Every day when she got up she meant to say it at night, and when night came she put it off again, until at last she had a dismal dream which helped her to make up her mind. She thought she was wandering in a lonely path in the palace gardens, when she heard groans which seemed to come from some bushes hiding the entrance of a cave, and running quickly to see what could be the matter, she found the Beast stretched out upon his side, apparently dying. He reproached her faintly with being the cause of his distress, and at the same moment a stately lady appeared, and said very gravely:
“Ah! Beauty, you are only just in time to save his life. See what happens when people do not keep their promises! If you had delayed one day more, you would have found him dead.”
Beauty was so terrified by this dream that the next morning she announced her intention of going back at once, and that very night she said good-by to her father and all her brothers and sisters, and as soon as she was in bed she turned her ring round upon her finger, and said firmly, “I wish to go back to my palace and see my Beast again,” as she had been told to do.
Then she fell asleep instantly, and only woke up to hear the clock saying “Beauty, Beauty” twelve times in its musical voice, which told her at once that she was really in the palace once more. Everything was just as before, and her birds were so glad to see her! But Beauty thought she had never known such a long day, for she was so anxious to see the Beast again that she felt as if suppertime would never come.
But when it did come and no Beast appeared she was really frightened; so, after listening and waiting for a long time, she ran down into the garden to search for him. Up and down the paths and avenues ran poor Beauty, calling him in vain, for no one answered, and not a trace of him could she find; until at last, quite tired, she stopped for a minute’s rest, and saw that she was standing opposite the shady path she had seen in her dream. She rushed down it, and, sure enough, there was the cave, and in it lay the Beast—asleep, as Beauty thought. Quite glad to have found him, she ran up and stroked his head, but, to her horror, he did not move or open his eyes.
“Oh! he is dead; and it is all my fault,” said Beauty, crying bitterly.
But then, looking at him again, she fancied he still breathed, and, hastily fetching some water from the nearest fountain, she sprinkled it over his face, and, to her great delight, he began to revive.
“Oh! Beast, how you frightened me!” she cried. “I never knew how much I loved you until just now, when I feared I was too late to save your life.”
– Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve
Beauty stumbled and almost fell, the stitch in her side making her trip over her own feet. She’d already taken the wrong turn twice. Paint some damn arrows on the walls. She bent over, her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. Well, if I’m having this much trouble, hopefully whoever’s after him will have it even worse.
She never should’ve left him, even if he was wrong. He was supposed to be the one with the bad temper. She should’ve stayed and tried to understand his side. Maybe then they could’ve worked together. Come up with a solution they could both live with. That they could all live with.
If he’s hurt, it’ll be my fault. I never should’ve kissed him, not there. I knew it was dangerous, he’d warned me, and I just… I put him in danger.
Was this the right turn? Why hadn’t she paid more attention?
Because you weren’t planning to go back, ever.
The panic that had been stalking her, padding after her in the shadows finally bit, sinking its teeth deep into her chest. She was never going to find her way back to him. They would find him first, and they would kill him, and he would die with her anger ringing in his ears.
You are a monster.
He’d trusted her enough to tell her his secrets, to share his grief, and she’d gored him with the blade that would hurt him the most.
He was wrong. But so was I.
The panic strengthened its hold, savaging her between its teeth.
Stop. Slow down and think. You have to get control of yourself or you’ll keep going around in circles. It may not be too late.
She stopped, leaning her palm against the roughed wall of the tunnel. The cool surface soothed her, and she pressed her entire body against it, willing the chill to drive the panic back to the shadows where it belonged.
Focus. Look around you and think.
She took a deep breath and raised her head.
What do you see?
Tunnel, after tunnel, after tunnel.
What else? That tunnel there, on the left. With the long gouge in the bottom. There. That way.
She ran down the length of the passage until she came to another crossroads.
And again. Pay attention. There, it’s that one. And now a left. And—
The entrance was open.
He would never leave it unlocked. I’m too late.
Fear nipped at her heels again. She remembered what the dove-haired woman had said: If you get there and something feels wrong, get out of there as soon as possible. Do you understand?
Something was definitely wrong, but she’d be damned if she was going to run away again. She slowed, keeping her steps as silent as possible, pressing her back against the wall and out of the light spilling over the threshold. Despite the burning in her lungs begging her to take a deep breath, she forced herself to breathe through her nose, slowly and evenly. She strained to hear Cillian’s attackers, but all that greeted her was silence.
And then a low, anguished moan.
Forgetting the woman’s warning, forgetting anything but the thought of Cillian in pain, Beauty ran again. She barreled through the door, her eyes darting wildly around as she searched for him.
There. On the floor next to the ratty old couch.
“Cillian!” She dropped to her knees beside him. His shirt was off, and the mesh musculature on his chest was a twisted, tattered ruin, exposing the dull plating underneath. As she watched, his chest moved, but so slowly, so minutely, she wasn’t sure if it was just her hope breathing a life into him that wasn’t there.
Did the muscle along his jaw just move?
She cupped Cillian’s face between her hands and pressed her lips to his forehead. Please, wake up. Her hair fell over her shoulder and brushed his cheek.
“You came back.” It was barely more than a whisper. His shoulder jerked, a shudder that traveled all the way down to his fingers. Still, his eyes stayed closed.
“You have to wake up, Cillian.”
A ghost of a smile crossed his mouth. “No. If you’re here with me, I don’t want to ever wake up.”
“You have to. This isn’t real. If you don’t wake up, you’ll die.” What was wrong with him? Had he been hit on the head? She ran her hands through his hair, trying to find a wound.
“I love you.”
Her hands froze, his hair slipping through them. Did he just say he loves me? Maybe he had, but the man was barely conscious. He could’ve thought he was talking to Cybel, for goodness’ sake.
She leaned down to kiss him anyway. Just in case. He made one last attempt to take a breath, then…
– Beauty, Unmasked by A.W. Cross