Author: Miss Pamela
Disney Movie: Beauty and the Beast
Huge thanks to giddygeek and bexless for their excellent betas!
Once upon a time, long, long, ago, there lived a boy.
The boy's name was Patrick. He worked his family's fields with mud on his shoes, his head in the clouds, and music in his heart. Some nights, he sang at the local tavern to entertain the merchants, but his father felt that music was not an honest pastime, and the tavern girls thought he was too plain to be a minstrel. (Though truth be told, Patrick cared more for the opinions of Frank, the tavern-master's son, than any of the girls.)
But Patrick loved music above all, so he endured his father's lectures and the girls' whispered giggles in equal measure, and he sang, his one and only joy.
Patrick's father wished to see him betrothed, but Patrick was poor with words and worse at courting. He blushed and stuttered should anyone speak to him, and the young ladies of the town preferred the taller, well-built boys in town, like Ray, the blacksmith's apprentice.
(Once, a particularly cruel girl saw Patrick tilling his fields by hand and said to her companion, "Look, he is so small and stout, I cannot tell him from the dumb beasts in the stable." The girl was as talkative as she was unkind, and within a week, half the town called Patrick Beast, even the ones Patrick called friend. They did not mean to cause him pain, but it was a small village, and names did stick.)
Patrick often went walking, when the weather was fair and his chores were done for the day. He walked far from town, across his neighbors' lands, into the borders of the monster's wood, humming tunes and exploring the paths that meandered gently through the trees.
The townspeople never entered the wood; their fear of the monster was too great. Patrick did not fear the monster, rumored to live in the high, crumbling castle overlooking the town. He had heard only stories of reputed evildoings, the details changing with each story, and never one person who had seen the monster commit the acts in question. It was only known for sure that the monster had moved in five years earlier, that he had never emerged, and that he had frightened two traveling merchants so badly that they had never returned to the village. They spread tales of the monster's hideousness far and wide, the stories growing ever larger with the retellings.
Patrick did not scare so easily. Even though he sometime had the feeling of being watched as he wandered, it always felt more companionable than uncomfortable, and he enjoyed the welcoming quiet of the wood.
One day, as he was walking and singing, a summer storm sprang up. Rain pelted the leaves so hard it sounded like they were shattering, and the wind roared through the trees, slamming into Patrick, turning him one way then another. He panicked, momentarily unable to recall the route back to the open road, and darted deeper into the woods.
The wind howled, there was a loud crack above him, and the world went black.
Patrick woke some hours later, his head spinning, in a small, rough woodsman's hut. The woodsman himself, a slight man with wild hair curling about his honest face, sat by the fire, sharpening his axe. Patrick was on a clean straw pallet. He raised his head to speak and groaned instead.
The woodsman looked over at Patrick and rested his axe across his knees. "The master of these woods wishes to meet you," the woodsman said.
"The...monster? Of the wood?" Patrick stumbled over his words, wishing he'd had the good sense to fear the monster before this day.
"Call him that again," the woodsman said, wrapping his hand firmly around the hickory axe-handle, "and you shall feel my blade." He smiled broadly, changing his mood like the wind, and bowed his head. "My name is Joe. Come, I'll take you to the house."
Seeing no other choice, Patrick rose and followed Joe out into the dark wood.
Trees parted to make a path, the path widened to a road, and soon the road turned into the wide flagstones of a large, impeccably paved drive. The monster's castle rose in front of them, black and silent as the night sky.
Patrick had to rub his hands together to keep them from shaking. His mind supplied terrifying images of what horrors might await him inside. Demons and monsters, roaming the empty rooms, rotted skulls and chambers filled with cruel implements of torture.
Patrick hoped that someone would see fit to inform his father of his inevitable unfortunate fate.
Joe led him through the large, creaking door and down a wide hallway filled with half-rotted portraits. A room at the end of the hall glowed red, firelight seeping out into the musty grey of the hallway, calling to mind the very gates of Hell itself.
Patrick began to sing to himself softly, a wordless song of comfort. Joe gave him a sharp look but said nothing.
They entered the room, Patrick blinking away the sudden heat and light. Once the haze of fear had left his eyes, Patrick saw that the room was...pleasant. Homelike, even. The room was carpeted and curtained in shades of rich blue, providing a pleasant contrast to the glow of the large fireplace, which dominated the room's east wall. The large, ornate chandelier was unlit, and only a few candelabras illuminated the darkest corners. At Patrick's elbow, a sideboard was heaped with cheeses, breads, and wine.
"Welcome," a voice rasped from the large chair near the fireplace.
Patrick's heart thudded in his chest. The monster. How could he have forgotten? The chair was turned toward the fire, and only a pair of black slippers was visible from where Patrick was standing.
Try as he might, Patrick could not make himself move closer.
