A/N:…I don't even have an excuse for this. Except I might actually ship it. Literally. I know it's a crossover couple, but…you know what? Just read it and make your own opinions about it. It's strange, but maybe some crossover fans will like it.
I don't really know what century Belle was supposed to be from originally- I assumed about the 17th century – but for this story I bumped her back to the 15th. So pretend the whole Beauty and the Beast story takes place around this era as well.
I did my research on Middle Age books, but I'm no expert, so if there are a few historical inaccuracies in there, I apologize. The fact that Belle would be reading an epic poem is already kind've a historical inaccuracy, but please just go along with it.
This beginning part takes place about three years before their respective movies take place. Belle is about 16, Quasimodo about 17 (Quasimodo is 20 in the film, and I always assumed Belle was a young adult when the film took place).
Please enjoy, and let me know what you think of this madness!
It was another ordinary day. At least it seemed that way to Belle. Another day of twists and turns through this never ending city, another day of gloomy skies and foreboding weather, another day of silent whispers and doubtful glances. This is what Belle expected every time she walked out of her house, whether it be in her small village or this big city. But she had hoped things would be different here. The ordinary was Belle's enemy – she wanted no routine, no usual, no norm. But sadly, some things simply never change.
It was supposed to be an adventure, moving to Paris. That's what her father had told her - that's what she told herself. Her father had recently finished his invention, and decided that moving to Paris would bring him the most opportunities to get his work recognized. Belle couldn't have been more excited when she was told. She immediately dug up as many books as could find on Paris, and re-read the stories she already knew so well about the city. With simply ink and paper authors everywhere had painted a picture of a city illuminated by stories of adventure, history, and romance. Until now Belle had been constrained to her dull little room, and could only imagine what Paris was like through the minds and words of others. Paris was as exotic and strange to Belle as Arabia – it seemed near impossible for Belle to ever step foot in such a wondrous place. This enchanted city was exactly what Belle was hoping for all these years: a chance for excitement, a chance for change from the routine of her dull little town and its boring inhabitants. Paris was her chance to get away.
Her first few days were spent exploring, in awe of the beautiful and magnificent buildings and statues that populated the enormous city. But what she loved more then the massive and striking palaces and that lured every commoner's eye were the little beauties that hid in the shadows. Belle loved finding hidden statues and faces engraved on the sides of the buildings; she was always looking up while everyone else was determined to keep their heads down. The city's secrets tugged her towards another street or hidden ally, temping her to find splendor in the shadows of the rich and grand. The city was her real life storybook, with its secrets yet to be told.
But one can only live with their head in the clouds for so long. Belle could spend hours with her nose stuck in a book, but no one can live within their fantasies forever. Belle could forget for a while, numb herself a bit from the pain, but she wasn't completely immune to the feeling of dozens of eyes piercing her from behind. People seemed to think Belle was oblivious to what others thought of her because she wouldn't turn her head every time she heard her name whispered by some old hag or gossiping townswoman. Belle had just gotten used to it. But familiarity didn't take away the hurt.
Belle had hoped being in a wide expansive city like Paris would make things different. She knew everyone in her small village; there wasn't anywhere she could escape to there. Belle hoped she would be less of a spectacle among its hundreds of inhabitants. Belle wanted to be able to get lost. What Belle didn't know was that being "different" in a city made you even more of a gossip's topic. Thankfully Belle was not born into the upper class, which would've guaranteed her demise – people simply care less about the lower classes. But people still scoffed as she passed their way with a book in hand, still rolled their eyes, still giggled spitefully to themselves about "that strange girl". Hopelessly, Belle just dug herself deeper into her fantasies – it was only there she could be accepted and safe from disdain.
Yes, Belle wanted adventure and excitement, was always searching for it, was always hoping for it. But a part of her, a part bigger then Belle could've imagined, still yearned for the one thing she had wanted since she was a child: a real friend. This dream seemed to her as wild as having one of her fairy tales come true. Like her near-impossible dreams of romance and adventure, Belle never gave up on that hope, but she made no effort for companionship with anyone in the city. Anyone she could approach would probably turn in the other direction anyway, Belle thought. Until she could find someone to stay, Belle continued to rely on her friends of ink and paper- the only ones she could ever trust.
