A Change In Me

Chapter 23

Belle's POV

Belle sat stunned on the sofa, unable to believe what Adam had just told her. He wanted to murder a man for selling books? She took a mental step backwards and tried to examine the other information he had provided. His father had abandoned him after the rest of his family had died. Belle tried to imagine it was out of grief of the loss of his wife and daughter, but there was no excuse for deserting his only remaining child. Adam was a child left alone, yes with servants and anything he could ask for, but without his father's love, a father who could not be bothered to send his only son a present. It must have been horrible for Adam to know that his own father did not love him. Such a thing would anger any child. Fortunately nothing had come of the deadly order the heartbroken boy had given in a moment of anger.

In her overwhelmed mind, Belle realized with a start that Adam was no longer sitting beside her and panic began to set in. He must have taken her silence badly and left.

"Adam?" she called, turning to look for him, but he was nowhere to be found. The library door stood open, so Belle sped towards the hallway, clutching her dressing gown as she ran. She had to find Adam before he convinced himself that she was angry with him and lock himself away, as he so often did when he was a Beast. It was surprisingly terrible information he had given her just a few moments ago, but he had to realize that she loved him for who he was now. "Adam, where are you?" she called as she hurried down the halls towards the West Wing. She was certain that's where he would end up and she could only hope he would let her in.

She didn't get very far, however. She rounded a corner and was forced into stopping as she ran right into her father.

"Omph!" she cried on impact. "Oh, Papa! Good morning," she greeted him warmly, glad to see him looking so well in a handsome new suit and tried not to look down the hall in hopes to see Adam.

"Belle, I was just looking for you. I got a bit lost, though. Any idea where we are?" Belle nodded in sympathy, having gotten lost quite a few times herself in the first days of her stay in the castle.

"We're just near the library. Have you eaten yet?"

"No, that's why I was looking for you. I wanted—Belle, you're still in your nightgown. What are you doing?"

"Oh, I fell asleep in the library," she explained hastily, unsure whether she should mention the rather disturbing conversation she and Adam had. "I was just on my way back to my room to change. If you wait a few minutes I'll walk to breakfast with you." She decided that what Adam told her was to remain between the two of them. But in order to do that now, she had to stop her search for Adam and could only hope that he would be there at breakfast, though she rather doubted it. Quickly, Belle walked with her father back to her room, eager to find Adam and apologize for her poorly timed silence.

"I'll just be a minute," she assured him as she ducked inside her room to change. Inside, she was relieved to see both Madame Armoire and Mrs. Potts chatting lightly as they set Belle's vanity in order. She couldn't think of anyone else she needed to talk to more just then; if anyone could give her advice about how to mend things with Adam, these two could.

"Good morning," she greeted them both, causing the women to turn and smile warmly at her. Belle sighed happily, certain that between the three of them they could figure out something for Belle to say to Adam.

"Where on earth have you been?" Madame Armoire exclaimed and started tutting at the state of Belle's hair.

"I fell asleep in the library," she replied and ducked away from her hands. "I actually wanted to talk to you both about something."

"You're going to catch your death in that drafty library," Madame Armoire scolded. "But let's get you set to rights while you tell us what's troubling you," she suggested and took the brush Mrs. Potts held out to her. Belle sighed and sat in a chair, allowing Madame Armoire to fuss over her.

Belle tried to relax as Madame Armoire began to brush her hair for her. It was a bit uncomfortable having someone physically tend to her, but Madame Armoire seemed to be enjoying the use of her hands again, so Belle left the matter alone for the time being. She caught Mrs. Potts' eye through the mirror's reflection and the older woman smiled in understanding at Belle's less than delighted expression.

As Madame Armoire combed Belle's hair, Belle related all that had happened in the library that morning. Mrs. Potts listened quietly and, with some prodding by Mrs. Potts, Madame Armoire remained silent as well, allowing Belle to tell her story completely. "I was going after him to explain and apologize, but I ran into Papa and I wasn't sure if I should tell him or not," she finished as she tied the ribbon around her hair, completing her outfit.

"That was very brave of him to tell you those things," Mrs. Potts said gently as she brushed a wrinkle out of Belle's sleeve.

"After all, it certainly wasn't his proudest moment," Madame Armoire added. "I'm sure once you see him and explain it will be all right again."

"If he ever wants to see me again," she muttered. "I was just so stunned; he's so gentle now, I could hardly imagine him wanting to kill someone over a gift. I wish I could've explained myself before he left. I'm sure he's taking it very badly." Belle looked down at the rug and saw Adam's fearful face as he told his story. He trusted her to be there for him, and she failed.

