That’s How a Moment Lasts Forever - Post-BatB Oneshot
“Why do you keep so many tea sets?”
The old man chuckled, leaning back in his armchair as he watched his littlest grandchild. While her two older siblings had chosen to play outside in the snow, she stared at his bookcase, which, instead of being filled with books, was lined with teapots and teacups made of wood, porcelain, and china.
“Well, you know your father’s a potter; he gives me the ones that no one wants.”
“But do you even use them?” the girl asked. “They’ve got chips and cracks in them. They wouldn’t make good tea.”
“You are definitely your mother’s daughter,” the old man replied. “I suppose…I keep them because they deserve a home, a place to belong.”
The girl raised her eyebrows. “You make it sound like they’re alive.”
“Well…” The old man’s voice took on a spooky tone. “Sometimes they talk to me at night.”
The girl laughed. “No they don’t!”
“No, they don’t,” he agreed, laughing in return. “But can’t an old man have his hobbies? I like antiques! I’m a collector, always have been! You see that?” He pointed at a tiny, intricately decorated box on the mantel above the fireplace. “It plays a lullaby if you open it. The king’s grandfather made that for me when I was a boy.”
“Really?” The tea sets were momentarily forgotten as the little girl ran over to the mantel and seized the box in her hands.
“Careful!” The man raised a gnarled hand, but there was no need; the girl set the box down with the utmost care. She lifted open the box, revealing a tiny, incredibly detailed replica of a rose. The rest of the inside was gold and cornflower blue, with a castle painted on the inside of the lid. She located the winding handle on the side, and with a nod from her grandfather, wound it up and let it play.
At once, a little melody, strong but sweet, began to emit from the box, causing the rose to rotate slowly in place. The girl sat, entranced by the box, while the man closed his eyes and hummed along.
“You won’t find a box like that anywhere else,” he finally said. “That’s why it’s special.”
The girl waited until the last notes faded away, then looked up at her grandfather to ask him a question. But what she saw startled her into concern rather than curiosity.
“You’re crying, Grandfather!” She rushed forward, drawing out her handkerchief to wipe his tears away. The song was beautiful, yes, but it wasn’t a song that should be cried over!
“Ah, well…” He smiled and let her wipe away his tears. “You are very kind. My mother used to sing that song for me.” He didn’t need to say the rest.
“Oh,” the girl whispered. “I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t know,” the old man reassured her, smiling. “Besides, I let that old box play every day, and you don’t see me crying all the time, do you?”
“No,” the girl answered, grinning. “You’re very cheerful.”
“Well that’s good,” he exclaimed. “I’m glad I didn’t grow up to be an old grump like my father did.”
They sat in silence for a few more minutes; she admiring the music box, and he gazing at the tea sets in the bookcase that he kept so well polished that the imperfections shone in the light.
“Do you want to know the real reasons behind the tea sets?” he asked suddenly, waking the girl from her short-lived reverie. “Why I look after them like I do? You have to promise not to laugh or walk away.”
The little one shrugged, but sidled up to her grandfather’s armchair. “Okay. Tell me.”
“Do you promise not to laugh?”
“I promise.” Her eyes gazed up at him, wide and trusting.
“It’s because I used to be one myself.”
The girl sat there, eyes wide, lips parted slightly in surprise. She wanted to ask if it was a joke, but the old man looked completely serious. And she was just at that age where she was learning to take care of herself, but still young enough to believe in fairy stories, if they were spun the right way.
The old man’s lips curled into a real, genuine smile, one that only children would understand. “Magic.”
“What happened?” the girl’s voice was barely a whisper.
“Well…sit back a little, and I’ll tell you,” the man replied. “I was your age when this story took place. It started with a spoiled prince, an old enchantress, and a young farm girl who saved us all…”
“You used to work at the castle?” the girl said after he had finished his tale.
“Well, it was mostly my mother; she was the head housekeeper. I followed in the steps of my father, became a potter, and when I had your father, I taught him as well. Hopefully your older siblings will carry on the family business for me.”
“I bet they will.” The girl slumped in her chair. But soon she straightened up again. “Was the queen really an inventor?”
“Best in the world,” he replied. “She’s the reason why you have a fountain behind your house for laundry.”
“Is the Enchantress still alive?”
“I have no idea. Probably.”
“Were the musicians really world-famous?”
“Of course they were. Why would they lie?”
“Maybe to gain favor with the prince.”
“No, they’ve been in the paper before. I have clippings, if you’re really that skeptical.”
“Wow…” For a moment she was lost in her own daydreams of what it would be like living with famous people. But then another thought stole her mind away. “Could Plumette really fly? Like a bird?”
“Even after the curse she could float for a while, if she wanted to.”
“What do you want me to say about him? The man was an eccentric old codger right up until the day he…” The man paused for a moment, lost in the past. “Until he died.”
The girl pondered the word in silence, while the other sat in his armchair, thinking of times and thoughts that his granddaughter would never understand, no matter how much she listened, or how much she learned. She would never learn to appreciate time as he had, especially now, after all these years. And he was the last one, the one given the most time to contemplate what had happened. Everyone else had already passed on.
Sometimes, they would come to him in his dreams, as young as he remembered them that day: newly human and full of happiness. Lumiere would ask him how old age was treating him, Chapeau would clap him on the back and comment on his family, his mother would wrap her arms around him and tell him how proud she was of him. How proud they all were of him.
But Cogsworth always told him the time, how time was running out. Tick-tock, there’s not much time left. And though he always asked what Cogsworth meant, the old majordomo never explained himself, only kept repeating the same thing over and over again. Even now, Cogsworth was still as incessant as a real clock.
And yet…though he had time well-spent…it never seemed like enough. Well, not until now, as his youngest grandchild sat next to him, visions of magic and curses dancing in her head, the very age he was when the curse was cast. Filled with the wonder of a story that would die with him.
“I have a special task for you, little one,” he murmured, and the girl’s eyes lit up.
“What is it?” she asked. “Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
“Don’t forget the story I’ve told you today. Not a single word of it. Write it down somewhere, make it a book. And tell your grandchildren. And have them tell theirs.”
“All right,” the child said. “Is it that important?”
“I don’t want anyone to forget them,” he continued. “They taught me a lesson; I am sure they will teach others too. You’ve probably been told that nothing lasts forever, haven’t you?”
“That’s right,” she said. “Mother told me that.”
“Well…this story only happened in a moment, out of all the time in the world. And when I die, the days I’ve lived will disappear. But now that I’ve told you, you can tell other people, and those people can tell other people, and the story will last longer than any of us.”
He wasn’t much of a storyteller at this age, but he could do this much for his family. He didn’t live his whole life just to die without people really knowing what happened all those years ago. It wasn’t just some curse; lessons were learned, and love was restored to the castle.
“Okay. I promise I’ll do it. And my children will do it too.”
Chip smiled and closed his eyes. He could picture them now, in the castle, carrying out their duties, royalty and service alike. Some would call them ordinary, but to him they were the most important people in the world. They didn’t deserve to be fleeting. They deserved to live on. Through story, through song, through legend.
That’s how a moment lasts forever…when our song lives on.