A/N: Chapter co-written by Rory4

Gaston searched through all the rooms of the castle, looking for the beast. Finally, he headed towards the West Wing, the only part of the castle he'd yet to explore. He readied his bow and arrow. The Beast had to be here. Slowly he opened the door, and there it was.

Slowly, every inch the hunter as he moved, he stepped towards the creature. The Beast was hung over on the table that held the rose.

Gaston's eyes were drawn towards the strangely glowing flower, but years of stalking prey had taught him discipline when it came to distractions. As soon as he saw the rose, his eyes were back on the Beast, his body tensed and ready to strike. What a perfect opportunity to strike, while the thing was distracted! This would be simple!

The Beast turned around and saw Gaston. But he just looked sad and turned back to the rose.

He no longer cared what happened to him. Soon, he would die anyway. When the last petal fell from his rose. There were only a few petals left, and they were slowly dying, one by one. Beast did not care who this man was. If he'd come to gawk at the monster, let him. It no longer mattered who saw him.

Gaston pulled back his arrow and fired.

The arrow struck the Beast, and he let out a surprised roar. Suddenly, Gaston crashed into him, causing them both to crash through a window and onto the balcony outside, where a blizzard was taking place.

Gaston then ran up and kicked the beast in the chest. "Get up!" he shouted.

The Beast only looked at him with sad blue eyes, and did not move. He was empty.

"Get up! What's the matter, Beast? Too kind and gentle to fight back?" Gaston stared down at Beast, rage rushing through his veins. Why would he not fight back? Did this creature think it was too good to be killed by his hands? Quickly, he shook off the thought and grabbed one of the stone pillars jutting out and broke it off to use it as a club. It was time to end this.

Suddenly, a voice shouted from below, "No!"

The Beast looked down into the court yard and his eyes widened when he saw Belle standing the front entrance to the castle with her father. "Belle," he said, weakly.

"No, Gaston, don't!" She shouted again

Gaston raised the club above his head, but suddenly, he felt a hard kick to his back which caused him to fall forward onto his face. He cried out in outrage as he felt the stone scrape against his unmarred skin. Whoever had done this to him would soon be dead along with that disgusting creature, he silently vowed to himself, seething as he picked himself up off the ground. He turned around to see Erik standing in front of him, looking menacing as he tightly gripped his sheathed sword.

"Erik," Belle said to herself in awe. She'd gotten here just in time to see Erik save Beast's life. Her heart pounded frantically in her chest. She'd almost lost Beast...And Erik had just turned Gaston's rage onto himself.

Gaston stood and turned to face the featureless dark shadow before him. He hadn't sensed this man coming. He moved like a ghost. Well, soon he would be a true ghost! Teeth gritted, he lunged towards Erik without any warning.

Suddenly, Erik moved out of the way, unsheathed his sword and slashed Gaston's chest.

Gaston back tossed his head, up towards the starless night sky, and howled in rage.

"You are not welcome here," Erik said in a low voice.

Gaston held a hand to the wound on his abdomen, and glared at Erik. "Oh, but I think I've a right to be here! After all, as long as this terrible Beast is roaming free, my village is in grave danger," he smiled manically at Erik. "Cannot have that now, can we?"

"Grave danger? I don't believe that is the reason you came here to kill him."

"But, of course it is! Killing vermin is what I do for a living!" Gaston replied.

"Me thinks the hunter is jealous of the Beast." Erik chuckled. "Admit it."

"Me, jealous? Of a brainless beast? You amuse me!" Gaston let out a humorless chuckle.

"A man amused by a ghost, I'm flattered." He then pointed his sword at Gaston. "Now, I give you a fair warning. Leave this place, or die."

Gaston pulled his own sword from it's sheath, and pointed it towards Erik, silently declaring a challenge. "I will not be the one to die this night!" With that, he swung his sword at his opponent, aiming for his neck, trying for a killing blow.

Erik quickly blocked the blow with his sword. Soon, the two were engaged in a duel to the death. All the beast could do was watch.

