LeFou almost dropped the wet cloth he was carrying.
Gaston jumped at the surprise. He was awake, but hadn’t noticed his friend was in the room.
“Oh..”, he quickly wiped the tears from his cheeks. “I didn't see.. I wasn’t aware that you’d--”
“Shh, it’s okay.” LeFou didn’t prod him into telling the reason behind the tears. He laid the cloth on Gaston’s forehead. “Are you feeling better?”
“LeFou, my friend, there’s something I must admit to doing.”
“You don’t need to explain, it’s been a long day and you’re exhausted.”
“It’s not that, it’s--” But Gaston lost his nerve at the last minute and quieted down. LeFou tilted his head and repositioned the cloth. He saw his friend grimacing and laid himself back down again.
It wasn’t that LeFou was curious in nature, but he wondered what had moved his old friend to such an extend. To tears. Gaston never cried. Not when he was young and missed a price deer by an inch. Not when Belle had rejected him. Not when he got back from the war.
Granted, they had cast him some pretty nasty looks today at the village. And worse. And the atmosphere at the beginning of their meeting with the new royals had, in some instances, been spine-chilling.
Gaston had succumbed back into motionlessness. But this time, both his hands were curled up in a fist.
“LeFou.” LeFou didn’t speak, only waited patiently.
“I didn't-- I fainted on purpose.”
Gaston turned away, and hid his head under the covers. “The faint. I wasn’t ill. I did it on purpose.”
LeFou was almost scared to ask for clarification. “Why?”, he whispered. “Did you think they were being too harsh on you? I stayed to make sure they went about it, fairly.” It couldn’t hurt to twist the truth a little.
“No. Well-- No! That’s the point, though. I just wanted to be alone. But with you. Alone with you.”
LeFou couldn’t see the connection. Sensing his confusion, Gaston turned and looked him in the eyes.
“Belle. She looked at him - at Adam - with such kindness and love in her eyes. She’s never looked at me like that.”
LeFou cautiously shook his head. Gaston wiped something from the corner of his eye. “But you.. You, my friend, have always looked at me like that.”
Gaston nodded. “Until the fight at the castle.”
LeFou’s hands were starting to get slightly clammy. How much did he know? He has always liked Gaston. In that way, too. He just wasn’t ready for it to be revealed. If he were to ask the entire village, though, they might see it differently. Subtlety hadn’t been his forté. Still, the only person he wanted - needed - it to know, was oblivious. He hadn’t decided yet, if that was a blessing or a curse.
“My dear LeFou.” Gaston laid a hand on LeFou’s cheek and caressed it. LeFou thought about the possibility of Gaston being delirious.
“Do you want some water?” His voice cracked.
Gaston didn't answer and motioned for LeFou to lay down beside him. When he was settled snugly beside Gaston, all former worries disappeared. He was ready for this. Whatever this was.
It had been a long day for him as well, and before long they both drifted off to sleep.
Early next morning, Gaston was the first to wake up. It felt strange, sleeping in what had been Belle’s old room. He had been at her house when they were younger and their relationship wasn’t as strained. As the years passed, the visits grew fewer. He thought about his feelings for her. When they were younger, he had been in love with her. When they grew older, it was more out of old habits that his courting never ceased. The last year had been mostly him needing to marry her, due to the embarrassment he felt whenever his courtings were rejected. And to prove he could get everything he wanted.
These realizations had hit him yesterday, when he saw Belle with Adam. He wasn’t in love with her. Anymore. Yesterday might even be the day he had fallen out of love. That's what caused the initial uneasiness. He needed room. Space to breathe. What he saw between the young couple was pure love and devotion. He tried hard to imagine how that would be between Belle and himself. And failed.
A body stirred next to him. LeFou was slowly waking up. He had always been slow to wake. Gaston frequently had to force him out of the covers on their trips. The army years had been even worse.
He knew a lot about LeFou, when he thought it.
LeFou was looking in every cupboard he could identify in the kitchen. He wasn't used to all these things, and didn't dare to touch most of them.
When it hit him that this house had been uninhabited for weeks nearly, he felt foolish. Of course there wouldn't be any food here. And if there was, it was most likely moldy. He looked over his shoulder, at Gaston on the couch. He sat with one leg beneath him and rested the back of his head against the back of the couch.
