Beauty and The Beast, Revisited.

Sarah Laughton

It needs a better title. Ideas?

Beauty stopped short in her desperate search. Suddenly she realized that she knew where The Beast would be. Where he went to hide. Where he went to dream. Where he would go to wait. Where he would go to die… Stop it! She told herself firmly. Don't panic.
She turned on her heels and run for the spiral stair case, taking the stairs two at a time and nearly sprawling on her face when her foot hit the flat ground of the landing rather than another step.
Stumbling, half running to regain her balance, she slammed into the door at the end of the hall, wrestled it open and stood, blinking in the dimly light room.
"Hello?" She called tentatively, "Beasty?"
Silence. She stepped inside and, as her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw him and choked on a lump that must have been her heart leaping into her throat.
He was lying on his bed, like a corpse laid out for a funeral. His body was so gaunt she wondered if he had eaten at all since the farewell dinner he had held for her? His thick, curly main flared out around him like a martyr's halo. One of his beloved roses was clutched in both hands on his chest. A funeral offering, a child's comfort toy, the flower of love.
"Oh my God!" She whisper hoarsely. For the first time in her life, she realized that the metaphor about having a cold knot on your stomach could be a very real sensation.
The Beast had said he would die without her if she did not return. At the time, she had dismissed it as being merely a melodramatic cliche. But that was not like him…
Beauty had known from the start that her Beast was nothing like the swarms of handsome, frivolous young idiots she had been fending off since she was thirteen. Something in the depths of those amber eyes drew and held her attention. There was a sense of mystery about him, of dignity, of unspeakable sorrow. Yet he seemed so much more real than any of the posturing boys. Where they bragged and blustered, he simply acted. A habit learned, perhaps, over untold years with no one to boast to and no one to turn to?
She bent over the limp body of her love, starring down into his drawn, haunted face for a long moment, then leaned to press her lips to his in a last, desperate attempt to make him feel her presence and her love.
She had never kissed anyone before. Certainly no one with fangs! It was a curious sensation. Perhaps that was why the room seemed to shift and melt around her?
Beauty opened her eyes, blinked then stared in dismay. There, in the bed, where the Beast had been, lay a stranger. His features were strikingly handsome, his eyes bright hazel and his hair charmingly tousled. He reached for her.
"Ahh, Beauty." He smiled a heartbreakingly beautiful smile at her.
She leaped backward away from the bed. "Who in Hell are you?!" She demanded. "And what do you think you are doing here?"
"I am the Lord of this place, of course. And you, it's lady, if you'll have me." He said sitting up and running a hand through his thick, dark hair.
"You monster! What have you DONE with my Beast?"
He stared at her in dismay. "I am The Beast. Or I was, for a while. This is what I once was. This is what I truly am!"
"You lied to me!" Beauty hissed, furious and afraid at having the reality she had come to know twisted and discarded like this.
"If you could accept me as I was, an ugly beast, why can you not accept me as I am now?" He held out his arms to her and she turned away from him, unable to face the pleading in the unfamiliar face.
"I trusted you and you were lying to me all the time!" She shrieked. For the first time in many months, she felt desperately alone, with no one turn to, as her beloved became a stranger beneath her touch.
"I'm sorry, Beauty! I need you..." His cry fell on deaf ears as Beauty fled, tear blinded, out the door and back down the winding staircase. "I love you!"

