A Change In Me

Chapter 29

Belle's POV

Belle was glad of her promise to help Louis in the small garden, since over the next two weeks she needed an escape from the chaos that had taken place inside the castle. Having a reason to spend time in Louis' calming presence allowed Belle to relax and keep her patience during more trying times of the day.

What came as a surprise was that Adam was nowhere near the center of the chaos. When Cogsworth had insisted Adam begin relearning all the duties of his station for the benefit of his uncle, Belle had anticipated that Adam would fight tooth and nail against it all. True, Adam was not the most patient of students, but Belle found that Cogsworth and Lumiere were more to blame for the uproar the castle was in.

Cogsworth had taken it upon himself to see that Adam was adequately prepared for his uncle's visit, reviewing endless laws and protocols while Lumiere set the servants on countless and seemingly (Belle decided) pointless tasks. Except that Cogsworth and Lumiere, as they so often did, decided that the other was not doing their task correctly and shouldered their way in.

This accomplished nothing except confuse the servants who were receiving several different countermanded orders and sent Adam several times into hiding. Though Adam had sought refuge in the West Wing countless times before, Belle thought that these recent instances were more than justified. She had sat in on one of the lessons Lumiere had infiltrated and within moments felt her own brain buzzing with confusion and frustration as Cogsworth and Lumiere quarreled. When it became clear that their attention had been drawn to the argument and not to the material Adam was trying to learn, Adam made his escape and Belle followed.

"It seems a bit difficult to learn anything from those two, doesn't it?" she commented as they walked down the hall towards the West Wing. Adam grunted in agreement.

"I don't see why I need to try to learn all this before Uncle Gustave gets here, though," he replied, his voice lowered into a grumble Belle recognized as a tone of frustration.

"It does seem a bit excessive," she agreed. "I suppose Cogsworth just wants to be well prepared just in case."

"Well it's no use. I can't learn anything like this. I never liked my lessons even with a real tutor, but this is ridiculous."

"What happened to your real tutor?"

"I—uh, drove him off about a year before the enchantment," he said and Belle noted his sheepish, guilty smile as he held the door of the West Wing open for her. It was unusual for them to spend time in the West Wing together; since the enchantment had been broken, Adam seemed happier exploring other rooms of the castle to live and work in. But the quiet of the West Wing was a welcome solace after the arguments between his two self-appointed tutors.

Belle had only been in the West Wing once or twice since the fateful night the enchantment broke, but it was still a shock for her to see it in such beautiful condition. The first impression she was given never fully left her mind, so it was always a surprise to see furniture in its whole and proper state. Belle sat in one of the new chairs by the small fireplace, trying to feel more at ease with sitting unaccompanied in Adam's rooms. But the West Wing had become such a warm, inviting place, and really was it all that different than sitting alone together in the library?

"Perhaps I could help. It would be just like when I read to you. It couldn't possibly be any worse than what you're going through now, anyway," Belle offered. If he had to learn all these silly rules anyway, perhaps she might learn a bit herself through teaching. She rather liked the thought of being able to sit beside Adam and help him manage his lands.

Adam chuckled. "That's true. I think I'd like that. You wouldn't lecture me like Cogsworth does, anyway."

"I'd try not to, anyway. We'll have to see what kind of student you are," she teased. "I'll go get the books we need if you get us something to eat."

"This is already much better than Cogsworth's lessons; he would always forget to break for meals. I'm starving."

"We'll meet back here in a few minutes. And don't forget to bring me something to eat, too."

Beast's POV

Belle was a much more patient and understanding teacher than Cogsworth, though she herself confessed she didn't know much about the material. That almost made it better though: they learned together. Such things as the succession of property were more complicated than Adam had imagined, but Belle was both patient and intelligent and Adam began to understand both the laws of it and the importance of learning it. This law in particular was, after all, a major issue between Adam and his uncle.

Despite Belle's helpful efforts in helping him prepare, when Adam stood before the closed doors several days later to await his uncle's arrival, his hands were shaking uncontrollably. Cogsworth had wanted Adam to receive his uncle in one of the sitting rooms, but Adam couldn't stand the idea of waiting longer than necessary and so waited instead in the entrance hall. If it wasn't for Belle standing by his side, Adam would probably have tried to run. What would his uncle say when he saw Adam? Would he accept Adam as his true nephew? And if he did, what then?

