something. "My friend, would you see that a room is prepared for Belle's father?"

"Of course, your highness," Lumiere said with a grin and a bow. "And, may I say, it is good to see you again, monsieur," he added and shook Maurice's hand.

"Have we met?" Maurice asked, bouncing slightly with Lumiere's enthusiastic handshake.

"But of course! I was the candelabra who first welcomed you here!"

"Oh! Well, hello again I suppose," Maurice said with some confusion and Adam grinned.

"I promise I will explain everything to both of you," he vowed, looking first to Maurice and then to Belle. "After you have settled in, of course. And after I have changed my clothes," he added with an embarrassed smile, remembering he was still in the tattered garments that he had worn as the Beast. Thankfully the Enchantress had also thought to adjust his clothes during his transformation enough to avoid complete embarrassment. He bowed to Maurice and smiled warmly at Belle before turning back to the West Wing, eager to shed the clothes that marked his past and to take stock of his new form.

"Beast!" Belle's voice called after him and caused him to turn and watched her approach him. "Adam," she corrected with a smile as she drew level with him. "Thank you for what you said to my father. I hadn't intended to make you feel you had to apologize, though."

"I'm glad I got the chance," he admitted. "It was one of the many things that bothered me during your stay here. I felt terrible about taking your freedom away, but to tear you away from your father. . ." he trailed off as he remembered Belle's desperate cries to her father as he dragged the old man away. Truly, it was amazing Maurice had even considered forgiving him.

"You've changed so much since then," she reminded him gently, her hand trailing along his jaw. "It's not who you are now."

"I love you, Belle," he sighed happily, enjoying the light that danced in her eyes at his words.

"I love you, too," she replied and stood on tiptoe to pull him into another kiss. He would never tire of such an embrace with Belle. Indeed, he could hardly stand to be apart from her.

"I'll be back soon," he promised as he regrettably broke away from her, but he was eager to remove his old clothes and resume his humanity. "Why don't you show your father around?"

"Oh, I can't wait to show him the library!" she cried, suddenly excited.

"Perhaps you can save that till last," Adam suggested. "I'll meet you in there and tell you everything."

"You will?"

"What better place to tell a story?" he reasoned and brushed a strand of her hair away from her face. She smiled up at him and nodded. "I'll see you soon then," he promised. With one last kiss, Adam left her to return to her father as he made his way back to the West Wing. He could still hardly believe that the spell had at last been broken, that a woman as wonderful and caring as Belle could have possibly learned to love him, and thankful that he had found the courage to love her in return, with all his heart.

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