Word Count: 2016
Author's Notes: A Charmed take on "Beauty and the Beast." Thanks to ladybug218 for the beta! :)
Once upon a time there was a family of three young witches. Their mother and father had died, leaving them to survive on their own. The eldest, Prue, was the protector and the provider, watching out for her younger sisters. The middle sister, Piper, was the homemaker and made sure her sisters were fed and clothed as well as they could be. And Phoebe was the youngest of the three, a free-spirited beauty who fantasized about a handsome prince who would sweep her off her feet and rescue her from her life and the struggle to survive from day to day.
While she was much loved by her older sisters, sometimes they fought because Phoebe did not seem to contribute as much to the family as Prue and Piper. They would accuse her of being lazy and a dreamer. Phoebe was not as strong as Prue and did not share Piper's love of cooking and sewing, but after one such fight she became determined to prove herself to her sisters. The next day she set off into the woods to look for food to bring home for Piper to cook. She would show her sisters she wasn't useless.
After wandering for several hours, she realized she was lost. Night was falling, and with it came a fierce storm. She huddled beneath a tree, cold and wet and frightened, knowing her sisters were surely frantic with fear for her safety. How foolish she had been to wander off alone.
Somehow she fell into an uneasy sleep. When she woke, the skies were clear and bright. Her clothes were damp but there was a warm wool cloak wrapped around her shoulders, and a single red rose rested next to her head. Puzzled but intrigued, she took both the rose and cloak and began to try to find her way home.
As she walked down an unfamiliar path, she found a high iron fence. Curious, she followed the fence until as it led to a locked iron gate. Beyond it was a garden filled with flowers and vegetables and fruit trees. Being a thin girl, Phoebe managed to slip between the bars of the gate. She began to fill her apron with carrots and potatoes and apples -- anything she could carry. Her sisters would be so proud of her!
A shadow fell across her, and she looked up in alarm. Her treasures fell from her apron as she brought her hands up to her mouth and screamed, for before her was a frightening creature, surely the devil himself. He was tall and red-skinned with black markings, and his teeth were sharp and terrible.
He reached down and grabbed her arm. "Thief!" he thundered. "How dare you steal from my gardens?"
"I'm sorry, sir," she stammered. "I was only trying to get food for me and my sisters."
"And now you will pay the price," the creature said, dragging her behind him to the mansion beyond the gardens. He flung her in a small dark room and locked the door behind him.
Phoebe huddled in the darkness for several hours, wishing she'd listened to the times when her sisters told her not to wander in the woods alone. She didn't know how many hours passed before, overwhelmed with hunger and fear, she fell into an exhausted sleep, clutching her rose tightly.
When she woke up she was in a soft bed with sheer white curtains and canopy. Confused, she climbed from the bed and looked around. The room she was in was lavishly decorated with fine furniture and artwork. The most beautiful dresses she had ever seen hung in a large walk-in closet. A set of ornate doors led to a balcony that overlooked the flower gardens, but when she tried the other door in the room, it would not open. Her rose was in a small vase beside the bed.
She washed herself in the basin provided and decided to put on one of the gowns since her own clothes were filthy and torn. When the door finally opened, she jumped up from the dressing table in fright, but it was a man who entered. "The master wishes you to join him for breakfast," he said, beckoning Phoebe to follow.
He led her through hallways as beautifully decorated as the room in which she woke. When they reached a grand dining room, the man pulled out a chair and bade her to sit. More servants brought out eggs and sausage and bread and fruit. She was about to start eating when she realized the red and black creature was sitting at the other end of the table, studying her. One moment he wasn't there, the next he was. She froze, not knowing what to expect.
"I have decided you will remain here with me," he said. "I should kill you for your trespassing, but, as you can see, I appreciate things of beauty."
"I am your prisoner, then?" Phoebe asked.
He nodded. "You may call me Belthazor. And while you are here, I will make certain your sisters are protected and provided for. They will want for nothing. Consider that a gift."
Several thoughts raced through Phoebe's mind. She knew Belthazor wasn't going to hurt her -- she wasn't sure how she knew it, but she did. She had no urge to be a pet or something kept on display, but right now it seemed she had no choice but to play along. She would find a way to escape later. But at least, if what Belthazor said was true, her sisters would be safe.
"Very well, Belthazor," Phoebe said. "In punishment for my crime, I will be your prisoner."
"Anything you have need of, you have but to ask the servants," Belthazor said. "They will provide what you wish."
"May I send word to my sisters?" Phoebe asked.
"No!" Belthazor growled, slamming his fist on the table. "You think I will let them come and try to take you from me? You are mine now, and I will not let them have you."