She slumped against a tree, exhausted. Her mind spinning uselessly and her heart pounding from fear and running. She gulped and tried desperately to think. She had loved the Beast, with his wild main and dry sense of humor. She had loved him and he was gone, replaced by some pretty stranger.
Beauty knew all about Adonis-faced boys with smooth lines and empty heads! They had been pursuing her since she was barely out of girlhood; wooing her with cliches and shows of prowess, always taking her cold dismissals as invitations.
Finally, she had thought, she had met a man who was different, in the Beast. He was strong, in ways that went far beyond his physical size and power. But he was also gentle with her, always. Not treating her as though she were made of glass but aware that her skin was fragile and his claws fierce. He had treated her as more than a prize. He had seen beneath her porcelain doll face and realized that she was a person. And he had loved her.
None of the others had ever loved her. They had wanted her, yes, because she was beautiful and untouchably remote. They had wanted to win her to prove themselves. The Beast had needed her. Maybe only because he had been so alone here for so long, but still... She had come to see the weakness, thh sadness and fear that his gruff manor hid.
But beneath that had been deception. Those late nights of soul baring had been one sided, with her pouring her heart out and getting lies in return. Had it all be an act? Had his pain and need been only a ploy to draw her in and bind her?
That which she loved had become that which she hated.
She pulled herself to her feet again and moved on toward the only place she knew to run to: home.

Her sister, Patience, opened the door. "Beauty!" She exclaimed. "Back already?" She looked Beauty over, her face filling with worry. "What happened! Did that Beast hurt you?" She demanded.
"No..." Beauty, said. Yes! He stole my heart and left me empty. "Oh, God, Patience. I'm tired. Let me in, would you?"
"Yes, yes. Of course, I'm sorry." Patience stepped back from the door and monitored her in. "Father, Grace, Beauty is back!" She called over her shoulder. Beauty had barely gotten in the door before her father intercepted her with a bear hug and another storm of questions. "Baby! I'm glad to see you! Kinda soon, isn't it? Is something wrong? Did something happen with the Beast?"

"Yes..." No! The Beast, for all his fierce claws and fangs had never harmed her. It was a fair stranger whom she had fled.
"Tells us about it!" Patience demanded. "Did he through you out or did you run away?"
"Is he after you?" Her father asked, worriedly, glanced past her toward the door."
"Did you make a scene? Was it quite awful? Do tell us!" Patience continued, eyes blazing with curiosity.
"No. Yes. I don't know. No, I mean yes, um... I..." Beauty stammered, vainly trying to keep up with the barrage of questions.
Just then grace sailed in from the back of the house and interrupted them. "Beauty, dear! Goodness, you look terrible, girl! What have you been doing? Wading through mud puddles?!"
Beauty nodded.
"Come! You should get out of that before your catch your death of cold! Patience, quit pestering her! I'm sure she'll tell us all about it when she'd dry and rested!"
Beauty followed her eldest sister gratefully upstairs

Beauty sat in her tiny attic room, staring out the window as she brushed her hair absently. After a few days of asking constant questions and getting reluctant half answers, her family had given up on making her tell them exactly what had happened. Most of the time at least.
"Beauty?" It was Patience. "There's a gentleman here to see you. " Beauty's heart lurched. She had a cold, sinking feeling that she knew who the gentleman was. When the young lord who had taken the place of the Beast had not followed her that first night nor shown up at her door the next day she had begun to hope he had given up.
"I don't want to see him." Beauty said, clutching her brush.
"Oh, come one!" Patience urged. "Don't be shy!"
"No, you don't understand! I don't want to see HIM."
"You know him?"
"No."
"What?"
"Well, yes, but..."
"But what?"
"Patience, it's him!"
"Who?"
"The Beast."
Patience, looking unconvinced, waved in the direction of the front of the house. "That is the Beast?"
"No!"
"Huh?"
"Excuse me." Said a deep voice from the doorway. "May I interrupt here?"
Both girls whirled to face the speaker. I was him, of course, with his hair wind-ruffled and his boots mud stained, looking like a heroic painting.
"My God, Beauty! He's gorgeous!" Patience whispered beside her.
Yes. Beauty thought. That's the problem. "Hello." She said coolly.
"H-hello." Stammered Patience, shocked at the breach of edict he had committed by coming to a young lady in her bedroom, uninvited, no less!
He looked at her with mild amusement. "Perhaps you would take your lovely self elsewhere and give us some privacy?" he suggested.
Patience stared at him, then looked at Beauty.
"I'll be alright, Patience." She assured her sister. She had lived with this man for months when he was seven feet tall and had claws! She hardly needed a chaperone now.
Patience looked from one them to the other then left reluctantly, pausing to whisper in Beauty's ear as she left, "Don't let this one get away, Sis."
Beauty shot her sister a digested look as she slipped out and closed the door. She wondered if Patience was going to listen at the door?
"I'd kneel at your feet and beg your forgiveness," Said the man who had been the Beast. "But you'd kick me, so I wont."
"Clever boy." Said Beauty.
"Let me tell you a story Beauty."
"A story?"
"A story."
"If you must."

