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A Rose By Any Other Name

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LeFou wasn't supposed to be this way. He knows that. God would never make someone this way on purpose. It was his fault, a conscious decision he made somewhere in the past that was now such a part of him he could never change it. But by God, if he didn't try. He would smile at pretty girls from across the square, desperately trying to make something in him want them. He knew they were pretty. If he could just translate that into the way he came alive when Gaston walked into a room.

Gaston had been there since LeFou was a child. LeFou had little friends in his youth, always the short one, fat one, dull one. Both his parents died in the plague when he was only twelve. But then Gaston arrived, tall and toned, able to throw a ball across the field in one try. When LeFou first saw him, he revered him as a godly creature. This was the boy he wanted to be.

LeFou doesn’t understand why or how Gaston ended up noticing him. He was just another face in the crowd of boys who wanted to be Gaston’s second-in-command. All stronger than LeFou, handsomer, full of energy and confidence. Maybe Gaston picked LeFou because LeFou was the least likely to outshine him. Next to a bumbling idiot like him, Gaston would look brighter than the sun itself. It’s a topic LeFou doesn’t like to ponder, in fear of the half-realized truths it would reveal.

LeFou quickly became latched on to Gaston, there at his heel in every waking moment. When Gaston played with the other boys, he let LeFou be on his team, right alongside him. He never passed him the ball, though. He was too busy scoring points. Gaston was always scoring points in something. Points in sports, points in the school LeFou couldn’t afford to go to, points with the ladies. How Gaston loved women. It was around the age of 14 when Gaston first started making the rounds in the village. Talking smooth, kissing dames, and leaving behind a trail of broken hearts in the process. Too many women to count. 14 was also the year LeFou’s life began to fell apart.

Before the age of 14, LeFou was good. He paid women no mind, but that was to be expected of children. Most importantly, LeFou paid men no mind. Gaston was a friend, someone to spend time with, someone who truly cared about him, and nothing more. But then came the age of 14. LeFou must have made the decision then, the decision he cannot remember, the decision that damned him to hell. He does not remember much of that year, but he does remember the fear. Fear of Gaston, yes, but that was not new. He had always been afraid of Gaston’s temper, and the subsequent bruises that went along with it. No, the thing LeFou remembers the most is the fear of himself. The terror that went along with looking in the mirror. The knowledge that he was looking at a heathen. A sodomite.

He hated it all. The feelings in his chest when Gaston looked his way. The loss of breath. Voice. The stuttering. He hated it. And yet, he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t make it all go away. What he would give to be like the other boys, charming girls endlessly. But he couldn’t. All he could do was watch Gaston and fight the feelings threatening to break free. He was no longer the boy who was jealous of Gaston’s muscles. He no longer wanted to be Gaston. He wanted to be with Gaston. God, how he needed to touch him, feel him, be needed by him. It was torture, and LeFou became an expert in the art of disguise. He fooled the world as long as he was awake. He was not a sodomite, only LeFou. A simple fool. Even the man he struggled to be was only a simple fool.

***

LeFou is running from enemy fire, ducking behind debris to shield his body from the bullets that tear through the air. The air is hot with fire, and the noise shakes him to his core. All he wants to do is lay down and sleep.

Gaston is here somewhere, LeFou lost track of him hours ago, but he can’t have gone far. He’s probably out there right now, shooting down the leader of the army. LeFou smiles at the thought, than screams when a bullet grazes past his left ear. He burrows himself down into the ground, resting with his head against a rotting wood cart. He cannot breathe, he’s so afraid. Is this where he spends his last moments? Alone, covered in mud? What a fitting end, for someone as good as dirt itself. LeFou begins to cry silent tears, listening to the gunfire tear up the world as he knows it.

He thinks about his life. A sinner, a heathen, all the words that he had used to cut himself down fall to the floor, meaningless. What is so terrifying about love when you are two inches away from death? What will death be like? Will he spend an eternity in the pits of hell, suffering unimaginable pain? No pain compares to the terror of this moment, of not knowing.

Maybe hell will be this moment, frozen in time. All the terror, all the guilt, the knowledge that all the misdeeds he has ever committed, all the lust-filled dreams and longing stares, will all be rendered meaningless by an unforgiving God. All the uncertainty. LeFou sits, sobbing, with his face in the mud, waiting for an answer to his questions.

But the answer never comes.

LeFou stays in place for hours, or maybe only seconds. Time loses all meaning when all you can hear is your own staggered breaths, all you can smell is rotting flesh in the summer sun.

Eventually the shooting stops. LeFou does not dare move, even with the ice cold silence chilling him to the bone. Has he made it to the other side?

“LeFou!” A voice screams, jolting his face up. He is blinded momentarily by the light of day (wasn’t it just night?) and slowly comes to register the scene in front of him.

Blood. It is everywhere. Pooled in puddles on the ground, stinking and boiling in the heat.

Carnage. Coating every inch of countryside is bits of flesh, torn off limbs, moaning soldiers with innards spooled about.

LeFou! ” The voice screams, louder this time. LeFou looks in the direction of the voice, seeing Gaston standing by roadside. He is in tattered clothes, and bloodstained, but the blood does not appear to be his. He has a vague look of annoyance on his face, and someone, another soldier, is pulling on his arm. LeFou’s stomach soars with a mix of relief and reverence.

“It’s hopeless, Gaston, he was the saddest sap in the lot. He would’ve been lucky making it five minutes in this bloodbath.” Gaston shakes him off, and squints his eyes into the field. LeFou starts to stand up, but his weak legs give way under him.

“Gaston! I’m here!” LeFou yells, and Gaston whips around in disbelief. What was a look of shock quickly gives way to rage, however, when taking in LeFou’s situation. Muddy, intact, and unable to stand.

“Are you joking, Lefou?” Gaston shoots, and LeFou shrinks back into the ground. “Brave men were dying out there. It was a massacre! And you just hide in the corner, unable to even get your face out of the mud?” His voice is a roar now, and with a turn of his heel, he is walking down the road. “I’m not helping a coward.”

 

LeFou walks for hours towards camp. He’s staggering but keeping a steady pace, and the mud is slowly drying to his clothes. It’s well past noon when he reaches camp, and realizes the gravity of the situation.

Of the men that went out to battle, less than a fourth returned. There are men being treated, wrapped with bandages. There are men telling stories, with most crowded around Gaston, who’s miming a gruesome kill that must have taken place. And then there’s LeFou, with his ruined clothes, coward’s attitude, and heathen’s soul.

He does not deserve to be among the living.

 

At night, LeFou sits before the fire long after the rest of the men have gone to bed. They lost 238 men in the last 48 hours. Staring at the fire, LeFou imagines the flames of hell that he nearly touched.

He is vaguely aware of another person sitting next to him, and assumes it is one of the other soldiers, wanting to warm themselves some more. It is only when the form speaks that LeFou can identify it.

“You should have died out there. I don’t know how you didn’t.”

Gaston gets up and walks away.

Chapter Text

Gaston and LeFou walk through the town together. The morning sun washes through the cobblestone streets, bathing it in a golden light. Gaston stops suddenly, and LeFou almost crashes into him, instead hopping to the side. Gaston is gazing at the square, and all the people going about the beginnings of their day. They stand in silence for a moment, side by side. Then Gaston raises a hand and points toward a girl near the end of the square, walking out of the bookseller’s.

“You see that girl, LeFou?” Gaston asks, and LeFou's heart sinks. He knows where this is going. The two must have this conversation every day, with different girls.

Do you see that girl? Isn’t she pretty? She fawns over me all the time, everyone says. Hopelessly in love. Like all the women in this town, I suppose. Gaston would finish his speech and walk over to whatever girl he had chosen today, leaving LeFou to think, and the one who is most in love with you is right here, right under your nose. Yes, love.

LeFou has given in to it. He still hates it, with every fiber of his being, but he no longer fights it. After grappling with a monster for years, you eventually grow tired and let it devour you whole. There was no point in fighting this monster anymore, and so LeFou had let it consume him. That’s not to say that he tells people, he’d have to be insane to brag about that. He still pretends to the world, just not to himself. No more thinking he would be healed by a pretty girl on the sidewalk, or hours of praying. LeFou knows it is hopeless. He is hopeless.

LeFou loves every bit of Gaston with all of his heart and soul. He loves him with a power that cannot be articulated. He never stops wishing he could be wrapped up into a warm, stabling embrace by the man who never paid him a second glance in truth. The things he wishes Gaston would do to him would make Satan himself blush. He hates it with every bone in his body, every inch of his skin crawling with his sins. But he sees that it is there. This want to be held by Gaston, loved by Gaston. He needs it more than any damn girl in the whole world.

So these speeches Gaston recites every morning about the latest girl walking by do not hesitate to cut LeFou to the core. He has no armor of denial anymore. However, while LeFou had already steeled himself for Gaston’s woman-of-the-day, he had not prepared himself for what slips out of Gaston’s mouth, like it was nothing more than ordering a beer.

“That is the woman I am going to marry.” LeFou hears the words, he is sure of it, but they cannot possibly be the right ones. LeFou now sees the girl better, walking toward them, and he is floored.

“Belle?” The word comes out less casual, and more terrified, mirroring his own anxious mind. Belle was the daughter of Maurice, an old painter who lived by the side of town. She was well-educated, something LeFou was not. His parents couldn’t afford school before they died, so he never even learned how to read. Gaston never hesitated to make fun of his illiteracy, asking him to read signs in front of large groups of people. Belle was the only girl in the whole village that knew how to read, and would never go anywhere without a book. Better than education, at least to Gaston, would be Belle’s beauty. She was the definition of female beauty, a near-perfect girl. LeFou wasn’t blind. She was the prettiest girl in the village. And most importantly, Belle was a girl. LeFou was not. He could never compare to her in Gaston’s mind, let alone compete with her. Belle was the embodiment of everything Gaston wanted and looked for in a woman. LeFou was… himself. Enough said.

And while Gaston had sung the praises of many girls throughout the years, he never, ever , said the word ‘marriage.’ This was new. This was terrifying.

“Yes, Belle. The most beautiful girl in the whole village. The only suitable match for me.” Gaston draws the words, gazing admiringly at Belle from across the square. LeFou has never seen Gaston admire anything except Gaston himself. The well of dread runs deeper yet within him.

“But, Belle is so well educated, and you’re… so… ” LeFou struggles for words that won’t end in black eyes. “Athletically inclined.” He shudders at the phrasing, and braces for impact. Instead, Gaston nods thoughtfully. LeFou blinks a few times. He has to be dreaming. God, he wants so badly to wake up.

“Belle has something those other girls don’t.” Gaston gestures towards the girls gathered at the corner, smiling seductively at Gaston. One of them makes eye contact with LeFou and he stares back dully. He knows it is what is expected of him. “All those girls throw themselves at me, but Belle… Belle is different. She is no easy prey. I don’t know how to describe it. But she has something.” Gaston sighs in her general direction. LeFou has to say something. Anything to distract Gaston from the fast-approaching Belle.

“Isn’t that… dignity?” He regrets the words as soon as they slip out. He expects Gaston to turn around now and throw him across the floor. It’s what he would have done if LeFou made that crack yesterday. Now he just stares ahead like he hasn't heard a word LeFou has said. It scares him. Gaston has never missed an opportunity to slap LeFou across the face. Something is wrong.

Suddenly, Gaston gets up, and without a word, makes his way over to Belle. Now LeFou is just standing there alone, in the middle of the square. He feels cold and afraid and very much alone. This is not the sort of loneliness LeFou feels every day, when Gaston charms another girl. This has a sense of dread attached. Who knows how long this will go on for?

Gaston is speaking to Belle now, and LeFou is too far away to hear their conversation. He knows how it must go, however. Every girl in town would jump at the chance to court Gaston, marry Gaston. Belle will fall for him in an instant, and they will be the most envied couple in town. A perfect ending.

Then, LeFou sees Belle frown. This is not how this is supposed to go. No one frowns around Gaston. The man flatters his way toward victory. Belle backs away, shaking her head. LeFou stands there in confusion as Belle walks away, leaving Gaston hanging in the square, the whole village staring, as he holds out an arm to stop her.

There is a brief moment, so quick that LeFou can’t be sure if he made it up, or if it really happened. Gaston’s face contorts into something LeFou has never seen before. Even from this distance, it’s enough to send shivers down the man’s spine.

Gaston is lost. He is unsure of what to do next.

But then he shakes it off so quickly it’s as if it never even happened. He resumes his godly stature, laughing to everyone charmingly. He struts over to LeFou, still in the same place as when he left him there.

“How’d it go?” LeFou asks stupidly. Gaston chuckles.

“She’s playing hard to get, the girl. That’s why I like her. Like I said, she’s no easy prey. I’ll buy some flowers, go see her later, charm her to bits. I told you, LeFou, this is the one I’m marrying.”

As LeFou walks with him toward the florist, the feeling of sinking dread does not get any better.

Chapter Text

LeFou needs a drink. He downs another shot, gesturing for the bartender to fill it up again. The noise in the bar is unbearable, pushing down on his ears until he thinks his head will explode. Gaston sits next to him, silent. Gaston is never, ever , silent. He’s always talking, even if the words seem hollow. But here he is, staring at the wall, not making a sound. God, LeFou needs a drink.

Today had not gone the way LeFou had wanted. Or expected. He had left for work before Gaston could talk to Belle again. LeFou works at the town bakery, as an apprentice. He doesn’t hate his job exactly, it’s just tedious and slow. He does enjoy the food, however, as the baker is quite good at making it. LeFou isn’t as good as the baker, but he’s alright. He works hard. He just wishes he could eat more instead of just smelling it.

After work, which went until five, LeFou assumed he would go home, and then to the bar, where Gaston and Belle would be, bragging about their perfect relationship.

Instead, when LeFou said goodbye to the baker and left his work, Gaston was there, waiting for him. He looked awkward and out of place, trying his best to keep on his arrogant attitude while standing still outside of the Bakery. When LeFou saw him, Gaston walked up to him and patted him on the back.

“I need a fucking drink,” Gaston sighs, and so LeFou followed him to the bar.

While sitting down, Gaston recalled what had happened with Belle. LeFou tried his best to mask his amazement with the girl. He had to admit, she seemed quite fiery. Maybe after all of this was over, and she and Gaston inevitably got married, he could get along with her. It would be nice to still be part of Gaston’s life, even if it would just be a strange tagalong. After all, that is what he is now, isn’t it?