The main door began to open and Adam took hold of Belle's hand to give him strength. It was odd to find strength in such a slight figure as Belle, but find it there he did.

A tall man walked in, clean and regal looking. He glanced around the entrance hall for a moment at the servants who lined the walls before his eyes finally rested on Adam. Adam was surprised to realize how similar he was to this man before him; though this man's hair was black as pitch, he and Adam shared the same blue eyes and Adam could even see similarities in their noses. Adam took a step towards his uncle and bowed slightly as Cogsworth had instructed him to do. He straightened up, expecting to see his uncle return the bow, but instead the man grinned and threw his arms around Adam in a tight embrace.

"Adam!" his uncle exclaimed, pushing him at arm's length and looking him up and down. "My boy, you are alive!"

"Hello, uncle," he replied, feeling a smile grow on his face. From what Cogsworth had described, Adam expected to meet an aloof sort of man with stiff manners. But it was clear this was no such man.

"What have you been doing with yourself, boy? My God, you've grown well. You look so much like your father." The comment had been to please, Adam knew, but there was nothing Adam wanted to hear less. Apparently his distain showed on his face, for his uncle clasped him on the shoulder and looked at him sympathetically. "My brother never should have done that to you, my boy. But it's in the past now. Shall we go somewhere to talk? I have a feeling there's a lot to catch up on." Adam nodded and watched as his uncle waved away Cogsworth who was muttering something about refreshments.

"But first there's someone I want you to meet, uncle," Adam said, not forgetting Belle who waited quietly behind him. He held out a hand to her to draw her towards them. "This is Belle," he said simply, smiling at her.

"Mademoiselle, it is an honor," Uncle Gustave said, taking her hand and kissing it gently. Belle blushed prettily and began to curtsy, but Adam's uncle drew her up again. "One such as you should not bow to an old man like me, my lady," he said.

"What do you mean, monsieur?" Belle asked and Adam noted a hint of confusion in her voice. Adam was a bit confused himself; though it was certainly true Belle presented herself better than any royal, his uncle did seem to be acting a bit peculiar.

"Is there somewhere we can go and talk?" Adam's uncle suggested again. Suspecting there was more at hand than Gustave was saying, Adam wordlessly led him to the sitting room nearest the entrance hall, the same one where Adam had first encountered Maurice while he was still the Beast.

As soon as the door was closed, shutting out the curious faces of the servants, Gustave turned and embraced Adam a second time.

"Uncle?" Adam asked, feeling a real sorrow from the man's embrace this time.

"I'm so, so sorry, Adam. This should never have happened to you."

"What are you talking about?" Adam was growing more confused by the moment, indeed even a little apprehensive at his uncle's sudden change in attitude.

"Ten years ago, I had a vision of a beautiful woman in a green gown. She told me of an enchantment she had placed on my brother's son because of how he had become a boy with no love in his heart." Adam stared in disbelief at his uncle and Belle gasped, but neither interrupted him. "I didn't believe it at first, but this woman—this Enchantress—showed me images of what she had done to you. I saw your pain, my boy, and knew it was because of my fool brother. I knew I couldn't leave you as the Enchantress had made you, but neither could I help. All I could do was see that you were properly supplied. I handled the letters that came from this castle myself, seeing to it that you had plenty of food and other provisions."

"You knew?" Adam questioned in disbelief. "All that time, you knew what had happened?"

"I did," he confirmed and Adam sat heavily down into the nearest chair. His uncle knew all that time and said nothing? "I can't tell you how hard it was to stay away, my boy, or to stay so objective in the letters I sent anonymously with the supplies. I wanted to tell you everything would be all right, comfort you in some way, but to do so would torture you when I had no real hope to give you.

"When Cogsworth had sent the letter saying you were well, I knew the curse had finally been broken. I had been hoping for many weeks that would be the case after I saw in the letters hints of a woman's presence."