"Once, there was a man, a boy really, the lord of a great manor. The power must have gone to his head. He was arrogant and cold, for he was rich and handsome and thought no one was worthy of him. And so he was lonely.
One day a gnarled, old woman came to his manor seeking food and shelter. The young lord let her in and gave her some table scrapes to eat because he fancied himself a generous man.
"If you let me stay." She told him when she had gnawed the last scrap of meat from the bone. "I can reward you in ways you can't imagine."
"You?" He laughed. " You're just a crippled old women! What could you possibly offer me?"
"Be careful, boy." She warned. "Assumptions can be dangerous things." "How dare you lecture me!"
"Maybe you needed it?"
"Get out of my house you ugly hag!"
"If you think I'm ugly, you should look at yourself!" The old women said. And he did, and he screamed like a child, for there in the mirror was a monster from a child's nightmare.
"What have you done to me?!" He screamed and lunched for the old women.
"Made you appear even worse than you are. Perhaps you will learn to see past the surface when someone sees past yours." And with that she disappeared.
He searched the countryside for her and for help for weeks but everywhere he went people screamed and fled and through stones at him. Eventually he gave up and crept, bruised and bleeding back to his manor; and there he hid from the world for a very long time.
Until a woman came into his life. She came out of love to pay a debt and save her father. She should have feared the Beast like everyone else and hated him for the way he had tricked her into coming to him. But she didn't. She saw past the fur and the claws and the gruffness. She made him laugh. And he loved her. Not because she was beautiful, but because she accepted him."

Beauty stared at him. She had never seen it that way. Loving the Beast had not been some great act of heroism! Fangs and claws weren't so bad once you got used to them and he had been charming in his offbeat sort of way. That was what she had loved about him. He was different.
"You loved me when everyone else feared me and when even I hated myself. Any other girl would have run screaming at the sight of me!"
"Now that you are yourself again you shouldn't have that problem." She pointed out. "Patience was practically swooning over you and she's hard to impress!"
"I don't want Patience." He said firmly. "Patience is a bubblehead."
"Watch it! That's my sister you're talking about!" She had said it herself, more than once, but this was a mater of family!
He shrugged. "Sorry."
"Well, you'll be able to have any girl you please. They'll be flocking around you like buzzards. You don't need me." She added with more than a hint of bitterness.
He grimaced. "Now there's a lovely thought..." He said, apparently picturing flocks of maidens hounding him. Beauty knew exactly how that felt. "But I still can't seem to have the one I want."
"You are stubborn, aren't you?" She had loved that in the Beast. Except when it drove her crazy. He never gave up
"You already knew that."
"I don't know... I thought I knew you!" She cried, shaking her head at the impossibly handsome stranger who looked at her with her Beast's eyes.
"You did, Beauty! Better than anyone ever did! You saw past the monster and loved me for what I really was. Or... I thought you did."
What had she seen? She wondered.
"If you loved me then, why can't you love me now? I'm the same person I was before. Just a little... smaller. Aren't you the least bit curious what it's like to kiss someone who doesn't have fangs?" He asked hopefully.
Beauty looked the young lord up and down slowly then finally met his eyes, the Beast's eyes, her beloved's eyes. He stepped to meet her halfway as she came to kiss him.
He wrapped his arms gingerly around her and she laughed. "You don't have to worry about squashing me."
He looked down at her and laughed, then realized that since he was no longer seven feet tall he was looking right down her bodice, blushed and looked back up to her face. "We can protect each other from the 'buzzards', hmm?"

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