The Beast's Beauty

Chapter 1: The Stranger

It was a dark and stormy night at the castle. Window shutters were slamming against the castle walls so violently, that every time you heard it, a pang of fright made the blood rush through your entire body.

Belle and her prince were snuggled up tightly in their king sized bed. The prince was used to this kind of storm, as he had slept through them every night since his transformation. However he could not sleep this night. For this was the first time in so many years that he was once again human and had a beautiful woman in bed with him. The storm seemed to be a reminder of what he once was and what he never used to have. He "was" a beast without "love". He lay there with his head against his pillow, staring at the painted ceiling in his bed next to Belle, thinking of the night that he was transformed and how it all started with a ... "Knock, knock, knock!"

The prince suddenly shot up out of bed breathing quickly. Was he imagining it? Was there someone at the door? He looked down at Belle, sleeping quietly, with a slight smile playing on her lips. He came out of his trance. He looked over at his grandfather clock, which was standing a few metres away against the wall at the end of his bed. 12.00am. Exactly midnight. He quietly got out of his bed, and removed the sheets slowly, so as not to disturb Belle.

Quietly he tiptoed down the cold hard stairs, moving into the shadows whenever possible. He was so used to hiding in the shadows that he had not yet gotten out of the habit. He swiftly moved into the darkness of the shadows near the doorway and peered outside the door through a crack.

All he could see was darkness. Then a flash of lightening appeared to have transported a handsome looking, soaking wet man upon his front doorstep. For one minute there was nothing then the light showed everything.

The prince went to tell the man to leave, but stopped as soon as his hand reached the doorknob. The night of his first transformation flashed before his eyes. Then "Knock, knock, knock!"

The man knocked once again.

The prince slowly opened the door, trying to make as little noise as possible. But he couldn't help that the door creaked on its hinges when it opened. He was afraid that he would wake Belle.

The prince's next action was, "Hello, how may I help you sir?"

The man just stared at the prince with beady-black eyes and said bluntly, "You may let me in from this cursed weather."

"Why of course," said the prince politely, and stepped back from the door a few steps so as to let the man in. The man stepped into the castle with one huge stride and looked around the castle without even thanking the prince. He stood there motionlessly with his back to the prince, letting the water drip from his soaked body.

"May I get you anything? A towel, tea..." the prince started off to break the awkward silence, but was then cut off by the stranger who interrupted by saying, "I am perfectly alright thankyou, I can look after myself. Just show me to your nearest fireplace so that I may dry off." His still had his back facing the prince.

"Certainly." Said the prince who looked away with a look of confusion on his face. He thought that this man was just a little too strange for his liking. He then wondered if he had done the right thing by letting him in. Just as the prince was about to show the man into the next room on their right, Belle appeared at the top of the stairs and was tying her night robe around her.

"Is everything alright, - oh dear," she said as soon as she saw the man. "You look awfully wet sir, come, warm yourself by the fire. Sweetie why didn't you offer our guest some tea or a towel to dry off? I'm sure that Mrs Potts wouldn't have minded to get up." She said in a rather concerned way as she led the man into the next room.

"Actually Belle I..." the prince was once again cut off by the stranger, who said to Belle in a polite manner, "Why thankyou mam, now that you mention it I would love a cup of tea."

The prince just looked at the man who in return stared right back. What was his game thought the prince; surely he must be in a state of shock or something other than his usual self. He couldn't possibly be turning against me intentionally.

The prince followed Belle and the man into the next room, but he waited at the door with his arms crossed and looked on. Belle had taken off her night robe and had given it to the man to dry himself with. The prince watched this and felt a feeling that he didn't think he'd ever felt before, but he knew what it was called, "Jealousy."

The prince spoke up at this and said calmly, "Belle honey, why don't you go back upstairs to bed and I'll fix our guest with his needs."

"No it's fine sweetie, you go back to bed, I'll be up in a little while." said Belle without looking at the prince.

"I'd prefer it if I was to stay here Belle, it doesn't seem right if I go to bed while your down here."

The man was watching this conversation with great interest, but had a look of distaste every time the prince spoke.

The prince noticed this and tried to ignore it, as he was afraid that he would lose his temper and then there would be consequences afterwards.

Belle finally said, "Okay, I'll go to bed." She walked over to the door of the room where the prince stood then spun around to say to the man, "If you need anything, don't be afraid to ask me."

The man smiled mischievously at Belle and made sure the prince saw and replied, "Oh don't you worry, I'm not a shy person."

Belle giggled a little and said, "Goodnight," she then looked over at the clock hanging above the fireplace and said, "Or should I say good morning?" (By now it was 12:20am).

The man replied with, "Call it whatever you will, for it seems that night and day belong to you and the sun will rise when you awake next and the moon will only shine when you become sleepy."

Belle giggled once again and said, "You are most certainly charming kind sir."

She smiled at the man one last time then turned to the prince, who looked like he would sooner knock the man out then have Belle listen to his poetic voice.