Gaston parried another of Erik's attacks, sweat beading his large brow, and his loose hair sticking to his neck, and falling over his eyes. He hit back, and his sword clanged deafeningly against Erik's.

Erik then kicked Gaston in the stomach. Gaston's breath burst out his lungs at the blow, and he hunched forward in an effort to breathe again. Erick then punched Gaston clear in the jaw. Unable to deflect the blow, Gaston's head snapped to the side. Within seconds he could taste blood in his mouth.

"Come on, make this interesting for me," Erik said.

Gaston growled and leapt to his feet. He swung his sword towards Erik's head.

Erik moved his head out of the way, but in doing so, had his arm sliced by the sword. He grabbed his wound and clutched it tight as blood seeped through his fingers.

Gaston took the opening that gave him and shoved the tip of his sword towards Erik's abdomen, intending to gut him and be done with it.

Just as Gaston's sword was about to strike the lethal blow, a loud roar, like a clap of thunder, suddenly boomed up into the gray skies and a giant claw knocked his sword out of his hand.

Erik looked up to see that it was the Beast.

The Beast's heavy breath swirled around him in the cold air like smoke, and he crouched down on all fours, teeth gritted, as he growled menacingly at Gaston.

Erik then too the chance to get out of the way, but he still wasn't finished with the hunter.

Gaston's eyes widened slightly as he, the hunter, suddenly became the hunted. His own prey now stalked towards him, clearly intent on his demise. And his sword was too far away, lying discarded, almost teasingly, on the ground a few feet from him. Quickly, he grabbed the pillar that he had broken off and started swinging it at the Beast.

The two were suddenly locked in a bizarre dance as Beast dodged and weaved around every one of Gaston's frantic blows.

Growing tired quickly of the game, Beast took his own swipe at Gaston's head, with his claw that was at least ten times the human's size.

But Gaston blocked the blow with his club. And so the dance continued, with blocked strikes and counters, and rapidly complex footing as the fight went on.

Beast observed Gaston as they fought, trying to figure out his weakness. The man was clearly smaller than he was, puny compared to him, really, and he could easily be overpowered if his fighting weren't so skilled. He didn't have anymore time to contemplate a possible weakness, as one of Gaston's attacks hit him squarely in the jaw.

Gaston gave out a triumphant laugh as Beast lay immobile and silent on the ground. Just as Gaston was about to execute the finishing blow on the Beast, Erik ran up and draped his cape over the hunter, blinding him from the beast. Gaston flailed about under the cloak in surprise, shouting in frustration.

When Gaston flung the cape off of him, he saw Erik staring at him, and the Beast was gone. Erik simply reached down and put his cape back on.

Gaston simply growled and charged at Erik, swinging his club.

Luckily, Erik disappeared, causing Gaston to smash off the head of a gargoyle instead.

Gaston whirled around every which way looking for Erik in the darkness, blue eyes wide and wild with fury and fingers white where he tightly clutched the club in his fists. "Come on out and fight!" he shouted. A crack of lightning was his reply.

Gaston walked towards the rows of gargoyles, searching for this mystery man. Suddenly, he heard a low voice singing,

In all your fantasies, you never see
That man and mystery, would be in me
And in this labyrinth, where night is blind,
The Phantom of the Opera is here, inside your mind

A chill slid down Gaston's spine, and he did his best to ignore it. It was as if the darkness around him was singing, but he refused to be mislead. His opponent was taunting him, he told himself. There were no such things as ghosts..."Were you both in love with her?" he said. "Do you honestly think she'd want any of you, when she could have someone like me?!"

Gaston was answered with a maniacal laugh.

"What is so funny?!"

"Someone like you?" asked Erik from what seemed like everywhere. "An arrogant, selfish, brutish fool who only loves one's beauty and not one's self? You did come here out of jealousy!"

"I've no need to be jealous!"

"Oh but you are. Don't try to hide it, you're only fooling yourself."

"Enough!" Shouted Gaston, beginning to unravel. "Come out and fight me with weapons, ghost! Or are you a coward? Know I'll best you, do you?!"

