This is the 10th installment of my one-short series. Please head back and read the others in order if you haven't yet. My initial goal of these was to just bridge the gap between Beast giving Belle the Library and their romantic dinner and dancing. But I've decided to keep going into Post curse for a few glimpses into their adjustment to real life. I do not own Beauty and the Beast, all characters are property of Disney. Just the story idea is my own.

This is the last one of my one-shots, but the story continues in a crossover/collaboration project coming soon! Oct 2021!

Midnight Confessions

Cold, wet tears streamed down Belle's face as she lay atop her Beast's lifeless body. Iciness penetrated her bones, and hopelessness shook her to her core. Her heart shattered, like crystal crashing on a marble floor. She whispered to him that she loved him, over and over again, but nothing changed. Nothing happened. There was no sparkling rain or magical force pulling him from the ground. Just freezing drops that Belle wasn't sure were from nature or her own eyes.

Slowly, the castle around her began to crumble. Large stones fell, breaking apart the balcony she lay upon with Beast. But she didn't move. The servants, somehow transformed into their human selves, shouted at her from inside the West Wing. They dodged falling furniture and begged her to come to them, but she wouldn't leave him. She'd never leave him again.

One of the terrifying gargoyles crashed beside her, widening the crack in the balcony. Next, a spire from one of the many turrets took out the railing. Another blow like that, and she knew the balcony would fail. She didn't want to die. But she couldn't find the strength to let go of him, either.

"I love you!" she shouted, gripping the lapels of his shirt and shaking, willing him to get up, to open his stunning blue eyes just one more time. "Please!" She choked out on a sob just as a tower to the left toppled over. She watched it come at her in slow motion, calculating where it would land. Once it did, she'd cease to feel the overwhelming pain and despair she now suffered.

"I'll always love you," she whispered, hugging him tightly and praying she'd know him in heaven.

Gasping, Belle bolted upright in her bed, her cheeks wet, eyes burning, and chest so tight she couldn't breathe. Her hands clasped over her mouth as she released a scream, doing her best to mute her anguish. Of all the nightmares she'd had since that fateful night, this was the worst. The sheer unwillingness to save herself was so terrifying she'd kept this one to herself, not revealing it to her father, Babette, or Adam.

Shame always followed. Shame to have been the reason for his death. Shame for being too late to save him. Shame for accepting death in order to follow him swiftly to the abyss of the beyond.

But she wasn't that person! Despite her love of Romeo and Juliet, she'd always chastised Juliet for choosing to end her own life because the man she loved was dead. But now… She understood the character to a depth she wouldn't dare put to words.

It wasn't about loving him so much she couldn't live without him—although Belle truly couldn't imagine life without Adam—it was more the guilt that muted the desire to go on. Just like with Romeo and Juliet, if Adam had remained dead that night, it would have been by her hand. Romeo died because Juliet agreed to fake her own death, and Romeo didn't know about the Friar's plan in time. Beast died because Belle exposed his existence to a bloodthirsty hunter who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted.

The inky expanse of night did nothing to comfort Belle as she slipped out of her bed and into a dressing robe. She couldn't stay in her room. Sleep was a losing battle this last week, and with the impending arrival of prominent members of the King's court, her freedom to move about the castle as she pleased was coming to a close. Cogswoth even raised the question as to the propriety of her remaining at all, but Adam wouldn't hear of it. He'd said she was home, and unless she wanted to leave, she didn't have to.

She started to go down to the castle kitchens to make herself a cup of tea. But her feet had other ideas.

Silent tears fell, and the emptiness in her chest remained. Of course he was alright. The white stone walls and cherub decorations reminded her that the curse was broken and everything was back to the way it should be. But it didn't matter. She wouldn't be able to breathe again until she saw him for herself.

Not needing a light to guide her, Belle walked the corridors, glided down the East steps and up the West ones, her stride growing swifter with each step closer to him. Finally, at the imposing wooden doors, she hesitantly placed her hand on the angel's wing that made up the handle.

She remembered the first time she stood before these massive doors. The handle was the face of a beast and the hallway leading to it littered in broken statues, ripped paintings, and shattered mirrors. Somehow, she was more nervous now to open the doors than she'd been that night. Despite her nightmares, she hadn't come to him like this before. She'd remained in her room and distracted herself with a book, or went to Papa's room across from hers. But tonight, she needed him. Tonight, she couldn't calm the nagging guilt and fear. Only he could.

With a tug, the door opened, and she entered.

