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After the Enchantment

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Monsieur Laurent is a valet; he's accustomed to many forms of déshabillage, from nudity to the sheer flutter of underthings to the unwrapping of starched layer upon starched layer after a formal dinner.

The thing is: For decades, practicing his profession, he has grown comfortable with other people's states of undress.

Then an enchantress turns him into a coat rack.

What was it the Bible said about Adam and Eve? That they needed to comprehend sin before they became aware of their nakedness? What with the castle being in an uproar (literally, in the Prince's—the Beast's—case) over the staff's transformations into various normally inanimate objects, Laurent doesn't think of himself as a naked coat rack until the Beast, and, later, the old man Maurice and the girl Belle from the village, start hanging clothes on him. And then taking them off.

Once that epiphany strikes, he can't stop thinking about it. When the Beast swipes his cloak from Laurent's narrow shoulders on his way out to stalk the forest, Laurent stands in the foyer, bare to everyone's gazes, and wonders if coat racks can blush. There he is, tall and skinny and knobby and right out there in the open, not a stitch on him from bald round head to smooth curved feet, waiting for the Beast to return and cover him once more. He considers hiding behind the drapes, but that seems a worse indignity.

It's not like the others aren't naked in their new forms, he tries to rationalize. (And then has to stop, because he has no desire to picture Cogsworth or Chef Bouche in their altogether.) It's just that they don't spend half their time wearing clothes like he does, making the absence of those clothes look and feel all the more acute.

Then, somehow, over time, the nature of the squirming feeling changes. Laurent has never been an exhibitionist, but there's something… exquisite in this embarrassment, something transformative. Some deep, unnameable feeling stirs in him each time he's bared. It has something to do with the offhandedness with which the Beast lifts the clothes from Laurent's body as he passes. It's nurtured by a lack of judgment from the others.

He is stripped naked almost daily, and it's all right. No, more than that. He's stripped naked, and it's good.

The pleasant prickle he feels when the Beast unburdens him of his heavy winterwear can only partly be attributed to static electricity. Little shivers travel up his spine whenever Belle slips her robes from him and gives him a fond stroke. He stands tall and lets her look. Lets all of them look. It's only him. That is nothing worthy of shame.

When Belle returns, Laurent bends low, bowing his head, so she can hang her robes neatly in place once more. They're warm, and they smell of her, as the Beast's cloaks smell of the Prince. These days, even with two heavy cloaks and an overcoat and Belle's mittens draped over him, he feels a frisson of nakedness beneath. It's only a matter of time before he'll be uncovered again. He finds himself looking forward to it.

After the spell is broken and they all return to their human forms, several of the staff remark on Monsieur Laurent's more confident, more graceful carriage. He smiles to himself and sets about the task of laying out the Prince's garments for the day.

If he sometimes unlaces his nightclothes in his chambers after the candles have been snuffed out; if he stands straight and proud with his arms up and the stones cold beneath his bare feet; if he closes his eyes and imagines the daily bustle of the castle going on around him, no one needs to know.

 

Lumière et Babette

"Oh!" Babette says, giggling, the first time Lumière inadvertently drips on her. Then lower, sultry: "Do it again."

Lumière's automatic response when Babette accidentally gives him a faceful of feathers another night as they switch positions is far less dignified: He sneezes.

Lovemaking between a candelabrum and a feather duster has its complications. Once, Lumière manages to singe the tips of Babette's feathers, and there's a terrible moment when he thinks they're going to have to call in one of the maids-turned-washbasins before Babette snuffs out the embers with a pout. He always blows out his flames before they tumble into bed (or a broom closet, or that nook behind the kitchens, or the shady side of the carriage house...), but they have a tendency to reignite on their own in the throes of passion. The puns are endless and delightful.

"Do you miss it, sometimes?" Babette asks one night in bed after they've been returned to their human bodies, twirling a finger through Lumière's chest hair. (He has chest hair again! Curly and virile and as golden as his burnished branches ever were.)

"What, chérie? Being six inches tall? Or the part where you had no arms?"

She swats him. "You're right. I couldn't have done that, then, could I?"

"I prefer you this way; you're even more flexible." He rolls them over, further tangling the sheets, and kisses the tip of her nose before tweaking it. She wrinkles it at him playfully. "Et plus, I don't need to worry about setting you on fire."

"The flames I don't miss. Your wax, on the other hand..." Her cheeks go pink. "I did so grow to like those little hot splashes when I wasn't expecting it."

He waggles his eyebrows. Then he has an idea, and stretches out to snag the lone candle lighting Babette's bedchamber.

"Oh! Oui, s'il te plait." She lies back, arms out.

Minutes later, she's panting, heavy-lidded, and speckled with pale white splotches where he's tipped the candle over her. He presses a finger to the newest one, warm and soft. It feels different from when he was a candelabrum, when his hands were as hot and waxy as the droplets he left behind. She hums.

"Mm, merci," she murmurs, opening her eyes. "Would you hand me my feather duster? It's on the table."

Lumière eyes it warily, still holding the candle.