After Gaston told his story, he ordered drinks, followed by more drinks. LeFou was right behind him, trying desperately to quell the ache in his chest. Drinking was dangerous for him in regular ways, such as dizziness and an upset stomach, but also dangerous because LeFou had no idea what he was capable of revealing. But God, did LeFou drink that night.

On the third or fourth round, Gaston was still staring at the wall, looking lost. LeFou spoke finally, breaking the strange air of tension between them.

“Come on, Gaston, everybody here loves you.” LeFou gestured to the large tavern of drunk men and women, all carrying on their own conversations. Gaston glanced up briefly, then continued staring at the wall. LeFou is not sober now, far from it. He has a need for Gaston to feel better, to be happy. Gaston is his rock in the world, always constant, always a daydream. What happens when the rock you’re clinging to suddenly disappears?

You drown.

“Imagine. ‘I’ll never marry you as long as I live.’ Who can say that, let alone believe it?” Gaston complains, downing another drink. LeFou sighs, vying for a way to get Gaston back to normal. LeFou spots a group of women by the bar batting their eyes towards the two of them (but mostly Gaston). He waves them over wildly, trying his best to keep it subtle for Gaston. He needed a quick confidence boost.

The women walk over, giggling to one another happily.

“Hiii, Gaston!” They sing-song in unison. Gaston smiles their way, flexing his arms in a way that he assumes is subtle. It is not. But LeFou can see that he enjoys the girls there, and leaves him for the other side of the bar.

For awhile, he sits alone, watching Gaston flirt with the girls and drinking more and more. He cannot help being jealous of them, but for now he’s only glad that Gaston isn’t still quiet. Everything seems to be back to normal.

“Bonjour,” says a voice next to him, and LeFou jumps. Sitting there is a man he recognizes as Stanley, who often is at the bar with two other men he doesn’t really know. LeFou nods at him, taking another sip from his cup. “You thinking of stopping anytime soon?” Stanley asks, gesturing towards his drink. “This is your sixth or seventh drink tonight.” LeFou is thrown by the man, especially by the question.

“What, have you been watching me?” LeFou jokes. Stanley laughs.

“Well, not exactly. I just noticed Gaston wasn’t exactly…” he trails off.

“Himself?” LeFou jokes again. He is surprised when Stanley nods.

“Exactly.” There is a silence. “So what happened between you two?” He asks casually. LeFou sputters in surprise.

“What? No, nothing happened. I’m just giving him some space, with his… er… company.” Stanley nods, not looking extremely convinced.

“Well, I just assumed, since you two weren’t talking as much as usual tonight, and then you left to come over here, which you never do, and, um, I don’t know.” Stanley explains. LeFou laughs.

“What are you, an expert in my life?” Stanley chuckles, and takes a drink, never really answering. There is a silence again, but it’s comfortable. Then LeFou speaks.

“Gaston wants to marry Belle.” Stanley looks at him inquisitively. “She turned him down. He’s in a mood.” Stanley laughs ruefully.

“Well, I don’t blame her.” LeFou cocks his eyebrow. “Well, he is a bit brutish, isn’t he?” Stanley explains. LeFou shrugs.

“I guess. I consider it confidence.” LeFou says. Stanley stares at him for a second, and then takes a drink from his mug.

“I just don’t know how you can stand him.” Stanley sighs, looking at LeFou.

“Sometimes, I don’t either.” LeFou muses, surprising even himself with the statement. He is about to open his mouth, about to say something dangerous, when Gaston yells his name, and LeFou walks over. Like he always does.

Chapter Text

The whole tavern falls silent when Maurice walks in. Even Gaston, in the throngs of a dramatic war story, pauses mid-sentence to watch the old man try to catch his breath. LeFou’s eyes dart around, confused. Maurice never came to the tavern. In fact, LeFou had never seen him far from his house.

“Belle has been taken by a Beast!” Maurice’s voice thunders over the tavern. If anyone was still talking, they aren’t anymore. Someone lets out a loud cry, and soon the tavern is almost shattering from the noise.

“Lock that man up, he’s insane!”

“Maurice, where is she?”

“Kill the beast!”

The voices all blend together until all that is left is a monstrous roar, incomprehensible and chilling. LeFou wants to block his ears, to stop the sound from pounding into his skull. Oh, God, it reminds him of the war, of the screaming and bullets and the stench, just the stench of blood and how that smell couldn’t be washed off of him for a year at least, no matter how hard he tried to get rid of it, it was under his nails, under the fabrics of his mind-

“Stop!” The voice is loud, and silences everyone almost immediately. LeFou exhales loudly, and rests a hand on the table, allowing himself to breathe. He sees Stanley looking at him out of the corner of his eye, concerned. LeFou refuses to look back at him, partly because he is concerned about what is happening with Belle, and partly because LeFou isn’t sure if Stanley is really looking at him or not.

Gaston gazes around the tavern with a steely eye, and fixes his focus onto Maurice.

“There is a Beast, you say?” He asks, smirking. LeFou loves that look, that half-smile he wears where he knows he’s right. He struts toward the man, and LeFou is amused by how drastically Maurice is dwarfed by the man. Gaston’s eyes flicker up, and LeFou can see the gears in his head start to move. His smirk grows wider, an expression that sets LeFou on edge. He’s seen that too many times. “Don’t worry, Maurice,” he brags, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder, pushing his left down. Maurice shakes him off. “I will kill the Beast myself and rescue Belle.” The tavern cheers, and LeFou winces again from the onslaught of noise. Gaston laughs heartily, and LeFou sees Maurice thanking Gaston profusely.

Maurice is gesturing for Gaston to come with, and it’s obvious there is no time to waste. Suddenly, Gaston turns, and scans the tavern, eyes falling on LeFou. He gestures for him to come, ducking and walking out of the door.

LeFou follows on instinct, dodging people and ducking under arms to get outside in time. He might have heard someone calling his name (Stanley? No… that would be foolish…) but he doesn’t care. He makes it outside into the cool air.

“There you are. Come, I’m not sober enough to ride alone, you’ll listen to Maurice’s directions.” Gaston drawls, not even looking at LeFou. LeFou isn’t going to mention it, but he’s just as intoxicated as Gaston. But, LeFou isn’t going to tell that to Gaston.

While they ride on their horses, LeFou tunes out most of the conversation. Gaston is bragging, slurring his words in stories LeFou had heard (and lived) many time before. Maurice infrequently tells LeFou where to turn, but that’s around it.

LeFou starts to shiver about an hour after they leave the tavern. His teeth are chattering loudly, and his hands shake. The air seems to be getting colder… maybe he’s getting sober, it has been awhile since he’s had a drink. Maybe he’s getting too tired. Where were they heading, anyways? There seemed to be no ‘Beast’ in sight, nor any of the ‘castles’ that Maurice had been waxing poetic about for hours now. LeFou is getting frustrated, annoyed, and angry, something he isn’t usually.

Gaston is getting angry, too. The bragging has stopped by now, giving way to uncomfortable silence, only interrupted by Maurice mumbling vague directions. Suddenly, the tension snaps, as does Gaston.

“Alright, old man, where are we even going? I don’t seem to be seeing a castle anywhere around here!” Gaston barks. LeFou recoils at the tone, something usually aimed at him. Maurice hops off of the horse, staring at a tree at the front of the crossroads before them.

“No… if it fell, this… this way… like so… this way! No… I… remember…” Gaston hops off of his horse, also, and so does LeFou. Gaston is approaching Maurice rapidly, menacingly. Lefou runs in front of him, but is quickly pushed aside. He should say something now. He should tell Gaston to take it easy, shouldn’t he? Isn’t that what good people do, stop violence?

“Where are you taking us? Just take us to Belle. Is Belle even here, or are you just an insane old man?” Gaston hisses, towering over Maurice. LeFou should step in.

“Gaston, calm down…” he manages, voice weak. He doesn’t Gaston’s hand fly up until he is staggering backwards, clutching his forearm. Gaston is holding Maurice by the collar now, furious. LeFou trembles with fear.

“I swear, it was right here, I just… I can’t find the way… I… Belle needs saving.” Gaston pulls Maurice closer, and it sends a lightning bolt of panic into LeFou’s heart. Gaston is drunk, and angry, and tired, and this can’t, no, this cannot end well.

“Well, get me to Belle so I can save her, and marry her!” The words echo around the forest, seemingly shaking the leaves almost as hard as LeFou.

“You will never marry my daughter.” Maurice declares, and the world pauses.

They should get this man home, LeFou realizes. Maurice is old, and sick. He could be delusional, he needs sleep and food. That’s what they should do.

LeFou sees it in slow motion. Gaston’s fist comes out of nowhere, cutting into the old man’s jaw, knocking him to the ground. LeFou screams internally, having learned long ago to never vocalize your fear. He sees the dark figure fall to the ground, as if it had never had the energy to stand in the first place. The forest stand absolutely still, not daring to move, as Gaston breathes heavily. Like a bull about to charge.

Like a Beast.

“LeFou get the rope from the cart. We’re tying this lunatic up. He can’t poison the minds of the town anymore.” Gaston whispers. He is angrier than LeFou has ever heard. Still, the reality of his message shocks LeFou to the core. He couldn’t mean… leaving him here? There were wolves, and, well, wolves ! It was… murder.

“Gaston-” LeFou whispered, but then Gaston turned around, and the absolute fury in his eyes was more terrifying than any moment LeFou could dream up. More than the echoes of cannonfire, the smell of blood. More than the face of a vengeful God and the shine of hellfire. More than the dullness in a mother’s eye when she slips away. More than the tug of your heart when someone touches you, someone who you know should never create that reaction in you.

More than anything.

So LeFou nods, and gets the rope.

Chapter Text

LeFou stands alone in his house, completely still. The sound of the door slamming still echoes around the room, even though Gaston left hours ago. Or was it seconds? Time means nothing right now. Not when the world is crumbling around him.

The ride home had been silent. No bragging from Gaston, no witty quips or praise from LeFou. In fact, LeFou spent half the time crying. Gaston pretended not to notice.

The image of Maurice, tied up and unconcious, keeps coming back to him. Guilt shoots through him again, and LeFou starts to shake. He imagines too easily the way the wolves would rip off his flesh, blood pouring out of his face, his arms, his chest. He’s seen it. He’s seen it all before.

LeFou walks towards his bed, and collapses on top. He has a cheap straw mattress that pokes his back and itches, but it keeps him warm.

He turns over, and closes his eyes.

 

The stench of blood is thick in the air. Deep scarlet rivers flowing across pale skin. His skin. He’s bleeding, gushing blood, it’s all pouring out of him and it’s too goddamn fast. He’s going to bleed out right here, and die in the cold because he’s so cold right now. He had so much to do in his life, so fucking much, like kiss Gaston and swim in the ocean and feel loved. But now he’s never going to do any of that because he’s bleeding from everywhere, absulotely everywhere. And he looks up and sees Gaston there, holding a knife.

Now he’s hiding under a bush and there’s so much gunfire everywhere, it must be hitting him all over. It’s a village invasion, he’s supposed to be shooting people but he lost his gun a long time ago. And then he hears a soft gasp and turns around and there’s a child there, falling to the ground, and she’s got a bullet hole in her throat. He moves to hold her, and cradles her against him, trying to protect him. He’s shouting things at her, telling her to breathe, and that she’s going to be okay, but it’s a goddamn lie. She’s fading, he sees the light leaving her eyes, oh God no. He’s stopped screaming now, he just tries his best to hug her and make her feel safe. She’s just a child, with wide eyes and a flower-print dress. She was probably used to laughing and playing in the city square only yesterday, with her friends and neighbors. Now she’s dying in his arms, and the blood is everywhere, and he needs to do something. He can’t have her last moments be this, painful and bloody and terror-filled. But the light in her eyes is all gone now, she’s stopped shaking, she’s just stopped altogether. Now he lets go, he just screams, and it’s so loud it ripples through the universe. He’s screaming and screaming and screaming-

 

He’s screaming. Someone bursts into the room, and they’re screaming too, but it’s authoritve, and threatening. LeFou srambles into a sitting position, still disoiented, still terrified. The figure in his room stops in their tracks, holding something that looks like a frying pan over their head.

“LeFou? Are you alright?” The man sounds confused and scared. Wait, LeFou knew that voice.

“Stanley?” He mumbles, still shaking violently.

“Yes. I was next door - walking home from the tavern - when I heard you… yelling. I thought he… someone… was hurting you… or… Oh, I’m sorry. I guess, I have to…” he trailed off, and LeFou can’t see what expression is on his face because it’s so dark in the room.

“Sorry. It was a…” LeFou searches for the words. “Night terror.” Stanley exhaled slowly.

“Ah.” There is a pause, and unlike in the tavern, this is uncomfortable. “Oh my God,” Stanley suddenly says. “I just broke into your house. I’m so sorry.”

“No, no. Thank you, actually. For the gesture, I mean.” LeFou hastily affirms. Stanley chuckles.

“Well, I’ll get going. I aplogize again, Monsieur.” Stanley turns to leave, and LeFou has an inexplicable urge to keep him there. He doesn’t want to be alone, not in this small room with the dark.

“It was about the war.” He blurts out, and Stanley stops in his tracks, turns around. LeFou can’t see if Stanley is looking at him, he’s just a vague silhouette.

“Oh.” The word carries so much, and it seems to be transmitted in a few seconds.

“There was a girl there, around eight or nine, I’m not sure.” He’s never told anyone this story, not a single soul. Why is he telling Stanley this now? But he keeps talking. “God, she was so young, and she, she got shot. Right in front of me. And I was just yelling and holding her, and she was bleeding,” LeFou’s is crying now. “I tried to save her. I tried so hard .” He sits there, sobbing. He can’t hear anything in the room except his own crying, loud and violent. Suddenly, the mattress dips, and Stanley is next to him. His arms are around him. It sounds like he might be crying, too.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, and LeFou hugs him back. It feels like coming home. When Stanley says he’s sorry, it sounds real, it sounds true.

Stanley stays for half an hour before leaving. The whole time, he holds LeFou, and LeFou lets him. It’s foreign and scary, but it’s right. When he leaves, LeFou almost falls asleep peacefully.

