L'homme-Lion de Paris
By Thomas Mc

The Day Everything Changed

January 2067

It was just about midnight and all throughout France, just as throughout the rest of the world, entire households were gathered before their video screens. They were all watching the live world broadcast of the opening addresses of the historic United Nations Conference on World Terrorism in New York. Most of the world leaders were present on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly Chamber for this event. This was an event of major worldwide significance and no one wanted to miss it if they could help it.

In the de la Becque home the entire household was gathered before the large video screen in the entertainment room. Randy, Pierre and Sophie were seated on the sofa and Aurore was leaning against the back of the sofa. Lucas and Monique, their children safely tucked into a guest bedroom, were sitting cuddled together on the floor in front of the sofa. They had come over for the evening to watch the event with the rest of the family.

Three kilometers away in the LeBeau home, another family was gathered before another large video screen in their family room, for the same purpose. Xavier, Brigitte, and Gabrielle sat together in the sofa. Beside them in the loveseat sat Christophe and Christine, his wife of two years. Their two month old baby boy was held protectively in his mother's arms as he nursed. They had come over for the evening to watch the event with the rest of the family.

Gabrielle glanced over at Christophe and Christine. Their five year courtship had been a rollercoaster on-again-off-again affair but since their marriage they had been very happy. One of the things that no one else in the family knew was that Monique had been at their wedding. Gabrielle had spotted her half hidden among the guests at the back of the church on the bride's side. At the reception afterward Gabrielle searched for her sister but she had already left.

Christophe had noticed Gabrielle watching him and opened his mouth to ask about it when everyone's attention was drawn back to the screen as the commentator announced that the President of the United States was approaching the podium. The American President stepped up to be greeted by the sound of loud applause and held up his hands for their attention. As the noise died down the President began to speak. He hadn't gotten more than five words out when there was the sound of someone yelling in the background. The video announcer exclaimed, "SACRÉ BLEU ! " They all watched the video in stunned silence as the view swung down towards the center of the General Assembly chamber and zoomed in on a figure standing up in the middle of the audience holding up an unknown device. All five of them stared wide eyed as a figure suddenly appeared, swinging in from the right side of the screen and collided with the screaming man Together the two of them tumbled across the floor. Clearly heard over the hubbub were the words. "BOMB . . . EMPIRE STATE . . . RADIO TRIGGER!"

Xavier and his family stared mesmerized as the two figures continued to struggle on the floor of the General Assembly. Then a third man ran up from the left side of the screen and started shooting into the two that were struggling on the floor as the other delegates pulled back from the confrontation. Moments later some United Nations security guards closed in and shot the man with the gun. Just at that moment there were more shots and the image jumped to a view of the podium where the American President was being hustled over toward the far right exit. A man could be seen lying on the podium floor in a pool of blood and there were several people struggling on the floor just in front of the podium. The announcer cried out, ~( They have shot the American President. )~ Just as the President and his guards reached the exit, the image on the video screen jumped again to a view of the center of the room as security people could be seen loading one of the three downed figures onto a stretcher as the announcer droned on. ~( They are now loading the one that stopped the terrorist bomber onto a . . . What in the name of God . . . )~ The camera zoomed in for a close-up of the figure they had placed on the stretcher.

Everyone in the room gasped in surprise and amazement as the figure's unique leonine features became clearly visible along with the blood stains slowly spreading across his chest beneath his clawed hands. Xavier was stunned. He looked just like the lion-man that Monique had brought into their house over six years ago.

At about that same moment Gabrielle pointed at the image. ~( He looks just like Lucas. )~ Gabrielle glanced over at Brigitte who continued to stare at the screen in shock. Gabrielle looked back at the screen, shaking her head, and continued under her breath. ~( But which one of them is he? )~ Only Christophe overheard her question and she was unaware of the surprised look he gave her.

Sometime around three in the morning when it became evident that there was nothing new happening anytime soon, they all finally went to bed.

~ o ~

Back in the de la Becque home Pierre, Randy, Lucas, Monique, Aurore and Sophie all looked on in stunned disbelief as they watched a severely wounded, or possibly dead, lion-man being carried out of the United Nations General Assembly on a live worldwide broadcast. None of them recognized him from any of the magazine pictures and they were soon wondering which member of the family he was.

