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Days Gone Brightly

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She loved him in spite of appearances, of names, of the shallow representations of the self. That was the point.

Once, when he was still the Beast, he'd leaned over and whispered his human name in her ear before unleashing a small avalanche of snow down her coat. It hadn't mattered to her, then, because he was no more and no less the fascinating, infuriating, intriguing personality that pulled constantly at her attention, like a moth to a flickering light.

And yet—and yet, she enjoyed it less when she pressed him into a soft feather bed, pulled off his fine jacket and shirt and breeches to reveal smooth, almost delicate skin beneath than she once had, when they'd ventured out into the cold winter air and ravaged the snowy landscape with fierce battle, pushed one another into the powdery snow or flung it in one another's faces or rough fingers—(paws)—fingers pushed it down the back of her neck.

The closest she felt to satisfaction wasn't in bed, but in tumbling past the foyer in wet clothes hanging heavy and water-logged with melting snow; in chasing one another down empty halls (everyone having cleared out at the first warning beats of their feet clattering indoors) and into the bedroom; in the rare occasions when they were too impatient to wait for calm and proper decorum, opting instead to tear at one another's clothes before he pushed her down—or she pulled—and they were sprawled suddenly in the furs laid out in front of the fire. She would listen to the crackling of the fire, arc against the fur brushing its comfort against her skin, and inhale the musky scent of outdoors and indoors mingling, the flame's heat warming her through.

Afterward, he would whisper soft apologies against her bare shoulder—("Was I too rough? Should I have waited?")—and she would brush them aside and wish they could stay in front of the fire a little while longer yet. He'd lift her and place her gently, carefully in the down blankets, like he still had the power to crush her.

It wasn't so much the Beast she missed. It was everything unrefined, unconstrained. Now, he was like a shuttered lamp. What she missed most was the flame.