It wasn’t the same.
The thought haunted her, kept her awake, hand clenched over her stomach in the blue moonlight in a vain attempt to calm its nervous flutter.
“Of course,” Adam had said softly – so softly, no gruffness to his tone, just sweet and gentle and not the same. “Of course you’d need some time to get used to it.”
The same uncertainty that had been so endearing in his bulk and claws now made her feel beastly against his soft skin and soft voice –
It was what she should want: kisses with no fangs in the way, silky hair to run her fingers through, fingertips on her thighs instead of claws… but she was unhappy. I should be grateful I didn’t lose him completely, she told herself a dozen times a day. And I am – I’m so glad he isn’t dead, but…
But she’d fallen in love with someone else, someone other than the shining, golden young man who adored her and treated her as gently as blown glass. She missed the raw power in giant paws on her hips, the low rumble of a growl against her back, danger in the way the tips of his fangs always pressed against the side of her neck when he pushed her down into the mattress.
“I’m sorry,” she’d said quietly when he sat beside her, cross-legged on the blankets, raking anxious hands through his hair. “It just… I feel like I’m with someone else.”
There’d been a flash, then – just a tiny one in the way his mouth had tightened at the corners, in the sharp glance of his eyes – that was familiar. That miniscule spark of anger had thrilled through her, made him more recognizable than he had been since he’d taken his last breath on the balcony all those weeks ago.
He’d dressed with tightly controlled movements, smooth and graceful, and her skin had grown colder with every layer he put back on.
Of course you’d need some time to get used to it.
She only hoped she could.
She dreamed of their last time together before the change – the way he’d been so careful when he’d rubbed his thumb over the side of her breast, the golden silk of the dress whispering against his claw, snagging just a bit. He’d apologized, peeled the fabric down, and curled his paw around her skin instead, the rough heel of it rasping against her nipple, making her breath catch.
It had been gentle and sad, tinged with the knowledge that she was leaving him, even though she’d promised to return when her father was well. He hadn’t believed her, and she’d known it in the way he wouldn’t meet her eyes when she gathered the frothy skirt up in her arms and invited him under it. She’d whispered it to him until she could do nothing but pant in time with his movements, but the groan in his throat and the scrape on her hips had been desperate and lonely, and she’d known that she would just have to prove it by coming back.
She woke to a swollen pulse in tender parts of her body, curled her fingers against it and wished for his weight and his power instead, holding her breath when she heard footsteps passing outside her door.
“I fear the master is unhappy,” Lumiere said quietly, and she heard Cogsworth’s hum.
“They just need some time to adjust,” Cogsworth said, though he sounded doubtful. “Newlyweds are often somewhat uncertain. Just look at the king and queen.”
Lumiere snorted, showing what he thought of that, and Belle frowned, blinking at the morning sun through her curtains. It wasn’t Adam’s fault that she wasn’t happy, and she didn’t want him to pay the price for it.
She paused at the wardrobe, glancing down at her body, the thin pale scar from when he’d accidentally gotten too rough the first time they were together, the both of them too inexperienced for what they were trying. It had been a less than successful first attempt, but she’d still been happy enough to try again even though he’d been nervous about it. She took down the pink dress and slipped it on. It still had a little tear in the seam where he’d pulled too hard, not realizing his own strength, and she hoped it would remind him, hoped he’d listen to her.
She found him in the armory, lunging at a training dummy with a blunted sword, muscles straining, damp hair sticking to the sweat on his neck. He let out a guttural yell as the blade knocked the dummy over, chest heaving with his breath.
“Bravo,” she laughed, clapping quietly, and he spun around, startled.
“Belle! I – Forgive me, I didn’t hear you come in.”
“There is nothing to forgive, dear,” she murmured, coming closer. She saw his eyes dart to the pull in the seam, saw him swallow, and couldn’t help smiling. “I wanted to talk to you, if you aren’t busy?”
“I always have time for you,” he said earnestly, and she felt a little twinge of guilt at how lonely he sounded.
“I’ve been… thinking,” she said. “And I wanted to apologize to you.”
He dropped his sword with a clang, pushing his sweaty hair back out of his eyes. “No! You have nothing to apologize for. It’s I who have been – well, I’ve been beastly, haven’t I, expecting you to…to continue.”
She shook her head. “Love, I think you could stand to be a bit more beastly.” Her eyes sparkled as she stepped toward him. “You’ve always held back with me because if you hadn’t, you might have hurt me. And that was fine when even holding back meant that you did things like this.” She skimmed her fingertips over the seam, knew he remembered the tiny scar beneath it.
He winced, but she held up her hand before he could apologize.
“Darling, what I miss is how it felt to know you might lose control at any moment. I’m not afraid of you hurting me; I never have been.”
He nodded slowly, and she worried he might not understand until he stood up a bit straighter, tugged the cuffs of his sleeves down sharply, and nodded toward the door.
“Is it locked?” he asked, and she nodded, her lips curving up in anticipation, her skin already tingling with the expectation of new, delicious bruises. “Then…” He cleared his throat, steadied his voice. “Then come here.”