Monique turned to Lucas and was enclosed in his arms. ~( Oh, Lucas, what will happen to your family, now that everyone knows that they are real? )~ She looked up into his eyes. ~( And what about us? People will now suspect that you are real too. What if they come looking for you? )~

Lucas held her close. ~( I have been around for a while and no one has caught me yet. If it gets too dangerous for me and our son here then we will disappear into the deeper catacombs. You remember where those others you met live. No one will ever find us there. For now at least I think that we are safe. )~

The next few hours were spent watching the news coverage and discussing the possible ramifications of such a public exposure for the other lion-men in New York. They also speculated on who the one they had seen might have been. Eventually it was announced that the Creature of Central Park was alive and in stable condition. After that they all went to bed.

~ x x x x x ~

The next afternoon all of Paris, including the de la Becque household and the LeBeau household, was glued to their video sets following the latest news developments about what had been happening in New York.

Ten minutes earlier the newscasters had reported the rumor that the President's Science Advisor was trying to have the lion-man from the United Nations incident transferred to a secret government facility to be studied and dissected. Since then a group of talking heads had been giving their opinions on this latest development.

One of the commentators, Xavier considered him to be a know-it-all blow-hard, was currently going on about how all this 'it is a person' nonsense was just a lot of muddle-headed foolishness. He was claiming that the Whitehouse Science Advisor was the only one thinking straight. He was right that the creature should be taken to a secure government facility where it could be safely studied. They needed to find out what that creature was and where it came from.

As Xavier listened to this he was getting more incensed at that idiot commentator. He wondered how that fool continued spouting off such nonsense about the lion-man who had just saved the lives of millions of people as well as most of the leaders of the free world. As he continued his, increasingly agitated, grumbling about that speaker, he became aware of a strange silence from his family. He glanced over at the surprised looks on the faces of the rest of his family.

Then it hit him. All of his own words were being echoed back at him by that annoying commentator. His face went pale as all of the air in the room seemed to abandon him. He felt like he had been kicked in the solar-plexus as he really heard how he must have sounded.

As he fought to regain his equilibrium, he glanced ashamedly over at his family. Brigitte was gazing back with deep concern in her eyes. Gabrielle had a look of smug self-satisfaction on her face that seemed to say that Monique had been right, he had been dead wrong, and they all knew it. Christophe had a look that combined confusion and shame in equal measure.

Xavier hung his head in his hands as his own feelings of shame and humiliation rose up to engulf him. What had he done? Six and a half years and a granddaughter lost to his own stubborn foolishness. How was he ever going to be able to make it up to his family and his oldest daughter? Was his granddaughter forever lost to him? Would he ever be able to make it right again?

He was startled out of the descending emotional spiral that he was on when Brigitte unexpectedly settled herself into his lap and placed her arms around his shoulders. Ignoring the surprised looks on everyone else's faces she spoke softly to her husband. ~( Everything will be alright, Xavier. )~ She kissed him lightly on his forehead. ~( It is not yet too late to make things right again. )~

Xavier looked up, uncertainly hopeful, into his wife's sympathetic eyes. ~( Do you really think so? )~

Brigitte nodded. ~( I know so. She misses you as much as you miss her. )~

Xavier sighed deeply as he rested his forehead against his wife's forehead. He wasn't sure he believed it but he clung to her reassurance like a drowning man clings to a floating piece of driftwood.

The video had been showing scenes of the crowd that had grown around the outside of the hospital as the commentators continued to express their views. A sudden increase in the excitement of the crowd on the video screen broke the frozen tableau in Xavier's home and drew everyone's attention back to what was happening on the screen. They were all riveted by the image of two lion-men and four very beautiful women of various ages making their way through the crowd toward the hospital. Xavier was stunned by the revelations over the relationships within that group as a result of the statements made by three of the women. The two oldest women were 'married' to the two lion-men and the younger of the two was the 'mother' of that lion-man in the hospital. One of the younger women was 'engaged' to the hospitalized lion-man and the fourth young woman was his 'sister'.

At that point Gabrielle blurted out. ~( That means that it was Alexander that was shot. )~

Xavier glanced over at his daughter in surprise as he felt like his head was spinning with all the incredible things he was learning. There were several of the lion-men living in New York. They were married to normal human women and having children by them? Gabrielle knew their names?

After the small party disappeared into the hospital, Xavier's attention took in the rest of his family. Christophe and Christine were still staring at the screen in disbelief. Brigitte and Gabrielle were looking at each other uncertainly but there was also a hint of acknowledgement between them. They both seemed to know more about what was happening than the rest of them.

