They woke up the next morning stiff, unused to the feel of hard ground beneath them. Belle stretched widely, wincing at a small pain in her shoulder. Nothing better than a full day of walking to get stretched back out, she thought grimly. Adam sat on a tall boulder above them, absentmindedly picking the bark off a twig as he stared blankly in the direction of his castle. It was long out of range of his vision, but Belle thought he must have been hoping to see some sign of a change, something to either confirm or overturn his worst fears. Betsy and Lumiere began to set up camp for a small breakfast. A tin of biscuits was somehow produced from Betsy's small sack and Lumiere was sent off to find a few edible plants on Betsy's instruction.
Belle tried to clamber up onto the rock next to Adam, her foot slipping on the thick moss. She shrieked a little and began to fall backwards when a strong arm thrust down and caught her around her upper arm, Adam pulled her up, she grabbed hold of a small ledge in the rock and managed to pull herself up to standing next to him. She quietly sat down next to him and brushed the long strands of his hair behind his ear.
"These shoes aren't made for climbing, I guess," she said softly, looking down at the dirty brown flat slippers she wore. They had been fairly new, and she found that her feet were quite blistered from yesterdays long walk. She leaned over to rub her heel and took off the shoe to let her feet stretch.
He cast her a sideways smile and turned back to staring ahead. Belle felt a small bit of frustration bubble up in her.
"Are we going to talk about this?" she asked, looking at him with a fiery gaze.
Adam looked down and behind him at the camp, their companions were gone scavenging, a moment alone.
"What do you want to know, Belle?" he asked. His eyes cast her a sorrowful look, his shoulders were slumped at his sides and his hands continued to nervously play with the bark on his little twig. Belle felt her frustration subside, and carefully covered his hands with her own, bringing them away from the twig and into her lap.
"Last night you said you'd make them pay, who are they?" she asked, stroking the back of his hands softly.
Adam sighed heavily, his shoulders sagging even more as he mulled over what he wanted to say. He met her eyes, shyly, not sure how he would be able to tell her how much of a failure he was. He couldn't tell her how much he had done, how he had brought this on himself…
"My informants say that they do not have a name," he shrugged, "just people who had power while I was banished, and who aren't happy with my return."
Belle thought about this for a moment and then said, "that's an oversimplification."
"You're right, but…Belle…" anger flashed behind his eyes, red hot, "what do you want me to tell you?" he growled, "that this is all my fault? That the mistakes I made over 10 years ago haunt me to this day? You want me to sit here and tell you about my failures? I was a terrible ruler and I lost my kingdom. I lost the only thing that I had. It's all true!" He lobbed the stick as hard as he could and screamed. It was the kind of scream that rattled the branches of nearby trees. The kind of scream that one makes when they are completely and utterly hopeless, it leaves them breathless and weary. It wasn't frightening, and Belle didn't feel scared. She felt heartbroken.
He slumped down, hands on his knees and stared at the ground. He was surprised to feel small arms encircling him tightly, utterly flabbergasted that she hadn't immediately jumped down and gone running in the other direction.
"You- I shouldn't have gotten angry," he said, defeated.
"You've had a rough couple of days, I'm angry too, and so desperately sad," she added, turning him to face her and putting her hands on either side of his face. She brushed the hair out of his eyes and smiled warmly, "and you didn't lose everything. I'm here, I'm not going anywhere."
"You must not be very smart…" he said with a half grin, "I can't control myself…my kingdom, I'm as far away from a man as I was when I was a beast."
She put a hand over his heart, "no, you're not. People get angry, they have bad days, and they don't deserve to be loved any less for it."
He leaned his head against her forehead, "you're right. I'm nothing without you, you changed me completely."
She pulled away, "wrong again, people don't change unless they want to. There was a piece of you deep down that wanted to do better. I saw it. Your servants saw it. We were just waiting for you to see it," she smiled warmly, "you can do this."
He felt his face flush, "we can," his heart raced as he leaned in to embrace her, kissing her deeply.
Belle felt her heart race but pulled away when she heard a loud clatter below them followed by Lumiere shrieking.
"Shit, apologies Lumiere!" Betsy had dumped a plate of berries out on Lumiere's lap.