Nothing looked as it had before. All furniture was repaired, paintings restored, and not a cobweb to be found. She'd only been here once following the transformation, and the opulence of the Prince's quarters still stunned her.

That still seemed so strange to her. Adam was a prince. A provincial prince, twelfth in line to the throne of France, but a prince nonetheless. She still didn't understand the intricate ranks and titles of French nobility. But when their lessons started in earnest, she would be sure to correct that lapse in her education. She wanted to fully comprehend what it was the country expected of Adam, and should they marry, of her as well.

As she ventured into his chambers, she could hear muffled growls and soft snores. The closer she got, the more she realized he was dreaming, too. His arms thrashed, and his feet moved beneath the thick covers. Another growl, this time deeper and more feral, made Belle jump back, bumping into a small table and knocking it over. She spun to catch it, but her movement was too slow and it crashed to the floor.

In seconds, Adam was upon her, his eyes nearly glowing in the moonlight, nostrils flared, and his teeth bared. The sight startled Belle and a hand flew to her chest as her breath escaped. He was far less frightening than he'd been the first time she entered his private quarters uninvited, but even in his smaller human body, he was a broad and intimidating figure.

As his eyes adjusted, they swept down her, and instantly his drawn brow softened. "Belle?" he asked, taking a step towards her. His hand reached out.

Apparently needing no more invitation, she flew into his chest, eliciting an "oof" out of him. Her arms circled his waist as her face buried into his shoulder. It took him a moment to embrace her back, having not expected her to so quickly fuse herself to his body. He felt a little shocked that she would do so, but then recalled he wasn't a beast anymore. Upon waking, it always took Adam some time for the fog to wear off and to realign his mind to his new reality.

Nearly all of his dreams were of him being a beast. Some were as if Belle had never returned or never come to the castle at all. While others had the Enchantress coming back, furious he'd beaten her spell, hellbent on him being punished for eternity. Tonight was one where Belle left and the last petal fell, turning him into a mindless, instinct driven animal.

He was brought back to the moment by a dampness on his night clothes. His hand absently rubbed circles over Belle's back while the other held her tight. He felt her trembling and realized she must be cold. It was still early spring and the nights got very chilly. No thought but to comfort and care for her, Adam picked Belle up and carried her to his bed, getting her situated under the many layers of blankets before settling beside her and drawing her back into his arms.

When her sobs subsided, he wiped the tears from her face with his sleeve. "Better now?" he asked, kissing the top of her head.

"Much." Belle snuggled in closer, bringing her body flush against his. Her hand rested on his chest, and she expelled a deep sigh as she sank into him. Adam lay there in wonder. He never would have imagined it possible that she'd be here like this with him. But here they were.

"I'm sorry if I scared you. I didn't mean to."

Her head shook against him. "You didn't. Started me a little, but that's not why I was crying."

He waited, hoped she'd tell him why. When she didn't, he asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really…" Lifting her head, she looked into his eyes, a raised eyebrow pointed at him. "Do you?"

"I'll listen, but I have no particular desire to speak."

Typical evasive Adam response. He was always happy to listen to her go on and on about a book, or some new discovery in the castle, or something she spoke to the servants about, but opening up about himself… A much more rare occurrence. She'd hoped after becoming human again he'd have discarded the reserved nature of the Beast, but it seemed as if it was just part of who he was: A book with heavy pages that were difficult to turn.

Sighing again, Belle tipped her head back, looking up at him. "We're running out of time."

His brow furrowed, and he stiffened beneath her. "How so?"

"Once the court advisors arrive, we wouldn't be allowed to be alone like this. Our every interaction, our every conversation, will be chaperoned. I certainly won't be able to do this again." She squeezed him, holding him as tightly as she could. Saying it out loud made her heart sink. Why hadn't she done this before? Over the last week, she'd had nightmares nearly every night. But too often she woke just as dawn was breaking and there were already servants up and about. Tonight, it was pitch black out, with only a hazy glow of the half moon behind the clouds illuminating the darkness.

His fingers caressed up and down her arm, while hers spread over his chest. "We could always marry before they get here." His tone was light, but he meant every word. If for a moment he thought they could get away with it, he'd marry her this morning.

"You know we can't do that." He was just about to reenter society and after so long an absence, the end to his convalescence had to be handled delicately. To return with an unvetted, unapproved bride would be a disaster and bring upon them a much harsher level of scrutiny than anyone wished to deal with. "Besides… it's not as if you've even asked me."