Instead, he thinks of Maurice, tied up and eaten. He thinks of that girl who’s name he still didn’t know, who he buried in a field and covered with wildflowers. He thinks of all the people he’s failed to save, and hopes he won’t have to add himself to the list.

Chapter Text

LeFou is in the bakery, supplying orders for the day. The baker’s directions seem to go completely over his head, as he sits aimlessly kneading a loaf of bread and staring out of the window at the forest. Somewhere out there was the body of the man LeFou had played a part in murdering. Somewhere…

There was a light smack to the back of his head.

“LeFou! Get going!” The baker yells, pointing toward the oven. “Put that in the oven already!” LeFou nods, and silently follows his directions. The baker eyes him suspiciously. “LeFou, are you alright?” LeFou looks up, and nods his head unconvincingly. The baker gazes at him harshly, obviously not believing his lie. LeFou flushes red, silently cursing his pale complexion. “LeFou, tell me if you’re not okay.” The baker says it slowly, lulling LeFou into a  false sense of security.

Like LeFou could tell his boss what was wrong in his life. First of all, he’s hopelessly in love with the town’s lady’s man. Ironic, no? Secondly, when he woke up this morning, he could still smell Stanley in his bed. It was a soft mix of beer, flowers, and the smell of the world after a rainstorm. A related issue was that Stanley was in his bed last night, a sentence that makes him feel very scrambled-up and scared. But LeFou cannot focus on Stanley right now, because the last and most pressing issue is that in a way, LeFou has killed a man. And if being a sodomite wasn’t sending him to hell, letting an innocent man fall victim to a violent wolf attack certainly was.

So instead of doing what subconscious told him to, and running into the baker’s arms to sob and let everything come pouring out, LeFou forces a smile onto his face. He swallows the lump in his throat.

“No, monsieur, everything is fine. I’m just a bit tired. Late night at the tavern.” He chuckles heartily, and the baker cracks an uneasy smile. LeFou tends to the bread and muffins without comment.

The rest of the workday goes by without much happening. LeFou does his job well, while not as well as usual due to the constant weight of guilt on his mind. When he walks out of work, he is surprised to see Stanley there, looking eager and uneasy. He jumps up from his sitting position on the bench, and then stands awkwardly, hands hanging limp at his sides.

“S-stanley?” LeFou sputters out, glancing around.

“Yeah. Bonjour.” Stanley laughs.
“Bonjour. What are you doing here?” LeFou asks, hand still on the doorway. The sun shines through Stanley’s hair as he smiles happily.

“Well, the baker told me you work here, and I was bored, so…” he trails off, probably realizing that his reasoning sounds both creepy and pathetic. LeFou is grateful anyway.

“Let’s go for a walk.” LeFou suggests, and Stanley smiles in relief.

Soon they are in the middle of a field, having wandered out of town hours ago. Talking to Stanley was easy, like talking to the air. He was calm, and didn’t make cruel jokes about his appearance or intelligence. In the middle of the field, Stanley bends down to pick a blue wildflower, and sits cross-legged on the grass, examining it. LeFou sits down also, poking at the dirt with a stick.

“LeFou?” Stanley asks, and LeFou looks up.
“Mm?”

“I’m really sorry about last night,” he says, and LeFou doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is where the catch is, where reality hits him over the head. Stanley never wanted to sit there on LeFou’s cheap bed and hold him. He was drunk, and drunk people do stupid things. He looks up at Stanley, who makes direct eye contact back.
“What part are you sorry about?” LeFou asks grimly, poking the dirt more aggressively.

“I never should have left you there,” Stanley answers, looking away.
“Hmm?” LeFou asks in surprise. Surely he misheard him.

“You had just had a nightmare, and it was so terrible what you told me. And then I just left , and I’m sorry about that. I should have stayed.” LeFou laughs, astonished, and shakes his head.
“Well, don’t apologize. Anyways, I’m alone when I dream about it every other night of the week, aren’t I?” Stanley looks up at him, disbelieving.

“No… you’re not… you don’t… really?” LeFou shrugs.

“War is the worst thing you can imagine, Stanley. It stays with you. Especially when night falls. Yesterday was bad, yes, but of course it’s far from the worst.” LeFou admits, drawing a little circle in the dirt. Stanley makes a noise of disbelief.

“And you’re just… alone? Screaming like that? No one ever comes over? To check on you? God, LeFou, I thought you were dying last night.” LeFou laughs ruefully.

“No. The neighbors either don’t hear, or… know I’ve been in war. They pay me no mind. Not that anyone does, anyway.” LeFou had meant to keep that last bit in his head, why had he said it out loud? Especially now that there was an uncomfortable silence where Stanley was just staring at LeFou.

“What’s your real name, LeFou?” Stanley suddenly asks.

 

Footsteps behind him, running closer. Being swept up into a rush of tickles and laughing. The world spins upside down, around, as he is swung by his waist. He giggles, grabs on to Papa’s arm, and lands with a thud on the floor. He has a dull pain in his knee, but he is too busy laughing to care.

“Ah, LeFou, my little boy,” Papa joked, tickling him still. Maman groaned from the table.

“Pasquel, don’t call him that,” she pleads, but Papa laughs.

“No, LeFou doesn’t have a problem with it,” he sing-songs to LeFou and LeFou laughs.

“No! I like the name, Maman!” He yells, and she chuckles, watching Papa catch LeFou over and over and spin him around, turning the world into a carnival ride.

 

“Benoit.” LeFou mutters, tracing swirls in the dirt.
“Come again?” Stanley asks.

“Benoit.” LeFou affirms, looking up at Stanley. “But don’t call me that.” Stanley looks confused, but nods.

“Benoit Lafayette is my full name, but no one calls me that. When I was little, I was so clumsy, my Papa,” LeFou pauses to gulp here, the memories all flooding back.  “My Papa nicknamed me LeFou, the crazy one. And since then, LeFou is my name.” Stanley raises an eyebrow.

“Do you never get annoyed by it? Or feel like people are making fun of you?” LeFou shakes his head.

“No. Papa called me LeFou. It can’t be an insult.” Stanley still looks confused.

“But why can’t anyone call you Benoit - er - your real name?” LeFou looks to the ground.

“My Maman was the only one who called me Benoit. I’m only Benoit to her.”

 

Warm summer nights, taking dancing lessons with Maman by candlelight. Papa was singing, clapping a fast tune.

“Papa, that isn’t a waltz!” LeFou yelled, laughing.

“Benoit, just appreciate the music,” Maman sang, twirling him around. He pouts, protesting.

“Maman, you’re supposed to be the girl! You can’t twirl me!” Papa laughs, and keeps singing.

 

LeFou feels tears prickling at his eyes. Part of him knows he should shut up now, no one likes to hear him talk for more than a few minutes at a time. But the string inside of him is unraveling, and it all tumbles out of him.

“It was the plague.”

 

Hands hold him back, keeping him out of the small cottage. He begs, words blending together into a meaningless ramble. The hands force him onto the street, and he starts sobbing. It’s so hot out in the sun, and he knows the other boys will make fun of him for crying here, but he doesn’t care. Gaston is there, holding an arm, trying to drag him further away from the house. He swats at him, and for once, Gaston doesn’t swat back harder. He seems to be almost understanding, gripping his arms with a stoney force. The doctor peeks into the room, face masked by the bird of death. The nightmarish beak will peck Maman’s eyes out, pierce Papa’s throat. They will surely die.

They got worse yesterday. Papa was shaking, vomiting on the mattress, hands in Maman’s hair. She was coughing red-stained mucus, leaking tears down her face. LeFou had tried to talk, tried to get them to laugh, but all they would do was get sicker and sicker.

He knew what was happening. He had seen the waxy corpses in the streets, heard the wails of windows, but he never imagined it would be his Maman, his Papa.

During the night, when he was supposed to be sleeping on the Doctor’s floor, he snuck a candle and walked across town. The door to his cottage was unlocked. Inside, he could hear the wailing of the dying. He ran over, and shone the light on the faces of his parents. His father was caked in vomit, waxy and white. He wasn’t breathing, there was no rise and fall of his chest. LeFou pressed a hand to his mouth to suppress a scream. Papa’s eyes were closed. Had he thought of LeFou before he died? Had he thought any coherent thoughts? Or perhaps just the sensation of pain…

His Maman was awake, eyes lolling about, faintly moaning. LeFou’s chin wobbled, shaking his head slowly from side to side.
“Maman!” He whispered, the word sounding tragic.

“Benoit… my boy… come here…” her voice was barely audible, but LeFou still walked closer, trying his best not to breathe too deep.

“Maman, please don’t go…” he trails off, staring aimlessly at her. This isn’t how last moments are supposed to go.

“Benoit…” she whispers, and coughs. Blood spurts from her mouth, and she closes her eyes. LeFou shakes her, harder, but she doesn’t stir. He doesn’t cover the scream now, letting it loose in the air.

No one comes to help him.

 

Stanley stares at him, face stunned. He takes in a shaky breath as LeFou tells the end of his story.

“Okay. I won’t call you Benoit.” LeFou wipes away the tears from below his eyes, and goes back to poking the ground. “LeFou?” Stanley asks.

“Yeah?” LeFou answers.

“I really hate the world sometimes.” Stanley muses, plucking the flower of petals one by one.

“I feel the same way.” LeFou admits, and they both laugh sarcastically.

LeFou eyes a flower beside him. It’s blue and purple and fresh. He glances back to Stanley, ripping the petals off of the old flower, like he was ripping the ills off of the world.

LeFou plucks the flower, and holds it out to Stanley. Stanley’s eyes flicker up to LeFou and fill with something LeFou has never seen before. Stanley reaches out to take it.

LeFou!!! ” The yell echoes across the field. LeFou jumps up, dropping the flower on the ground. He starts running to the sound of Gaston’s voice, looking behind him.

“See you later!” He yells to Stanley, and tries not to focus on Stanley’s somewhat dejected face. He only sees him reach out for the flower on the ground before he runs faster, far away.

Chapter Text

LeFou catches up to Gaston, who is leaning against a tree.

“Who were you talking to?” He asks LeFou, frowning.

“Stanley.” LeFou pants, resting his hands on his knees. Gaston raises an eyebrow.

“Who?”

“Stanley. You know. The florist,” he explains, and recognition flashes in Gaston’s eyes. He nods.

“Ah. Since when are you two so close?” LeFou chuckles without smiling. It seems like Stanley has known him for years, and in a way, they had. Stanley always knew him, LeFou was just always too preoccupied with Gaston. Stanley too preoccupied with… whatever Stanley thinks about.

“Well, we started talking that night in the tavern, before…” LeFou trails off, staring at the floor. Gaston grabs his arm roughly, and LeFou gasps. Gaston’s face is contorted in fury.

“You didn’t tell him, did you?” Gaston’s face is so close to his, he can feel the spit fly through the air. He winces, shaking slightly.

“No. No, of course not!” He whispers, and Gaston lets go. LeFou stumbles backward, and rubs his shoulder. Gaston walks ahead, not looking back, only gesturing for LeFou to follow. He does, walking quickly. Gaston stares forward, without emotion in his gaze. LeFou has a question bubbling to the surface, but he can’t ask it. He has bruises to remind him what happens when he says the wrong things.

But the image of Maurice flickers in front of him again, and LeFou can’t keep his mouth shut. He needs to know.

“Gaston, do you feel sorry about it?” He blurts out, and Gaston’s mouth turns into a tight line.

“Shut the hell up, LeFou,” he barks, but LeFou stops in his tracks.

“No. I need to know,” he pleads, and Gaston keeps walking forward.

“You need to shut. The. Hell. Up.” LeFou knows he should do what Gaston says, but he can’t anymore. There was a line, and they had crossed it when they let a man die. This life wasn’t harmless anymore, and LeFou starts to wonder if it ever really was.

“Gaston, did you ever think about what you were doing? He’s out there, right now, ripped apart. Okay? Do you feel sorry at all? Do you feel sorry for anything you-” LeFou is knocked off his feet by a slap to the face. He skids across the dirt, and is painfully aware of pebbles lining the trail. A foot connects with his arm, his leg, and he curls up on the ground. Gaston’s boots are pounding against him, and LeFou raises his hands in surrender. Ha. Like that will ever make him stop.

When Gaston is done, LeFou has cuts on his arms, legs, and bruises all over. He expects to hear Gaston walk away, like he usually does, but instead, he hears someone sit down.

“I went back for him,” Gaston says, his voice sounding far away. “but he was gone. The ropes were… cut up. Chewed up. There was no blood, but it had rained two night ago, and…” he trails off, and the air is silent except for LeFou’s heavy breathing. Gaston pats LeFou’s foot. “Hey,” he says casually, like he didn’t just beat his best friend to the ground. “Meet me at the tavern tonight, I need a drink.”

Then Gaston walks away.

LeFou takes a few minutes to gather himself, and then slowly gets up, using the tree for support. He half-expects Stanley to come running out of nowhere to help him, but he’s taken another path back to town. He should be starting his job now, thinking LeFou was just walking around on his day off without a care in the world.

LeFou limps into town, carefully avoiding the street corner where Stanley sets up shop. He says hi to passersby, pretending that nothing is wrong. That he isn’t bleeding where a rock dug into his arm. When he makes it to his house, he goes in and shuts the door. The only light comes from a small window at the far side of the room. He grabs the small hand mirror he keeps on the table, and takes off his shirt. His chest is an explosion of black and blue, purple and green. He bruises quickly, but even this is much. His arms are trailed with blood, and he winces as he digs out rocks and dirt from cuts. He takes the water from his pitcher and pours it over the cuts, blotting them dry. On his stomach is a giant bite mark, still purple around the edges. He pours water on that, too, hoping it will heal faster. Gaston gave him that in one of their tavern wrestling matches, always painful physically and mentally. It was nearly impossible to keep his mind off of… certain subjects when he was being pinned to the floor by a sweaty and shirtless Gaston. He was usually able to keep things under control, though, by just focusing on the pain and nothing else. Usually.

LeFou sat on his bed, in the late afternoon light, mapping every square inch of his body. The divots and freckles, the blue blossoming patches, the ragged scratches. His arms hurt to lift, and his legs are getting more and more stiff. All he wants to do is lie down and never wake up. This was the moment where he needed Stanley to come in and hold him up. But of course, Stanley can’t magically appear.