Xavier was still trying to make sense out of what was happening and the rest of his family was still watching the screen in stunned fascination when they announced that a Presidential press conference was about to start. The scene shifted to the inside of a hospital room. Everyone was amazed to see the President of the United States in the same room with three lion-men and their families. Several jaws would have hit the floor if they had not been attached.

One thought that flitted through Xavier's mind was that Alexander appeared to be in pretty good shape for someone that had been shot multiple times just last night. Those lion-men must be very tough.

Once the introductions were finished the press was immediately asking about the lion-men and the revelations were coming faster than Xavier could assimilate them. The First Lady's assertion that she might welcome a relationship between her daughter and a lion-man hit Xavier like a brick between the eyes. He found himself replaying his last encounters with Monique and one question started playing through his head. Had Monique been closer friends with that lion-man she had tried to introduce to them than he had realized? Was that why the rift with his daughter had been so wide?

When the extent of Alexander's paralysis caused by his wounds was mentioned it brought a gasp from everyone, including Xavier.

As the interview came to a close Brigitte spoke up. ~( The one named William is also the biological father of Lucas. That makes Alexander half-brother to Lucas. )~ Xavier looked in surprise at Brigitte's worried frown. She continued speaking as though she needed to get it out before she lost her nerve. ~( And, for the record, Randy Weston de la Becque is Lucas's biological mother. )~ Then her voice seemed to give out as she appeared to lose her nerve.

Xavier realized that this was why Lucas had been at the de la Becque home that morning that Monique had left. He looked up into his wife's worried eyes. "Monique . . . Lucas?" It still had been hard for him to say the lion-man's name.

Brigitte took a deep breath as everyone was now focused on her but it was Gabrielle that responded. ~( Monique and Lucas are married and have two children. )~

Xavier looked at his wife, stunned, as he thought back to the little girl he had seen with Monique that day in the shopping mall. ~( Two children? )~

Brigitte answered a bit timidly her forehead creased with worry. ~( They have a five year old girl that looks as normal as you or me. )~ Here she paused uncertainly. ~( And they have a three year old boy that looks just like Lucas. )~

Again Xavier felt like the breath had been knocked out of him as he contemplated these new revelations. He tightened his arms around Brigitte as a kind of anchor against the storms that raged within his mind and his heart. The comments coming from the reporters over the news conference went unheeded as everyone's attention was riveted on Xavier and Brigitte.

~ o ~

In the de la Becque home they had watched the Presidential news conference in silence, hanging on every word. Once it was over they all stared at each other in silence as they each tried to absorb the ramifications of what they had seen.

Pierre was the first to speak. ~( That has done it. As they say, 'The cat is out of the bag', if you will pardon the expression, and the whole world now knows of your existence. Only time will tell how that will affect your lives. )~ He paused a moment in thought. ~( At least the American President has made it clear that in America your family is accepted as citizens like anyone else. That is good. )~

Their attention was again drawn to the Video when the mayor of Paris made a big deal of announcing that they had their own Lion-man living right here in Paris. He pointed out that most Parisians had heard of 'L'homme-lion des bords de Seine' and he would be proud to welcome him among the citizenry of Paris.

Monique nudged Lucas with a grin. ~( He is talking about you. )~

Pierre chimed in. ~( It looks like you won't have to go into hiding after all. )~

~ o ~

That evening as Xavier came to bed he looked uncertainly into his wife's eyes. ~( Is there a chance that I can still make it right? Is it not yet too late for me? )~

Brigitte took his hand. ~( Monique misses you and still cares about you. It is not too late. Tomorrow morning I will call and see if we can go over to their place to see them. )~

~ x x x x x ~

It was about an hour after the surprising and enigmatic early morning phone call from Brigitte, asking to come over, that the door chimes sounded. Pierre opened the door and was surprised to see Xavier as well as Brigitte and Gabrielle standing there. After a moment's pause he welcomed them into his home. Then he led them into the family room where Monique and Lucas were waiting. Everything seemed to freeze as Xavier and a surprised Monique stared at each other across the room. Lucas squeezed her hand and she glanced momentarily at him. She looked back at Xavier then stood up. Lucas followed suit and stood protectively beside her but he was projecting encouragement and reassurance to her over the bond. He seemed to be urging her to make the first move.