Despite the cheekiness to the barb, Adam flushed at the realization that they, in fact, hadn't spoken about marriage yet. They'd been so busy concocting their backstory—creating something believable and ironclad that not only excused his disappearance from court but also made Belle's presence at the castle socially acceptable—and everyone adjusting to being human again, that they hadn't had time for much else.

Clearing the rapidly forming lump in his throat, Adam said, "That's true. I still have to ask your father… And my position dictates I also petition permission from the King."

Belle stilled, and he knew he'd misspoken. Quickly, he amended, "But nothing is more important than what you want, Belle." It was on the tip of his tongue to just ask her now, but this wasn't how he'd imagined proposing to her. He wanted to do it right. After everything they'd been through, he needed to figure out how to top the look on her face when he'd given her the library. Anything short of that look would be soul-crushing.

"What you want is just as important," she said in a small voice, her finger now circling the center of his chest, sending warmth and anticipation through him. He wanted to close his eyes and just absorb her touch, her closeness. Having spent so many years with the absence of any physical contact, he reveled in it now. All week, he'd found ways to hold her hand or excuses to have a hand at the small of her back. And when that wasn't possible, his fingers would settle for brushing against her arm, or playing with the ends of her hair. They'd cuddled on occasion, both over the last week as they read in the library together, and of course, when she'd been sick before, but nothing that ever felt this relaxed, this exciting, this… intimate.

With conviction, he replied, "The only thing I want... is you." His hand slid along her jaw, tilting her head back as he bent his own to kiss her. Just a soft touch of the lips at first, nothing as ground quaking as their first kiss had been. He kept this delicate and sweet, only hinting at the promise of the future.

Belle pulled back, smiling as she leaned on an elbow to hover above him, looking into his sparkling eyes. "And all I want is you. I can't bear to lose you again." Her nose nuzzled along his before kissing him again. She kept it brief, just as sweet and controlled as the one he'd given her. She felt all too acutely, lying here in his bed together, that the risk of overindulging was far too high. As it was, if she were to be discovered like this it would create a scandal beyond repair. They'd have no choice but to marry immediately, or else Belle would have to enter a convent. Fallen women had very little options. Even if they had done nothing beyond a few gentle kisses, she would still be cast as one and treated accordingly.

"Then thank God you'll never have to find out," Adam said. "Because I love you, and nothing could ever change that."

Her brow creased, and it almost felt like he could read her mind. Something they had discussed briefly the other day was his much needed accelerated education, and Belle's tutelage in courtly feminine accomplishments. Very few of her skills translated to that of a lady, unfortunately.

At seeing her worry, Adam smoothed the lines with his thumb, then cupped her cheek. "I know the task ahead feels daunting. But you're the smartest person I know. You're going to pick up on everything quickly, and then charm all of court. I know it."

As kind and reassuring as his words were, Belle couldn't help but feel inadequate. "I'm not a lady. I'm just an odd girl from a poor village."

He gave her a look that said, And your point? before sighing and gathering her close again. He kissed her head and rubbed her back. "I remember very little of my lessons before becoming a beast. We'll learn together. And we can start today if you'd like. I'm sure Webster is just chomping at the bit to impart his vast knowledge on me again." With a light chuckle, Adam rolled, taking Belle with him. "Studying was not my favorite thing as a boy."

Giggling as she lay under him now, Belle tucked his long reddish hair behind his ear and asked, "What was your favorite thing to do?"

His face scrunched in thought. "Hmm…" Adam smirked as he recalled something he'd truly enjoyed as a child. "Now, this is probably going to make me sound like a spoiled, selfish brat... But in my defense… I was one."

Belle laughed at his candor, shaking her head slightly at him. "Go on," she prompted.

"I always got a kick out of tricking Cogsworth. I'd hide his pocket watch." He was chuckling now, remembering the majordomo tearing his office apart looking for it. "I even planted it on Lumière once. Oh, the argument between them that followed!"

He was full-on belly laughing now, and Belle couldn't contain her own laughter. It was a very naughty thing to do, but she couldn't really fault him for causing mischief. It was something all children did. Even she had engaged in a few antics of the sort. "I once tied Paulette and Laurette's laces together, making them trip when they tried to walk away."

Adam gasped, his hand covering his mouth as his eyes flew wide. "Not my Belle! She would never…" Then burst into the most raucous laugh she'd ever heard from him. The way his face lit with humor was blinding, and Belle felt herself fall for him even more.

There had been so few instances where they'd been able to laugh together. To share stories of humor and be so lighthearted. As a beast, Adam had contained his laughter, being too self-conscious to ever let it truly go. Being like this together, it just felt easy and right.

