Since it's femslash February I've decided to upload my completed Ariel/Belle crossover. I want to send my sincere thanks to Crazy Cat Lady whose story (Ariel & Belle) inspired this tale.
Chapter 1: Off the Rails
She came to on a wooden bunk in a gently swaying room, the barking cries of burly men echoing on the wind. Her head was pounding from the strike that had rendered her unconscious. Like the tide coming in, Belle felt her mind piecing things together; one horrifying scene after another. Gaston had been exciting the crowd into a Beast-hunting frenzy. She'd shown them all her friend's visage in the enchanted mirror, trying to stop the chain of unfortunate events from spiraling out of control. Of course, her thoughtless reaction had only made matters worse.
"Oh God, Beast!" Still unable to completely comprehend her surroundings Belle stumbled forward and collapsed onto the wooden floor. Thankfully her instincts were coherent enough that her hands extended to prevent her face from smashing into the floor. A wave of nausea swept over her but she swallowed it back. It was a couple of minutes before she realized that the source of the fishy smell was below her, coating the floorboards.
When her head was steady enough for her to stand Belle cautiously made her way through the door at the far side of the room. Almost immediately she was faced with a short, heavily muscled man who grabbed her left arm and dragged her up a flight of stairs. Belle kicked and swore at her accoster but her exclamations were silenced as the reality of her situation sank in. Before her stood a grinning Gaston and a stranger attired in bright, ill-fitting clothes. Turning her head to take in the rest of the scene Belle deduced that they were on a large ship. A large ship that was out at sea. To either side lay the sparkling ocean, four o'clock sunlight illuminating a bright blue sky. There were a couple dozen men dashing about the vessel but more than a handful had paused to gaze at the scene they knew was about to unfold. Belle took a deep breath but Gaston beat her to speech.
"Greetings Belle, welcome to the S.R. Prichard! This is Captain Bonvard and his crew." The tall, heavy-set man gestured expansively, his teeth gleaming in a finely chiseled, angular jaw. Belle's nausea returned in full force.
"Welcome dear girl!" The flamboyant man's voice pierced through the young woman's recovering brain, igniting a splitting headache. "My crew and I are thrilled to have you aboard! As you may have noticed I've set you up in a single cabin, reserved for guests you see, and I will make it my personal responsibility to wait on your every whim."
Belle struggled to form a coherent sentence, Gaston jumping in to fill the brief silence.
"As you can see Captain, my finance is a bit under the weather. I will take her back to her cabin. She will want that breakfast cook slammed together; knock when it arrives." The hulking man clapped a hand on Belle's shoulder, spun her 180 degrees and propelled her forward with his other hand in the small of her back.
The woman desperately clung to consciousness with a determination born of mounting anger. Once in the confines of the somewhat stuffy room Gaston tossed her onto the bed and leant against a nearby support beam, towering over Belle as she struggled to shoot him a disgusted glare.
"Whe…where am I Gaston?" She feared that her unfocused vision and slight stammer would not translate her seriousness to the obnoxious man.
"Really Belle, I thought we'd already told you. Your unfortunate encounter with that monster has no doubt rattled your faculties."
Adam. "What have you done with him?"
"Captain Bonvard graciously offered to take responsibility for the creature. He is a worthy addition to Bonvard's Traveling Attractions. Since you are so concerned for its welfare I thought you'd appreciate accompanying this Captain's show until our marriage."
There was so much activity in Belle's head she was having trouble grasping just one thought. The best exclamation she could concoct to incorporate her anger, shock and fear was, "How dare you!"
"You can see the creature later if you wish but not without supervision of course. It is terribly dangerous." Gaston had made his way to the door, sensing that he should leave Belle to deal with the recent events by herself. A timely knock left Gaston placing her breakfast on a nearby table before closing the door firmly behind him.
