Title: A Fractured Fairy Tale.
Author: LaFemmeDarla
Pairing: Belle/Beast.
Summary: There are many kinds of happy endings. This has to be one of them.
Disclaimer: Disney, not mine. Not making any money out of it. Don't sue.
Notes: Thanks to Trudi for the beta.

Maurice has to believe this is a happy ending. After all, isn't his daughter standing in front of him, showing her exquisite golden ball gown as she waits for the one she loves? Sure, he can't reach out and touch his only child anymore, and the one she loves is a Beast. But it doesn't matter anymore. As long as Belle is smiling.

"You look just like your mother," Maurice says to her, a tear threatening to run down his cheek. Belle blushes even as she approaches him, concern in her lovely eyes.

"Oh, Papa. I'm so sorry," she says. Sorry for not having the life he'd hoped for her. Sorry for making him sad on what's supposed to be one of the happiest moments for her life. Sorry for not being there the way he wants her anymore...

Maurice shakes his head and smiles, for Belle's sake. And he knows the servants smile too, staying in the shadows, eternal witnesses of Belle and the Beast's happiness.

For he'd thought she'd never see her smile again after the Beast died. From the castle's bridge Maurice saw glimpses of the fight, how the Beast dangled Gaston from the edge and then lowered him down. How the Beast then approached Belle, so close to her, too entranced by her presence to notice Gaston following. Then the roar of pain, and Gaston screaming and falling into the darkness. Maurice remembers little after that. He knows he ran into the castle, losing himself in the maze of dark corridors and confused objects. There had been a battle and they had won. Unlike their Master.

When Maurice finally made it to the Beast's room he was already gone, Belle crying and embracing the lifeless body. There was a stab wound on the Beast's side and blood pooled slowly beneath him. Maurice recognized the ones he had met on his first visit to the castle: the candelabra, the clock and the teapot, all softly crying for their dead Master. In the middle of their pain and sorrow, no one but Maurice had noticed the light at first; that strange, shiny rain falling over then, until it touched them and made them flesh and blood.

Mrs. Potts would later tell Maurice about the spell. The one that would have been broken when their Master learned to love and be loved in returned. For Belle had whispered her loving words just before the last petal fell. It had been too late for the Beast, but not for the servants.

Belle was never the same after that night. With the Beast gone, she became the new mistress of the castle. She was kind and generous and they all adored her. But there was nothing they could do to bring joy to her life. The next few months she wandered around the castle like a ghost, clad in mourning clothes and sometimes stopping next to a window and looking outside. Until one morning, when she finally walked out of the castle and into the woods. No one saw her leave, her steps in the snow the only lead they had. By nightfall, the servants were out, looking for her.

"I used to read to him," Belle tells Maurice. "He loved King Arthur and Romeo and Juliet the best. Just like me. I was going to read him my favorite fairy tale the night after we danced. I had the whole day planned: We were going to feed the birds after breakfast, then go for a walk in the gardens, then read after lunch." She turns to look at her father. "He makes me happy."

Maurice nods, understanding. She loves the Beast, but won't go to him without her father's blessing. Just like every night since she came back from the forest. Sometimes he wonders if this is really her daughter or maybe a nice fairy who grants an old man a little peace by offering him this vision of happiness and love.

"I know he does," Maurice says. Because he means it, and because he doesn't know what else to say.

Four nights after Belle dissapeared, Maurice had a dream. And the dream was like one of the fairy tales her daughter loved so much. And it was Belle's own fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman lost in the woods. She'd wandered out of the safety of her shining castle because it wasn't home anymore. For her one true love had died in her arms on that castle. The young woman knew she had to go back, but her heart was broken and nothing else mattered.

Then, a powerful Sorceress came to the woman. Although she didn't have the power to bring back the dead, there was something the Sorceress could do. And so she took the young woman's hand, and spoke sweet words to her as they went through the darkest part of the forest, a secret path that led to a white door. And standing by the door, was the young woman's true love. And the young woman went to him and they embraced and together they crossed the white door. And they lived happily ever after

And Maurice woke up, and he cried as he called the servants and told them to stop looking. Belle was gone. The following night, his daughter's voice woke him up, woke the entire household, asking them to go the ballroom. And there she was, as beautiful as he remembered her, safe in the arms of her Beast.

The Beast approaches them. He wears a royal blue and black suit, with golden details that match Belle's gown. Belle and Maurice stand, ready for the nightly ritual. The Beast bows and offers his arm to Belle. Maurice takes Belle's hand (the one time it feels real, as if his child were still alive) and places it on the Beast's arm. Then Maurice sits again and watches them dance. Behind him, someone sobs. He knows is Mrs. Potts. Soon she'll come sit by Maurice's side and sing a tender song about the lovers. Then everyone else will move a bit closer, just close enough to see everything better and to keep the magic from escaping their home. And Belle and the Beast will dance until dawn, when they will disappear with the the morning sun and come back at dusk, and the cycle will start again.

They look so beautiful together. So in love. So happy.

Yes, this has to be a happy ending.

THE END