"Belle will never love you. For behind your muscular facade, you are nothing but an ugly, fat, despicable troll!"

Erik walked out from the shadows, right behind Gaston. "Boo!" He hissed into Gaston's ear, and Gaston whirled around. Seeing Erik, he smiled. He made to raise his club and take a swing at the man, but instead struck out with his free arm, beefy fist aiming straight for Erik's jaw. The blow hit Erik, causing his mask to fly off his face as he fell to the ground. Erik was face flat on the ground, no one could see it.

Gaston stood triumphantly over Erik, grinning. Erik tried to get up, covering his face, but Gaston kicked him in the stomach. "Stay down there where you belong," Gaston growled, high from the upper hand he had.

Erik began to cough. "Bastard."

Gaston laughed. "I told you I would best you, ghost!"

Erik slowly got up, staggering and with his hand still covering his face.

"Are you ready to surrender yet?" Gaston asked.

Erik said nothing. He just stood there, catching his breath.

Gaston raised his club. "Fine, then. If you will not surrender, you shall die. Belle is mine!"

Just then, Erik's blood began to boil at those words. His eyes narrowed and he began to growl. "Belle...belongs...to no one!" Suddenly, he removed his hand, revealing his hideous, scarred face, as lightning flashed. He yelled his anger out at Gaston.

Gaston dropped his club as he drew back from Erik in terror and disgust.

Erik then grabbed Gaston's collar and drew him close to his face. "Take a good long gawk at it Gaston. Hideous, isn't it? It's people like you that forge the mask that hides this face. It is the face of betrayal, the face of injustice, the face of revenge!" Erik suddenly swung Gaston over the edge of the roof as another lightning bolt flashed.

Gaston screamed in utter terror, as he dangled there. He clutched at Erik, legs flailing beneath him, trying to find purchase that wasn't there. "Let me go, let me go! Please, don't hurt me! I'll do anything! Anything!" he desperately and pathetically pleaded with Erik.

The red, raw grooves of Erik's unmasked face were contorted in pure, undiluted hate as he stared down menacingly at Gaston. His right eye was wreathed in puffy, drooping, mottled flesh that closely resembled dried, melted candle wax. The large scar covered nearly the entire upper half of his face, leaving him with only half a terribly singed eyebrow as it trailed up into his hair line. The shadows of the night emphasized the hollows between the ridges of distorted skin, making it seem like he had deep, boneless holes in random places. He truly looked like something from a living nightmare as he continued to glower at his opponent, letting Gaston simply dangle there over the ledge, pleading for mercy. Ever so slowly, the fire in his eyes began to dim. It would be so easy to loosen his grip and let this disgusting pig fall to his death. So easy, and yet he found himself hesitating...If he dropped Gaston, it would only prove more of how much of a monster he was. He was quiet for a long time until he said, "Very well, I shall spare you, on one condition."

"A-Anything," Gaston stuttered.

"You leave this place, leave Belle with the Beast, and never come back."

Gaston bobbed his head up and down rapidly. "O-Of course. You have my word! Just let me go!"

"Good." Then Erik pulled Gaston up to his face. "Now get out!" He then threw Gaston away from him. He turned to see the Beast standing at the side with his mask in his hands. They stared at one another for a long moment. Erik nodded at the Beast. "Master."

Beast took a step towards him, holding the mask out towards him. His eyes were full of respect and thanks. He nodded his head in return. "Sir."

Erik then took the mask and placed it over his scar.

"Beast!" Came Belle's voice from the top Balcony.

Beast whirled around at the sound of his beloved's voice, and he looked up to see her holding a hand out for him. He smiled, and began to climb up to her, reaching a claw towards her.

Erik climbed up beside him, taking Belle's hand. Belle then helped him up onto the balcony. "Belle," Erik said. "Forgive me for everything that I have done."

Belle smiled softly up at him, and placed a reassuring hand on his cheek. "You're forgiven. Thank you for what you did. I will never forget it."