It was a Sunday afternoon. The sky was a dark tint of blue, yet there wasn't a cloud in sight; a bit unusual for Paris. Belle was on another one of her walks through the city, but she had forgotten where she was, or where she was heading. She was in one of those lofty-minded states; she could see all that passed by her, she could feel the brisk wind on her face, and hear the clamors and shouts of Paris in the afternoon – yet at the same time, she wasn't truly registering any of these things. Belle had always had this strange talent: she could see the Seine flowing by her side, quickly avoid citizens rushing back and forth past her; yet all she could really see were the words flowing in front of her eyes. As par usual, Belle's focus was on that of a novel – quite an exciting one, and it had completely enraptured her senses in concentration. Even though she may have a disconnect from society because of it, Belle loved the feeling of getting lost in words.
Right when the book reached its climax and Belle's heart was palpitating in suspense, the tolling of a bell woke her from her fantastic daze. Belle was stunned motionless, before ripping her eyes from her book for the first time that afternoon. Her heart skipped a beat when she looked at the massive structure that stood nearby; it was the cathedral Notre Dame of Paris. Without realizing, Belle had crossed over into the Ile de la Cite, and was now in Notre Dame square.
For the first time since she'd been in this city, Belle was stunned. After the first solemn bell had sounded, a melody of chimes joined in soon after. The bells from the cathedral's tower continued to ring, one after the other, in a flawless flow of harmony. These were the songs the citizens of Paris heard every day, but to Belle those grand and powerful bells were magical. These bells were nothing like the one in the short tower of the church in her village. That bell had always sounded to hallow and lifeless to Belle; Notre Dame's bells seemed to literally sing out with exhilaration and joy…They were beautiful.
"They're only bells," murmured a man beside her.
Belle felt herself blush, realizing she must've said her last thought out loud. Of course, being amazed by bells seemed foolish. But then again, most anything Belle did or thought was considered foolish by everyone else in the world.
But after a moment, Belle didn't mind how foolish she seemed. She was still captivated by those glorious sounds, even though the bells had stopped ringing a few seconds ago. "Who rings those bells?" she asked the man beside her. The man had a ruddy complexion and wore the cloths of a simple peasant, but seemed a bit worn down for a man at such a seemingly young age.
The man shrugged. "Some say it's an angel, some say it's a demon. Others have sworn they have seen some sort of terrifying monster up in the towers."
"You mean no one has ever met the bell-ringer?" asked Belle, tilting her head up towards the twin towers of Notre Dame.
"Nope. Keeps to himself. Rumors love to fly about people who keep to themselves," the man replied listlessly, obviously not having a mind for fascination such as Belle's. "But if I were you, mademoiselle, I'd stick to my own business, and let him stick to his. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a mass to attend."
Belle watched as the man walked into the crowd of people filing into the cathedral for afternoon mass. She has not expected such a bizarre answer for such a simple question - and it had sparked her interest. Why had nobody seen the bell ringer before? Surly a man who created such beauty could not be so terrible, or so mysterious. Could she possibly…go and find out herself? She probably shouldn't – that man had warned her to mind her own business…but curiosity had always gotten the better of Belle in the past, and here it was tempting her again. Belle felt an invisible force pulling her towards the church, that familiar yet uncontrollable drive to solve the mystery and find the answer. After a few more seconds, Belle had decided. It seemed curiosity would win this battle as well. Besides, Belle tried to reason, this was the first interesting thing to pop up since she'd been in Paris. Who knew, maybe it was the adventure she was longing for.
Belle was among the last to enter the cathedral, and she heard the massive doors close behind her once she was inside. It was much colder in the church, and much darker – but much more beautiful. Belle had never seen a cathedral in her life, and her small church back in the countryside simply didn't compare. Notre Dame was simple yet exquisite, with beautiful statues aligning the walls and colors from the stain glass windows dancing in the dark corners.