This was the time of day LeFou was supposed to meet Gaston at the tavern. Gaston, who put the bruises on his body. Gaston, who did so many things to him that don’t show on the surface. Why did he love Gaston?

He still doesn’t know, as he walks to town in a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. He doesn’t understand his mind, or why he wants what he does so badly. He can never see the cogs turning in his brain, or figure out what greases them to turn faster. He just knows that seeing Gaston smile, move, do just about anything, sends shivers down his spine. The way he overpowers a room, like he doesn’t care what people think of him, even though he does. A memory LeFou tries not to think about comes whirling back to him.

 

The wind whistles through the grass, cool autumn air causing LeFou to shiver. Gaston sits next to him at the top of the hill overlooking the small village. They are sitting in comfortable silence, like they usually do on these few times they are alone together.

“Hey,” Gaston mutters, lightly shoving LeFou’s shoulder. The sixteen year-old rubs the place where Gaston’s fist had made impact.

“Yeah?” LeFou responds.

“Have I ever told you about my father?” Gaston asks, squinting up at the sun. LeFou shakes his head. Gaston clears his throat. “He left us when I was little, six or seven. He was this huge, hulking guy. Always made everyone laugh. But I guess there weren’t enough people in this village to give him all the praise he wanted.” Gaston lies backward, stretching out his arms above him and staring up at the clouds. “I woke up one morning, and he was just… gone. He didn’t leave a note, or a message of any kind. The horse was gone, he was gone, Maman was devastated. So was I. I kept thinking, what type of man hurts someone so young like that? So I made this plan, that I was going to be more than that bastard ever was.” Gaston is growling now, and LeFou can see a tear threatening to break free from his eyes. “So that’s what I am. Better than him. Better than anybody.” Gaston sits up, and looks at LeFou expectedly. LeFou searched Gaston’s scared, pleading eyes. He knows what to do.

“Well, Gaston, that shouldn’t be hard. After all, no one’s built like you.” Gaston smiles, looking at the horizon. “Hey, I’ll bet you beat me at this wrestling match!” LeFou yells, and Gaston laughs, tackling him.

 

LeFou spent the rest of that day complementing Gaston. And the next week. And the next year. And all the years after that. All that stuck with LeFou was the idea of Gaston leaving town, wanting more, leaving LeFou alone.

Chapter Text

Maurice is dead. He is ripped apart in the woods, skin torn by the teeth of wolves, his screams still echoing in LeFou’s nightmares. It is the logical explanation, the sensical explanation, the only explanation. So why in hell is he sitting on a bar stool, speaking in hushed tones to Stanley, looking completely alive and whole?

Silence rushes over the room as Gaston and LeFou walk in. LeFou feels his legs start to shake, his knees knocking together violently. Reality is rippling, threatening to break. This man, this man who is alive and breathing, is the same man he killed not a week ago.

Did LeFou imagine it? He believes he might have, for a singular, beautiful second. A world where Maurice is not tied up in the woods somewhere, empty of life. A world where Gaston was just another man in the village who meant nothing to LeFou. Where Maman and Papa never died, where Papa would swing LeFou over his head, where Maman would sing him to sleep. Where LeFou was never broken in the first place at all.

He believes it all for a second, because Maurice is sitting at the bar.

“Maurice!” Gaston’s powerful voice booms over the room, shaking the world back to its senses. “I’m so relieved!” LeFou just stands by the door, watching as Gaston claps Maurice on the shoulder. LeFou bites his lip. There is a pain in his chest, a panic, watching Gaston touch Maurice. He sees, in slow-motion, the closed fist pounding against the old man’s face. He sees Maurice jerk away from Gaston’s hand, and his heart stutters.

A woman steps forward out of the bar shadows. “Maurice here has a story,” she warns, staring at Gaston with icy blue eyes. LeFou recognizes her as Agatha, an old woman who prowls the streets in rags. LeFou has never seen her in the bar before.

Gaston laughs, and it sounds unsure in the quiet bar. “You aren’t really going to believe Maurice? Why, he’s mad!” The crowd grumbles. Maurice’s gaze flicks up, scans the bar for support. He falls on LeFou.

“LeFou! He was there! He’ll know! Gaston tried to murder me, he’ll say it!” Maurice affirms. The world seems to speed up and slow down all at once, at the same time LeFou’s breathing becomes too loud to hear anything else.

In… out. “Come on, LeFou, you’ll tell us!” In… out. The lights are too bright in this bar, they’re blinding and LeFou can’t stand it. In… in… what comes next? “LeFou! Come on, tell us!” In… in… in… Maurice’s face is full of despair, of hope. Hope riding on LeFou. OUT… IN… OUTINOUTINOUTINOUTINOU-

Gaston is touching him. Oh, God, he’s touching him, and everything he was thinking falls away, and he is jelly in his hands. He can barely hear what anyone is saying anymore, all he knows is that Gaston’s finger is under his chin, slowly lifting his head. Gaston’s other hand is stroking his cheek, slowly, Gaston is touching him and it’s foreign and dangerous and beautiful. The places where Gaston touches sear like fire, burning LeFou away until he is nothing but dust on the ground.

“Come on, LeFou,” Gaston murmurs, looking LeFou right in the eye. Gaston’s eyes are so big, they swallow up the room. LeFou is vaguely aware that he should look away, or laugh, or do anything other than just standing here. But he can’t tear his gaze away from those hazel eyes. He should just tell the bar that Gaston didn’t try to kill Maurice. He should, because just look at him . Look at Gaston, how huge he is, how goddamn beautiful .

Gaston rests his thumb on LeFou’s bottom lip, pulling it down slightly. It is so much , LeFou is afraid he will faint. Gaston’s hands are rough, calloused from hunting. LeFou has spent his life imagining how those hands would feel on his face, on his neck, everywhere. Nothing feels real besides Gaston’s touch, and LeFou would do anything to have this continue. Anything.

LeFou opens his mouth, and then somehow finds Maurice’s eyes in the crowd. Pleading. Afraid. LeFou closes his mouth, and swallows.

“LeFou,” Gaston muses, smirking. “Just tell us! Did I try to murder Maurice?” The question hangs in the air, and LeFou tries to fight the urge to say no. The answer is yes. The truth is yes.

Gaston’s eyes say the answer is no.

And quietly, so quietly no one else can hear him, Gaston whispers. “All of me, LeFou, could be yours.” The words melt LeFou on impact, pulling the not-truth out of him, showing it to the world.

“No.”

And Gaston lets go of him. Leaves him there. Turns around, victory evident on his face. LeFou can’t look at Maurice. He has failed him.

He has failed everyone, especially himself.

Chapter Text

LeFou does not move for another fifteen minutes. He doesn’t speak up when Maurice is declared insane or when the asylum is sent for, although he knows every second he should. There are words that could save this man, words that are trapped in LeFou’s head. He himself has set up all the bars and barriers to keep these words deep inside of him, but he cannot tear them down.

Gaston is in the corner, talking to the villagers while having a death grip on Maurice’s shoulder. LeFou studies Gaston, waiting. Waiting for any sign of acknowledgment of what Gaston had told him just minutes ago.

All of me, LeFou, could be yours .

The words morph in LeFou’s mind, contorting into a new meaning. Gaston must know.

Well, LeFou, he ruefully jokes to himself. He’s far from the only one who knows now. LeFou can’t pretend what happened could be at all disguised or brushed off. All his life, trying to put on a face for the rest of the world, was made null and void with one stroke of the cheek.

LeFou knows Gaston will pay no price for this. Sure, he was the one who initiated, but LeFou was the one who reciprocated. And that makes all the difference. Gaston can claim innocence in a million different ways, and LeFou will be the one shunned, or killed. He faces this with cold ambivalence. Now that the nightmare is becoming real, he has given up all hope.

What was his life worth, anyways? Just wasted thoughts and wasted opportunities, and millions of chances to save people that never came to fruition.

He wonders if anyone will miss him. Part of him is convinced that Gaston will mourn him, cry silently when he is alone, and think of LeFou often. But the other part of him is fairly certain Gaston will cast the first stone.

It is no use, anyways, to ponder the questions he will never get answers for. For now, the village is preoccupied with a madman and his missing daughter. It was easy enough for the village to dismiss Maurice’s absence in the last few days. The old man never ventured outside of his house much anyways, so no one really noticed.

Belle, however, could not be written off by antisocial tendencies. Belle had a routine, walking around the village every morning, doing chores. When she was absent for more than three days, consecutively, the village began to gossip. Theorize. Place blame.

Now Maurice was back, and saying a Beast had her locked up in a castle. That in of itself is far more interesting than a man who prefers the company of men. At least for now.

LeFou glances over at a table near the front, and sees Stanley, still sitting in the same chair he has been sitting in since LeFou walked in. LeFou makes his way across the room, trying not to be noticed. He slid onto the stool next to Stanley, waiting for conversation to start.

Stanley keeps staring straight ahead. “Bonjour, LeFou.” His voice is steely and cold, and unnerves LeFou. He has never seen Stanley like this before, but then again, he does not have a long history of being friends with Stanley. He has to remind himself of this, since it seems like they have been companions for years.

“Bonjour.” LeFou’s voice is so shaky it is barely understandable, and just like that, any hope of being understood is out the window.

“Quite a night, huh?” Stanley still hasn’t looked at him, so LeFou resolves to stare at the same brown patch of wall.

“Quite.” LeFou agrees.

“I’m happy to hear you and Gaston didn’t try to kill that old man,” Stanley says, although his voice is strained and false.

“Stanley…” LeFou starts, but he does not have the words.

“You and Gaston seem to be getting along quite well,” Stanley mutters, and the words are like acid spit into LeFou’s soul. He rushes to explain.

“Stanley, it isn’t like that at all-”

“Isn’t like what?” Stanley snaps. “ I was only talking about a friendship. Unless, you are implying something more?” Stanley turns to look LeFou directly in the eyes, and LeFou stumbles back off the stool.

“Stanley, please, it isn’t-” The cold look in Stanley’s eyes breaks for a brief second, revealing pain. LeFou stops talking, because so many things are happening all at once and he cannot keep track of it all.

“LeFou, are you-” Stanley is going to ask the question, the question, and LeFou is going to have to either lie (which he cannot do to Stanley, even though he already has) or tell the truth (which he certainly cannot do to Stanley, because he knows what Stanley will say). But Stanley is cut off by a man breaking through the door, screaming,

“The asylum truck is here!” There is a rush of noise, and Gaston grabs LeFou by the collar, dragging him away from Stanley. Stanley calls out something, but LeFou cannot hear what before they are both out of the door and Maurice is thrown in a padded truck, condemned to hell on earth.

Chapter Text

Everyone knows that asylum is the worst fate for a man. LeFou has heard the stories, as has everyone. Men are subjected to slop for food, beaten and tortured daily. Even sane men who find themselves in the asylum do not last long before they are mentally broken. LeFou wonders now, seeing Maurice being loaded into the back of the truck, whether this man is going to be driven insane by the atmosphere of the asylum. Then again, Maurice might not have his sanity to begin with.

The question of whether or not Maurice is truly insane brings up a list of other problems. Maurice was telling the truth about Gaston- but he also believes his daughter was kidnapped by a Beast. But writing this off as an insane man’s ravings isn’t as easy as it sounds, because one truth puts the entire conclusion off-balance: No one has seen Belle in almost seven days.

Maurice is shoved roughly into the carriage by Gaston and the asylum worker. He has a wild, terrified look in his eyes, and LeFou looks away.

Stanley is by the other side of the crowd, staring at nothing in particular. LeFou feels like he can recognize the empty, afraid look on Stanley’s face. He feels like he’s experienced it.

LeFou looks away.

And that’s when the sound of a running horse starts, first in the background, getting louder and louder, until someone rounds the corner. There is a flash of brilliant yellow, the sound of a horse whining, and the crowd explodes.

Belle . She is dressed in brilliant yellow, hair wrapped up in an elegant braid (although loose strands fall around her neck). She brandishes a mirror like a weapon, screaming the same phrase over and over.

“Let my father go!” She jumps off the horse, and walks right up to Gaston. LeFou’s pulse quickens, images of Gaston hurting Belle flash through his mind. Gaston seems as surprised as LeFou, though, as all he can do is take a step backwards as he hastens to explain.

“Belle, your father seemed to think that you were being imprisoned by a Beast. He’s obviously suffering from some sort of insanity, we had-” Belle whips out the mirror, waving it around to the crowd. On the glass was not a reflection of confused faces, however, it was a nightmare.

A face that did not belong to any animal or any man. Coarse brown hair covered every inch of what would be skin, and fangs protruded from its mouth. The villagers screamed.

“Monster… Beast!” The words flew around the crows like lightning. LeFou just stared at the mirror, trembling slightly. What was it that he was seeing?

“No, no!” A look of horror crosses Belle’s face as she pulls the mirror closer to her chest. “He’s not a Beast, don’t call him that-” Gaston guffaws.

“Not a Beast? Do you have eyes? That is a creature of unimaginable terror-”

“No!” Belle cries, looking panicked and angry. LeFou is confused now, more than ever. How could she say that that… that thing wasn’t a Beast? “He is kind, and gentle, and trapped inside his own skin! He has things about him that are strange, but he is a good man.” Belle’s words resonate in LeFou, and he wonders why.

There is a brief silence as Gaston stares at Belle.

“Belle has been bewitched!” He suddenly shouts, and the crowd erupts with shouting. “The Beast has cursed her!” People start grabbing Belle by the arms while she protests. LeFou yells out for them to stop, but his voice is swallowed up. “We must travel to the castle and break the curse! Kill the Beast! ” The village explodes. Someone who has brought a lantern starts lighting torches. Gaston grabs LeFou by the collar, places him in front of the crowd. Gaston starts to march, chanting Kill the Beast relentlessly.

LeFou cannot breathe. It’s like life always is for him, he should be doing something, but instead he is walking next to Gaston, feeling empty and scared. He turns around, cranes his neck for a view of Belle, but the girl in the yellow dress isn’t anywhere.

He spots Stanley, who has made his way to the front of the crowd. He holds a torch, but he seems afraid of it, gripping it timidly. He makes eye contact with LeFou, and runs forward, catching up to LeFou.

“What’s happening?” Stanley gasps, wiping his free hand frantically on his pants.

