Disclaimer: I don't own Beauty and the Beast. Anything you recognize isn't mine and belongs to their owners. Anything you don't is mine unless I say otherwise.
A/N: This story was developed with help from my friends at the Bittersweet and Strange forum. For those of you that are wondering, this will be mainly a Cogsworth/OFC pairing, along with the canon pairings of Prince/Belle and Lumiere/Babette-am using musical version for her name. Please let me know if I make a mistake with pairings and personalities so I can fix it. This initial chapter, though, is to introduce my OFC, Collette. I am taking suggestions for last name for her. All I ask is that they be actual French last names.
Collette took a deep breath before entering her quarters to pack. Her master, former master, she thought, correcting herself, had dismissed her after she'd punched his eldest son in the nose. Why the lad thought she was worth bedding was beyond her. Besides, if manor gossip was to be believed, he wasn't worth it. Punching him the nose, though, was. It got the point across, didn't it? She asked herself. He isn't the type to understand that no means no. I pity the girl he'll end up marrying. Hearing a knock on the door, she went to open it to reveal her father, Pierre, the head of the household.
"Pere," she said in surprise, both at seeing him and at the expression on his face. "Come in. I was just packing." She moved to allow her father in. "What's wrong?"
"Collette, I warned you time and time again not to anger the master," he began, knowing that it was a lost cause to warn her. She'd inherited her mother's stubborn nature, though where her quick temper had come from, no-one in the family knew.
"So I should have let his oaf of an heir force himself on me?" Collette was angry now. "That boy has tried to get me to have sex with him for weeks. He thought I was playing hard to get while I want to save that for the marriage bed!" She opened her mouth to continue, but her father held up a hand to stop her.
"That's what I told the master. You are very lucky that he trusts my opinion on issues like this. I made it clear to him that if Jean had been able to do what he wanted, as well as get you pregnant, it would be a disaster. Why it would be is no concern of yours" He lifted her head up. "As it stands, I do not want you in the same house as he." Pulling a letter out of a pocket, he explained that it was a letter of introduction. "Your brother Henri will take you to the royal palace via stagecoaches after the household is asleep. He is the only one out of your brothers who knows that you are leaving. It will be a two day trip." Fontine is mad enough as it is about the master's decision to send our daughter away. Of course, that's not considering what Andre's reaction will be when he finds out.
Collette was thinking similar thoughts about her eldest brother's reaction. The two had disagreed often about her reluctance to give in to Jean's demands. "Thank you, pere," she said, accepting his hug. "I should finish packing. The quicker I finish, the quicker I can be ready to leave here. Does the master know about when I plan to leave?"
"All he asked is that you not be here in by breakfast tomorrow. He doesn't care how or when you leave, though he has agreed for Henri to escort you as far as your next job. The only stipulation is that the two of you take stagecoaches vs. taking a horse and buggy from the house. Andre is already in bed, you're lucky this took place after the evening meal. Enough talk. You need to finish packing and I need to speak with Henri and one of the stable boys." With that, Pierre left the room, leaving the letter with his only daughter.
A few hours later, Collette found herself bundled up in her winter cloak outside a tavern, which was just about to close up. The stable boy had dropped Henri and her at the closest stagecoach stop, which happened to be the local tavern. She was happy that her brother was with her, because she wasn't sure what would have happened if Henri hadn't been there. He and the tavern owner were debating over the price of a room at this time of night and she hoped they finished soon. Despite this being early spring, she was freezing.
"Collette," Henri called, waving her over. "M. Firmin has a room for us. Let's get to bed. We have a lot of travel ahead of us."
"Merci, Monsieur," she said to the tavern owner. "I feel sorry for you in this weather."
The tavern owner scowled at her before stamping up the stairs, leading them to their room. "Here you two are." He pointed at a door, which revealed a room with one bed.
The next couple of days brought more of the same and Henri was not looking forwards to the ride back. "At least I know that you'll be safe here," he said, during the drive to the royal palace. "Cogsworth might run a tight household, but he and Mrs. Potts take care of the servants under their care."