For the next hour, they told one another about their triumphs and failures. Some made them laugh, and others drew out sympathy. Throughout their conversation they continued to steal kisses and chaste but loving caresses. Physical love was something neither of them was familiar with, so they were taking things very slow. They even touched briefly on the subject—as embarrassing as it was—and discovered both were happy to wait until their wedding to consummate their relationship. Saving that for when they were joined as one spiritually was a commitment they made to one another and sealed the promise with a tender kiss.

When they finally reached the subject of their mothers, they each grew quiet. Their fingers were now entwined as they rested on Adam's chest, and with his free hand, he lazily stroked his hand through her hair.

"Mine was an English Duchess," Adam started. With each story he'd shared, his shoulders felt a little lighter, and his heart a little less burdened. He was ready to tell her. To open himself up to her all the way. To let her see all the dark and shadowy places within and hope that her light would shine through, healing the wounds of his past once and for all. "Her name was Beatrice Charlotte Maria Maybourn, the daughter of the Duke of Wellshire. Her betrothal to my father secured her family's good standing in French court—where her father conducted most of his business. Rare as it was, my father loved her with everything he had, and I believe she loved him back. As a boy, I always thought the kissy lovey stuff was gross, so when they were being affectionate I'd turn away or make obnoxious sounds. She'd ruffle my hair and tell me one day I'd feel that way about someone and it wouldn't seem so gross." He smiled at Belle, stealing another small kiss. "She was right."

His face turned somber as he continued. "When she fell ill, he spent a king's ransom searching for a cure. He even sent out invitations to every healer, doctor, and self-proclaimed miracle worker he could find. But none of it worked. He taxed the people until they couldn't afford to continue working the lands. Two years this went on, and as a small boy I watched while my mother withered to nothing and my father descended into madness. By the time he died of his broken heart, there wasn't much left to rule. The villages around the castle had been bled dry, and those that remained were so impoverished they resembled towns of a hundred years ago.

"Years later, when I was around eleven, my father's younger brother took me to see what was left. I remembered what the towns were like before—when my mother used to take me to their festivals to dance and celebrate with them. It didn't make sense to me why these people allowed themselves to deteriorate so badly. Why they couldn't just grow more crops, wash themselves more, eat enough so their clothing fit better. After that trip, I didn't see my uncle again. I overheard him telling his manservant that it was a hopeless cause. That I was too unruly and the land worthless. He left me to the servants, saying that he'd oversee things from his home in Lyons and he expected them to see to my education. He'd be back when I was of age and ready to assume my place. I grew bitter and cruel, surrounded only by people who were paid to care and none that truly did. Or at least, that's what I came to believe. A few months before my fourteenth birthday, on Christmas Eve, is when she arrived.

"I'd like to say I was just a spoiled child who turned a beggar away, because why would a prince invite a vagrant into his castle… But part of me knew she was different. The rose in her hand was so perfect, so beautiful, even in the midst of winter… I knew it had to be some form of magic. In my mind, I thought about my father and his frantic attempts to find a real witch or sorcerer that could save my mother. And here this woman was, likely the answer to his prayers, but far too late. My heart turned to stone, and I shouted at the old woman to leave. I was overcome with hatred, resentment, and disgust. When she dared return the next night, my rage only grew. How dare she disobey her betters, I thought. So I unleashed my suppressed anger on her, yelling and threatening her. It didn't matter how old I was, or how abandoned or justified I'd felt. It was wrong of me to dismiss her. I know that now. You taught me: Kindness and compassion cost us nothing, while anger and contempt whittle away at our souls."

Silence stretched between them when he finished. She'd laid in his arms as he poured out his truth, holding him, loving him, never passing judgement or looking at him with pity. After a time, she kissed him, then thanked him. They kissed a few more times, and Adam felt as if he was ten times lighter. He didn't know how badly he'd needed to tell her about that night, about his mistakes and what had driven him to make them.

"I never knew my mother."

She settled against him once more, and he waited patiently for her to share her history with him, giving her the time she needed to gather her thoughts. This was new territory for them, being this vulnerable and honest. It was something he'd always hoped for and had glimpses of as a Beast, like the time she spoke to him about how lonely and odd she felt in her village. But this was deeper. A shared experience of loss that even before she spoke another word, Adam knew was bringing them closer together.