“There's no food here. Of course.”
Gaston didn't linger. “Let’s go to the tavern.”
“Are you well enough for that?” And more importantly, he thought, are you well enough for the villagers.
“If I said I am, then I am.” He stood up. Almost without difficulty.
“We can do that, then.”
He grabbed Gaston’s jacket and went to help him. Gaston grabbed the jacket out of his hand and put it on himself.
“I’m starving, LeFou, let’s go!”
The walk to the tavern had, thankfully, been uneventful. LeFou felt like he was walking on shattered glass, but Gaston didn't seem fazed. He seemed to be really well all of a sudden.
A few heads turned when they walked in. It was Gaston’s tavern after all, so no one could be surprised to see him there.
Stanley was sitting at the usual spot, at the very front. He smiled and waved them over. Gaston strode with confidence.
“Did Belle and Adam stay this night or are they back at the castle?”, LeFou asked, after they’d finished the meal.
“We never saw them again, they went immediately”, Stanley answered. “Where did you go after the.. y’know?”, he continued.
“We’ve slept at Maurice’s old place.” He looked at Gaston, almost for permission to go on. He looked down, but didn't show any signs of objection. “Gaston felt ill, and they let us stay.”
Stanley looked worried. “Is he.. Are you okay again?” He shifted his gaze to Gaston.
Gaston reciprocated the eye contact with his trusted henchman, but merely nodded with a barely audible “Yes.”
Gaston felt LeFou shooting him a glance. He was confused himself, too, about the constant changes in his attitude. He couldn't help it, he just had these mood swings when they were least expected.
“Alright, then”, Stanley nodded, but tried still, engaging him in conversation about one of his big passions. “When do you think you'll be able to go out hunting again?”
Gaston shrugged. “It’s really up to the caretaker by my side”, he grabbed LeFou's shoulder in a firm, yet loving, grip. “But I'm hoping to see the blunderbuss out shooting again within a fortnight.”
Gaston only paid half attention to Stanley and their attempt at discourse. He simply couldn't focus. Thoughts about LeFou - and Belle - were churning in his mind.
LeFou took over for him and decided to confide in Stanley. Gaston seemed to be a hundred miles away, he thought.
“It's really difficult to tell”, LeFou started. “I dare not go to the apothecary or Agatha for any help. Or, at first I did, but I never should have. They almost cursed me out, before hearing my plea to an end.” He sighed.
Stanley glanced around, making sure their conversation remained unheard by others at the tavern. “I think Dick might have some experience from England.”
LeFou knew Dick originally hailed from Great Britain, but not about what he did there, before coming to Villeneuve.
“He was an apprentice at a dentist’s.”
“A dentist?!” LeFou clasped a hand over his mouth, and repeated his inquiry in a smaller voice. “A dentist?”
“They learn some of the skills from a doctor. Oftentimes, when doctors aren’t in enough supply, dentists fill in.”
LeFou believed his friend, but found a complete set of healer skills with a dentist unimaginable.
“You know I almost never went to Agatha or anyone when I was growing up. He took care of a lot of ailments for Tom and me.”
LeFou nodded. It was the best shot they had.
Dick wasn't at the bar at the moment, and they went looking for him.
Gaston was still deep in thought and hardly noticed his friends leaving him with his empty plate and mug.
His world was changing right in front of him. The world outside had changed while he was being healed. And the world inside him - it had also changed when he was healing. The times when he was awake after the fall had almost entirely been spent with LeFou. His state at the time had left LeFou to do most of the talking and had basically left him in charge of Gaston. LeFou had shown him so much during these past days and weeks. Things he never realized about his dear friend. Because.. well, because he hadn't listened. All the things he never knew about him were numerous. LeFou had shown kindness and caring traits since forever, but now Gaston wondered if he really liked it. He always thought LeFou just tagged along because of lack of other options. But maybe LeFou really wanted to spend time with him?
Gaston had, these past weeks, seen sides of LeFou he never knew existed. And maybe they didn't, because LeFou hadn't let them be shown. He had been decisive, resolute and determinative. He had taken charge, when Gaston couldn't.
Gaston wondered what else was left unshown, when he made the way back to Belle’s old house.