Belle stood a moment, taking in the silent wonders of the cathedral in for the first time, then watched as men and woman of all sorts and classes lined into their respectful aisles and, for the more wealthy, boxes. Belle felt bit guilty – she felt like she should attend the mass too, though she had never attended an afternoon mass in her life. But Belle knew if she was going to sneak up into the tower, she had to get away before mass began. She crossed herself quickly, hoping God would forgive her for her uncontainable curiosity, then slipped away to the side of the church. There, she found a small wooden door, and opened it to find a spiral stone staircase. She hoped that it lead to the tower – though she had no idea what she'd actually do once she got there, now that she thought about it. Nevertheless, Belle started to make her way up the stairway as quickly and quietly as possible.
Once she has made her way up what felt like endless miles of stairs, Belle found herself in front of another wooden door. Belle began to doubt her decision. What if she was intruding on the man? What if he got angry? For a second, Belle thought of going back down and slipping into the masses as if nothing ever happened. But that ever-hungry parasite that feasted on the unknown urged her forward, and despite all logic, Belle opened the door.
All she could see at first were hundreds of wooden platforms and banisters. The sunlight peaked it way though their disjointed angles and contours, its rays now a warm shade of yellow. Belle made her way up a set of wooden stairs, onto a level that seemed like a sort of living quarters. Pans, pots and china sat on crudely-made shelves and occasionally hung from the walls; assorted biblical statues sat around the room, cleverly placed to hold up parts of the shelves; banners of different colored cloth draped the wooden banisters, and not far above her head Belle could spot the massive golden-colored bells
Belle stood captivated. Who could live in a place such as this? It was very unusual, but there was something charming about the place; not exactly magical, but in the glowing light the whole place seemed to belong to another place and time.
A table framed by the light seeping from the nearby balcony caught Belle's eye. When she came closer, she saw on it an assortment of small houses and people – a miniature of the city. A few of the houses were unfinished, and off to the side of the table a line of wooden dolls stood unpainted. Belle picked up a finished one, the figure barely the size of her palm. It was exquisitely made: no detail had been sparred in the creating of it, from the shade of its cheeks to the folds in its dress. Whoever made it had an extraordinary eye, hand and talent for craftsmanship. Belle wondered if the bell-ringer was a sort of carpenter as well.
While admiring the figure in her hand, Belle heard a loud crash from behind her. She gasped and spun around. A metal pan had fallen from the banister. Belle squinted her eyes, and she noticed that a figure hid in the dark behind it. She could barely make out its features, but she could see the faint glistening of its eyes, and some sort of lump that shaped what must've been its back. The figure must have knocked over the pan while walking in, possibly out of shock, before retreating to the shadows.
Noticing that the wooden figure was still in her hand, she quickly placed it back on the table, reddening. She realized how rude it was of her, searching and examining the home of a complete stranger! She had even dared to touch some of his models. Belle hoped its owner wouldn't be too upset.
"I'm so sorry for intruding," fumbled Belle bashfully, "I didn't mean to – I mean, I was just interested. They're very beautifully made." She gestured towards the small city and its inhabitants.
"Um…I-it's okay…I-I-I mean…thank you," the shadow replied timidly. Judging by how softly he spoke (though it was apparent it was a he; probably, she realized, the bell-ringer), he must've felt more awkward and flabbergasted then Belle did. Belle relaxed a bit, reassured yet puzzled by such a light voice coming from the man. For a man strong enough to ring those massive bells several times a day, she didn't expect him to sounds so gentle.
Belle waited for him to say something more, a bit flabbergasted herself, but the two just stood there in silence. Belle supposed she should excuse herself, but she felt like she would be leaving to soon. She didn't even know what the man hiding in the shadows looked like – or why he was hiding in the first place. She didn't come all this way to just go back home with more questions then she had before. Gradually, Belle took a step forward, and was surprised to watch the man retreat further into the shadows.
