A/N: Hey guys – sorry to change so much, but I think that some of your comments were quite valid, and that it wasn't really the time for Gaston to make such a move… and, apart from anything I thought it was a pretty lame piece of writing so, anyway, here's a chapter that's closer to the plot….thanks to an angel fire site for the Beauty and the Beast script for me to follow.
When Maurice stirred on the bed, Belle dropped the plate she was washing and ran to his side, breathlessly watching her father stir. She had found him in a bitter and hopeless condition: frostbite and chilblains rising in his limbs. She had feared the worst… but Philippe had travelled fast through the wood, so the journey was uneventful, and thankfully free of any hungry beasts.
Maurice coughed, spluttered, and opened his eyes, blearily looking up into his daughter's eyes, wide and caring… so full of love, he saw.
But there was something missing and something; he saw that had changed in her. She looked less like a girl and more like a woman – a face that spoke of independence and free will… but he saw hurt there too – a familiar hurt that he could remember but could not place.
'Belle?' he whispered.
Belle smiled wearily, 'Papa.'
She leaned into his chest and he hugged her tightly, stroking her hair. 'Belle! How did you find me? How did you escape?'
Belle felt tears prickle her eyes, but she let the tears come, let them slide down her face into her hands.
'Belle? What's wrong?' Maurice pleaded, lifting his daughter's hand away from her face.
'What did he do to you?'
Belle lifted her hand away, a gesture that was angry and confused and blinded by tears. 'Nothing!' she gasped, halfway between sobbing and shouting.
'Papa, I didn't escape! He let me go!'
'That horrible beast?' Maurice croaked, incredulous that this pronouncement stirred a sob from Belle.
'He not, Papa! He's different! He's…' Belle looked around the room, as if casting about for words to depict what differences could be made to the being that had terrorized both of them upon their first meeting.
She sighed. 'He's changed somehow.'
Maurice fought down a rising cough and then looked at his daughter. Really looked at her. He knew the face she was making. It was love – or something like it. She was missing the beats who had taken her prisoner. How was it possible?
And yet he knew that it must be. Belle would not fall for anyone, and he knew her heart was good, knew that somehow, the monster must be so much more.
He drew her in again. 'Tell me then.' He said, taking her hand.
'Belle, tell what happened.'
Belle gave a reluctant smile and wiped her tears away. 'I'll make tea first.' She said, squeezing her father's hand and getting up. As she walked past the dresser, her toe knocked the bag that lay next to it, and out of the canvas rolled a cup, the white porcelain distinctive by it's purple adornments – and by the disgruntled face that shone out of it.
'Chip!' Belle gasped, as the boy righted himself with a little hop and gazed up at her with wide eyes.
His eyes caught sight of Maurice and giggled. 'Moustache man.' He said, by way of recognition.
'Well, hello there little fella.' Maurice crooned.
'I think we have a stowaway.' Belle said, smiling uneasily, though her heart was racing.
It means I'll have to go back… I'll have to take Chip back!
'Belle, why did you leave? Don't you like us anymore?' Chip's eyes were sad and enquiring.
Belle smiled sadly. 'Oh, Chip, of course I do! It's just that-'
'Someone at the door?' Maurice wondered aloud.
Belle got up and crossed to the window.
A very thin man stood on the porch, looking pointedly at the door, as if expecting it to open for him. He was slightly hunched, and his sallow skin glowed eerily in the twilight, his eyes were heavy lidded and lined with grey, and his mouth was twisted in a cruel and bitter manner, a thin line of twisting malice.
Belle shied from the window, but only went to the door when he knocked again.
She lifted the stiff metal catch and let the door open a crack. The man's greedy eyes instantly flitted to her, and she felt suddenly overwhelmingly trapped, as if she were a moth and he a bat that had at last cornered his meal.
It was a feeling that she rebelled against, and it caused her to open the door wider, so that she could fill it's frame with her body, as menacing as she could manage.
'Can I help you?' she asked in a hard, business like tone.
'I have come to collect your father, Mademoiselle.' He had a cool, cutting voice, crisp with a cunning ease that made her wriggle with distaste.
'The villagers have grown tired with old man's tall tales… My dear its high time we found him somewhere much more… suitable. He stepped aside; Belle uttered an outraged gasp, as he revealed a wagon, blackened by time or paint, and crudely painted with the word "Asylum."
Belle felt anger bubble inside her as she saw most of the villagers had turned out to observe this spectacle – coming to laugh, to scorn. Come to see crazy old Maurice finally get what was coming to him.
'Go away!' Belle hissed. 'My father is not crazy!'
Belle heard LeFou's childish, mocking voice over the crowd and saw him, his round, chubby face wrought with mirth. 'He was raving like a lunatic!' he declared, and then turned to the gathered people. 'We all heard him, didn't we?'
There was yells of confirmation and a shiver of murmurs, but Belle barred the door.
'No! I won't let you!'
Belle was about to step outside and close the door behind her when Maurice bustled up behind her, calling, 'Belle, what's all this about?'
'Stay inside, Papa.' Belle said, gently pushing her father back
'Ah, Maurice,' LeFou sneered, spotting her father in the doorway.
'Tell us again, old man, just how big was the Beast?'
Maurice stumbled clumsily out the door, oblivious to the looks of mockery and derisiveness shown on every face.
'He was… enormous!' Maurice said, stumbling, willing them all to believe him. 'I'd say eight… no, more like ten feet!'
