The first installment of my one-shots. Please read One Step Forward and Home after this and review!

I do not own Beauty and the Beast, just the story idea.

UPDATED 5/18/2021: Grammar, and a few story edits to better align with the rest of the series.

Thanks for reading! And Please Review!


Something to Do

As the weeks passed, she lost track of time. There was no calendar, and she had no paper and quill to write with. If the mounting snow outside the castle was to be believed, it was probably mid-December by now, but Belle wasn't certain. Since her flight into the woods, and the consequential fight with the wolves, she'd mostly kept to herself beyond tending to the wound he'd sustained while rescuing her. The Beast was not the easiest patient, but he had started to show bits of gratitude for her attentions to his health, culminating in the extraordinary library he'd gifted her last week.

It was still strange to think this massive place was now her home. Well, not home exactly. Home was wherever Papa was, and he wasn't here. No, this was a just the place she slept, and ate, and spent all of her time. She'd taken the first few weeks here to explore the castle, being mindful to keep out of the West Wing, despite her curiosity having been further inflamed by that brief jaunt she'd taken into it the first night. He wanted to keep his chambers private, and she'd invaded that privacy. She still felt a little guilty over that. It wasn't like her to be so intrusive. Then again, to be forbidden from doing something always piqued her interest, even as a child. She still wanted to know what he was hiding.

What was the glowing, floating rose? And why was he so protective of it? She'd never seen anything like it before in her life. Then again, she'd never dreamed that a candelabra or tea pot would ever be capable of speech, or independent movement, not to mention an enormous Beast with eyes so blue and full of emotion she found herself getting lost in them whenever she dared look into them.

Much to her great disturbance, she was finding kindness, curiosity, and wonder in those eyes. Something deeper lay beyond them. She didn't know what, but she was unable to stop herself from wanting to learn more.

Today started like any other. She got up, dressed, and had a small breakfast in the kitchen while she sipped tea and chatted with Mrs. Potts and Lumière. They were discussing the progress being made to the castle's winter cleaning. It surprised Belle that it was something they did, seeing how in her experience one waited until spring to do a full scale cleaning. But Mrs. Potts assured her they did a complete scrub of the castle once a season, without fail. Belle assumed it was to keep everyone busy, since it wasn't like there was much else to do. Since Beast gave her the library, she'd spent nearly every day curled up in the window seat in her room with a book and her joints creaked want of some exercise.

"I'd like to help, if you'll let me," Belle interjected while Mrs. Potts started doling out the assignments to a herd of feather dusters and brooms.

"Oh my dear, no, you're a guest here," the friendly tea pot bustled as a trace of pink graced her round cheeks.

"Perhaps, but I am also in desperate need of activity. Please allow me to help. I can scrub floors, sweep, make beds, or wash the bedding. Anything. Back home with Papa, I did all of that, plus the cooking and shopping." Belle paused a moment, thinking about how Papa was managing without her. She had done everything around their little cottage, freeing him to focus on his inventions. Worry crossed her features, and the housekeeper nodded at the shift in her train of thought.

Mrs. Potts gave Belle an understanding smile, and said, "Sure, dear. You can strip the beds in the East Wing. I'm sure much of it has gotten dusty lying empty all this time. But it if becomes too taxing, let me know and I can assign the task to others." She nodded in agreement, returning the kindness with a thankful smile.

Belle set about her chore with vigor, going from room to room. She started by opening up the window to allow some fresh air into the room, then she'd shake the duvet out the window, watching the cloud of dust dissipate into the cold, crisp air. Folding the duvet and setting it aside, she set about pulling off the sheets and removing pillow cases. By the fifth room, her arms were tired, but she still had half the wing to go. With determination, she pushed forward, ignoring the strain on her back and choosing to press on.

Throwing yet another set of sheets out the door into the hallway, she heard a gruff voice mutter something under his breath, and she poked her head out the door.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't think anyone was in the hall." She blushed, gripping the frame of the door as she leaned out. Beast was standing just outside the room, the sheets she'd thrown draped over his head and covering half his body. He pulled it down, and the material pooled on the floor next to his feet.

The grumpy expression faded as he looked at her, surprised that she was the source of the incident.

"What are you doing, Belle?" His face contorted into a curious gaze as his eyes traveled down the hall to the various piles of sheets that littered the rug.