"Sacre bleu!" he complained, "no, it is I who should apologize, I was not watching where I was going," he hastily tucked the magic mirror back into his belt and began to help Betsy clean up.
"There's food down here when you're through," Betsy called to them.
"Okay," Belle said before catching Adams hand before he began to climb down, "I'm worried about Lumiere."
"I am too," he frowned, "I'll talk to him, although I'm probably the last person he wants to talk to. I'm the reason this happened to him, not to mention the fact that you're here and he can't be with her…"
"He chose this, Adam," she said softly, "you mean quite a bit to more people than just me."
"People regret their choices every day," he said solemnly.
She screwed up her mouth as if she was going to say something, and then decided against it.
"Adam, when we get to Belgium what will we do," she asked.
"Strategize. Every 5th night Cogsworth will try to find a space alone where he can update me on what's happening. We should know more then. Right now, we don't even know if the castle is still standing," he said.
"So your plan is to take back the kingdom," Belle mused, "but how will you convince your subjects that you've changed?"
"Our subjects," he corrected.
"We're not married, yours," she said hesitantly.
He shot her a sideways glance, "I was not going to talk with you about this now."
"Well that's just it. If you're still-well- if you aren't going anywhere," he toyed with the ring on her finger and looked up at her, "then I think we should get married in exile. You understand these people more than I do, they're small minded…backwards…" he saw Belle narrowing her eyes, and added, "but they trust their own. I abandoned them, and I understand why they're upset, but I need go with our original plan. Lumiere made a good point, I can prove I'm one of them by being with one of them."
Belle shook her head, "but you aren't. You're not one of them. You're the prince. You are a born leader, and you'd be great if given the chance. I would marry you in a gutter, in exile, where ever we find ourselves, I would marry you. I just don't think that this is enough. They knew we were engaged, that didn't stop this."
He looked slightly taken aback, as if he hadn't dreamed that her response would be anything other than positive, "well what would you have me do?" His voice raised, clearly exasperated.
"Adam I didn't say no, I just said I don't think this is enough," she said softly.
"I-I have no idea what to do Belle," he said rubbing his temples, "I wasn't expecting this, we were…you're right of course. It's just we were planning, and I wanted something to go right for once. I need to go think," he turned to jump down and Belle grabbed his hand.
"Adam," she said searching his face, "I really didn't say no. I want that too."
He smiled softly, bending to kiss her hand, "I don't deserve you, my Belle."
He jumped down easily, leaving Belle to her thoughts. She was startled slightly after some minutes had passed to hear Betsy down below, "Belle? Give me a hand up."
Belle reached down and helped Betsy climb up next to her, it was most impressive considering it was twice as tall as Betsy was herself. She scampered up easily and sat down next to Belle, squinting into the breeze.
"How is he," she said, barely more than a whisper.
Belle looked over at her, genuine concern lined her young face, her naturally skeptical brow line even more pronounced. She was a little relieved someone else had noticed, he was off. It wasn't good.
"He's not good, actually," she said quietly, "depressed, confused, completely doubting himself."
She wanted to say more, she wanted to say that it was as if someone had flipped a switch, the confident man that she knew completely replaced by a small boy, terribly annoyed that he didn't get his way, and not sure how to express it. She eyed Betsy who was nodding softly.
"I'm glad you see it too," she said, "what do you suggest? I've known him for longer, but I have a feeling you know him better."
"I'll tread softly until we get to safety," Belle said with confidence, "who knows what could happen until then. There's no point talking to him until he's not worried about getting us out of here alive. Maybe when he's had a chance to hear from Cogsworth?"
Betsy nodded again, "agreed."
Just as quickly as she climbed up, she jumped down and grabbed a biscuit from Lumiere on her way to gather up her things.
"Alright everyone!" she said, "Pack up, we've got to move out in-"
A twig snapped and her head snapped up, you could almost see her ears perking up like an animal. She held a finger to her lips and looked up at Belle.
Belle's eyes widened as she realized what was happening, she peered over the side of the rock but heard a rustling of leaves from behind her. She felt a hand on her back. She barely stifled a scream when she turned and saw Adam next to her, "get down," he mouthed, eyes blazing.
And he jumped down into the clearing.