The laughter that met this pronouncement stung Belle like a slap, but before she could reach for her father, pull him back, save him from himself, LeFou cackled, 'You don't get much crazier than that, and stepped aside for two men who had previously been standing by the cart. They came foreword, ignoring Maurice protests – 'It's true I tell you!' and seized him by the arms.
'Let go of him! Belle shrieked indignantly, barely noticing as Gaston came to stand beside her… she hadn't known he was there.
She grabbed the thin man's arm. 'No!' she hissed. 'You can't do this! I won't let you!'
The man turned and observed her anger, there was a cold, bitter and wretched fury in his eyes, an unrelenting dislike for all who dared to contradict his word. The malevolence behind it caused Belle to loosen her grip on his sleeve and, at her release, he shrugged his arm free and marched up to the carriage, brandishing steel keys to lock up the crazy one.
'Poor Belle.' A soothing, deep voice crooned in her ear. Belle turned, and there was Gaston right behind her, one muscular arm holding her to him with a tenderness Belle had not conceived possible of him. 'It's a shame about your father.' He acknowledged, nodding sadly toward the carriage where Maurice was being frog marched.
Belle tugged desperately at Gaston's shirt, 'You know he's not crazy Gaston!'
She knew that even Gaston in all his arrogance and self-indulgence could not mistake her father's eccentricity for lunacy.
Gaston nodded, but avoided her eye as he said, 'I might be able to clear up this little… misunderstanding…if…' a tricky smile curled on his lips.
'If?' Belle said cautiously.
'If you marry me.' Gaston smiled down at her, with the same indulgence of someone offering a treat to a toddler. It was as if it were every girl's dream.
'Never!' Belle snapped, a derisive not to her voice. She was through with being polite, through being the object of his ego.
Gaston shrugged. 'Have it your way.' He turned, glancing over his shoulder, watching her face contort with helplessness, but then she was gone, hurrying into her house, trying to block out her father's protests and the jibes of the sneering crowd.
She emerged seconds later, her hands clutched something tight to her breast: a mirror, elaborately decorated – pearly white, and glittering by the light by the flares and torches the villagers held.
'My father's not crazy and I can prove it!' she cried, and this at least, bought her the attention of the observers. 'Proof?' from the lunatic's daughter?
'Show me the Beast,' she whispered into the mirror, and her breath condensated on it's surface, blurring her reflection: brown eyes determined… she winced as the light began to crack across the surface, as the white glare made her look away, but she turned the mirror to the crowd and held it aloft. There they saw him: great shaggy mane hanging somberly from his thick hide, teeth shining ivory, claws held over his face as he looked down from the balcony of the West Wing. They by-passed the pained look in his eyes – so undeniably human, so hurt… and then the Beast threw back his head and roared, and though sound came from the mirror, it shook in Belle's hand.
The villagers backed away, looking shocked, several even turned to run back to the village. One among the crowd, the baker's wife whispered. 'It's it dangerous?'
Belle recognised the fear in the woman's eyes, and shook her head imploringly. 'No! No! He wouldn't hurt anyone… I know… I know he looks dangerous, but he's very kind and gentle…' she paused, and then said very quietly, 'He's my friend.'
'Is that tenderness, Belle?' Gaston cried mockingly. 'A secret love you've found in my place. Do you harbour feelings for this monster?'
Belle's feeling of anger increased tenfold. 'He's no monster, Gaston!' She snarled, 'You are!'
Whatever her riposte to his snide insinuation, it was quite clear that Gaston had not expected to hear that. His face became suddenly contorted, his brow furrowed, and his eyes blazed as she stared defiantly into them.
'She's… she's as crazy as the old man!' he declared, rage in every note of his voice.
He grabbed her wrist, and, by mere reflex and repulsion at the contact of him, Belle slapped him with all the strength she could muster. He swung around, twisted her arm and wrenched the mirror from her grip, as belated shrieks of outrage spread through the onlookers.
He threw Belle down and held the mirror aloft, showing the villagers the face once again, 'This is the face of one kind and gentle?' he roared, to yells of affirmation from the crowd. 'This monster wouldn't hurt anyone?' he threw a look of disgust at Belle.
'The Beast will make off with our children!' Gaston shouted,
'Make off with our livestock, rip our throats in the night!'
'NO!' Belle cried, but no one would listen.
'We should gather what weapons we have!' LeFou yelled, leaping with the excitement of the collective anger. The villagers rumbled their agreement, yelling and shouting.
'I don't think we're safe 'til his head's mounted above the inn!' Gaston roared, and the villagers yelled in conferment.
A chant began, a low rumbling murmur, and then they shouted, letting it ring in the air with pronouncement, excitement cutting into every tongue: 'Kill the Beast! Kill the Beast! Kill the Beast!'
Belle ran forward, 'No! You can't! I won't…'
'If you're not with us you're against us!' LeFou snapped.
'He's right!' Gaston yelled, 'Bring the old man!'
Belle struggled against Gaston's vice-like grip, but his hands were unrelenting. Heading toward the cellar, he opened the doors and threw her in, Maurice after her.
'No!' Belle cried in protest, throwing herself upward, but the doors shut before she could reach them. 'Let us out!' She thrust herself against the doors, but they remained stubbornly closed – not that this deterred her – she struggled against the locks until Maurice pulled her into his arms and she sobbed with rage and frustration.
The Beast would die, and it was all her fault.