Xavier was full of doubt and uncertainty. Would his daughter even speak to him? The sight of his daughter sitting there next to the lion-man was a bit of a jolt, though he should not have been surprised, and made the doubt in him even stronger. Then they stood and he couldn't miss the very protective stance that the lion-man took beside his daughter or the way they held each other's hands.

Monique released Lucas's hand and took a hesitant step forward. ~( Father )~ Her tone was neutral as she spoke. Six years of estrangement had left her leery and distant where her father was concerned.

Xavier blinked. He looked down. There had been no welcome in his daughter's eyes or her voice. He hesitated, uncertainty rising up within him. Was it too late after all? He felt Brigitte's hand steal into his and he glanced over at the encouraging smile that she gave him.

Taking courage from the look his wife gave him, he again faced his daughter. ~( Monique . . . I . . . I am so sorry. )~ He took another hesitant step toward her. ~( Can you ever forgive a stubborn old fool. )~ He glanced over at Lucas then back at Monique. ~( I have been so wrong about so many things. )~ He turned his gaze on the lion-man reminding himself that his name was Lucas. ~( I owe you an apology as well, Lucas. I have said some awful things about you. But after what has happened the last two days and hearing my own words parroted back at me by some of those fools on the video, I realized how wrong I have been. )~ He glanced over at Brigitte who had just squeezed his hand then turned back to focus on Lucas. ~( I don't deserve it but I ask for your forgiveness as well. If not for me, then for my wife's sake and for my daughter. )~ He glanced uncertainly between Monique and Lucas.

Monique took two more hesitant steps toward her father and gazed into his eyes looking for the truth of his words in them. She saw no deception in her father's eyes and Lucas was projecting happiness and acceptance over the bond letting her know that her father was being honest in his feelings and his words. Then Lucas was echoing her father's emotions to her as well as projecting his own love to her. The self-protective wall, she had erected around her heart, melted.

Tears began welling up as she responded. ~( I forgive you Papa. )~

Encouraged by the sound of her soft voice Xavier took a last step toward her and, barely daring to hope, held out his arms. Monique hesitated but a moment then as the moisture in her eyes increased, she stepped into his tentative embrace.

She tightened her arms around her father. ~( I forgive you Papa. )~ Monique repeated as tears began to flow in earnest. Xavier's and Brigitte's eyes also began to mist up.

After a few seconds Lucas stepped up and held out his hand. ~( And you may have my forgiveness as well. )~

Xavier paused a moment then he reached out and took Lucas's extended hand. ~( Thank you. )~

Very soon there wasn't a dry eye in the room. It took several minutes before the emotional storm that filled the room finally subsided.

Once everything had calmed down Monique again became a bit uncertain then she timidly looked into her father's eyes. This could make or break the, still fragile, truce that had been declared between them. ~( Papa, would you like to meet your grandchildren? )~

Xavier smiled at her as he responded. ~( Yes, I would like to meet them if I may. )~

Heartened by her father's positive reaction she smiled back. ~( I will be just a minute. )~ Then she hurried out of the room and up the stairs.

Xavier glanced nervously at Brigitte and Gabrielle as they waited for Monique to return. Then he glanced over at Lucas who was looking back at him. Brigitte and Gabrielle had both already told him what his grandson looked like. He just hoped he didn't mess up when he got his first look at his grandson. He looked again at Brigitte and she squeezed his hand while giving him a reassuring smile. Just when he thought he couldn't stand the tension any more, Monique returned with the two children in tow and proceeded to introduce them. ~( This is your granddaughter, Antoinette, and your grandson, Nicolas. )~

Xavier was immediately captivated by Antoinette, as he expected to be, but to his surprise, he was also totally charmed by his grandson. They were both so very adorable and all he wanted to do was welcome them into his arms. For the second time in a short time there was again not a dry eye in the room.

After a few minutes Xavier took Monique's hand. ~( Monique, Christophe and Christine could not come with us today. They had other obligations. But they both wanted me to ask you if it would be alright if they came to see you and Lucas next week. )~ He glanced down at the two toddlers. ~( I think that honestly part of the delay is to give Christine time to work up the nerve to face Lucas but they really do want to see you both. )~

Lucas glanced at Monique then responded. ~( Tell them thay we would be happy to see them any time they want to visit. )~

Xavier responded. ~( Thank-you, Lucas. )~

Soon Xavier and Lucas were side by side on the floor playing with the two children. Great strides had been made this emotion filled morning toward healing the six year old rift and a broken family was finally reunited.

The End

'Beauty and the Beast' and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.