"Papa used to tell me a bedtime story about a merchant's daughter who fell in love with a poor inventor. The girl's father disapproved. So one stormy night, the inventor gave the girl a life-sized doll that breathed like a real person beneath the covers. She placed it in her bed and fled out the window. They were married the next day, and her faith in him was what inspired all his most brilliant gadgets. For years, they were happy and content with their simple life in a simple village. But the wife longed for a child. Several attempts ended in heartbreak, and the inventor felt useless that he couldn't build her what she desired most. Then, on a stormy night, much like the one they'd eloped during, a baby girl was born. The beautiful woman was so happy. She held her baby and kissed her and promised her the world."

A deep sadness fell over Belle, and she held Adam closer as she pressed on. "But even miracles have a price. For while the labor had moments of difficulty and stress, what followed was something Papa struggled to retell. Most of the time he'd end the story with the woman holding her precious gift. But when I turned sixteen, he finally told me the ending. That shortly after the happy couple named their daughter and laid her to slumber in her bassinet, the woman had fits of convulsions. Epilepsy, they called it, and the doctor tried blood-letting to relieve the pressure, but it didn't stop the terrible tremors. An hour later, she died."

A few tears slipped out of Belle's eyes, and Adam kissed them away. "I am so sorry, my love. That had to have been awful to learn."

Belle sniffed, then shifted away from Adam. She sat up, drawing her knees to her chest. "It was. So I looked it up the next day at the bookshop. Great strides in studying the condition had been made, and it was termed something new… Eclampsia. There's so much they still don't understand, but it is an ailment of the blood vessels, one they have no cure for." The tears streamed down in earnest now. "Maybe if she hadn't been pregnant, it wouldn't have happened?"

Adam sat beside her, his arms wrapping around her small body. He shook his head, his heart breaking for her. "Oh, Belle. You said she'd wanted a child more than anything. She loved you. I'm sure she knew what a gift you'd be. That your strength and kindness would change the world. It certainly changed mine."

At that, Belle smiled a little before her and Adam resumed their position, her body curled into his side, and her head nestled in the crook of his shoulder.

"Papa would tell me how this fair maiden's smile could illuminate a room and that her laughter was more melodious than a prima donna with perfect pitch. He believed I was the very essence of her. In my mind, she became this angelic creature, flawless in every way. The only thing I had of hers was a book of fairy tales Papa said she'd read to me before I was born. I'd beg him to read it to me every night. Then I wore the old thing so ragged that the pages started falling out. I can still recite the stories from memory. It's how I learned to read. And it's why I cherish books so much. She loved to read, and I've read all her favorites. It helps me feel connected to her. Like she's the one telling me the stories."

"That's a beautiful way to honor her." His fingers found their way back into her hair, stroking through the soft strands. He looked at the canopy above them and let his mind wander. "I picture my mother that way, too. As this ethereal being, unmarred by time and trials. I wonder if they can look in on us… And if they can, what must they think of the people we've become."

Belle's palm was warm on his chest, and a blissful comfort came from holding her like this. "I am certain your parents would be so proud of you. Of all you've learned and overcome. Just like I am. Even this past week, through your frustration and acclimating to a new form, you haven't lost your temper once, or broken anything."

Adam gave a sheepish grin. "At least, not on purpose…" Belle raised her head as if to ask, What did you do? His grin deepened, and he chuckled. "Don't look under the bed."

She laughed, turning her head into the crook of his shoulder once more, muffling the sound. Then she smiled at him. "You're bound to drop a few things now and again. I know I do." Her lips thinned, and in all seriousness, she pointed and told him, "Just don't ever drop one of my books."

"I wouldn't dare," Adam gave a false gasp before continuing with a thick kingly timbre. "After all, it is quite benevolent of you to allow a humble man, such as myself, to borrow from your impressive collection."

Putting on rival airs, Belle replied with a stuffy, "Tis indeed."

A comfortable silence filled the space, and Belle felt her eyes grow heavy. It was still hours before anyone would be awake, and the pull of sleep was dragging her under. She yawned and felt a kiss on her head. Even if this was the only time she would have him like this until they married, she was so glad she'd come. She was content and happier than she'd ever felt in her life. His breathing settled into a steady, calm rhythm, and the sound of his heart beating in her ear was like a soothing drum, consistent and reassuring. The need to see and feel that he was alright guided her here, and the comfort of being in his arms kept her from leaving. She wanted to be connected to him, like this, forever.

Sleepily, she whispered, "I love you."

"I love you, too."

Thank you to the Discord writers' group, The Enchanted Rose, for you help betaing this work! Love all of your input and help with this.

Please drop me a Review! I live for comments/reviews.

This concluded my one-shot series, but there's more to follow! New crossover/collaboration project posting in Oct 2021! So stay tuned and thank you for your support!