"Forgive me if I'm being a bit strait forward but," started Belle slowly, "I would very much like to meet you. In the proper sense. The bells sounded so beautiful this afternoon I couldn't help but be a bit curious to find out who rang them."
The man simply stood in silence. Thinking he might have not exactly understood her, Belle asked, "Do you mind coming out of the shadows so I can see you?"
"I-I-I don't think that's a good idea," he whispered instantly, hiding himself behind the wooden barrier further.
Belle frowned. She didn't expect this kind of reaction. "Why not? I don't bite, I promise."
"N-no, it's not, that…it's just-"
"It's okay, really," Belle smiled gently to the man she couldn't even see. How well she knew the pain of being unable to make conversation with potentially cruel strangers. It was strange, being the person to reach out first. But Belle felt a sort of connection with this shadow, and told him honestly, "I would like to meet you."
He hesitated in silence. Belle began to worry that she had pushed him a bit too far. Maybe all he wanted was for Belle to leave and be left alone. But then she saw him take a small step towards her. He was merely a few steps away from the sunlight to begin with, but he moved slowly and cautiously. Belle waited patiently, and smiled encouragingly. She could see the tip of a foot, and then bit by bit the man made himself known – until his face was in plain sight under the sun's glaring light.
Belle gasped in unrestrained horror. But just one second later, Belle could feel her stomach drop and twist in pain. Not with dread -with guilt. She regretted that gasp as soon as she saw the look in that man's eyes. It was the look of a defenseless creature after it's shot, its eyes clouded with surprise and torture. It was the look of pain, brutally ripped of all its disguises and left naked in the wind. Not letting another second pass with his suffering in clear view, the man ran.
"No, please wait!" Belle cried in dismay, and ran after him. She stumbled through the wooden banisters and stairs, and Belle could only see his hunched back as he continued to flee. The man had somehow already climbed a level above her. Belle desperately reached out her hand, realizing she could go no further on this level, and cried out in hope that the man could still hear. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to, please forgive me, I…"
Belle's voice faded when she saw the man peeking down at her from above, his expression a mixture of confusion and shock. Belle's face burned miserably under his gaze. She knew that look too well – the look she earned for being strange and unusual. She had ruined any chance of redeeming herself in the eyes of the man she unintentionally scorned, and now he must've realized how foolish a girl had hurt him.
She waited for the man to scold or rebuke Belle with harsh unforgiving words, but instead the man whispered, "You're… sorry?"
Belle looked down at her feet. "I don't expect you to forgive me. What I did was hurtful, but I swear, I didn't know-"
"No, y-you misunderstand," quickly but quietly interrupted the man, who looked a bit shell-shocked. "I-I-I…no one…has ever said 'sorry' to me for being afraid of…of the way I look. Before." The man casted his eyes downward in shame. "It's my fault."
Belle raised her eyebrows quizzically, her humiliation fading under her concern and curiosity. "Why would it be your fault? It's not your fault you look the way you look."
The man looked in her eyes for a second, before turning his head back down and taking a step backward towards the darkness. "It's always been that way. I don't belong around people who…people like you. I was made to be alone, and it's my own fault if I…plague you with my ugliness."
In any other circumstance Belle would've thought he was joking, but his words were spoken solemnly and in all seriousness. She was shocked that the man actually believed such obscure and condescending ideas about himself.
Belle raised her chin, the fire that every so often sparks at the sight of injustice or abuse consuming her. "God did not 'make' anyone to live alone, and it is not your sin if you 'plague' us with your looks. Rather it is the fault of others for judging another human who is no worse than they are by something as uncontrollable as how they look. We are the guilty ones; I am, not you. What I did was rude and cruel in the face of your situation. Do not apologize for it," Belle said firmly, unwaveringly.