“We’re killing a beast,” LeFou states simply. Stanley shakes his head.

“I’m scared,” Stanley admits. With that, LeFou realizes how terrified he is himself. He doesn’t know what’s going on. The whole village is venturing into the forest at night to fight a mythical Beast.

It occurs to LeFou that he isn’t going to survive tonight. If he is not killed by a monster in the forest, he will get ripped apart by wolves. And if he is not ripped apart by wolves, the attention will soon shift to him and Gaston. And what happens next… well. And LeFou can’t seem to shake the memory of Stanley’s face when he was about to ask the question. LeFou knows the question too well. The question asked by his mind all day long, all his life.

Are you a sodomite, LeFou?

What would he say when Stanley asked? He had already lied to Stanley so much, he doesn't think he could stand to lie again. But to tell the truth… and remembering the coldness in Stanley's gaze back at the tavern was enough to keep Stanley silent.

Stanley turns to him. His expression is unreadable, but his free hand flutters nervously by his side. They are still walking, Gaston ahead of them, and the roaring crowd behind them, but in the moment everything else seems to slow down.

“Anyone but Gaston, LeFou. Anyone.” LeFou blinks, confused and shocked.

“What?” He asks, but Stanley has already been enveloped by the crowd. LeFou shakes it off and attempts to concentrate. He reminds himself of what is happening. His fate can wait until later. For now, there is a Beast to kill.

Chapter Text

When the view of the castle breaks through the trees, a hush fills the air. Up to now, there seemed to be a chance that none of this was real, that it was only the result of a series of misunderstandings. But suddenly everything is all too real, and the villagers come to a shared stop, collectively taking in the castle.

In the cloudy night, the only source of light is the flickering fires of the forces, which only illuminates miniature sections of the castle. The silhouette of the castle is menacing, turrets branching out like tentacles from the main building. As LeFou gazes at the shape, he feels something tugging at the back of his mind.

“Let’s move forward!” Gaston’s bellowing voice shakes the villagers out of their trance. They roar again, and LeFou finds himself shouting with them. He tries his best to look menacing and confident, because a scared face will stick out in a mob.

They rush forward, climbing the steps of the castle like ants swarming a discarded piece of food. With every step, LeFou feels something growing in his head. A memory? A dream? He cannot tell.

The villagers pound at the door, beginning a steady rhythm. LeFou feels himself being dragged against the door, and then roughly pulled back. He puts his arms over his head, desperately trying to protect himself. He feels as if he is the battering ram. It seems like this goes on for hours, while the chant of Kill the Beast ! Echoes all around him. LeFou wonders what Beast they are trying to kill. The monster, hairy and wild who is hidden in the castle, or the sodomite trying to break in?

As soon as this thought crosses his mind, The doors seem to fly open before them. LeFou stumbles forward, almost falling over. He suddenly realizes that he is on the front lines of whatever awaits everyone. He braces himself for anything. Noise, pain, death. To his surprise, nothing happens. He tentatively opens his eyes, and finds himself in an empty room, larger than half the village square. Like the castle itself, the room seems like something from a dream he never had.

There is a wide open floor space, with only a table and coat rack pushed off to the side. On the table is a platter, where a teacup and a teapot sit. Beside the platter, there is an ornate clock and a candelabra. Besides that seemingly random assortment of objects, the entire room is empty.

The villagers fall silent at the sight of the empty room. Pitchforks and torches held high, they seem unsure what to do now that there is no enemy. Gaston stands in front of LeFou, hands slack at his sides.

This whole place has an ominous air to it, like there are ghosts waiting in the shadows to jump out at them.

“Gaston?” LeFou whispers. Gaston doesn’t react. “Um, have you considered that this place might be… well… haunted?” Gaston stands there like he hasn’t even heard LeFou. He glares around the room, daring the room to come alive.

And to LeFou’s shock, it does.

The candelabra twists, turns, and reveals a… face? The golden decor on its handle seems to morph into a miniature man. It moves, candles bursting with flame that seem to light up every inch of the room. The light reveals an upper balcony to the room and a piano on the ground floor. Suddenly, it seems as if everything is alive. The teapot and teacup are leaping to life, the candelabra is twisting, the piano is moving wildly, and the clock opens eyes on its face. LeFou stands in awe, but Gaston is already throwing punches. The villagers have sprung to life, but LeFou cannot hear anything but the beating of his heart echoing in his ears. Furniture seems to appear from every angle, all bursting with life.

LeFou starts to step backward, but Gaston grabs his shoulder. His fingernails dig into LeFou’s flesh, and LeFou swears at him, a mumbled curse. Gaston shoves him forward, where he is met with the brass arms of the coatrack, smacking him relentlessly. It stings, and LeFou can already feel the red marks forming as he is yanked away from the onslaught of copper and thrown to the ground. He holds his cheek, gasping for air, and holds himself up with one shaky arm.

A wild battle cry cuts through the air. LeFou’s head snaps up just in time to see the massive piano descending on him like a meteorite. He screams and curls up, but it’s too late. He feels a weight crush him, and he feels something in his chest cracking. It feels like a boulder flattening his insides, and he instinctively calls out for help.

“Gaston!” He wails, his voice cracking. It’s so hard to breathe, and there’s pain on every inch of his skin. Gaston’s head snaps backward, and he takes in the sight. LeFou, sprawled on the ground, pinned down by a sentient piano. It would be almost humorous if he wasn’t in so much pain. “Help me!” LeFou chokes out, and Gaston stares at him with cold, unfeeling eyes.

“Sorry, LeFou,” he flippantly says, breaking LeFou into pieces. “It’s hero time.”

And with that, while LeFou screams out in pain, emotional and physical, Gaston turns on his heel, with a swish of his cape, and sprints up the stairs.

LeFou stops screaming, just stares emptily at the gaping space where Gaston abandoned him. He had just left… without a second thought. Without hesitation.

The piano moves. LeFou stays on the ground, curled up. It hurts to inhale, to exhale, and he’s not sure if it’s because he’s hurt badly or because he’s sobbing too hard to breathe.

Was he really this worthless to Gaston this whole time? LeFou had always thought that Gaston would at least care… a tiny amount. Any amount. But LeFou just saw him walk up those stairs, leaving him to die.

A piano leg nudges at LeFou’s leg. LeFou reaches out a hand and slowly pushes himself up. His chest explodes with pain. The piano nudges him lightly again, and LeFou stares at it. It seems to have a sort of face where music should be. It’s unnerving. He’s still kneeling on the ground, clutching his stomach. That’s when he sees it.

The teapot is falling, from the upper balcony. It curves through the air, on a direct path to the ground. It will certainly shatter into a million pieces. He could save it. It seems like such a silly idea, saving a teapot. But it has a face. It has movement.

Is it sentient? Is this teapot aware of life and love?

It would be so easy to let it fall, to let it crash, to stick by Gaston, to stick behind while Gaston plays hero. But something inside him lights up. Maybe it’s the pain, still curling up from his stomach. Maybe it’s remembering the dead look in Gaston’s eyes.

Maybe it’s hero time for LeFou, after so many years.

Whatever it is, LeFou leaps forward, and catches the teapot.

Chapter Text

The teapot is cold and smooth in his hands, and for a minute, it is completely still. Suddenly, it jerks around in his hands, a force that almost causes him to drop it again. There is a face on the other side of the teapot, and it looks vaguely familiar. The two make eye contact for a second, and then the pain hits LeFou like a truck. He doubles over, resting the teapot on the ground as carefully as he can. The pain radiates from his chest, and he swears under his breath.

“Have you hurt yourself?” The voice seems to come out of nowhere, and LeFou looks around for someone that matches the sweet, motherly voice. It is then he realizes that the voice is coming from the teapot itself. He stares, wide-eyed, still kneeling on the ground. The face on the teapot moves , and he jerks back a bit. The voice comes again, concerned. “Where does it hurt, my dear?” LeFou pushes away the absurdity of speaking to a teacup, and answers its (her?) question.

“My chest,” he croaks out, and just speaking nearly causes him to collapse on the ground. The teapot looks around, winces, and motions for him to pick her (it?) up. He does, holding her close to his face.

“Was it Cadenza? He doesn’t get much exercise, you see…” LeFou stares at her blankly. “Oh, the piano. Cadenza is his name.” She explains. LeFou nods. “Oh, I told him, you cannot sit on anyone, because you could hurt them very badly, and- are you bleeding?” She asks, and LeFou shakes his head, still grimacing. She looks around, and whispers to him, so fast he can barely understand her. “What’s your name? Are you fighting with Gaston? Because if you are, that makes this especially complicated-” LeFou responds with the sort of furious rage he didn’t know he had in him.

“My name is LeFou. I am not in any way affiliated with that… that…” He cannot find words to describe Gaston. Instead, he just shakes his head vigorously. The teapot smiles, which LeFou reminds himself is something that teapots do not do. Nevertheless, the teapot smiles.

“I saw him with you, and let me tell you right now… you’re too good for him anyway.” She flashes her eyes knowingly. For the first time, LeFou considers that she might be right. What had Gaston done, besides being tall and… there? The well that had once been full of answers is now bone-dry.

LeFou comes crashing back to reality with another wave of pain from his chest. The teapot grimaces in sympathy.

“LeFou, if you follow the hallway right there-” she glances toward a closed door, “-the third door to the left is a small closet. You can hide in there until the fighting is over… one way or another.” She does the equivalent of whatever a nod is in her teapot-state, and LeFou nods back. “Let me down on the silver platter by the pillar. LeFou nods again, swallowing hard.

He grips the teapot with his right hand, using his left to brace against his chest. Standing up, he feels as if the world is tilting in front of him. He stumbles as he walks, shakily dodging fists and flying furniture. He glances around him, trembling hard, and takes in his surroundings. He feels like he is watching everything from far away. He can hear everything, and see everything, but he isn’t really there.

When he makes it to the silver platter, which is being left alone once it was made clear this particular piece of furniture was not sentient and fighting. He lets the teapot down, immediately dropping to his knees in pain.

“LeFou? I need you to listen to me, do what I say, okay?” She asks, in a calm voice that does not allude to the fact that they both could be dead within the next few hours. LeFou nods, breathing deep. “I need you to just walk into the hallway, go to the third door to the left, and just rest. Alright? When you stop hearing the fight, then you can walk out. But until then? Rest.”

“Okay.” LeFou’s voice sounds broken, but he makes eye contact with the teapot.

Stumbling forward, he skirts around a flying duster attacking a villager and throws open the door. As he turns around to close it, he sees that the silver platter is empty. The teapot is gone.

LeFou slams the door closed, folding in on himself on the floor. He breathes heavy, and he is tempted to just close his eyes and fall asleep on the floor. But behind him, he hears the sounds of fighting. Something is thrown up against the door, and the rattle of the hinges scares LeFou enough to propel him down the hallway, crawling pathetically.

He throws open the third door to the left, barely looking in before he drags himself inside, hastily closing the door behind him. He is surprised to find that he’s not in complete darkness. There is a large window on the far wall, where the faint light from the torch outside illuminates the room with a warm glow. LeFou looks around at the walls, and finds there is faint writing on it.

LeFou cannot read. He cannot read a single word of any book that has ever been put in front of him. So why can he understand the childlike writing scrawled on the walls with red paint? Why does his mind repeat the two words clear as day, as if he has done it millions of times before?

Why can he understand the names LeFou  and Stanley written on the wall, when all logic dictates he should not be able to?

That’s when the itch in his mind is scratched, and the memories come rushing back like floodwaters, drowning LeFou in the past.

Chapter Text

The two six-year-old boys are sat in a small room, with a tray holding red paint. Stanley’s eyes are big and brown, and really shiny in the light from the window. His right index finger is covered with paint, and he drags it along the wall in a wavy symbol.

“See, Benny? That’s an ‘S’. Ok? It makes the ‘sss’ sound.” LeFou nods, as Stanley makes a cross next to the S. “That’s a ‘T’. Tuh. Tuh. T. Okay?” LeFou watches as Stanley writes his own name on the wall in dripping red paint, pointing out each letter as he goes. “Now it’s your turn. You gotta write your name next to mine, so everyone who sees this knows we’re best friends and that this is our secret room. The first letter is gonna be a ‘B’ for Benoit.” LeFou shakes his head.

“No, I want it to say LeFou. Papa calls me that, and so does every grown-up in the castle. They won’t know who Benoit is. You’re the only person in the whole world who calls me Benoit, except for my Maman.” Stanley nods.

“You’re right. Okay, so that means the first letter will be ‘L’.” Stanley takes LeFou’s hand, and dips one finger into the dollop of paint on the silver tray. He guides LeFou as he writes his shaky name. The two concentrate, eyebrows wrinkled. When they finish, LeFou scrambles to his feet and jumps up and down in joy.

“I did it! I wrote my name!” LeFou cheers, pride threatening to spill over onto the floor. Stanley beams at him from the ground.

“Well, it’s not your real name, it’s a nickname.” He mentions, and LeFou drops back to the ground, holding out his hands like a weapon.

“Still!” He yells, tackling Stanley to the ground. He rubs his paint-stained finger across Stanley’s face, making a red jagged line. Stanley laughs, matting LeFou’s hair with paint. They both collapse, laughing. Suddenly, Stanley stands up, frowning.

“I got red paint on my shirt!” He cries, and LeFou leaps up.

“I’m so sorry!” LeFou apologizes, but Stanley shakes his head.

“It’s okay. I’ll just go get an extra shirt from Garderobe, my Maman gave her some extra in case I messed up mine.” LeFou nods, and the two take off out of the room and up the castle stairs.

“Gar-” LeFou starts to yell, but Stanley covers his mouth.

“SHHH!” Stanley whispers. “You’re not supposed to yell up here, the King doesn’t like it!” Stanley explains. LeFou nods, eyes wide in fear. The two boys find Garderobe in the guest room, sewing up a shiny pink dress.

“Hello, you two,” she says, waving at LeFou and Stanley. “I see you got into the paint. Here, Stanley. I have to go show this necklace to the Queen. Now, don’t touch anything.” She throws him a shirt, and he takes it.

“Thank you, Garderobe!” He says, as she walks out of the guest room. He pulls off the paint-stained shirt, and pulls on the clean one, careful not to get any of the paint on his face on the shirt.