Using the back of her sleeve, she wiped a few beads of sweat from her brow before smiling up at him. "Just helping to strip the beds in my little corner of the castle."

He scowled a bit, and his confusion didn't ebb from her brief explanation. "I have servants for work like this."

"Yes, you do. But I volunteered to help. Needed something to do. I can't spend all my time here just staring out the window or reading, now can I?"

His mouth formed a little o as he comprehended her words. She was bored? he thought to himself as guilt washed over him. A startling feeling to be sure, for he never felt guilty over anything. At least he hadn't until she showed up. Now it seemed to be a regular thing. A thing he didn't like.

He stared at her once more as she turned to get back to her work. "Can I help?" He felt the words escaping his lips before he'd even had a moment to think them through.

"Sure!" Her face lit with excitement, as if he'd just offered her a treasure chest full of jewels. He smirked at her delight and shuffled his feet in embarrassment as he followed her into the room.

Softly he asked, "Can you show me how?"

She thought she saw his cheeks color under the layers of fur, but she dismissed the notion and set about teaching him how to gently remove the layers of blankest and sheets without ripping them with his claws.

They moved quickly from room to room, and in no time, they finished each room. He scooped up all the sheets into his enormous arms, and with her guidance, maneuvered down the main staircase and around to the back of the castle, down another set of stairs, and into the washroom. After passing by numerous shocked faces, he deposited the load on the floor and the two returned to the foyer where Mrs. Potts was directing the dusters.

"What can we help with next?" Belle asked, breaking Mrs. Potts from her orchestrations, but didn't earn her full attention.

"There's a bucket and a few normal sponges in the kitchen. Fill it with hot water and soap, and you can work on the floor in the ballroom if you wish. No one's used that room in over a decade, and it could use some sprucing up." She didn't turn to see that Belle wasn't alone, and once her suggestion was made, she returned to pointing out places the army of dusters needed to focus.

Belle and Beast followed instructions, making their way to the ballroom, each with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge in hand.

"I take it scrubbing floors is a new activity for you as well?" An eyebrow rose as she posed her question, looking over at him while they set the buckets down, water and suds sloshing over the side of his.

"Safe to assume." He grinned, and Belle could swear he looked like a schoolboy. Without thinking, she smiled back at him, and his grin widened to a surprised but sweet smile. It was an interesting turn of events today. She had hardly seen him, except when he allowed her to change the bandage that was wrapped around his forearm until a few days ago. Glancing down at it, she could barely see the scars beneath the fur that was growing back. It was a subtle reminder that he had risked his life to save hers. The thought brought a warm feeling to her chest, and she startled a bit. Refocusing on the task at hand, she turned and glanced around the room.

"The only trick is to start in the furthest corner from the door, so you don't trap yourself into the room, forced to walk over the wet floor." With that advice in mind, they moved to the far corner, near the doors to the balcony. She'd only ever passed this room and stole a few glances inside. It was the most magnificent, exquisite room she'd ever seen, besides the library. Golden pillars encircled the space, and a breathtaking fresco adorned the ceiling. The walls had marble inlays nestled between the pillars, and nearly the entire back wall was made of arched windows stretching to the ceiling. Beast made his way across the back wall, opening the curtains so light flooded the cavernous room. He sneezed as the dust wafted off the drapery and filled his nostrils from the sudden displacement.

"God bless you." Belle giggled as he itched his nose. "Now let's get started." She got down on her knees and pulled the sponge out of the bucket, wringing it out a little before applying it to the intricate marble floor.

He watched her scrub little circles, trying to study her movements so he could replicate them. After a few minutes, he joined her. He sloshed water all over the floor as he forcefully dipped the sponge into the bucket. Forgetting to wring it out, more soapy water splashed as he smacked the sponge to the floor. Water flew in all directions, and a few drops landed on Belle's face.

"Hey!" she scoffed, looking perturbed but slightly amused. With a mischievous glint, she soaked her sponge again, and this time, instead of squeezing out the access, she whipped it in his direction, sending an arc of suds through the air and onto his fur.

His face was incredulous, and he watched her place a hand over her mouth, trying to stifle a giggle. "You did that on purpose!" he roared, but there wasn't a drop of anger or malice in his accusatory tone. Belle let her laughter tumble out, and he set his face into a hard line of solemnity. Returning his sponge to the bucket, he retaliated with a spray of his own.