Anyone who passed Belle on the street earlier that morning would have raised their eyebrows in shock at Belle's fierce words. People tended to see her as a quiet mouse of a girl, but Belle had a mighty voice within her when it was set free from the chains of insecurity and doubt. These moments were rare, but very possible.
The man was struck quiet by her words. He didn't know how to respond to them. He had probably never stood up for himself before in his life. A few moments passed in silence between the two. Then he took a step toward into the light, and gave Belle a hint of a smile. "Thank you," he said softly.
Belle smiled in return, and held out her hand. "Can you come down please? I promise I won't react…act as rudely as I did before."
The man climbed down the nearby banister with a grace and agility Belle hadn't seen in the likes of any man before. As he slowly made his way towards Belle on ground, she noticed that he had an unfortunate limp. He seemed to be more comfortable climbing then walking.
Seeing the man in full light a second time, he didn't seem as nearly as frightening. True, his features were twisted and poorly-made, but his soft voice and bright eyes hardly made the man horrific. He approached Belle so shyly and nervously, she couldn't help but think of him more of a boy then a man.
He didn't take her hand, but instead stood a good foot away from her, his brows furrowed with silent worry. For a second, Belle wondered if she should leave, but she didn't think she could if she wanted to. Something rooted Belle to that spot, something unwilling to let go until her purpose for coming here was revealed. She didn't want to leave the man – for what reason she didn't really know. It went beyond her original curiosity and crossed over into the realm of compassion.
"What's your name?" Belle asked him, soft kindness melting into her voice.
"Quasimodo," he replied shyly.
"Quasimodo…" Belle tasted the letters on her lips. She grinned. She liked the way it sounded. "It's not a French name, is it?"
"No, it's Latin."
"You know Latin?" Belle asked, surprised. Very few unwealthy Parisians were educated to write and read in French, and even a smaller portion knew any Latin.
"Oh yes. L-L-Latin and French and Greek," Quasimodo said meekly.
For a moment a pang of envy sounded in Belle's heart. A man who could read three languages! She could only dream what freedom that could give him. What incredible books she could read if she wasn't constrained to just her lousy French!
"What are you reading?" he asked curiously, taking a step forward. He had noticed the book that was in her basket, still wrapped around her arm.
"Oh," Belle said, picking up the book in her hand. "It's…it's a poem. An epic poem. It's called Beowulf. It took me quite a while to find a copy. It's English."
"You know English?" Quasimodo said, his voice perking up in honest curiosity.
"Oh no," said Belle blushing, "I mean, I'm trying to learn. But it's very hard. But it's such a beautiful poem – from what I'm making of it - and I don't think a translation could do it justice." Belle looked at the book and stroked its spine tenderly. "Translating seems a bit like cheating to me anyway. The book shouldn't be molded and forced the change; the reader should adapt to appreciate the book. At least that's what I think," Belle quickly finished, noticing that she had prattled on about a topic that so many found dull and inappropriate.
Quasimodo, instead of looking at her judgmentally and scornfully as she was so used to, was smiling at her. The first real smile Belle had seen from his lips. She was amazed to find his expression wore respect and admiration, almost pride for her. It seemed out of place coming from the man who hid in the darkness just minutes before, but it filled her heart with silent joy nevertheless.
"I suppose you have read quite a few great books yourself, being such a learned man," said Belle, looking back down at her novel, trying her best to conceal the envy in her voice.
"Oh…no," Belle could see Quasimodo's smile wan from the corner of her eye. "The only copy of a book I keep is the Bible. My Master brings me a few books –lesson books mostly - but he always takes them with him."
"Your master?" Belle said incredulously. She was not expecting this. She had heard of young woman becoming house servants, or men becoming apprentices - but how could the bell ringer –and such a talented one at that - have a master?
"Y-yes. He took me in and raised me. He taught me all I know."
"Yet he keeps books from you?" said Belle in disbelief.
"I cannot question him," Quasimodo said solemnly, yet sadly. He was resigned to his fate, but Belle could tell he did not welcome it.