He then took her hand. "Belle, I love you, but you are not mine." He then took the Beast's hand and clasped it onto Belle's.

Belle's eyes shone with tears as she heard Erik's words. She then looked down at her hand clasped in Beast's paw, and her heart warmed. Her eyes slowly trailed up to his face, and when their eyes met she stopped breathing, as they stared passionately at each other.

Suddenly, the Beast gave out an anguished roar.

Belle looked down in alarm, just in time to see Gaston pulling a dagger out of Beast's back, a sick grin on his deceivingly beautiful face. She cried out in shock.

Erik saw this as well, and was furious. Suddenly, he leapt onto Gaston, causing both of them to fall off the castle.

"Erik!" Belle shouted, as she watched them fall with wide eyes. She started to look around frantically for a sign of her masked friend, but a pained groan brought her attention abruptly back to her love. He looked so weak! Now in tears, she helped the injured Beast up onto the balcony, where he laid down on the floor, in too much pain to stand.

Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth came rushing out from the West Wing just as Beast sank to the balcony floor, cradled in Belle's arms. Breathing heavily from the mad dash from below stairs where they'd triumphed over the invaders, they froze in their tracks and gasped at the sight of their master so weak. The high from their victory dissipated abruptly, and their faces contorted into masks of utter shock.

Thunder bellowed through the sky, and the rain continued to pour.

Beast struggled to stay conscious as he lay there with eyes closed, lingering somewhere between life and death. The temptation of total oblivion was tempting him with it's strong and quiet pull, whispering promises to end his suffering in his ear. The gentle touch of Belle's hand to his cheek pushed back the overwhelming darkness, reaching for him and bringing forth the light. He struggled against the weight pushing him down, and lifted his head and opened drowsy eyes to look at the woman he loved. His breaths were sluggish and shallow. It hurt to take the air into his lungs, and let it out again. However, the need to talk to her; to hear her voice reply, overrode any pain.

"Yo-You came back," he rasped, his gaze bright but slightly unfocused.

Belle leaned towards him, her dark stare intense. "Of course I came back. I couldn't let them...Oh, this is all my fault!" Her voice broke and she desperately threw her arms around him, as if she could ward off the inevitable if she just held him close. "If only I'd gotten here sooner..."

"May-Maybe it's better this way..." He replied, thinking of all he'd put her through, of all the things he'd ever done, and how now she wouldn't have to spend the rest of her life with a great, terrible monster. How without him, she could live a normal, happy life, and without her he wouldn't have to live.

Belle rested her fingers over his mouth to stop his words and their meaning, feeling his short, hot breaths on her wet skin. "Don't talk like that! You'll be all right. We're together now," She straightened his cravat and smoothed down his clothes to calm herself, trying to reassure him. She touched him everywhere she could, in an effort to comfort them both and keep him with her. Her fingers brushed his forehead, her hands cupped his face between them. "Everything's going to be fine. You'll see."

Beast heard the rising, frantic fear in her voice, and brought his paw up to cup her cheek, entwining his claws in her hair. He felt her turn her face into his touch, and both her hands come up to hold him closer. His eyes glistened with solace as he absorbed her every feature, committed every inch of her to his memory. She was a sight he'd never thought he'd see again, and thankfulness and joy hummed through his veins as it slowly became harder and harder to breathe, to stay awake, to see her or to feel the downpour lashing down on his face. He gently stroked his thumb against her chilled skin.

"At least I got to see you...one...last...time." The words were said between heavy gasps for air, and stole the last ounce of his energy. Belle's face blurred to nothing, and the weight in his limbs pressed down harder, becoming too strong for him to fight against. Oblivion slowly slithered in around him, and he felt his life seep gently out of his body. He was exhausted, so he finally let himself fall to sleep. Then there was nothing.

Belle closed her eyes and hid in the feel of Beast's touch on her face, but they flew open in horror when she felt his paw go slack in her grasp. Her hands flew to her mouth, as his eyes rolled back and closed, and his head lolled to the side. His paw dropped to the ground, still. She shook her head in denial as tears started well and burn in her eyes. This couldn't be happening!