Phoebe cringed. Belthazor had a temper, and she knew she should not provoke him lightly. "All right," she said. "I only wished them to know that I am safe."
"Consider it part of the price you will pay for your thievery," Belthazor said, relaxing.
Days passed, and Phoebe spent her time exploring the mansion. It was the castle of her dreams, filled with art and books and finery she had only imagined, but the doors outside were all locked. She was a pampered bird in a golden cage. And even when she could not see Belthazor, she knew he watched her.
At night Belthazor would appear, always seemingly from nowhere. He never touched her and never threatened her again. Instead he bade her to sit and read to him or to play the harp and sing. Many of the stories and songs he liked were her favorites. A strange kinship began to grow between them, but she could never forget she was a prisoner.
One night, weeks later, she dreamed of her sisters. Piper was crying, and Prue was in a rage. She could feel their pain as they blamed themselves for driving her away to an unknown fate. Their own fortunes had improved greatly; their gardens were full of food and the livestock was thriving, but their missing sister remained an open wound that would not heal.
Phoebe awoke in tears. She had to see her sisters and let them know she was safe! But she was afraid to broach the subject with Belthazor again after his violent outburst the first time she had asked to send them word. True to his promise, he made sure she wanted for nothing -- except her freedom -- and while during the day she began to seek a way to escape, she felt the stirrings of guilt about betraying Belthazor's trust in her.
Though she was no expert like Piper, Phoebe had some knowledge of herbcraft. She picked the ingredients she needed from the kitchen and ground them into a powder to create a sleeping potion. While dining that night with Belthazor, she slipped it into his drink. After dinner they retired to the fireplace, where she read to him from a book of ancient heroes and princesses.
As soon as she was certain he was asleep, Phoebe returned to her room and tore the sheets from her bed into strips, which she braided into a rope. Tying it to the railing of her balcony, she dressed herself warmly in the cloak that she had found wrapped around herself so many days ago, then climbed down to the grounds below.
The moonlight lit her path home, and this time she had no trouble finding the way. Piper and Prue cried out in joy and engulfed her in their embraces when she burst through the door. They were not sure what to make of the story of where she had been, but they were happy to see her home.
She dreamed again that night, this time of Belthazor and his home. He awoke and found her gone and cried out in despair and rage. He stormed through the mansion, smashing furniture and tearing objects from the walls and shelves. He did not touch her room except for the single red rose that still bloomed in the vase where it had been placed when she first arrived there. This he took gently in his hand, then crushed the petals in his fist. The thorns pierced his skin and blood began to flow. Blood, so much blood....
Phoebe sat up with a gasp. What had she done? She should not feel this guilt -- she had been a prisoner! But she now realized that the rose and the cloak had both been gifts from Belthazor. He had asked for nothing and had given her comfort when she was lost in the woods, and she had repaid him by stealing. And now he was in pain because of her -- maybe even dying.
She left a hastily written note for her sisters and fled back to the mansion. The rooms and corridors were empty and dark, and no servants scurried about. She found Belthazor in her room, lying unmoving on the floor. "I'm sorry!" she cried, kneeling down beside him. He groaned faintly, and her heart leapt with joy. He still lived.
Then Prue and Piper were there in the doorway. "Get away from him, Phoebe!" Prue ordered.
"Phoebe, please, come here!" Piper begged.
"You don't understand!" Phoebe pleaded. "He won't hurt me!"
Piper grabbed hold of Phoebe's arm and yanked her away from Belthazor as Prue pulled a dagger from her belt. "He's a demon, Phoebe, and he has to be destroyed," Prue said. She drew back her arm and threw the dagger at Belthazor's helpless form.
"No!" Phoebe cried. She broke free of Piper's grip and threw herself over Belthazor's body, shielding him from the blade, even if it meant her own death.
White light flashed, and the dagger clattered to the ground as it bounced off an invisible shield. Belthazor was gone. Phoebe looked down in amazement at the handsome man beneath her. He raised a shaking hand and touched her face. "You broke the curse," he said. "You were willing to die for me."
"Who are you?" she whispered. Piper and Prue were just as stunned as she.
He helped her to her feet. "My true name is Cole," he said. "I was cursed by my mother to be Belthazor. Only the truest love of a witch would break the curse, and she knew that would never happen. But it did."
The missing servants began crowding into the room, kneeling before Cole. He seemed to barely notice them. "All that I have is yours, Phoebe," he said. "I love you."
"I love you!" she said, flinging her arms around him, as equally heedless as the mistrustful looks from her sisters. She didn't care. Her dream had finally come true. And they would live happily ever after.
X-posted to fandomfairytale and kaji_fic.