This is wrong, Belle thought. A man of such great learning shouldn't waste his talents on lesson books! He could be reading Greek tragedies, Latin dramas – all those wonderful tales that she so often craved to read and experience herself. It was for more than lack of experience the man suffered, though. Quasimodo wanted to get away. She could see in his dismal eyes a horizon he wanted to reach and escape to. Belle knew, because she saw that same horizon. Quasimodo was a man who hid much suffering from the world behind his twisted frame; that pain was in clear sight from the moment Belle looked into his eyes.
Belle suddenly felt guilty. How could she feel envious of this man? Sure, he had a great mind and much knowledge to be proud of, but he himself didn't seem to recognize just how much that meant. Belle was always complaining to herself how "odd" she was, how out of place she felt; yet she couldn't even touch on the torment Quasimodo must feel by being out casted. Yet, at the same time, she almost could. They shared some sort of familiar pain, though his was much more scarring then hers could ever be.
But what did she know? She was making assumptions of this man. She didn't know anything about this man. She just knew a few seconds and a smile; that's all. She could walk out of the cathedral and never return, and their lives would go on without any knowledge of the other. But Belle wanted to know. She wanted to help this man in his pain, surely; but more so she wanted to know him. What they shared, what they never could; what they could teach each other, how they could grow from one another. Belle had never felt this strange longing to know a complete stranger before. An invisible rope had ensnared Belle the moment her eyes linked with his – and she desperately didn't want to let go.
Belle suddenly had an idea. A way for her to help Quasimodo - and a way for them to meet again.
"Let me bring you books," said Belle excitedly, a plan formulating in her head. "I myself don't have a great many with me, but I'm sure I could go to a library and find some Greek plays or something-"
"W-w-wait," stuttered Quasimodo nervously, taken aback. "I'm n-not so sure that's a good idea-"
"Why not? Books can't hurt you. You'd be amazed by some of these stories, Quasimodo, they-"
"It's not the books themselves I'm worried about," said Quasimodo, looking into Belle's eyes, silently pleading with her to understand.
"But why…" but after a few seconds of looking into Quasimodo's tortured emerald eyes, she did understand. His eyes were clouded with fear. Fear for something that she couldn't begin to imagine. But she knew what he was afraid of. Belle shivered - What kind of man could bring such dread into such soft eyes?
"Why would your master have anything against books Quasimodo?" asked Belle softly.
"I don't know," said Quasimodo, "All I know is…he wouldn't want you coming here to see me."
Belle spent a few seconds contemplating this. Suddenly, a mischievous smile crept unto her face –a very unfamiliar concept to her was sneaking into her thoughts. "Who says you're master has to know?"
Quasimodo was seriously taken aback by such a suggestion. Quasimodo silently considered this for a few seconds, rubbing his hands nervously. This new idea obviously confused and distressed him; he had probably never gone against a superior in his entire life. Then again, neither had she, and this "Master" was probably a much more tyrannical force then her kind-hearted father.
A few more seconds passed; the sun was now setting, and the light in the bell tower grew to a more dark golden hue. Belle started to wonder if she should simply go home now, starting to realize how foolish an idea she had proposed to him, until she heard Quasimodo sigh.
"You'll have to come after dark," Quasimodo said to her. "My master usually comes in the mornings and later afternoons. But you have to go now."
"Then I'll see you tomorrow?" asked Belle eagerly.
Quasimodo, a bit surprised by her enthusiasm, nodded. "Tomorrow night. B-but please, go now before he arrives. Wait a good hour after the sun sets."
"Yes, yes, of course," said Belle, flashing Quasimodo a wide grin of excitement. She clasped his hands in her own and said "Goodbye Quasimodo," before making her way stumbling to the stone staircase, too excited to ask directions. As she was about to go down it, she heard him, trembling, cry out behind her.
There was something in the tone of his voice Belle didn't quite understand. But Belle just turned around and gave Quasimodo one last sweet smile from afar, before climbing down into the darkness of the cathedral, her mind racing of the next day – and her possible new friend.