As the moon rose high in the sky, the breeze gradually built itself into a freezing wind, and Lumière quickly cajoled the horse back to the stables. Softly, he nudged Babette awake after they pulled into the doors.

"Ma chérie, the wind is getting worse than I expected; we must get inside."

Babette stirred groggily, not fully awake until she felt him climb out of the sleigh. She rubbed her eyes, reaching for his arm. "Mmm...don't leave."

He kissed her forehead reassuringly. "Only releasing the horse, mon seulement, nothing more."

Babette groaned as she made herself arise fully. It was almost over. When he returned, it would be to walk her inside. No, this all felt too good, too remarkable, to be over so soon. Silently, she crept out of the sleigh and made her way to the ladder leading to the loft.

By the time Lumière came back, Babette was leaning over the edge smiling down at him from above. "What are you doing down there, handsome?" she crooned faintly so as not to spook the horses.

Turning his eyes up to her, he made every effort to be serious, but failed atrociously, breaking into a smile instead. "Babette, come down from there; it's late and the snow is starting to build outside."

"Then first of all, we should not risk the walk back, and secondly, it would be rude to wake everyone." She grinned flirtatiously. "Therefore, why don't you come up here?"

He shook his head with a smirk, grabbed the lantern and the blanket from the sleigh, and made for the ladder. "Woman right after my own heart."

"You had better believe it."

As he rested his coat on the straw, she wrapped her arms around him, drawing him down beside her and wrapping the blanket over them. "Thank you..."

"Whatever for?"

"A lovely evening...proving me wrong."

Lumière laughed gently, stroking her hair as his lips grazed her cheek. "In that case you are very welcome."

Babette grinned in reply, and wasted no time in drawing him into a kiss, slowly, passionately. She owed him so much for how he had changed her for the better. She no longer feared being close to someone, showing them that you care. He had given her something special, and she never planned on letting it go.

For only a moment, she brought herself out of it and gazed at him fondly. "Je t'aime."

Lumière beamed as he blew out the lantern and resumed the glorious moment. "Maintenant et toujours..."

Once the light had faded from the stables, the doors blew creakily shut as a figure watched in the distance. At first glance, one would have thought it an old woman as she walked shakily, but then she miraculously stood up straight and tall, the hood of her cloak falling to reveal her younger than expected. She took one sweeping glimpse over the grounds before raising her eyes to the massive castle.

"It is such a shame," she muttered, "To think that no one will remember this place, and all will have to suffer." Her eyes looked once again to the stable doors. "At least they had tonight, nothing will be the same tomorrow."

Raising her hood back into place and pulling a single rose from her cloak, the woman continued the walk to the castle carrying on in the wobbling manner, each step wishing a silent apology to all who lived inside.

The End