Disclaimer: I may not own it, but I'm pretty sure I'm the first with this idea.
Author's Note: So I haven't been into this fandom in forever. I'd forgotten how awesome it is. Anyway, this is a plot bunny from just after my first BatB story. It was getting pretty sickly from lack of attention, so I scribbled it down, and here you go! This story is not for diabetics - 99.9 fluff.
Maurice – with extreme care – set the metal-connector on the table and looked down. For a moment, he wondered what he was looking at, and then he remembered to take his goggles off. "Belle? What are you doing up?"
Belle considered the cuff of her nightgown before asking, "Can you read me a story?"
"Not now, my girl. It's late. Go to bed," was what Maurice knew he ought to say, but he couldn't force the words out. Anne had tried her best to teach him to be firm and loving with their daughter. He'd never figured out how she had managed it. He struggled for a bit. "You need to get some sleep," he said gently, if indecisively. It was the best he could do.
Belle's eyes widened imploringly and she stood on her toes. "Please, Papa?"
As if he was supposed to resist that. "All right, Belle. Go to bed; I'll be there in a few minutes." The girl smiled and padded off to the bedroom. Maurice shook his head; he was hopeless. He had almost gotten a good grip on the metal-connector when there was a knock at the door. Maurice wrinkled his nose at the clock. "At this hour?" He put down his tools and got the door.
Before him stood an old woman, hunched over so that she was even shorter than he was. A single, disconcertingly penetrating eye stared at him out of the twisted, wrinkled face. "Please, sir," she wheezed, "I have nowhere to stay for the night. Can you give me shelter?" A flower appeared in her hand. "All I have to offer for payment is this rose."
Maurice looked over his shoulder into the small cottage, scratching his head. "Certainly," he replied thoughtfully, "but I'm not sure where you'll stay."
The woman glided past him. "I'll manage."
He shut the door and turned to the kitchen area. "Would you like something to eat? I still have this soup…. Whoops. Never mind, that's the fuel for the thatching gadget; I really should label these. I'm sure there's something lying around somewhere…."
Suddenly, the room erupted with a bright light. When it faded, the old woman was gone, and a regal, glowing young woman floated in the middle of the room. Maurice stared, dumbfounded, with a pot in one hand and a spoon in the other. He quickly set both of them down.
"You have shown much kindness," the fairy – because, really, what else could she be? – began. "Though you have little, you were willing to share it with a stranger. I shall reward you. I will grant anything you ask."
He took a moment to process this, but when he had, he gasped. "Anything?" he repeated hopefully.
The fairy gazed at him piercingly for a moment, and then shook her head sadly. "I'm sorry. I cannot bring back those who have died."
Maurice swallowed hard. He had expected as much, but the fairy still had to give him a moment to collect himself. "What is it you wish?" she asked kindly.
Belle hadn't meant to fall asleep, so she wasn't expecting to wake up when her papa sat at the end of her bed. She blinked blearily at him. "I wasn't asleep," she claimed hastily at the same time he said, "I didn't mean to wake you up." She wiggled around until she was sitting upright. "Can you read me the story now?"
He chuckled and ruffled her hair. "You were fast asleep," he pointed out. She grimaced, but had no reply. "Go to sleep, Belle." With a sigh of deep distress, she flopped back down. He pulled the covers up to her chin. "I know we're not in the best place right now," he said, "but things will get better."
Belle yawned. "I like it here," she protested drowsily.
"But now we'll do better," he insisted, and kissed her forehead. "Good night, Belle."
"'Night, Papa," she murmured.
He blew out the candle and placed the rose on her chest of drawers. "Someday you're going to live like a princess, Belle. I promise."