Disclaimer: Disney owns all the characters, I'm just borrowing them.
It was obvious. It was so obvious that she momentarily thought Gaston had been right, she was mad to have missed it. Not that he was human. That was too odd, even in an enchanted castle.
She excused herself from the balcony as he resumed greeting his newly-restored friends. Her father had already become engaged in an animated discussion on life as a clock with Cogsworth and she was certain he would be safe.
Her feet knew the way even if everything looked different. The once frightening paintings that had seemed to follow her with their eyes were now smiling down at her, their gazes fixed. Statues that she had come to know as misshapen demons were now marble men and women, radiant in their perfection. If the castle's other living objects had been transformed into humans she did not meet them and was thankful. Her first instinct had been to go to the library. That was where she had always felt safest here and she desperately wanted that feeling to return, but she knew it would only be worse there so she hurried on to her room.
It was just as she had left it. Her golden dress was still laying on the bed where she had thrown it in her haste to leave. She picked up a forgotten slipper, remembering an old story about glass ones and wondering what had happened to that girl. As she sat on the edge of her bed and fingered the fine stitching of the ball gown she knew that it was only still there because of him. The servants were all too meticulous to have left it without an order.
She remembered that night -- had it only been a day ago? -- so clearly. Part of her wondered why she hadn't thought of it then, when he danced with her so wonderfully.
She had considered herself so intelligent, so much better than those "provincial" villagers, but really she was even more the fool. She had spent months in this castle and she had never seen the smallest, biggest clue of all. If she had only realized the absurdity of naming a creature "Beast" she could have figured this whole thing out sooner.
She looked up sharply, willing back her angry tears and hoping her initial feeling of fear didn't show on her face. Apparently it did since he winced.
"Sorry," he said, taking only one step beyond the doorway and leaving the door open behind him. "As strange as it is, this is going to take some getting used to for me too. I haven't been a man for a very long time … ever, really," he added, but it wasn't sheepish or wry, just a statement of fact that she couldn't help but respect him for.
"No," she said quickly, standing, "I -- this is your home. If anything --"
She cut off as he took a small step forward, reaching up as if to touch her from that distance.
"But it is your home as well, or was. You should feel comfortable here." He stopped awkwardly, looking anywhere but at her.
Finally she burst out, "I'm sorry!"
"What? Whatever for?"
She began pacing and felt even more foolish for feeling like crying. "I should have known! I should have realized that there was something … I mean, I did. At first. When I first came I knew something had to be wrong, I knew things were not what they seemed, but then I grew complacent. I was so silly, spending all my time reading books and having balls and getting into snowball fights."
He reached out, grabbing her elbow. She refused to face him but he said anyway, "I like reading and snowball fights. Especially when you're the one reading to me and when you're the one I get in the fight with. And there was only one ball and it was the most wonderful night of my life."
She dared a glance at him from the corner of her eye. "Really?"
"Really. If you hadn't come back and the curse didn't require me to die at dawn today, I would have cherished the memory of our dance for all my days."
He slowly pulled her closer, until she could feel his breath on her cheek as he said, "And now I intend to dance with you all the days of my life. If you'll have me."
"Me have you?" she demanded, pulling back. "You should be the one having me! I spent months here and I never even realized that naming someone 'Beast' made absolutely no sense. I should have asked what your real name was but I never did."
He sighed and leaned against her dresser, his arms crossed. "Well, you were slightly traumatized. And I never asked your name, so we're even."
"We are not even! You heard my father use my name. I never heard anyone call you 'Beast.'" He opened his mouth to argue but she barreled on. "My father called you 'the beast,' which should in no way imply that your name is 'Beast.' That's like thinking my name is 'Reader' because everyone comments on how much I read."
"You do read quite a bit."
She looked at him, agape. "This is serious! I am a terrible person!"
He frowned at that and marched across the room, taking her by the shoulders and leaning his forehead against hers. "You are not a terrible person. Trust me. I know. I spent the first sixteen years of my life being terrible. Frankly," he added, pulling back but keeping his hold on her, "I don't know why the servants put up with me. Loyalty to my parents I suppose."
She sighed. "I should have known you had a name," she said weakly.
"Would you like to know it now?" he asked teasingly.
She nodded once.
"Then you will have to answer my question."
He leaned in and whispered in her ear, "Will you have me?"
She reached up and ran her hand carefully through his hair. "Promise you won't die again?"
"I will try my hardest not to."
She pursed her lips. "I suppose that will have to do."
"A yes or no will suffice," he said.
She smiled. "Yes."
He leaned in once more, this time to kiss her, but she put a hand to his chest, stopping him.
"I would like to know who I am agreeing to."
He gave her a quick peck on the cheek and hurried to the door. "It's written in the family anthology. In the library. I'll race you."
"You promised!" she cried, hurrying after him but smiling all the same.
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