"Let's see if he's at breakfast," Mrs. Potts said, patting her shoulder reassuringly. "Perhaps he's learned from all you've done for him and realized himself that running away and hiding is a poor option." Belle nodded, though she sincerely doubted it. It was too horrible a tale and too poor a reaction on her part for him to have done anything else. As they went into the hall, however, Belle was proven wrong. Adam was waiting just outside her door, chatting with her father.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, unprepared to see Adam there. He seemed embarrassed, as if he wasn't sure if he should have been there, either.

"At last!" Maurice exclaimed when he noticed Belle had joined them. "Let's go to breakfast, I'm starved!" Belle didn't move, wanting to talk to Adam but knowing she shouldn't in front of her father, not with this. She glanced between Adam and her father and tried to think of something to say, but fortunately Mrs. Potts stepped forward.

"Perhaps I could take you," Mrs. Potts offered sweetly. "I believe the Master and Belle have some things to discuss."

"Oh, I. . ." Maurice glanced from Belle to Adam until his eyes rested on Mrs. Potts with a rather dazzling smile. "Very well," he agreed finally and held out his arm for her. As Mrs. Potts took it, Belle could have sworn she blushed. Curious about this new development, Belle watched her father and Mrs. Potts walk away for a moment.

"You, uh. . .you wanted to talk to me?" Adam asked, bringing her attention immediately back to him.

"Yes, oh yes I did! I was so afraid you weren't going to want to see me, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to explain myself," she said hastily.

"I was coming to apologize to you," he explained. Belle could see he looked miserable, as if he had come against his better judgment, but she was astounded that he had come at all. "I know you must hate me for what I've done, but it was rude of me to walk out on you." He looked at the floor as he spoke, apparently trying to avoid her eyes.

"Hate you?" she repeated in horror. So that's what he thought of her silence? "Adam, I could never hate you! I've made such a mess of things again. I'm so sorry!" She took a breath to collect her thoughts, intent on setting things right between them.

"What you wanted to do to the bookseller was wrong," she started and her heart wrenched as he flinched at her words, but she continued quickly. "But you know that. What your father did to you was also wrong, terribly wrong; no one should abandon their child like he did.

"I also don't agree with what the Enchantress did to you, but I'm glad of the man you grew to be as a result. You've changed, Adam. I love this man you've become. I can see you regret what you did as a child, and that alone is evidence of the kind, gentle man you are. Now that you've learned to be kind, you must learn to forgive yourself and live this new life you've started."

Adam finally lifted his eyes to hers and she smiled reassuringly, astonished that her words actually had the power to comfort him. "You are good," she continued and gently took hold of his hand. "You have to believe that."

"Do you believe it?" he asked as his fingers closed around hers, all his self-doubt reflected in that single sentence.

"With all my heart." It was still strange for her to look into his eyes and see them surrounded by flesh instead of fur, but this was still her Beast, her Adam, and she loved him.

"So you'll stay?" he asked, his voice almost a whisper as if he was afraid to ask.

"Of course. I've told you once before, and it's still true now: you're my home. So long as you want me, I'll stay here beside you, no matter what." Adam let go of her hand only to wrap his arms around her, pulling her close and enveloping her in his warmth. Belle returned the embrace eagerly, enjoying the feeling of safety and love encompassed in his arms. It was a familiar comfort, even if the arms that held her were no longer covered in fur. They stood like that in silence for a moment and Belle listened to the gentle beat of his heart.

"I will always want you here with me," Adam said, keeping her in his arms as he spoke. "I'm sorry I walked away from you, but I was certain you hated me for what I'd done. I was afraid you couldn't look passed it."

"I admit I was startled by it," she conceded, squeezing her arms a bit tighter to keep him in place. "But I'm glad you told me. You can tell me anything, you know." He needed to be able to open up to her, and she was glad that he was trying. She had to be better at listening and responding, that's all.

"We should join your father at breakfast," Adam said, finally breaking their embrace to look at her. Belle nodded, returning his gaze.

"I think Mrs. Potts might need rescuing from Papa," she added with a grin. "I haven't seen him smile like that since my mother was alive." Adam chuckled and offered her his arm.

"Let's go," he said with a smile. "Though your father could do worse." Belle giggled and nodded, nearly giddy with combined joy of the idea of her father falling in love again and having Adam's forgiveness.