The slippers moved -- Patrick's breath froze in his chest -- another flicker, a shadow moving to block the light -- and there stood the monster, glaring haughtily at Patrick.
Patrick's heart pounded in his throat and his limbs loosened. This couldn't be -- he couldn't -- he was -- the words tumbled from Patrick's lips; he had no power to stop them --
"But," Patrick said. "You're beautiful."
And he was. His brown skin and almond eyes were different from the local townspeople to be sure, but they only lent the monster an exotic air to his perfectly formed features. He was not tall, but he was muscled and lean. Patrick's mouth went dry from desire and fear in equal measures.
"I'm not." The monster smiled, blinding, infectious. "Haven't you heard? I'm a hideous beast."
Patrick felt a hot rush of anger and shame at that dreaded nickname. "You're nothing of the sort," he snapped. "And I'll strike anyone who says otherwise."
The coldness dropped from the monster's face for just a moment, baring the boy underneath. "My name is Peter," he said softly.
"Patrick." They shook hands and did not let go. Patrick's heart fluttered against his chest and he wondered how anyone could ever fear this young man.
"A curse was set upon me long ago," Peter said, as if Patrick had voiced his question aloud. "Every thirteen days, my mind descends into the blackest madness. I do not know myself or my few friends here in the castle." Here he nodded at Joe, still standing by the doorway. "I am also confined to the castle and these woods, never to leave until the spell is broken."
"What will break the spell?" Patrick asked, gripping Peter's hand tighter.
Peter smiled sadly. "My father is a wealthy merchant. I had much in the way of leisure and means, and little in the way of sense as a younger man. I alleviated my boredom by pulling pranks on local townspeople with a friend so averse to bathing and proper behavior, he was known only as 'Dirty'. We terrorized the villages by day, and by night, we bedded the prettiest young women --and men--" Peter said, winking at Patrick, "--that we could find."
"As all young noblemen do," Patrick said, recalling the foolishness of young Lord Saporta in his own village.
"One day, we came upon a farm." Speaking faster, Pete clutched Patrick's hand, as if holding on for dear life. "Dirty befouled the henhouse while I entertained the young woman who smiled so sweetly as she caught us sneaking behind the stables. It--the master of the house wasn't a farmer." Peter laughed. "Never let it be said that sorcerers don’t have a sense of humor." His smile stretched over his face, but did not reach his eyes. As a punishment for relieving his young daughter of her virginity, only the kiss of a fair virgin, freely given, will break the spell."
Faltering, Peter cast his eyes downward. "It is my curse to bear; I earned it rightfully. People who knew me before I fell under this enchantment are more than willing to spread stories of my evildoings. They are not all false."
He looked up, right into Patrick's eyes. "I have never sought to break the curse. I earned every moment of madness with my careless ways, and I have no desire to walk the world alone. But when I watch you," Peter said, releasing Patrick's hand and raising his own to touch Patrick's cheek gently. "When you walk in my woods. I watch and I listen. Your voice..." Peter closed his eyes and opened them again. "I sometimes feel that I have something to hold on to."
Patrick's heart swelled. "Not many virgins wander these woods," Patrick said softly, nearly whispering.
"And fewer of them fair," Joe called out, startling Patrick, who had been so entranced by Pete's tale, he'd forgotten about the woodman. "I'm going to see Andy. You know where to find me."
"Andy is my steward," Peter explained. "He is loyal to me, as is Joe."
"Joe said you sent for me. Why?" Patrick still did not understand his place in all of this; he was a simple, plain farmer, yet here he was in an enchanted castle, surrounded by sorcery and mystery! (Patrick had already begun composing a song -- nay, an epic -- about Peter's fate.)
"When you fell, I saw my opportunity. I was hoping against hope that perhaps you might be..." He stopped speaking and simply stared at Patrick.
"I am," Patrick stammered. Ah, this was worse than the tavern! He could never find his words unless they were someone else's. "I mean, that is to say, I haven't." Looking away, Patrick stared into the fire. "But I am not fair," he said.
"I'll strike anyone who says otherwise," Peter said, low and fierce, gently pulling Patrick to face him again. "And I would kiss you right now even if you had lain with the entire town."
"But I have not," Patrick said. "And I believe I must be the one to kiss you."
Later, they would argue over whether or not the entire castle had been bathed in golden sparks the moment the spell was broken, (according to Peter) or if they had merely continued kissing, (which is all Patrick could remember, the kissing) but they enjoyed retelling the moment where they walked out of the castle, free and clear, with the world at their feet.
Peter turned to Patrick, tugging him closer, and said, "I liked being the beast, you know. Can we still frighten a few villagers from time to time, on my terrifying reputation alone?"
"We'll be beasts together," Patrick said firmly.
So they were.
And it was beautiful.