The distraught woman forced herself to relax. Clearly events had led to her being kidnapped by Gaston and cronies but it was a relief to hear that Adam was still alive. Since revealing the Beast's existence to the village she'd been haunted by the image of her friend's head nailed between two sets of antlers. What about the others- had any of them been captured? Or…destroyed? And her father, had they really thrown him in the insane asylum? Despite proof of Adam's visage Belle didn't put it past either sleazy figure to do the right thing. After all, Gaston had kidnapped her and now she was on ship to only God-knew-where.
A nightmare Belle had never imagined was becoming reality. I see why people stick to their provincial lives. There's far less risk in living by the status-quo. Exhausted Belle buried her head in her musty pillow and wept frustrated tears. She was determined to get her and Adam out of the mess she'd unknowingly tossed them into but for the moment she needed to release her overpowering emotions and gather her strength. When she left the cabin she would do everything in her power to get the Captain to turn his ship around.
"Sebastian I don't want to hear this right now." Ariel was shooting from one nook to another in her secret grotto trying to find the misplaced necklace.
"Well you are going to haf to young lady! The king insists that you accompany him and your sisters to the festival."
"I have no desire to be flaunted."
"Why aren't you interested in relationships like your sisters hm? That would make my job so much easier. I'd only have to visit the usual haunts, not all across the flipping ocean!"
"Oh Sebastian lighten up."
"You stay out of this fish face!"
Flounder gave the crustacean a glare before returning to the search.
"Ariel," Sebastian tried to settle his voice into a reasonable tone, "your father is proud of you and attending these social functions is a princess' duty. You used to enjoy them so much when you were younger." He neglected to mention that this shift had coincided with the discovery of her first shipwreck. Harping on her human obsession was not going to benefit him in this situation.
A cry of delight broke through his thoughts and Ariel spun around several times creating a whirl of bubbles. The resulting currents hurled Sebastian unceremoniously inside a tin can. "Oh Flounder I found it; isn't it gorgeous?" Her yellow and blue-striped friend proceeded to express his appreciation for the ornament. The necklace was a collection of polished stones mostly jade and moonstone but with the occasional tiger's eye. It had been stored in a secure metal box, helping to preserve it from between the time when the ship sank to Ariel's exploration.
"If father wasn't so against humans I would wear it to the ball." Ariel realized she had heard no response from her feisty nursemaid so she dove down and retrieved him from the rusty can. "Oh Sebastian, are you alright?"
The crab rubbed a pincer over his head. "Oh just a bit stunned. But, you must understand Ariel…"
"Yes I know. I'll go to the ball. I'll never hear the end of it otherwise."
"Thank you! Now don't forget to mark the date. You've been getting absentminded lately and you know it'll be my head on a seashell if you don't show."
"Yes, yes Sebastian you can go."
He huffed but was secretly happy to have that conversation over with. Sebastian far preferred fretting over music notes to quarreling with the youngest mermaid princess.
Flounder sidled up to his red-headed friend and blew bubbles in her ear. Ariel giggled and tossed him up with a force of water. "Oh Flounder I guess I'll be expected to dress for the occasion as well." Sighing she tied the necklace around her neck – thankfully she hadn't needed Scuttle to explain the item's use – and seated herself on a boulder at the base of her secret grotto.
"You have lots of pretty things Ariel. Maybe you'll even meet another merperson who's interested in humans."
"It's not likely to come up in civilized ball conversation is it Flounder? Besides, I think everyone is too preoccupied with undersea events to care much about the above world."
"Yeah, you don't suppose the sea witch would crash the king's party do you?"
"I think she'd be a fool to expose herself like that and if Ursula is so nefarious I'm sure she has other methods of getting what she wants."
Despite locating her lost item Ariel's mood was somber. With the sea witch's 'supposed' activities on everyone's tongues, going out in search of new wrecks was just not worth the risk. Yet distraction was something Ariel needed to keep her mind off the unexciting monotony of her life. She certainly had many privileges as a princess but also many restrictions not the least of which was the expressed banning of her favourite pastime. She was sure that the land creatures whose lives held unending fascination to her would be far more forgiving of her curious nature.