Sure enough, when Adam and Belle entered the small dining room, Maurice was chatting to Mrs. Potts who was pouring him a cup of tea. Belle and Adam exchanged meaningful glances and joined Belle's father at the table.

"Hello, Papa," Belle said with a smile as she sat. "Mrs. Potts, thank you for showing my father here. Would you like to join us?" She motioned to the empty chair beside her father and barely suppressed a grin when both she and her father blushed.

"Oh, no thank you dear," Mrs. Potts recovered herself. "I've got chores to get along with." And without another word, Mrs. Potts made a hasty exit.

"I'm glad you two have decided to join me after all," Maurice said quickly. "I thought maybe you forgot about me."

"I just needed to speak to Belle about something, monsieur," Adam explained. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting." He was so polite when speaking to her father, Belle realized. Perhaps he was still trying to win his favor.

"Have you gone to see your new workshop yet, Papa?" she asked as she served him several sausages. The happy side effect of the castle's enchantment on him seemed to have cured him, but she was going to make certain he kept his strength up.

"No, not yet. I was hoping to take a look after breakfast actually. I've just got to get my bearings. This place is massive, you know." Belle laughed and agreed.

"It took me awhile, too. Maybe Adam can show us both after breakfast?" She looked to Adam who nodded quickly in agreement.

"I don't really know what you might need to work with, monsieur. If there's anything you require, just ask and I'll make sure you get it."

"Thank you, your highness," Belle's father said gratefully with a nod. "And you can just call me Maurice." She saw Adam's face drop into an expression of surprise and watched him glance at her. She lifted her eyebrows and gave an almost unperceivable nod to indicate that Adam should return the sentiment.

"And you can just call me Adam," he said and Belle smiled down at her plate. Adam still needed her approval and, while she wished he felt comfortable enough to figure such things out himself, it was rather endearing that he looked to her for help.

Maurice's new workshop was massive, the stone walls reaching two stories high and wider than their entire cottage had been. Tools and supplies lines the walls and covered worktables; anything her father could possibly think about using seemed to be there.

"Oh, Papa," she breathed and put her hands on her father's shoulders as she stood behind him. "Papa, this is wonderful!" Maurice himself seemed speechless, staring at his surroundings with an open mouth.

"Where did you get all of this?" she asked Adam as her father began to wander the room, every so often picking up a tool to examine it.

"Well the room wasn't being used and many of the tools we already had. I sent some of the servants to some surrounding towns for the rest and I asked them to hurry," he said with a shrug.

"You've made him so happy," she said and took hold of his arm as she watched her father explore the room. "Thank you." Belle reached up to kiss his cheek and Adam smiled.

"I want him to feel welcome here. Especially after everything I've done to him."

"You know he's forgiven you," she reminded him but before she could say anything else, her father rejoined them with a wide grin.

"Thank you, Adam," he exclaimed and shook Adam's hand vigorously. "This is perfect! Now if only I had my machine here I could get to work."

"I can have someone get it for you," Adam offered. "It can be here tomorrow if you want." Maurice looked surprised, but quickly agreed.

"I should go and make sure they do it right, though," he insisted and Belle grinned. Her father would never let anyone touch his inventions without his permission.

"I'll arrange it," Adam promised. "There are sketchbooks on that table for now." He motioned to a table by the one large window, allowing plenty of light into the room. Belle also noticed several lanterns that would allow her father to work into the night as he often did.

"We'll leave you to your work, Papa," she offered. "Do you remember how to get back to your room from here?"

"Yes, yes," he said distractedly as he sharpened a piece of charcoal to start sketching.

"Come on," she whispered and led Adam back out into the hall. "I'll check on him later and make sure he does remember where he is."

"He'll be all right by himself?" Adam asked, glancing back towards the workroom door.

"Of course. He's only sketching now, anyway. It's when he starts building that you'd need to worry. I try not to, but I know that eventually he'll get caught by one of his explosions."

"Explosions?"

"Only small ones," she insisted. "That's why the room needed to be sturdy and have good ventilation. He'll be fine." Adam glanced once more towards the door but only nodded. "Would you like to go read in the library?" she suggested. "I believe you were reading me Romeo and Juliet."

"That seems so long ago now," he grunted as they walked towards the library. "So much has happened since then."

"I know what you mean. But it's still just you and me, like it's always been." This seemed to drive away the remaining sorrow from Adam's eyes and Belle was confident the event from early that morning was behind them.

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