This is an AU story that came to mind. I thought it was strange that Beast let Belle go into the woods by herself since she was attacked by wolves before.

I have never written a Beauty and the Beast story or an AU story before, so I hope you will enjoy it. If and when you review, if you could please tell me if you would like to see Gaston enter the castle since the storyline can go either way.

I am trying to keep this story somewhat consistent with the actual movie, The Enchanted Christmas and Belle's Magical World.

Disclaimer: Some of the dialogue and situations of the story are taken directly from the Disney movie, which I do not own. I also do not own the characters.

Beast and Belle walked onto the balcony and sat on the banister. Beast was nervous since he was about to confess his feelings to Belle, but by the dance they shared in the ballroom, there was a chance that she felt something for him. Still, he had no idea where to begin as he ran his paw through his fur. Maybe he needed some reassurance.

Beast decided to speak, "Belle," she turned to him, "are you happy here with me?" He tried to smile, but was anxious for her answer.

Belle smiled, "Yes."

Beast was relieved, but he saw that something was not right with her. "What is it?"

Belle looked as though she was in a different world. "If only I could see my father again. Just for a moment, I miss him so much."

Beast still regretted that he took Belle away from her father. Suddenly he remembered, "There is a way." He stood up. Belle followed with a hopeful look in her eyes and they walked to the West Wing together.

Beast had an internal battle. Seeing her face made him realize that she could never be truly happy here without her father. He was seriously considering letting her go although he knew he was close to breaking the spell. Maybe she would see that her father was all right and consent to living here without her being his prisoner.

Belle had a curious look on her face as they walked. When she and Beast had reached an understanding since the wolf attack, she decided to obey his wishes and never entered the West Wing again, except when she wanted to give him a Christmas present or get some flowers (which was a story she did not want to remember). She was still curious about the torn picture of the boy and especially the rose in the glass bell jar (although at Christmas she was mesmerized by it, quickly snapped out of it by Chip), but she no longer wished to defy him for what he did to her father and to her life. She also decided not to ask him about the West Wing, although she doubted now he would lose his temper as quickly as he had those three long months ago.

Now, as she looked around the West Wing, while it was not as clean as the rest of the castle, it seemed different. She realized how much Beast changed in these past few months. He trusted her in order to allow her to enter his most private room, and she trusted him in a way that she had never trusted anyone else, including, sometimes, her father.

They walked to the table holding the rose. Beast picked up a mirror that was on the table and handed it to her.

He said, "This mirror will show you anything, anything you wish to see."

Belle held the mirror to her face, "I'd like to see my father, please." The mirror lit up and the light was blinding. It dimmed enough so Belle could look into it. She heard coughing and saw her father very cold and sick. She wondered why he was out in the woods, but realized he was coming for her.

"Oh, no. He's sick. He may be dying and he's all alone." Belle had a desperate tone in her voice, which made Beast's heart break. He looked at the rose and realized what he had to do.

"Then, you must go to him."

Belle was surprised, "What did you say?"

Beast's heart was breaking with every word he spoke. "I release you. You're no longer my prisoner."

Belle was still surprised, but slightly sad. She then thought of her father, but she did not want to leave Beast.

"You mean I'm free?"

It took all of Beast's strength to answer her, "Yes."

Belle knew that her father needed her since she was all he had and was very grateful, "Oh, thank you." She was looking at the mirror, "Hold on, Papa, I'm on my way."

She turned to leave, but went to Beast to give him the mirror. Beast did not ever want to see the outside world again, and Belle might use it more. "Take it with you, so you'll always have a way to look back and remember me." He had to touch Belle's face one more time so he could memorize it.

Belle pressed her face against his paw. "Thank you for understanding how much he needs me." She turned to leave again, but Beast called out, "Wait!"

Belle looked at him. He just thought about the last time Belle went into the woods.

Beast took a deep breath knowing he was starting to waste time. "Belle, could you please do something for me?"

Belle's eyes were still filled with worry, so he quickly pushed on. "Allow me to accompany you through the woods. There are still wolves out there."

Belle slightly smiled although the worry did not leave her eyes. "Thank you." As an after thought, "Please, stay with us for the night. It'll be late by the time we find him and get back to the village."

Beast frowned, "I can't." He knew that the last petal was going to fall soon and he did not want Belle to see him in his despair when it happened.

Belle looked at him with a desperate plea, "Please? You have done so much for me."

He almost gave in, but remembered, "I kept you prisoner. I don't deserve your hospitality."

"I forgave you many months ago and you have made up for it."

Beast was surprised at how easily she was able to forgive, but he knew the truth. "I'm sorry, but it can't be."

Belle was crestfallen. Beast wished he could give in. Maybe it would break the spell just in time. Instead, he said, "I will accompany you to the village, though."

Belle was still disappointed, but at least it would be a little more time with him. She knew that once she got back to the village, she would not be able to return here for a long time. Maybe once her father was well, she could visit.

She responded quietly, "Thank you."

Beast did not know what else to say, except, "I'll meet you in the entrance hall in fifteen minutes?"

Belle nodded her head and left. Cogsworth entered the West Wing with a huge grin on his face.

"Well, Your Highness, I'd say everything's going just swimmingly. I knew you had it in you." He chortled.

Beast knew that he was going to reveal the bad news which would doom the entire castle. "I let her go."

Cogsworth was still chortling, "Yes, yes, splen- you what? How could you do that?"

Cogsworth was taking it better than Beast thought. "I had to."

Cogsworth was now stammering, "Yes, yes, yes, but why?"

"Because I love her." Beast turned to leave the West Wing. "I'm escorting Belle through the forest back to the village. I expect that the others will be informed." He turned back to face Cogsworth. "I'm sorry." Then, he left.

Cogsworth was in shock, but the thought came that maybe the Master escorting Belle would finally be the key to freeing all of them from the spell. He had to alert the others, so he ran from the West Wing.