Adam watched as his uncle turned his attention to Belle. "You, my dear, must love this man very much to have performed such a great act."

"I do, monsieur," Belle said and Adam smiled at her, reaching out a hand to take Belle's as she stood beside him. She smiled in return and Adam's heart soared, but there was still something nagging at him.

"If you knew, uncle, then what does that mean for the land? The letter said you had taken over for my father after he died."

Gustave sighed heavily and shook his head. "I could tell no one what I knew, of course. I had to take my brother's place, but I knew. . .at least I hoped you would return to the world. I've come here to offer the role of Prince back to you, my boy, though it might be difficult to convince the others who you truly are. But we will, my boy. If you want it, we will find a way."

Adam didn't quite know how to respond; if the world thought him dead, perhaps this was his chance to remain hidden. At the same time, Adam knew he couldn't shirk his responsibilities. He had done that all his life, but now it was time to change.

"What does that mean for you, monsieur?" Belle asked. "What will you do if Adam takes over. I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't know much about this sort of thing."

"Nothing to be sorry about. Frightfully complicated stuff, this is. Even I don't understand it half the time." Adam suppressed a groan at the idea of trying to cram even more complicated rules and laws into his already swimming head.

"The previous king, my father, had nine sons and daughters: six boys and three girls. The youngest four boys, which included me and Adam's father, never had a chance of becoming king, so we were given large properties of land to manage as our own, under the king's laws of course. My land and your father's, Adam, have a common boarder. My sisters were married off when they came of age and my oldest brother, of course, became king when our father died."

"So it was Adam's grandfather who had been king," Belle repeated.

"Yes. When Adam's father died, my oldest brother, who is now king, made me responsible for taking ownership of his lands since there were no other heirs to do so. Or so we thought. As your father's only son, you should have inherited the land after him. You are a Prince, Adam, and entitled to this land and recognition from the King. Now we must find a way to restore your title to you."

"But, what will happen to you?" Adam repeated Belle's earlier question, his head starting to spin from the confusing maze of inheritance. "If I gain back the title, what will you do?"

"It would be a great upheaval to separate my lands from yours, and I have no sons of my own to inherit when I die; I shall be more than happy to keep our lands as one and remain with you as your legal advisor, my boy," Gustave announced with a bow. "I am sure you would need such assistance after your long seclusion." Adam sighed with relief, the weight of learning and understanding the laws of the land would not be entirely lifted, but at least Adam would have someone to help him sort them out. Cogsworth had tried his best, but it was clear he was not as well versed on them as he thought he was. Beside, the poor man was under too much stress already trying to run the household, let alone an entire principality.

"I'd be glad of the help, uncle. Thank you," he said as graciously as he could. He was amazed at his luck that his uncle should be so different from his greedy, selfish father; this man truly seemed to want to help Adam.

"It's the least I can do after being so helpless for ten years. I shall return to the castle and sort it out, but first I'd like to spend some time hearing your story and getting to know this charming lady of yours. Has he had the good sense to marry you yet, my dear?" Gustave addressed his question to Belle and Adam's heart leapt into his throat. No, he hadn't had the good sense, nor the courage, to ask such an important question. Belle blushed scarlet and began to stammer a response, but Adam managed to think of something to say to come to Belle's aid.

"I haven't yet, uncle," he began, feeling his own face grow hot. "I've been—been planning something," he said evasively, trying for all his worth to avoid Belle's eyes.

"Ah, I see. Well I won't ruin the surprise, of course, but you shouldn't take too long, you know. There are plenty of young men at court who would love to have a brave girl such as Belle on their arm. Now, might I be so bold as to ask when the next meal might be? Traveling works up such a terrible hunger, you know."

"Of course, uncle. Um, this way." He stood and motioned his uncle out of the door. Before he could follow, though, Belle caught hold of his arm and stood on her toes to whisper into his ear."Don't think about it, Adam. I love you. I am yours and you are mine; I will wait as long as you need." Adam wanted to say something in reply, but his uncle was waiting for them at the door, looking at them expectantly. So Adam only offered Belle his arm and led both her and his uncle to the dining room to eat.

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