A dance. That's all there is left of me. Just a memory of a dance and a whisper of a voice and a golden blur that fills my mind every time I close my eyes.

Three words. I've been longing to say them for so long now, to hear them has always been an impossible dream. At least, I always thought that. For a moment, I hoped I was wrong.

In the end, they were addressed at the wrong time, about her, not to her.

"But – why?"

"Because… I love her."

I love her. I love her.

A confession only to myself – my servants have known it for an eternity and she never will. What would it mean, anyway? The love of a Beast. A dog can show affection, even adoration for its master, yet never rise from its lowly position. I know my mistake, now. The enchantress took surprisingly little, after all. I have my castle, my servants – such as they are, in their new states. But what she has left me, for me, is worthless. This form is a curse in itself, not the result of one. As this thing, this monster, I must always be alone. Of what value can royalty and riches be when there is no one with whom to share them, no one even to care whether I live or die. Her name is the one sound that fills this silence.

"Thank you for understanding how much he needs me."

Of course I did. I need her, want her, more than I have ever longed for anything before. That man, her father – my prisoner. Did he mean anything to me at all, when he was just an intruder, an annoyance, an unwelcome guest who would see me as no free man had ever seen me before? I know the answer to that question. His freedom was not mine to bargain with, but with it, I bought her. As though she were a thing, an object, valueless. Now, to me, she is more precious than anything. Never has anything or anyone been so wholly undervalued. Her father lost her. If he needs her – loves her – as much as I do, then I can never forgive myself for what I have done to him. Selfish. Stupid.

I love her.

I am ashamed of the person I used to be. It crossed my mind, once, to consider what I would have thought then of the mere idea of forming an alliance with a peasant, a young woman of a family outcast even among other peasants. It would have horrified me, I know it. In the past few weeks, I have wanted nothing more. She is not mine, not my prisoner – there is nothing to bind her to me at all, yet… I want her back.

"He's finally learned to love."

Yes. It's killing me.

I used to think that I was strong, that I could overcome this 'curse', learn to live with its results. If the world would shun me with my new appearance – well, the world held no interest for me. I thought I could cope with my hideousness. I tried to scorn companionship, but there was no denying my loneliness. I really did need her.

"It's not enough. She has to love him in return."

Because now I don't care about the curse. I don't care about who I was before or who I could be. I don't care about anything but her. I want her back. I don't love her because I have to, because it's my only chance, I love her because…

I love her because she changed me. I love her because she can look at me and see a man, not a monster. I love her because she looked at me without fear, accepted me as I am. I love her because she's gentle and kind and caring.

Belle…

Why won't she hear me? Why isn't this enough?

I love her.