She laid her hands on his chest. "No! No!" Her fingers curled and fisted in his cloak, and she tugged at it in anguish. "Please! Please! Please, don't leave me!" A thick lump lodged itself in her throat, and a sob tore it's way through her chest as she buried her face against his body. "I love you," she whispered, finally saying the words she'd been wanting to speak out loud for so long. Unable to speak anymore as a single tear escaped and slid down her cheek, she began to cry, helpless to do anything else. Loss and hopelessness echoed forlornly through her hollow, stiff body. Erik had died for nothing. They were both gone now. Dead. Forever.

The three enchanted objects looked on in sorrow, and then turned around just in time to watch the very last rose petal fall. They looked down at the floor, despair clouding their eyes, and as a tear slid down Mrs. Potts cheek, Cogsworth put an arm around her. Their master had finally learned to love, but the spell would never be broken. He was gone. Their young master - the one that they had always loved despite his being cruel and frightening - was dead, and even in death he would remain cursed, like they would now for all eternity.

Belle didn't notice the passing of time, or the lightning that flashed with the rain that wouldn't stop falling. She had cost two men their lives tonight. If Gaston hadn't been so obsessed with her, he'd never have had a reason to come to this castle, to harm the people inside it. Erik and Beast would still be here. Now, she would never see them again. Now, Erik would never have a chance to live in peace, after so many years of unrest. Now, she would never have a wedding with Beast, never get to spend her life with him. Never feel his arms around her again as they danced, throw snowballs at him on a silent winter morning, or read to him in the drawing room by the fire...

Her distraught sob blended with a sudden clap of thunder, and she clung to him tighter.

At first, no one noticed when the beam of bright pink light fell from the sky. Then another came. And another. Soon, the rain was replaced almost entirely with these falling beams of sparkling light, much like falling stars. Through her daze, Belle finally realized what was happening, and the surprise stopped her tears. She looked around, wide-eyed, as they continued to fall, causing the floor around Beast to twinkle in flecks of blue and pink. Then, as if lifted up by an invisible pair of arms, Beast's body began to rise into the air. Stunned, she began to back away as a wispy fog - like smoke - enshrouded him. Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth, all as stunned as Belle, watched this sight with something akin to hopeful anticipation in their eyes.

Beast was lifted further up into the air, and his body began to slowly turn around and around.

A strong, magically charged wind blew through Belle's hair as she weakly got to her feet to watch what was happening, and she absently brushed a few strands from her eyes, her face pale and blank with shock. Suddenly, Beast's body twitched and was enveloped in a cloud of golden light. Another gust of wind blew, and he became wrapped in his cloak.

Belle's hand flew to her cheek, and she stepped even further away from Beast when a forepaw was thrust out into the sky, and began to glow as the fur and claws shifted and changed to a man's long fingers, and human flesh. Then a hind paw emerged and became a foot. Finally, the ethereal light came to hallow his face, and the wind blew violently through his fur, changing it into ginger-colored hair that whipped around what was clearly becoming a man's beautiful face, as horns and fangs disappeared as if they'd never been there in the first place. The golden light finally burst from within him in brilliant beams, and vanished.

Gradually, his body descended and was laid once again on the floor.

As everything went quiet, Belle tentifly took a step towards him as the fog dispersed, and reached out to touch him. She jerked her hand back, startled, when he began to move. On her guard, she watched as he slowly got to his feet, back to her, and held out his hands, obviously examining them. Then he whirled around to face her, and she stopped breathing. Could it be...? Brow creased, she stared at this strange, beautiful man in wonderment.

"Belle," he said with an excited breath, hands touching his chest as if to make sure he were real. "It's me!"

Her heart jolted when they both took a step forward at the same time, and he took one of her hands in both of his. She let him keep the hand, as she took in his brilliant smile and wild hair. Cocking her head to the side, she considered him. Her dark eyes examined his every feature thoroughly, a little unsure and hardly daring to believe. She took a bit of his russet hair in her free hand, and ran her fingers over the tangled lock a few times. He looked nothing like...

