Disney owns Beauty and the Beast and its characters.
Chapter 1- Winter's Nostalgia
She was luxuriating in his arms, feeling the softness of chestnut-colored fur as she nuzzled his chest and neck. He was getting the hang of the dance, and his feet and hers synchronized themselves as they twirled throughout the ballroom. She looked into his eyes, brilliant blue, and he averted his gaze, still unsure, still unbelieving of what he wanted so much to believe.
Belle had to help him believe. She snuggled her head deeper into his chest, and gave his enormous paw a gentle, knowing squeeze. She felt his other paw at her back, moving and giving the tiniest caress as a silent answer.
She looked back up at him and he met her eyes with an awkward smile. She gazed up at him with as pure and warm a look as she possibly could express. He took a nervous, deep breath, and averted his eyes again.
Outside the enormous windows of the Great Hall, a few stars could be seen twinkling in the distance. Belle happened to glance over to one of the windows when she spotted her favorite pair of stars in the eastern sky. One bright star, one little star. She and Papa used to look at them every night...
Where is he? What is he doing?
Please, you must let me see Papa. One last time.
I know you care.
Soon, he was reassuring her, caressing her hair gently, letting her know, that yes- he cared. He cared!
He gave her the Mirror.
"I release you."
She raced out of the room in a state of dread and worry for her father. Looking back for a moment at him, she felt in the depth of her chest a strange love, a crazy love, one she could not fathom but it was there, it was real.
Not long afterward, she felt it turn to a knifing pain in her chest as sharp as the knife that had entered his side, piercing her, the pain unbearable...
Belle's eyes flew open, and the gentle light of the cloudy winter morning made her squint a little, and she was aware of the warmth next to her. Adam's back was to hers, and he was fast asleep.
He didn't hear her. She was so grateful he did not hear her shout in her sleep once again.
His light, reddish-gold hair was tangled a bit, streaming down his back, and she remembered how similar the color was...
Belle sat up and leaned to look at his face. He was snoring slightly, and his eyes twitched. Was he dreaming too?
There was a bit of golden stubble on his chin and upper lip. She touched his shoulder, her fingers tracing the mole on it she was so fond of. He continued sleeping.
Belle sat up, pushed her long hair around one shoulder, and looked out the enormous bedroom window at the gently falling snowflakes. It was February, St. Valentine's Day.
One year ago, she had spent this day in the library, reading through Romeo and Juliet with him. She clearly remembered the details of that particular day, just one day during that whole magical winter. Mrs. Potts had brought them a tray of sweet little heart shaped cookies, crisp and delicious. He had gotten cookie crumbs in the fur of his chin. She had grinned at him; gesturing to her own chin, and his blue eyes got that adorable embarrassed look again as he brushed them off with his paw.
Belle smiled at the memory.
Oh, Beast. I do miss you sometimes.
I miss that winter. It was the most special winter of my entire life.
She sat there for several minutes, not disturbing her husband as he slept. After a while, he stirred, yawning and turning around to open those brilliant blue eyes- Beast's eyes, she remembered- blinking and fixing them on hers drowsily.
"Good morning," he croaked. "What day is today? I slept late again- I can't remember if I am to travel today... or is it tomorrow to Metz and Nancy?" he asked her, slightly confused.
He honestly disliked some of the required duties of a prince. It wasn't from any selfishness or laziness; he hoped the people in the principality would never think that of him. On the contrary, it felt plain awkward for him to meet with other nobles or city leaders he met along the way. He was inexperienced talking about things political and financial that he had to learn so late in life, a result of his years spent in isolation.
"Tomorrow, Adam. Today is free to spend with us. And it is the fourteenth today. Happy St. Valentine's Day!" Belle smoothed the locks of his hair from his face and gave him a good-morning peck on the cheek.
"That means those Valentine's cookies!" he said, perking up. "The heart shaped ones. I think I can smell the cooks preparing them now." He leaned toward Belle and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
Belle studied him in quiet reflection. There was still a pure innocence about him that all the other princes, dukes and counts in France definitely lacked. Only she, he, Maurice and the servants knew why, and that secret was never shared outside their circle.
He dressed quickly and noticed her looking at him, nearly tripping over a trouser leg.
"You're staring at me," he said in mock irritation, his eyes twinkling in jest.
"I can't help it."
"You used to stare at the Beast, didn't you?"
Belle averted her eyes and shrugged with an undecided "Hmmm." She absentmindedly reached for her copy of tales by Charles Perrault.
She stretched her arms, the little dog-eared volume in her right hand, and got up to choose a dress from her favorite wardrobe, a wardrobe that resembled the one her lady in waiting, Elodie LaGrande, affectionately known as Madame de la Grande Bouche, used to be.
Her eyes landed on the dress she had worn one year ago this day. The pink one.
An angry voice growled behind her. "Not again! He's riding Florian and that horse needs to be rested today for the carriage ride tomorrow! Confound it, Lumiere!" Adam was looking out the window, catching the maitre d' enjoying a morning ride through the snow covered grounds.
Belle could still hear the tone and timbre whenever Adam got angry or flustered like that.
He still had a little bit of her Beast within him, and she loved it.