Misunderstanding his apprehension, Babette laughs. "Don't worry, I cleaned it."

He sets the candle down and fetches it.

She takes it from him when he climbs back into bed. Eyes on his, she strokes the smooth wooden shaft and twirls her hand through the puff of gray and brown feathers at its end. He swallows.

"Do you ever miss my feathers, Lumière?"

"I—er." He doesn't miss the sneezing or the flammability, but it's hard to concentrate when she's moving her hand like that.

"They were a part of me for so long. Sometimes I dream I can still float through the castle on them."

He watches, mesmerized.

"And then I was thinking." Her gaze grows mischievous. "I have more control over what I can do with these feathers in bed now that I have my hands back."

He leans away. She sits up to follow him, her grin growing. "No more tickling your nose and making you glare at me." She gives him a playful push; he lets himself fall back, his head at the foot of the bed.

She leans in with the duster. He braces himself.

"Oh," he says when the feathers stroke down his forearm and nothing terrible happens. When they reach his palm, he cups his hand around them in wonder. "They're so soft."

"Oui, my darling," she says with a smile, sliding the plumes from his grasp. She draws them down his chest in patterns, then lower, her press firm enough not to tickle but light enough that the barbs and shafts don't scratch. He hasn't felt anything like it before in his life.

"Had I known—" Then his voice goes embarrassingly high as she swirls the feathers lower still and his hips lift without his conscious command.

She laughs and bends down for a kiss.

When they finally part company for the night, she's still decorated with the hardened nubs of wax and he can still feel the ghost of the feathers' touch tingling across his skin.

 

Mrs. Potts

Mrs. Potts was raised in London; she knows the value of a good cup of tea in soothing nerves and providing physical and emotional comfort in times of need. For years before the spell, she took pride in her tea services at the castle and cherished the more intimate moments with her colleagues and family over a pot of Bohea and a plate of petit fours.

The only thing that changed during the years of enchantment was that she poured the tea out of her body rather than out of her teapot.

When the spell breaks, she goes right back to serving tea and kindness to all who need it. The growing number of guests from the village who visit Belle or pay their respects to the restored Prince helps bring a welcome liveliness back into the castle.

Still, Mrs. Potts finds as the months wear on that something is missing in her life. It takes another few months to identify what it is, and then longer still to determine how she might meet her needs now that she's a human once more.

Even once she accomplishes that, it's a rare night that she can find the time and the privacy to indulge.

Tonight is one of those nights.

Long after Chip is tucked away in bed, when the castle grows quiet, she makes her way to the washrooms and bolts the door. Draws a hot bath. Hangs up her robe and nudges off her slippers, shivering in the draft that stirs along the floor. Arranges what she needs at the rim of the tub.

It's a little ritual she's set up for herself. First she lowers herself into the water, letting the heat sink deep into her, closing her eyes and breathing in the steam. Then she reaches for her toys: two segments rescued from a broken broomstick handle, the edges smoothed. A quick dab of oil, and she reaches down between her legs to slide the first one in.

She hums when it's in place. She's already had two cups of tea, and between that and the wood, the pressure is building pleasantly.

A little while longer to enjoy the sensations, and then she picks up the second toy. Reaches further back to the place where nothing else has touched—not her dear departed husband, not even her own fingers—and presses it in.

It's almost enough. Last, she pours a cup of tea. There's enough for at least three more in the pot, but most nights, it only takes one. She sips and luxuriates in the feel of the liquid in her mouth, at the back of her throat, sliding down to warm her belly when she swallows.

Full, surrounded, comforted, calmed: It's the closest she's been able to come to recapturing the sensation of being filled to the brim with hot liquid.

Still sipping, she slips her other hand under the water. Slow, letting it build, she alternates between touching herself and rolling the toys in gentle circles.

With the heat, the wetness and the fullness all working together, it doesn't take much. By the time she's finished her tea, she's ready.

She's perspiring now and growing tense. Without stopping the quickening movements between her legs, she pulls herself to her knees and unplugs the drain beneath her. The change of position leaves her feeling full to the point of bursting. It's wonderful.

It's approaching. She grips the edge of the tub and keeps rubbing. The water swirls around her. There's the taste of tea in her mouth.

With a gasp she can't stifle, she comes. And as she does, she lets her bladder go. Pleasure overlaps on pleasure as pale yellow circles down the drain with the bathwater. One of the toys slips out, too; it gives her an extra twitch before her climax fades.

She rests her forehead on her arm until the tub is empty and her breathing returns to normal.

 

A dessert spoon

The dessert spoon doesn't remember much about the time before the enchantment. It existed, but it wasn't a person like so many of the castle staff who've been transformed. It was a dessert spoon then, as it is a dessert spoon now. The spell simply made it... wake.

It wonders sometimes what will become of it after the enchantment lifts. If the enchantment lifts.

Then Belle moves into the castle, and the spoon's musings fade to the background as its body and senses come rocketing to life.