She yawned and with sleepy eyes said, "See you in the morning my love." And gave the prince a kiss on his flushed cheeks. Belle noticed his sudden change of colour. Concerned she asked, "My, your all red in the cheeks, are you getting a fever?"

She then put her hand to his forehead, to determine whether he was sick.

"No, I'm fine Belle, go to bed, the sooner you go, the sooner I'll be there with you." He said in a rather unusual angry tone, that Belle had not heard him use since she was held captive by him.

He then pulled her hand away forcefully, but did not do it intentionally.

She grabbed her wrist and looked at the fingerprints from where the prince had grabbed her. She looked up into his deep blue eyes; hers were watering because she was in pain.

The prince was about to apologize and went to take Belle's hand but she moved away and said, "I'm tired, I'll go to bed now." She quickly walked up the stairs, almost as if she was trying to get as far away from the prince as possible. He was about to run after her, but remembered that they had company.

"I am so sorry to have caused you trouble. If there is anything I can do..." started the man.

"No I'm sure we're both just tired. It will be a new day in the morning." Then the prince mumbled under his breath, "I can assure you, you've done enough already."

"Shall I show you to your room now?" asked the prince politely.

"Why that would be lovely." Replied the man.

The prince couldn't help but notice the stranger's sudden change of attitude towards him.

"Very well follow me." Said the prince firmly.

The prince grabbed a candlestick and led the way down a series of hallways. The man followed several feet behind. Whenever the prince glanced back at the man, he saw the man seeming to pay very close attention to his surroundings. It was almost as if the man was busily storing away his own personal map of the castle, so as to find his way around himself.

The prince was in fact purposely leading the man to an entirely different part of the castle, as far away from his and Belle's room as possible, without being to obvious. He had after all only met the man that night, and his sudden change of attitude towards him made him become more cautious of the stranger.

He stopped however when the man started to look suspicious.

"Ah here we are." Said the prince bluntly.

The man looked at the prince for a minute. Then said, "I appreciate what you're doing for me kind sir."

The prince thinking that it was all an act replied politely, "Your welcome, goodnight to you sir, pleasant dreams."

The man replied slyly, "I'm sure they'll never be as pleasant as yours."

The prince who was already walking away stopped in his tracks, turned on his heel and started walking back towards the door to ask what he meant by that last remark. But it was too late; the man had already shut the door. The prince thought about knocking and waiting until he got an answer out of him. But he thought he would look too suspicious and he didn't want to cause another disturbance.

So he turned on his heel once again and walked into the shadows all the way through the many hallways he had taken the man through. Once he had finally reached his and Belle's room, he noticed that Belle was asleep. So he quietly got back into bed. Once under the sheets he looked over at Belle's face (as she had her back facing him). Her pillow was partially wet where her eyes were resting. They seemed to be her tears. He felt guilt shoot through his entire body and then it all came together and rested on his heart. It was too much for him to bear. Jealousy and guilt both in the same night. Feelings he never remembered feeling came to him all at once. He quietly put his head to his pillow and rolled over, so that his back was facing Belle's.

Belle, who was in fact still awake, peered over her shoulder at her prince and she thought how strange he had acted. She then screamed as she heard a crack of thunder, which startled her from her thoughts. The prince shot up from his pillow and held Belle who said, "I'm fine, I was just startled, that's all."

"Belle I'm sorry about tonight, I didn't mean to hurt you, I..."

"It's okay I'm fine I just hope I didn't wake anyone."

All of a sudden Lumiere, followed by Cogsworth appeared at the door.

"Mademoiselle, are you alright?" asked Lumiere.

"Of course she's alright, the master is here, why shouldn't she be?" Cogsworth then looks at Belle and says, "Are you?"

"I'm fine, I was just startled that's all."

"See I told you, nothing to worry about." Said Cogsworth taking charge of the whole situation.

"Oh admit it, you were just as worried as I Cogsworth." Lumiere teased.

Cogsworth looks at the ground bashfully, "Well yes, I was a little."

"Lumiere, Cogsworth, it's 12:45am. Could you...?" started the prince.

"Why yes of course, come now Lumiere, leave them in peace." Ordered Cogsworth.

Mrs Potts appears at the bedroom door, "Anyone for tea?"

Cogsworth who is annoyed says, "Mrs Potts, they are both very tired, I'm sure the last thing they need is caffeine."

"Of course dears, goodnight, sleep well." Whispered Mrs Potts.

"Goodnight everyone." Both Belle and the prince said at the same time.

They laughed a little.

"Whatever would we do without those three?" asked Belle.

"Probably live a humourless life." Replied the prince.

"Perhaps." Yawned Belle.

"Goodnight." She said sleepily.

"Goodnight Belle. I love you." He whispered in her ear.

"I love you too..." Belle murmured sleepily.

They both then dozed off into a world of dreams, where anything was possible. No nightmare could come to the prince, for he had lived one most of his life. His only nightmare that he feared he would one day have, was that Belle would no longer be part of his life. That is and would always be his one everlasting fear.