LeFou walks to the door, ready to go, but Stanley stops. He walks back to the bed, tracing the pink fabric lightly. LeFou just stands there in front of the door, watching Stanley.

“I love dresses,” Stanley muses. LeFou pulls a face.

“I don’t. They’re too… pink. And girly.” Stanley laughs, still not taking his eyes off the dress.

“I don’t mind.”

“What are you, a girl now?” LeFou asks.

“No! I’m a boy. I just like dresses.”

The two run out of the room, back downstairs, laughing.

 

LeFou and Stanley sit back to back in the field, silent. They each feel the other breathing, and they both close their eyes. Usually, moments like this would be dangerous, they would cause LeFou’s heart to beat erratically in his chest, make him hyper aware of the strand of Stanley’s hair that brushes his ear in the summer breeze. Instead, this moment is always, a desperate attempt at normality. But Stanley feels stiff, and both of them are uncomfortable.

Suddenly, Stanley talks, and LeFou opens his eyes as if this will somehow help him to hear. “Why are you friends with Gaston, Benoit?” LeFou sighs. He knew this question was coming eventually.

“I don't know.” He lies. The truth is that LeFou knows all too well why he follows the other boy around. Gaston is easy to love. LeFou is allowed to love Gaston, since it seemed the entire town did. It was hard to articulate the beauty of being able to love someone so deeply, and not having to hide it. And, of course, there was also the issue of Stanley. When LeFou was 12, Stanley’s touch during wrestling matches or play fighting began to feel like his nerves were on fire. His laugh made LeFou’s stomach flutter, and his smile seemed to melt LeFou into putty on the spot. LeFou was smart enough to know what was happening.

LeFou withdrew from Stanley, partly from fear and partly from necessity. Stanley did not put up much of a fight, which made LeFou realize that Stanley must not have thought that highly of him in the first place.

Then LeFou’s parents died, promptly followed by Stanley’s Maman. LeFou’s father was the castle baker, and Stanley’s Maman was the gardener, so without reason to return to the castle, the two drifted further apart.

When LeFou and Stanley had run into each other in the field early last year, they had shakily fallen into a routine. They spent less time talking than ever, just sitting together. The mere presence of the other person seemed to calm them. They met at the field every Monday at two P.M., making small talk and sitting like this. It was a special thing they used to do when they were younger, Stanley had called it ‘twin sitting’. They would sit back-to-back, hands intertwined, heads resting against each other's. LeFou was the one who has started it again, but without holding hands.

But as they met, it became glaringly obvious that there was one topic they were avoiding. Which is why it was inevitable that Stanley’s question of “Why are you friends with Gaston, Benny?” would come up at some point.

And that's also why the answer of “I don't know” was exceptionally wrong.

The answer silences Stanley, though, who just sighs, reaches back behind him, and takes LeFou’s hand. He squeezes, and LeFou squeezes back, the only call for help he knows how to make.

 

When LeFou arrives at Stanley’s house, Stanley is having supper alone. He takes one look at LeFou, who is stiff and serious, and lets him come in.

“Benoit, what’s wrong?” LeFou takes a deep breath, sits down at the table, and unleashes the news.

“I’m going to war. Gaston and I have planned to leave tomorrow at dawn.” The words hang in the air. For a second there is dead silence, and then Stanley explodes.

“You what ?” He screams, voice thick with panic. “Are you mad? You don’t know how to fight in a war, you’ll be alone -”

“I’ll be with Gaston!” LeFou defends.

“That makes it worse!” Stanley screams, sinking into the chair next to LeFou. “God, why?” LeFou shakes his head.

“I don’t know, Stanley! Gaston was talking and I was just so scared, I didn’t know how to say no!” LeFou puts his head in his hands, leaning back in the chair. Stanley goes quiet. “I’m sorry, Stanley.” Stanley jumps up and starts pacing around the room fervently.

“Do you know how my Papa died?” Stanley asks, and LeFou shakes his head. “He was shot. He was shot in Paris, Benoit! What if you get… Good Lord, LeFou. You could die. You could…” He trails off, collapsing into the chair next to LeFou. They stare at each other, and LeFou’s eyes brim over with tears. Stanley jumps up, and pulls LeFou into a hug. “You’re okay… you don’t have to cry.” LeFou doesn’t even care that Stanley is hugging him, he just holds onto him like a lifeboat in the storm. They stay like this for almost an hour, long after LeFou has stopped crying.

Eventually, LeFou stands up, and straightens his shirt. He moves to leave, about to say goodbye, when a weak voice splits the room.

“Benny?” The childhood variation of his name stops him in his tracks, and he turns around. “Stay for supper, okay?” LeFou can see that Stanley’s eyes are thick with tears, so he walk over and sits across from him at the table.

“Alright. I’ll stay.” He smiles weakly, and Stanley smiles back, sniffing.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have food for you.” Stanley apologizes.

“It’s alright.” LeFou assures. Stanley picks at his food, in total silence. LeFou feels the need to say something. “What will you remember about me?”

Stanley takes a deep breath.

“I’ll remember how you let me call you Benoit when no one else but your Maman could. And how we spent hours in that small closet telling each other stories about princesses and knights in shining armor. And how your handwriting was shaky on the ‘e’ in your name. I’ll think about the way your eyes shone when you talked about the different types of pastries your Papa was making at home. I’ll tell everyone everything about you, Benny, and they’ll never forget.” LeFou tries to break his eyes away from Stanley’s, but he can’t. He sees Stanley hesitate, but continue to speak. “I’ll remember how your hair was so curly when you were little, but got straighter as the years went by. I’ll remember sitting with you in that field and hearing your blood rush in my ears, because when we were together, it was like we were one. I’ll remember your laugh, and how it was high and shrill and made me laugh harder, no matter if anything funny was happening.”

They stare at each other, and LeFou starts to talk.

“I’ll think about you, when I’m out there. Your love for running. And how you tried to teach me how to read, but never got far because we would always start playing. I’ll try to remember everything. And I’m sorry for how I treated you. How I left you with no explanation for it, and pretended like it was okay. I left because I was scared, Stanley, because I cared about you so much I swore it would tear me apart.” They’re both crying now, but they are smiling wide.

LeFou stands up, and Stanley does the same. LeFou is just about to say ‘I should leave now,’ and walk out of the door. He is just about to go home and not sleep, packing his bags and leaving forever. He would have stepped outside and walked away.

But Stanley lunges forward suddenly, grabbing LeFou by the neck and pulling him close. Before LeFou can realize what’s happening, the two are kissing.

LeFou’s head explodes with fireworks, and his nerves are on fire. He puts his hands in Stanley’s hair, closing his eyes and letting himself be held, melting away. It is beautiful. It is unreal. It is everything he wanted in his whole life culminating in one moment, one solitary thing, and everything is glowing. LeFou is free and happy for the first time since he fell in love at twelve years old.

Then he comes to his senses, and breaks free, stumbling backwards. Stanley looks at him with terrified eyes that mirror his own, and LeFou turns on his heels and flees.

He runs faster than he knows how, and doesn’t stop until he reaches his house, and has buried himself in his blanket, simultaneously wishing away what just happened and saving every aspect of the memory forever.

 

LeFou is curled up on the floor of the closet, stunned. He is reliving a lifetime of events that he never knew happened, and yet know he wonders how he ever forgot. Everything makes sense now. The world has regained balance.

The uncomfortableness with which Stanley says ‘LeFou.’

The way the two of them seemed like old friends, even when they had just met.

The way hugging Stanley seemed like coming home.

The unshakable feeling that LeFou had loved that man before.

Sometime when LeFou was at war, the entire idea of the castle disappeared, along with his friendship with Stanley. He assumes it has done the same for every other villager. Why? He has no idea. The world makes sense now, and yet, as LeFou lies in the carcass of his forgotten childhood, having just saved a teacup and been injured by a grand piano, it makes less sense than ever.

Chapter Text

When the sounds of the fighting end, LeFou cannot stand up. The pain in his chest is too intense, so he just props himself up on the wall. He wonders who won the battle, if Gaston will find him broken and alone on the floor here. He wonders if the teapot survived the fight, or if she is smashed on the castle floor somewhere. He realizes now that he never learned the teapot’s name. He is aware that that might be the strangest realization he's ever had. He is still upset that he might not ever her know her name, considering she saved his life.

A wave of pain shoots through him, and he squeezes his eyes shut. What if no one finds him here? He cannot call out, just breathing is painful enough. He imagines dying here, in this tiny closet all alone.

He reaches over and traces the Stanley on the wall. All the new memories in his head are overwhelming, but he tries to sort through them all. They are muddled together, but they are all overshadowed by the five second clip that keeps flying through LeFou’s mind, again and again. The way Stanley’s lips felt against his, warm and soft and desperate. They way they both seemed to pour out years of regrets into each other. The kiss made up for every broken eye contact, every time they never wrapped each other up and didn’t let go. The kiss was for every second they were only friends.

And Stanley had started it. He was the one who leaned forward, and he was the one who closed the distance between the two. That had too many implications to think about right now.

LeFou tries to recall the moment he forgot about Stanley. He has recollections of nights alone, sleeping under logs and in military tents, where all he wants is for Stanley to be there, to smile at him just for a minute. Then, suddenly, the nights end. Maybe it was a curse. Maybe LeFou just had to focus on staying alive whilst crouched in trenches for hours, because failing to do so would certainly kill him. All that is certain is that when LeFou returned from the war, he had no recollection of Stanley. All he cared about was Gaston.

It’s almost as if Gaston and Stanley traded places in LeFou’s mind. Every ounce of love that LeFou had for Stanley was shifted until he worshipped Gaston like a God.

LeFou suddenly imagines Stanley, beaten and bloody in what remains of the ballroom. Would he have remembered LeFou before he died? Is there a possibility that Stanley is dead now, crushed to bits by a wardrobe or bed?

LeFou can’t afford to think like this. Thinking leads to questions, which lead to hope draining out of him by the second. Instead, LeFou keeps tracing Stanley’s name, reliving the kiss in his mind.

After what seems like hours, LeFou hears the sound of a door being flung open, followed by the hurried footsteps of what sounds like more than one person.

“I told him to come here, I hope to God he’s alright-” A voice makes its way into the room. LeFou knows that voice. The teapot , he thinks, relieved. She’s alright. Then, someone flings open the door, and voices surround him.

There is a short, concerned-looking woman kneeled beside him, holding a small child in her arms who looks startled and nervous. A man sits next to her, who LeFou recognizes as the village doctor. There are a sea of people behind them, but LeFou cannot make out faces.

“Why on Earth did you make him crawl here, he almost certainly injured himself further!” The doctor says, and the woman glares at him.

“It was in the middle of battle , Doctor, if I left him there he almost certainly would have been killed !” She defends. LeFou’s eyes shoot open, and he shakily points to her.

“You were a teapot…” He manages, and she smiles lovingly.

“Yes, dear, I was. Thankfully, the spell is broken, so now all of the cursed are restored to their rightful human forms.” She explains. LeFou nods, but he doesn’t understand what she’s saying all all.

“Alright, LeFou, I’m going to put a compress on your chest.” The doctor says, and LeFou weakly nods. He winces as the weight is applied, but he doesn’t move. Instead, he closes his eyes.

“LeFou, you have to stay awake for us,” The doctor warns, but LeFou doesn’t care.

“But ‘M tired…” He slurs, before darkness overtakes him.

Chapter Text

LeFou wakes up someplace comfortable, vaguely aware of a weight on his chest. He is too tired to open his eyes, but he can feel fabric under his hands. He shifts his hands a bit, feeling the rises and divots of embroidery.

“Benny?” A voice floats over to LeFou, excited.

Suddenly, LeFou’s eyes aren’t tired anymore.

The light is blinding at first, but he can see, albeit hazily.

He is in a lavishly decorated bedroom that he recognizes as a guest room in the castle. Sitting on a chair by LeFou’s bedside is Stanley in a pink satin gown. LeFou stifles the urge to laugh.

Stanley’s hair is matted, and his eyes are sunken in, but he's the most beautiful thing LeFou has ever seen.

“I'm here.” LeFou mumbles, and Stanley chokes down a sob with a laugh.

“Yeah. Yeah you are, huh?” He gets up and walks over to LeFou, and pushes a strand of hair behind LeFou’s ear. LeFou does his best to smile, but it probably looks more like a grimace.

“What happened?” LeFou groans, starting to try to push himself up in bed.

“No, take it easy.” Stanley warns. “The doctor said you had to be very still. He also said you couldn't have any visitors, but I couldn't leave you alone.” He sits at the end of the bed, staring at the tapestries on the wall. “I thought you were going to die.”

“Why?” LeFou asks, panicked. “Is it that bad?”

“No, not now. When you went to war.”

LeFou shakes his head. “War is a nightmare. Worse. I… I wish I had listened to you. Stayed with you.”

“I wish I could do everything over again, with you.” Stanley states absentmindedly. “And now we can.” He adds, grinning.

“What are you talking about?” LeFou asks.

“We can be with each other now. There's nothing stopping us.” Stanley’s smile is as large as the sun, but it's all wrong.

“Stanley… you really don't think we can be happy, do you? Are you delusional?” LeFou asks. Stanley's smile falters, but he still plasters on an empty grin.

“What's stopping us?”

LeFou blinks. “You really think we're just… free now?” Stanley drops all ghosts of a smile.

“I thought you would try.”

LeFou scoffs. “Try to what? Try to change the way people think? We will never exist normally, Stanley.”

Stanley trembles. “But I thought you would stick by me. I thought you cared-”

“No. Stop. Don’t you ever say, or- or even indicate it, because it is so, so wrong.”

“Well why don’t you show it?” Stanley yells, choking on tears. LeFou squeezes his eyes shut. He doesn’t want to have to explain this, because it will hurt too bad.

“I can’t show it, because it will hurt you!” He chokes, loosely grappling for words. “You know what would happen if people found out. I can’t let that happen to you.”

Stanley throws his hands up in the air. “Goddamn it, Benoit, I’m wearing a dress . What presumptions do you think people have?” LeFou stares right ahead, unmoving.

“We’re monsters, Stanley.” LeFou whispers. Stanley stands up, shaking his head.

“Stop that. Stop it.” He orders, backing up.

“You think we deserve any shred of happiness, Stanley? You think we aren’t sodomites?” Stanley sinks to the ground, hands over his ears.