The spoon has never been used before in its enchanted state; the Beast doesn't bother with silverware when he eats. The first time Belle picks it up, it goes stiff with surprise and joy. Its stem is cradled in the warm crook where her thumb meets her hand, held secure further up between three confident fingers. It wants to wriggle with pleasure, but then it would risk spilling what Belle has scooped up so neatly, so with effort it holds steady.

The reward—oh, the reward. Belle opens her mouth, and the spoon is engulfed in wet heat and darkness. It shudders under the ecstatic pressure of her tongue and lips as they slide it free of its culinary burden, as the tip of its bowl drags along the roof of her mouth. Drawn back into the candlelight of the dining room, it shivers anew as its moist surface meets cool air. Sometimes, Belle prolongs the experience by flattening her tongue across its broadest part to catch stray crumbs or sticky residue before she lowers the spoon to retrieve another bite.

It cannot conceive of a pleasure greater than this.

From mouth to plate, or bowl, or crystal goblet, and back. Some nights, it glides through layers of rich mousse or crème brûlée. Others, it scoops up icy curls of sorbet. On special occasions, it's treated to the yielding, juicy flesh of a baked apple or pear.

Once, Belle uses the spoon to stir her tea. It goes limp with bliss in her hand as it swirls through the hot, fragrant liquid, leaving eddies in its wake.

When the meals end and the flatware and dishes and cups clear themselves away, wash up and settle into their drawers and cabinets for the night, the spoon lies in the dark, nestled among its brethren, and sinks into sleep, content.

(It still doesn't know what will happen should the spell ever lift or should Belle ever leave, but it does know, at least, that it will always have these memories to treasure.)

 

Belle

Sometimes, afterwards, Belle dreams.

Well—that's not a surprise in itself. She's had vivid dreams since childhood, as she's always had a vivid imagination in her waking life. It's just that... these dreams are different. Darker. Squirmier.

They tend to follow the same pattern. She wakes at night in her chambers when the canopy parts at the foot of the bed, but no one appears on the other side. A chorus of soft scrapes and whispers rises from all corners of the room. When her chair shuffles closer and peers in at her from the left—when her mirror slides through on the right and curves like a question so Belle can see her own wide-eyed reflection—when her comb and brush wriggle onto the bed and nudge her—she realizes the spell never lifted. Most of these items move only through the enchantress's mysterious animating force, with no clear consciousness of their own. All except the wardrobe, which joins the growing crowd on all sides of Belle's bed, smiling.

Like a wave, the smaller objects descend upon her. She thinks she should be afraid, but instead she's awash in sensation. The quilt draws back until it strokes her ankles and feet. Her slippers mimic the motion with their fleece tops dragging soft circles along the sides of her thighs. Her brush slides through her hair, slow and hypnotic, while her comb walks prickling footsteps down the inside of her arm. Still smiling, the wardrobe opens its doors; blouses and skirts and underthings come slithering out to writhe over and around and across Belle's body, twisting beneath the sheets in slow corkscrews, then growing even bolder and petting her under her nightclothes. The ribbons she uses to tie her hair weave between her fingers. Belle arches her back, caught between luxuriating in and being excited by the myriad touches, between the exhilaration and the terror of surrendering herself to objects with no human intention behind them. The sheets wind around her limbs only to slide free again. Everything is alive. Even she's more alive, somehow.

The scale tips when the bedside candelabrum climbs onto her stomach, unlit, then sidles lower, to the place that makes her cheeks burn. It rests there, only her thin nightclothes separating them, its base heavy and cool. She makes a soft noise when it starts to roll in a slow, steady, endless circle. Everything feels like it's moving in synchrony, as if they're playing her like an instrument in a symphony. As if she were the symphony. The candelabra bends to trace its waxy head between her legs, and the others are there to hold her steady when she squirms. A book appears by her head and begins flipping its pages back to front and back again to fan her. When she lifts her head to glance in the mirror, her pillow plumps itself so she can watch.

That's when she sees him: the Beast, a shadow watching from the dark recesses of the room. A nameless thrill runs through her. She can barely see him other than the faint glow of his eyes. Then he's right there at the bedside, huge and horned, looming over her, radiating heat, staring at her as he extends a hand and traces one clawed fingertip down the center of her chest. She arches as the whole bed bows beneath her…

She wakes slowly.

Adam stirs beside her. "All right, darling?" he murmurs.

Still catching her breath, it takes her a moment to reach over and smooth his hair. "Yes. Go back to sleep."

The sun is coming up. The Beast—Adam—Adam is human once more, as are all the castle's inhabitants. The enchantment lifted months ago. Her bed is only a bed. Her comb is only a comb. She smoothes her nightclothes and waits for the heat to fade from her cheeks.

Belle dresses and wanders down to the dining room. On the way, she greets Laurent, impeccable as always in his pressed shirt and coat. Lumière and Cogsworth cross her path in the main hall. One of the maids giggles in their wake.

"Tea, love?" asks Mrs. Potts, setting a cup and saucer in front of Belle when she takes a seat at the table.

"Please."

When it's poured, Belle picks up her spoon and stirs in a lump of sugar.

As she takes her first warming sip, she wonders if any of the others ever think back on that time too.