She stopped.

Belle's eyes came up to meet his, and she instantly knew. They were the same. While everything about him was different, his royal blue eyes were the very same ones she'd been looking into since the very first day she'd stumbled into his enchanted castle to save her father.

"It is you!" She beamed up at him, and brought her hand up to cup his cheek, her voice husky with awe.

The prince didn't reply, but smiled down at her tenderly, sliding his hand up her arm, as he came to run the backs of his knuckles over her chestnut hair. She shivered. Her hand slowly slipped from his cheek, coming down to rest against his chest, as he brought his hand down to cradle the back of her neck. Eyes locked together, they gravitated towards each other for a kiss, as if pulled by an invisible thread. As soon as their eyes closed and their lips touched, a strong wind pushed them closer together and Belle flung her arms around his neck, as the kiss deepened. Lost to all sight and sound, the pair didn't notice the thin blue light that swirled around them, and then shot up into the dark sky, exploding in a display of colorful fireworks.

The gloom surrounding the castle disappeared, revealing a clear blue sky and a quickly transforming castle, with gargoyles turning into cherubs and gray stone becoming white. When Belle and the prince finally pulled away, they held each other and watched as golden fairy dust rained down upon them, turning everything it touched back to it's original beauty.

The three objects came running out onto the balcony, and in a tornado of blue light, they became human. The prince stepped away from Belle to put his hands on the shoulders of a tall and skinny man with a pony tail, the first to transform.

"Lumiere!" He breathed.

Next to him, a short and round man with a mustache popped up. The prince threw an arm around his neck and hugged him. "Cogsworth!"

In front of him, a small woman dressed in pink and white appeared. He pulled the hat laying askew on her head away from her eyes, beaming, his heart pounding with excitement and his voice rising in joy. "Oh, Mrs. Potts! Look at us!" He hugged all three to him, and they grinned.

The sound of a dog barking caught their attention, and they looked just in time to see Chip riding in on Footstool.

"Mama! Mama!" He shouted, and suddenly he and Footstool became enveloped in the same sparkling light as everyone else, transforming back into boy and dog.

Mrs. Potts laughed and swung her son up into her arms. "Oh, my goodness!"

"It is a miracle!" Lumiere whooped, elated.

Filled with an intoxicating happiness, the prince turned and grabbed Belle around the waist, swinging her around in the air, reveling in the sound of her carefree laughter.

Days later, the prince and Belle were married in front of the entire village of Molyneaux. Afterwards, they threw a ball as both a wedding reception, and in celebration of the broken spell. Waltzing while the whole kingdom looked on, the couple truly looked meant for each other in the grand, layered golden gown and the deep blue suit.

Lumiere watched them dance with a delighted look on his face. He sighed wistfully. "Ah, l'amour."

From the corner of his eye, he saw the former feather duster approaching him. When she reached him, the dark-haired woman tickled his chin with her duster, and gave him a sultry look over her shoulder before walking away. A stupid, rakish smile broke out across his face and with a laugh he started to chase after the maid he'd been dallying with for years, but was stopped, unfortunately, by Cogsworth. Lumiere frowned forlornly as the other man shook his hand, his gaze lingering on his beau until she was out of sight.

"Well, Lumiere, old friend. Shall we let bygones be bygones?"

Lumiere looked down at Cogsworth and smiled, throwing an arm around his shoulders. "Of course, mon ami. I told you she would break the spell."

Cogsworth laughed dismissively, and poked Lumiere in the chest. "I beg your pardon, old friend, but I believe I told you."

Lumiere responded by pinching Cogsworth's cheek. "No, you didn't. I told you."

Cogsworth's face contorted in rage, and he put his hands on his hips, then bumped Lumiere with his round belly for good measure, making the taller man stumble backwards a few steps. "You most certainly did not,you pompous parrafin-headed pea-brain!"

Lumiere glared at him, and raised his fists, ready to battle. "En garde, you overgrown pocket watch!"