Stop! ” He screams, his voice echoing around the room. Suddenly LeFou hears footsteps running up the stairs. “What did Gaston do to you?” Stanley asks, before Belle bursts into the room.

“Alright, what is happening?” She asks. She is dressed in a simple blue dress, a stark contrast to Stanley’s luxurious gown.

Stanley rises. He looks from LeFou to Belle, and flees the room.

Belle lets her mouth hang open, and makes her way over to LeFou, silent.

“What happened?” She asks.

“I don’t know,” LeFou chokes out, before he explodes in violent sobs. Belle tenses, and attempts to hold him still.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, LeFou, you just have to be still. I’m so sorry.” When he finally stills, silent tears leaking out of his eyes, Belle kneels by the bed. “LeFou?” She asks tentatively. “What happened?”

“Gaston was lying. We tried to kill your father.” Belle bites her lip.

You did?” She asks.

“I don’t know. I didn’t really have a choice.” She squints her eyes in confusion. “He knocked me down. I did what he said.”

“LeFou, I don’t blame you.” Belle affirms, placing a hand on his shoulder lightly.

“No, please, blame me. Please. If you don’t… I just need someone to tell me it was wrong.”

Belle nods her head. “It was wrong. But I still don’t blame you.”

LeFou’s mind snaps back to something Stanley had said. Or, rather, not said.

“Belle?” He whispers, feeling the tendrils of sleep creeping up on him.

“Yes?”

“Am I that bad?” He whispers. Belle shakes her head violently.

“I’ve already told you, I don’t bl-”

“No, Belle. How bad am I? Medically?” Belle opens her mouth, closes it, and looks away.

That’s all LeFou needs to know the answer.

Chapter Text

Stanley weaves his way through the castle corridors, hurriedly wiping away the tears that are spilling over. He throws open a door, and climbs inside the small room, folding himself so he can sit down on the floor. He recalls a time where both he and Benoit could sit back-to-back in this small space, but now he cannot let his legs fully extend without his toes hitting a wall.

He rests his head against the wall, and stares at the writing on the wall. Stanley and LeFou, together since childhood. Stanley hates the name LeFou, and especially hates how much Benoit accepts the name as something he cannot change. The fool, he would argue time and time again, is not any way to describe Benoit.

Stanley and The Fool. Together from day one.

Stanley tries to understand Benoit’s logic, after all, he is person who is very open to new opinions. But Stanley just doesn’t understand. How? How can Benoit just throw him away? Throw them away? He loves Benoit, something he’s come to terms with ages ago. And he believes people can change. Why does Benoit think differently? Stanley can believe in a future where people can tolerate he and Benoit. What had happened that would make Benoit think differently? He had told Stanley, so blankly, We are monsters . What made him believe that?

Stanley cannot think about that right now. Not when everything is breaking apart around him. Benoit is sick. He was stepped on by Cadenza, according to Mrs. Potts, and he’s injured his chest. They don’t know how long it will take for him to get better.

If he gets better.

It’s something Stanley cannot comprehend, but it is a possibility.

How much must God hate Stanley, to have him remember a lifetime of happiness with Benoit and rip it away from him just as he remembers it? Maybe he is punishing Stanley.

No. Stanley banned those kind of thoughts from his head years ago. They only do harm.

Just then, a soft rapping sound fills the room. Someone is knocking on the door.

“Stanley? Are you in here?” A deep voice resides outside the door.

“Yes.” Stanley answers, and his voice sounds broken and raw.

“Do you mind if I come in?” The voice asks, and Stanley places it as Adam. The man whose father used to rule the land, the man who was turned into a monstrous Beast, the man he tried to kill.

“Please,” Stanley begs, his thoughts filling the dark room and starting to smother him.

The door creaks open, hitting Stanley’s legs in the small room. Adam squeezes in, sinking to the ground next to Stanley. His large body barely fits in the room, but he tucks his knees up to his chest and he can just make it.

“Are you okay?” He asks, and Stanley just shakes his head.

There is no measure in the world to how much Stanley is not okay. How can he begin? For one, Benoit just effectively threw him out of his life right after reentering it. Secondly, there is a possibility that Benoit might be gone from the world entirely soon. And third, and least pressing, Stanley is dressed in a pink dress right now.

However, Adam just sits there, staring at the exact same place that Stanley is staring at on the wall. They sit for awhile, until the quiet begins to feel awkward. “I could provide a change of clothes for you, if you like.” Adam offers, gesturing toward the satin gown flowing across the floor. Stanley opens his mouth, unsure of what to say.

How can he tell Adam no? He knows the appropriate answer is yes, but… there is something right about this. The texture, the cut, Stanley feels at home, not like he does in normal clothes, like the collars are cutting off his air supply and the pant legs are sandpaper rubbing his ankles raw. But he cannot tell anyone this.

He flashes back to being a child, smoothing out a salmon dress and remarking on how much he liked it. He was most likely talking to Benoit, as no one in his home would own that sort of dress. Not after Maman died, anyway.

“Unless, of course, you want to keep it. It suits you.” Adam remarks, and Stanley is floored. He says it so nonchalantly, as if every man in the world loves princess gowns with frills.

“Yes, I would like that.” Stanley hears himself say, and Adam nods.

“Belle is upstairs with LeFou, by the way. In case you were wondering.” Stanley cringes inwardly at the name, but something else distracts him. There is a knowing tone about Adam’s voice, and it is not harsh. In fact, it is… nervous. As if he is treading on sacred ground.

“Thank you. How is he doing?” He asks, and Adam exhales.

“Just like the doctor predicted, he’s steadily worsening.” He sighs. “We don’t know. We just… don’t.”

Stanley frowns suddenly.

“Adam? How did you know to find me here?” Adam laughs ruefully.

“Well, Belle told me you had run off. And I had spent many days exploring the castle after the… erm… incident. And I found the letters eventually. I find them beautiful. I didn’t know LeFou could read.” Stanley grimaces.

“Well, no. He can’t. He only knows his name. He could never afford school.” Adam nods.

“Ah. Well, Belle and I could teach him.” Adam offers, but Stanley hesitates.

“I’m sure he would like that,” he says, wondering darkly if Benoit would be around to teach.

Adam?!? ” The scream echoes through the castle, and Adam shoots up so fast he hits his head on the wall.

Belle! ” He calls, desperate. He swings open the door, bruising his ankles. Stanley has scrambled to the back of the room. When he opens the door, Belle is standing there, eyes wild with fear.

“It’s LeFou.”

Stanley has pushed past them and is halfway down the hallways before Belle can say another word.

Chapter Text

LeFou is shaking violently in the bed, eyes wide with fear. He coughs, and it sounds dry and painful.

Belle tries to speak to him again.

“LeFou, it’s alright, we’re here.” Her voice sounds shaky and unsure, and she doesn’t know how to make it sound confident.

How does she sound confident? For a minute, just a minute , everything was fine. No, not fine. Nothing was ever fine, because no matter how happy you are, you can look further and find something terrible beneath the surface. Belle had saved Adam, the threat of asylum and murder had gone away, and miraculously none of the staff had been hurt- or worse.

And yet, Gaston’s falling form, waving his arms and legs wildly, is the only thing she can focus on. She hated him, of course, he was the most vulgar, dense man she’s ever met. But still… he didn’t deserve to die.

Further still, she remembers the panic on Mrs. Pott’s face when, after descending the stairs, Belle had asked her why she was running full-speed toward the small hallway that leads to the kitchen. How she had spat out a half-understandable sentence while grabbing Chip’s hand and gesturing for Lumiere to follow her. Belle had ran with the group, hearing the explanation tumble out of all of them piece by piece. When they opened the small closet door and found LeFou, Gaston’s second-in-command, curled up and barely conscious on the floor, gripping his chest. Belle had flung her hands over her mouth, staggering backwards.

She had seen him there, and immediately, she knew he wasn’t going to make it much longer.

He’s lucky to have survived the night, really, with the amount he’s been injured. Cadenza has shut himself in his room, now, and has only allowed Garderobe to see him. She says he’s distraught, wracked with grief over what he did to LeFou.

Stanley did not leave his side all night, having taken a stiff chair from the kitchen and parked it right next to LeFou’s bedside. Stanley was dressed in a satin ballgown, which Belle noticed was ripped in the back and stained on the shoulder. She doesn’t have the heart- or the courage- to tell Stanley what she knows. That LeFou will be dead soon.

Adam found her crying in the library last night, curled up in a velvet chair. She sobbed into his shoulder, mumbling something about why life was so unfair. He had smoothed her hair, and choked out that he of all people would never have that answer.

LeFou had always been there, slightly in the background. Belle had never really noticed him, although Belle had never really noticed anything. She always had her nose stuck in a book, never really noticing who was hurting. Now that she looks back it’s all so clear - Gaston’s subtle shoves, the grips on LeFou’s shoulder that looked too violent. Belle should have seen it and done something for this poor man, who could barely break away from Gaston by himself after twenty years.

And now LeFou will never get the chance. He’s coughing violently, unable to catch his breath, while Belle rubs his back. Stanley is behind her, hysterical. He keeps asking LeFou questions, addressing him as ‘Benny.’ Belle is close to snapping, telling Stanley that LeFou cannot answer his questions because he cannot breathe . But she reminds herself that he’s watching his best friend (something more? Belle cannot tell, and it far from matters right now) begin the slow, painful road to death.

LeFou is hard of breath already, and he will soon peter out completely.

Belle doesn’t want it, but it seems that the world does not care about feelings tonight.

Chapter Text

There is a certainty in which we take breathing for granted. We carry on with our lives and only notice the steady rise and fall of our chest if it is stuttering, refusing to do its job.

LeFou is sat up in be, wheezing. Belle had told him not to move, that he needed to stay still, but it's impossible. With a hacking cough, he folds himself over, but his breathing does not even out.

He recalls mere hours ago, when Adam had taken Stanley’s arm, and led him out of the room while Belle, calm and quiet, took care of him. Now she’s asleep, draped over the chair next to the bed. LeFou doesn’t want to wake her, because there’s nothing she can do for him. He sees the way she can’t seem to really look at him, how she averts her eyes. He knows what’s coming.

The idea of Hell is something LeFou has thought about for as long as he can remember. He has prepared himself. The pain he is in now will be nothing compared to what is to come. Still, he wishes for something… something better.

Before, LeFou could say that he had at least never acted on his desires. But now… the memories are there, and they are damning. But still… they are there. And now that LeFou’s life is quickly fading, he wishes there was more.

The world seems to be crumbling too fast. His chest does not rise and fall anymore, and LeFou struggles to take even the shallowest of breaths. His hands shake, but he cannot call out to Belle. It seems cruel, watching her sleep quietly, and he thinks about how he had never really known her.

Time is running out, it never ceases its steady pace, no matter what mountains crumble or boulders turn to dust or sodomites die. Time keeps on, bleeding the people of life until they are nothing but husks of bones in the ground, like he will soon be. Who will remember him, in a thousand years? A hundred? Ten? Every moment of his life, everything he’s ever done and thought and felt and believed, will any of it matter? The questions whirl around him, as the pain intensifies, and all he can do is sit there and not breathe. He forgets how.

Nothing matters now. Not Gaston, who seems more infantile and dull than ever when portrayed by memory. When you know the way the magician does it, no more magic is left.

Nothing matters, and the things that matter the least are the important ones. Who gives a damn if LeFou loved Stanley? LeFou remembers the pain of every single moment of every single day throughout years and years and years , and what burns bright and illuminates his mind is how it felt to unload a lifetime of wanting in three seconds, how soft Stanley’s hair and lips were, how it felt like flying and breaths of fresh air and everything wonderful wrapped into just three seconds.

Why hadn’t he done more of that ? Why hadn’t he done everything he could have done? His mind explodes with everything he should have done. He should have kissed Stanley every day, all the time, he should have told him all the things he kept right underneath the surface, he should have lived instead of being scared until he died. Now he will spend eternity in Hell, suffering, when he has already lived a whole life of suffering. He should have kissed all the boys in France, so that at least in one life he would be happy.

 

LeFou is floating. There is a warm glow all around him, and it feels like dreaming. He is so tired, but he cannot simply fall asleep, there is someone keeping him up.

They speak, quietly, and their voice sounds almost identical to the one in LeFou’s head.

“Benoit,” they say, and he does not correct them, because their voice is beautiful, almost like Stanley’s, and so he allows it.

“I am sorry,” Their voice - it’s an indeterminate gender, just sort of there - lingers in the air, and LeFou breathes in, refilling his lungs with cool air that rushes in and out with no pain at all. “I am so very sorry for hurting you.” LeFou cannot imagine who this is- maybe God, maybe an angel, but whoever they are, LeFou feels their remorse, their grief, their regret. “Magic,” they explain, and LeFou feels a soft hand smooth his hair from his face, “Takes on a life of its own. It mutates, and the ripples it creates turn into tsunamis that turn over boats and drown innocent swimmers.” LeFou’s eyes struggle to open, but something keeps them closed. It is like being on the edge of falling asleep. “I am sorry for how I made you suffer, in the name of creating good. I never meant for all those memories to be wiped away.

“I have done wrong, and for this I must pay. I played God, switching fates and stories around, making words bend to my will. I will pay for what I have done, but you-” Another ghostly hand smooths out his hair. “-you are innocent. You should not pay. I shall. Benoit, you are going to do amazing things. I should not have gotten in your way.”

LeFou feels a hand on his chest. He feels an almost electrical shock go through him, and his eyes fly open just enough to glimpse Agathe, bathed in white, bent over him and crying, before he is flung back to reality.

Chapter Text

Belle wakes up to LeFou laying there, dead. There is no rise and fall of his chest anymore, just absolute stillness. She watches him with red eyes for half a minute, when suddenly he gasps for air.

She screams, and LeFou screams, and they both scream at the same time for awhile at each other.

“LeFou!” She yells, finally forming words out of her scream. “You were dead!”

He does not react as she expected, which would be to scream some more, act surprised, or perhaps keel over in death. Instead, he stops screaming, catches his breath, and makes distressed eye contact with her.

“Belle? How long was I dead for, exactly?” His voice sounds different, exited. Belle has never heard him with this much energy or courage. This should not be possible, he was dead two seconds ago.