Absentmindedly she turned through several books she'd collected, subconsciously mindful of their delicate condition. Ariel began to daydream, humming t herself as she gazed at the foreign language and intriguing pictures. Flounder, aware of his princess' introversion, decided to go in search of some lunch, leaving his friend alone in the grotto. Several hours passed though Ariel barely noticed in her apathy. She'd remained gazing at a ballroom scene for a length of time, half-heartedly addressing the issue of what to wear to her father's 'Turning Tides' ball in several days.
The occasion was one of four traditional celebrations to honour the currents that changed with the planet's rotation. Although there were no real seasons in the sea, the currents played crucial roles in the life that could be supported. King Triton's events attracted merfolk from all corners of the sea who used the opportunity to mingle, exchange news and gossip. Ariel had only fully blossomed into a young merwoman over the past two years. It was true that as a merchild she'd loved the excitement of each celebration but as the nature of the attention she'd received began to change she'd found her enjoyment of the events gradually decreasing.
The youngest princess was uncomfortable with the undercurrents now at play in her interactions with other merfolk so she tended to avoid them, even outside of normal activities. It was not that she didn't savour the company or gossip but her status and physical maturity were aspects that she had not yet comfortably fit into her identity.
A shadow passed over her page, causing the princess to peer up at the hole in her grotto's ceiling. Something large and thick must have been passing overhead. Ariel felt her pulse skip a beat. It was very likely a human ship! The young merwoman was struck with an incredible desire to investigate and, realizing that she was without an opinionated chaperone, ducked out of her secret place and propelled her lithe body up towards the vessel.
As Ariel surfaced she noted that the sun was low in the sky, casting a colourful, misty hue over the landscape. It would be too risky to approach the ship in daylight but come dusk the shadows would successfully conceal her spying. Ducking under the water again Ariel let herself be carried by the boat's current until she felt safe enough to scale the side up to a narrow ledge from which she could peer through a gap in the wooden paneling.
At first all Ariel could see was the other side of the ship, a thick, vertical pole about midway across partially in her line of sight. Presently voices reached her ears from somewhere to the left of the structure. There were three of them but two seemed to be mainly steering the conversation. Although Ariel could not understand the language she listened to the tonal inflections and the more she listened the more obvious it became that the correspondence was one ripe with emotion.
A heavy built man stormed into view then disappeared again on his way to the other side of the ship. Almost immediately a shorter, brightly coloured man strode out from behind the pole and walked toward Ariel's side of the vessel. The mermaid pressed herself against the ship and held herself very still. The squeaking floorboards told her that another pair of feet had joined him.
"…charged. Kidnapping is a very serious offense."
"Well we, uh, can't have that thing running lose now can we Miss Cartier."
"He's sentient; he's just as human as you or I."
Silence followed, Ariel straining to catch any details that would help her to decipher the meaning of this exchange.
"Then I will stay with him but I insist that you send my father a message explaining to him that I'm alright and will return as soon as I can."
"I will have Markus take care of that Miss."
The man's weight shifted away from the edge of the ship toward the left side once more. The remaining human let out a small sigh and leaned her hands on the railing. Ariel's heart was pounding uncontrollably with fear and excitement. She could see part of the woman's face from her low vantage. The human seemed sad. Apparently even humans had their troubles. After several long moments the brunette stepped back from the railing and made her way to the pole at the center of the ship.
Leaning cautiously forward to look through the gap again Ariel took in the entire form of the female human. Her blue and white dress was dirty and stained despite some evident attempts to tidy herself. She was rosy-cheeked with pale skin and a friendly face. Unfortunately, stress lines were marring what would otherwise have been a pleasing visage. The woman leant against the pole and stared ahead listlessly for what seemed like a long period, Ariel finding herself empathizing although she had no real idea as to the woman's plight. It was at about that moment that Flounder shot out of the water in a panic.
The mermaid cried out in surprise and launched herself under the water, hoping that none of the ship's crew had seen her. With powerful kicks of her tail Ariel dove deep into the murky depths, planning to give her high strung friend a good talking to.