Searching around for a weapon, Lumiere looked down and pulled out one of his gloves. He promptly slapped Cogsworth across the face with it. For a second, the shorter man looked surprised, and then a murderous scowl darkened his features, and he rushed at Lumiere, fists flying. They began to wrestle, and fell gracefully to the floor with a loud thump, locked in a duel.

From across the room, Belle laughed at the sight of her friend's antics, and turned back to the trio of blonde triplets she knew from the village. Needing a break from dancing, she and the prince had decided to circulate around the room for a little while, greeting their guests. What luck that she'd come upon these women! She smiled at them politely, internally rolling her eyes as they went on about how horrible Gaston had been, and how shocking it was, what he'd done! When they started to gush over how handsome her prince was, Belle finally did roll her eyes, but they didn't seem to notice. They would never change, would they? Even when they were little girls, they'd probably been as fickle as...

Her thoughts drifted off, and her brow furrowed as she spotted something she hadn't noticed earlier, laying on the table where the wedding presents were being kept. Her heart stuttered in her chest.

"Excuse me," she said absently to her companions, pushing past them and making her way through a large group of people to get to the table. As she got closer, music from the orchestra and chatting voices reached her ears as if from a distance. When she finally arrived at her destination, she reached forward with a shaking hand and picked up the single rose. Her eyes filled with tears as she fingered the black ribbon tied around it's stem. She turned around and looked about the ballroom for the person that could have left it, but deep in her heart she knew she would not find such a person. Not wanting anyone to see the tears about to well-over in her eyes, she once again turned her back to the crowds. She pressed the flower to her chest, as if embracing it, and closed her eyes in thanks. She let out a sharp breath that could have been a sob or laugh of elation. Erik was alive! Erik...

A gentle hand came to rest on her shoulder. "Belle, are you all right?"

Belle nodded her head, and turned to her prince. "I'm fine! Look!" She held the rose out to him.

His face paled with shock, as he stared down at the flower, and slowly realized what it meant. His blue eyes were wide as he looked back and forth between her and the rose, clearly dumbstruck. After a moment, the prince regained his senses and took it from her. "He's alive," he breathed.

Belle nodded, her eyes glistening. "He is!"

Suddenly, the prince let out a jovial laugh and gathered her in his arms, twirling her clear, and elaborately across the ballroom. His enthusiasm was contagious, and when he dipped her as they whirled past her father, Mrs. Potts and Chip, she threw her head back and smiled.

Maurice dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief, happiness and a tinge of sadness welling in his chest as he watched his little girl in the arms of her husband. He was so proud of her!

From his mother's arms, Chip watched and considered the couple as they danced. "Are they gonna live happily ever after, mama?"

Mrs. Potts smiled fondly at the pair. "Of course, my dear. Of course."

This news overjoyed Chip, and he smiled. But, then another worry caused his small brow to wrinkle in puzzlement. "Do I still have to sleep in the cupboard?"

Maurice chuckled heartily at the boy's comment, and Mrs. Potts looked at her son in surprise before hugging him to her and laughing herself.

Belle could feel everyone's eyes on her, but she didn't truly care. She looked into her prince's eyes and saw no one else, and he stared back down at her, amazed that this was all really happening.

He leaned down to whisper in her ear, resting his cheek against hers. "I love you."

Belle pulled back to look up at him, her eyes shining. They grinned goofily at each other, and took another turn about the ballroom, happy to stay right where they were for the rest of their lives.

Far beneath the castle, beautiful, hypnotizing music echoed throughout a hidden lair. The phantom sat as his organ, his long fingers gliding flawlessly over the keys with easy passion. A thousand lit candles surrounded him, twinkling in the dimness like stars, as his smooth, deep voice sang out a sweet song that he'd just finished writing. Erik closed his eyes, loosing himself in the music. His mask lay at his side, waiting.

Certain as the sun

Rising in the east

Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Beauty and the Beast...

From somewhere in the castle, Belle and the prince swore that they could hear a song completely separate from the one the orchestra was currently playing. That was the one they danced to.

Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Beauty and the Beast...