“I don’t know. I just woke. How… what?” She breathes, still curled up in her chair. LeFou whisks his covers aside, and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Before Belle can even protest, he is standing. “Stop! What are you doing! You’ll hurt…” she trails off as she sees him pacing around the room, perfectly fine.

She pinches herself on the arm, convinced she’s dreaming. But no, LeFou is there still, asking her a million questions at once.

“Why was Agathe speaking to me? What does she have to do with all of this? What even happened after the battle? What happened to Gaston? What time is it? When can I speak to Stanley?”

“LeFou, sweetheart, slow down.” Belle begs. “One at a time.” He stops in the middle of the room, boring holes in her head with his eyes.

“What does Agathe have to do with all of this?” He asks, and Belle exhales.

“Agathe is a sorceress, LeFou.” He narrows his eyes, biting his lip.

“What?” He asks. Belle exhales, searching for a way to explain this.

“Agathe cursed Adam years ago. She turned him into a Beast, who would only return to his human form through true love’s kiss.” Belle smiles a bit sheepishly, and LeFou nods.

“Okay. But why… was she just here?” He asks. Belle frowns.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“She was just here, she told me that she had made a mistake, and that she was going to save me. And then… I woke up. And nothing hurts anymore.” He explains, looking lost and a bit afraid.

“Oh, LeFou,” Belle sighs, burying her head in her hands. “Sorcerers and sorceresses are said to be able to save only one life, and for that, they give up their own.”

“Oh,” LeFou whispers meekly, recalling Agathe’s crying face as she pressed her hands to his chest.

There is a moment of silence, a quiet understanding of what just happened. LeFou places his hand to his heart to feel is beating steadily.

“Belle.” He murmurs, staring at the wall as if he is deep in thought.

“Hmm?” She asks, a single tear slipping down her cheek.

“Belle, if I was the one who someone sacrificed themselves for, then I… I should be proud. And I should work to do good.” He looks surprised at this notion, like it had never occurred to him to do anything other than hate himself. “I can’t know what Agathe did, and then turn around and waste my life.” He shakes his head, laughing slightly. “And I cannot be afraid.”

“LeFou-” Belle wants to hold LeFou and tell him all these things that she could have told him lifetimes ago, that he only just realized.

“What time is it?” LeFou asks.

“It is late. Stanley is in bed.” She answers his question before he asks it.

“Well, are you tired?” He asks, and Belle shakes her head. The prospect at sleeping after all of… this seems absurd, and LeFou seems to think the same thing. He bounds near her, sitting on the bed next to her and smiling widely, hopefully. This demeanor about him, like he isn’t afraid to live this life, is new and different. It is beautiful. It suits him well.

“Belle, teach me to read.” He begs.

How can she refuse that?

Chapter Text

Stanley is pretending to sleep. Of course, he is failing, because who can succeed at sleeping when someone has just told you that the love of your life is going to die any minute now?

Adam won’t let him see Benny, because he says he will agitate himself, and who would want two sick men instead of one? Well, Stanley thinks there is relatively no point to any of this - Stanley and Benny go hand in hand. It’s amazing how Stanley survived for so long without being aware that Benny was there. Still, the past comes back in flashes, bolts of lightning and memory converging into flashbacks so intense Stanley cannot figure out how he forgot them in the first place. Well, no. He knows how.

The damned witch. Had she realized, when she turned a teen into a monster, how much it would affect others? Had she realized who she was hurting? Maybe she thought she was making some artistic statement, but within that she had ripped away Benny once, and now maybe for good.

Stanley doesn’t remember falling asleep. He remembers being so tired, being vaguely aware that he hadn’t slept in days, that he was still wearing the ballgown, that Benny was dying. But God, he was tired.

Then he woke up. He woke up to the sound of Adam calling for him from the hallway, and his heart sinks. He braces himself for the news, but he can already feel himself breaking apart, turning to dust in the wind. But no- Adam’s voice is strong and happy, not defeated and broken and everything Stanley had expected it to be.

“Stanley! Come quickly!” Stanley leaps out of bed, ignoring his tiredness that leaves him longing for sleep yet again.

He runs out of the room, finding Adam in the hallway, beaming. What is happening? What is happening?

“What is happening?”

“LeFou is alive. We don’t know, it’s a miracle.”

Stanley is running down the hall now, hiking up his dress like Cinderella, laughing into the hallway.

And then Benny is there, standing , next to Belle in the room. He’s practicing dancing, and his head is thrown back laughing, and he’s beautiful.

“Benny,” Stanley breathes, unable to keep the world from tumbling off of his lips. Benny sees him, and his face lights up, and he runs forward, wrapping him into a hug that nearly knocks him over.

“Stanley, Stanley, Stanley…” He keeps repeating, his words lost in the hem of Stanley’s dress. Stanley just rubs his back still not believing anything around him. “Stanley, have you ever realized the way you thought about everything was wrong?” Benny asks. Stanley nods his head into Benny’s shoulder. “When?” Benny asks.

“When I remembered about you.” Stanley mutters, and Benny hugs him tighter.

“I realize now that the way I was looking at the world is wrong. I have too many regrets- too many things I have left to do to that I almost was robbed of.” He says this rushedly, as if he will run out of time at any moment.

“Like what?” Asks Stanley, painfully aware that what Benny wants is not what Stanley wants.

“This.” Answers Benny, whipping his head around to kiss Stanley ferociously on the mouth.

It is like flying. Colors swirl in front of him, colors that he’s never seen before, and all gravity disappears. He may as well be floating, up in dreamland on a cloud.

Benny’s lips are soft, so soft, and his hair falls out of the ponytail it has been swept up in and is tickling Stanley’s face.

When they pull away, they just stare into each other’s eyes for a moment, Benny’s beautiful and brown with flecks of amber that shine like stars.

Stanley suddenly realizes that Belle and Adam are both standing in the doorway. Stanley’s stomach overflows with fear, and he shoves Benny away, bracing himself for what is to come. Instead, Belle is beaming at both of them, clapping her hands lightly. Adam just has his hand around Belle’s waist, giving Stanley a slight smile.

“I’m so sorry-” Stanley still feels the need to apologize.

“No. Don’t.” Belle insists. “Who are we - who is anyone, really - to judge love?”

Stanley smiles, and Benny smiles back. Maybe, just maybe, the universe will right itself, maybe things will be okay.

Chapter Text

Benny and Stanley are walking hand-in-hand in the garden. The sun is high in the sky, casting a warm air across the meadows and forests. Stanley isn’t wearing a dress (at least not now) but his hair is ruffled with hair gel that Garderobe insisted on running through his dark brown hair.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Benny remarks, and Stanley nods. The air smells of flowers, an impossible storybook ending to a horrible story. Benny goes to sit on a bench near the rose garden, and Stanley joins him. He’s so beautiful, with his long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. He can remember so vividly the fear he felt not three days prior. He still gets thrown back into it sometimes, for brief second when Benny takes a deep breath that sounds shaky, or when his walk stutters for a second because he trips. All he wants to do is hug Benny tight, to keep him safe and never let him go.

“Stanley?” Benny asks. Stanley realizes he’d never responded to Benny’s statement before.

“It certainly is gorgeous today.” Stanley reaches over and rubs Benny’s neck, staring out into the entrance to the forest.

“Close your eyes.” Benny says in a sing-song voice. Stanley laughs, and obliges. He hears Benny step off of the bench, and walk a few paces behind him. He hears a vague rustling, and suddenly, a sharp intake of breath. “Stanley?” Benny’s voice is panicked, afraid. Stanley’s eyes shoot open as he turns. Benny is kneeling in the rose garden, a blood-red rose clutched in his hand. His eyes are focused forward, wide and terrified.

Stanley stands, walking over to where Benny is. Suddenly, he sees him. Half covered by roses, mostly by blood, he is face up in the dirt. His eyes are closed, thank God, but it doesn’t mask anything else.

Gaston’s limbs are contorted, arms snapped backwards from a long fall. His legs are splayed out below him awkwardly, and Benny will not look away.

“God.” Stanley breathes, grabbing Benny by the shoulders and ushering him away. The rose Benny was clutching in his left hand falls to the floor, crushed by Stanley’s foot.

He sits Benny down on a chair in the Great Hall, calling over Mrs. Potts, who was busy dusting the plates.

“Mrs. Potts,” He pleads. “We’ve found Gaston.” He whispers in her ear. She goes white. “He’s in the rose garden.” Mrs. Potts nods.

“I’ll be on it.”

She leaves, and now Benny and Stanley are sitting on the chairs.

“I’m so sorry.” Stanley apologizes, and Benny just stares.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asks, and Stanley shrugs.

“We didn’t know. Belle saw him fall… but no one could find him. Or his…” He pauses, unable to say the word corpse .

“You know, he wasn’t all bad.” Benny muses. Stanley furrows his brow.

“Benny, there’s no need to paint the dead as angels.” He points out, but Benny shakes his head.
“No. He was terrible, but… He once told me that his father had left him when he was younger. His never felt like he was good enough. And there were times , there were moments,” Benny flounders for words. “He was sometimes good to me. There were days I remember, when I was almost there , it felt like.” Stanley watched Benny gaze through the wall into another time. “And then he was just there, so broken. It’s hard to believe that that was the same person. The same man who had been so alive. I don’t know.” Benny opens his mouth, but loses the words.

“Who knows why things happen?” Stanley asks. Benny closes his eyes, leans his head across Stanley’s shoulders.

Why does life make no sense? Why does nothing make sense at all?

“Who knows anything at all?” Benny answers, and that’s when Stanley realizes he is crying.

Chapter Text

It is morning. LeFou takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. The bed he is in is satin and soft, one of the guest rooms in the castle. He rolls over, facing the person next to him. Stanley’s eyes flutter even when they’re closed, and strands of his hair float across his face across his eyebrows.

LeFou smiles warmly, poking Stanley in the side lightly. He groans and rolls over, mumbling gibberish into the bedsheets. LeFou laughs, curling up against Stanley and sighing. The morning sun is peeking through the windows, illuminating the air. The smell of roses is thick in the room, stemming from a vase full of white roses on the bedside table, in full bloom.

“Are you awake?” Stanley mumbles. LeFou laughs, nodding into the back of Stanley’s neck. “Good. I heard a certain someone say there was fresh fruit downstairs.” Stanley mentions, and LeFou grins.

“Yum. Do they have grapes?”

“I don’t know. Wanna go see?” Stanley asks. LeFou buries his face into Stanley’s neck.

“Maybe in a little bit. ‘M still tired.” LeFou reaches his arm around Stanley, and Stanley sighs.

“Okay, maybe a little bit longer.”

 

Stanley and LeFou walk into the kitchen, side by side. Lumiere is sitting at the table, eating grapefruit.

Bonjour ,” He greets, not quite looking up from the plate. “How are you both doing today?”

It still strikes LeFou as strange that no one in the castle cares about them. It’s been a month since the battle, since everything in LeFou’s life changed in a day.

No one has mentioned the fact that LeFou and Stanley have been staying at the castle, in a guest room. Belle has been teaching him how to read, and Adam has been helping Stanley tend to the garden.

“We are doing wonderfully. What’s for breakfast?” Lumiere gestures to the table, full of fresh fruit and pastries.

“Anything you two would like.” He smiles at them. “Oh, but Belle and Adam want to speak with you in the main hall.” LeFou points to himself, raising his eyebrows. “Both of you,” he clarifies, and goes back to his croissant.

LeFou knows what this is about. Stanley and LeFou have both long overstayed their welcome. They had not discussed it, just took up residence and simply stayed. The village had mostly grown accustomed to the absence of Gaston, and they had broken out of the trance he set. Still, LeFou and Stanley were arguably not welcome, and the castle was a safe haven for them. They could be free, they could hold hands just as Garderobe and Cadenza do, they could stand side by side in the newly-renovated rose garden without concern.

In the Hall, Belle and Adam sit side-by-side, reading from a book on a velvet chair. They laugh at a shared joke, Belle lightly punching Adam on the shoulder. They catch sight of LeFou and Stanley, and Adam jumps up and steps forward.

Bonjour , Stanley, LeFou.” He smiles.

Bonjour , they both respond. Adam looks up, as if he’s trying to find a way to say what is about to be said.

“Boys, we are aware that you are doing a fair amount of work here. LeFou, you have been helping a vast amount in the kitchen, and with a bit of help, you could be a library assistant, or… something to that sense. And Stanley, you are a great help in the garden, and what I’m trying to say is… I would like it if you were to… work for me?” He grimaces at the words, stepping forward and waving his hands madly. “No, no, that’s wrong, I’m not saying, like, I think you’re below me, I’m just offering , not that I expect you to take it!” He glances fearfully at the door, like he expects someone to come in and punish him for his behavior.

“Adam, love,” Belle puts a hand on his shoulder. “You’re doing wonderfully.” She smiles, and he nods.

“What I’m saying,” he says confidently, “is that I would be willing to offer you a job. Permanently, with food and housing, and- not like you’re a charity case, it’s not like that-”

“We’d be honored to work with you.” Stanley interrupts, and Adam sighs in relief.

“Thank you, thank you both. I really can’t thank you enough. And I can’t find anyone who will dice mushrooms so evenly, LeFou.”

“Thank you , Adam.” LeFou smiles. “We are very grateful.”

“Oh, boys,” Belle adds, stepping forward. “We’re holding a dance a week from today, just to let you know. I’m doing dancing lessons every night up until then, just to let you know.”

LeFou smiles, and, as everyone laughs and talks, he interlaces his hand with Stanley’s.

 

LeFou whirls around, just like was rehearsed. He feels as light as air, hand-in-hand with a village girl. She laughs as they circle, dancing to the music, and he laughs with her. The singing lifts the crowd up into the air, and the world seems at balance.

The partners switch, everyone turning at precisely the right time, and in that moment, everything is perfect. Everyone is synchronized, perfectly in tune, perfectly right. LeFou closes his eyes, trusting the music to guide him. Suddenly, new hands that are thrust into his- the hands of a new dance partner. But they are not soft, feminine, as they have been thus far. His eyes fly open, focusing on Stanley, whose grin is the size of the sun.

And they dance, flying through the room, everyone looking but laughing and smiling all the same. For the first time in LeFou’s life, everything is perfectly right.

And, when Stanley pulls him in for a kiss in front of the whole room, and no one does anything but dance, it seems as if it might stay that way.