And the war was on.

Running all over the ever increasingly slick floor, Belle and Beast assaulted one another with sudsy water, with increasing competition. His arcs of water were far wider than her own, but Belle was quick on her feet, gliding across the floor several times, taking him by surprise with direct hits. Laughter filled the room as they continued their game, drawing a crowd of servants to investigate the disturbance.

Cogsworth was in shock at the scene before him, Lumière grinned, Mrs. Potts was surprised but with a warm smile, she looked on with amusement, and Chip kept asking if he could join in but was held back by his mother's words.

Suddenly, Beast lost his footing as he ran through a particularly soaked stretch of flooring and came crashing down.

"Are you all right?" Belle gasped as she raced over to see if he was okay. Sliding on the same puddle he had, she landed almost directly on top of him with an 'oof'.

A rumbly chuckle rang out as he sat up. The beautiful girl still in his lap, he was too engrossed in his mirth to take stock of that fact. She adjusted herself so she was sitting upright, and for some inexplicable reason, she didn't make any further movement to leave the comfort of his leg. Her giggles joined his, and she leaning on him as she struggled to breathe through the merriment.

Beast's laughter died first, replaced with just an amused expression. When Belle' finally got ahold of herself, her face turned bright red as it finally sank in where she was. She sat on his left thigh, her hand resting on his chest with one massive paw spread across her back. Silence replaced the laughter as they stared at one another, unsure what to do or how to lessen the awkwardness that descended upon them.

With a cough and an embarrassed grin, he gently lifted her off his lap and set her on the floor beside him. His paw came up to the back of his neck and he rubbed the spot. It was a gesture she'd seen him do several times, one that showed he was ashamed or uncertain. She looked down at her skirts, adjusting them and wiping her hands off on the apron.

"Sorry," she said in what was barely a whisper.

His head whipped over to her, and he gazed with confusion. "For what?" he rumbled in the deep baritone that sometimes sent a shiver down her spine.

A huff of flustered humor puffed out. "For crashing into you."

"Oh," he replied, still unsure of how to respond. Standing, he offered her his paw, and without hesitation or fear, she took it. "Should we, um, get back to cleaning the floor?"

She surveyed the surrounding floor, noting the many puddles and streaks, and a small chuckle escaped her lips. "We certainly made a mess of it, didn't we?"

"I suppose we did." His chuckle was deeper and reverberated through the room. "I never knew cleaning could be so much fun." Turning his head, he smiled down at her and she returned it with a grin.

"It isn't usually." He quirked an eyebrow at her, and she sighed, ready to explain. "At home with Papa, I did all the cleaning, alone. And the only fun in it was that I could daydream while I absentmindedly scrubbed dishes or fed the chickens. You made this fun."

Her cheeks pinked slightly at the admission, and he felt a warmth in his chest at the sight.

"What would you daydream about?" he asked, as they made their way back to the buckets and sponges.

"Adventure. Exploring the world like Don Quixote, or Gulliver, or Odysseus. I'd let my mind take me to all the places I'd read about." She knelt back down on the floor and started scrubbing once more, and he followed suit, creating much bigger circles than she did.

"Those sound like fascinating stories," he said softly beside her.

"I wonder if they're in the library? We could go look when we're done here."

His face brightened that she wanted to spend more time with him. Instead of doing slow, meticulous swirls with the sponge, he sped up, finishing nearly half the room while she worked in one corner.

When they finally finished, sweat dripped from their brows, and Mrs. Potts shooed them off to their respective washrooms to get cleaned up while they prepared dinner. The housekeeper was still astounded that the Master had assisted in cleaning, for he never had before. Lumière couldn't help but recount the scene they'd stumbled upon, giving a detailed description to all who would listen of the Master and Belle throwing suds at one another, laughing and giggling in the ballroom. No one had ever witnessed the Master being so carefree and having fun since he'd been a small child playing with his parents.

Following a simple dinner, Belle and Beast adjourned to the library, where Belle found an embossed, leather-bound copy of Gulliver's Travels. They sat together in front of the wide fireplace as she started telling him the tale of the grand adventure through Lilliput, into Blefuscu, Brobdingnag, Laputa and beyond. Beast listened with fascination and excitement through each leg of the Englishman's journey until the candles burned low, and Belle couldn't keep her eyes open any longer.