"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..."

And that was how it began.

Belle looked down and away from the priest, and down and away from Gaston. She had failed to get word to the castle and failed to make any additional communication with her father, but, but—

LeFou had confirmed it. Her father had escaped. Gaston had been angry, but, oddly, not as angry as Belle had anticipated, not as much as he normally became when things didn't go his way. Belle had her suspicions as to why: Gaston could hazard a guess where her father had gone. Beast was warned and was coming, the prey was coming. Thus, the hunt was on. Gaston had only to wait. Belle's glance grazed the musket standing between them. He had it with him, here, at the altar he and the others had erected in the middle of the town square. No one had objected, not even the priest. Apparently, the irony of its presence in the middle of a sacrament was lost on all of them, as was the apropos nature of an instrument of violence separating Belle and Gaston as it, after all, always had.

Belle also thought the Beast, her Beast, was coming, but he was armed with knowledge, and this thought sustained her. She prayed his impulsiveness wouldn't get the best of him, that he'd master himself enough to approach it all logically, anything but come charging out as he had those months ago with the wolves. But, yet, she didn't really actually worry that he would come at it recklessly. That animalistic side of him had died down with time. She could trust him now, trust his judgement, trust his instincts, trust him decisions, trust him. And it made her feel relieved, at peace, and yet, it also awakened a spark. The Beast, her Beast, had become inextricably bound to her. Now that she no longer felt bound by a threat to his life, she felt free to be alive again herself.

And so she would risk it without fear.

"—until death do you part?"

Gaston looked out at the assemblage. He grinned. "I think that's why we're all here."

They all laughed, even though what he had said hadn't been all that amusing.

Gaston made his face serious. "I do."

"And do you, Belle..."

Belle levelled her gaze up, directly on Gaston's face. His look was smug, unconcerned, entirely at ease. He took on the pose of a victor, with an elbow casually rested on the butt of his musket.

Of course, perhaps it was the gun itself that created the ease.

"...until death do you part?"

The Beast had not arrived in time to save her. But she hadn't needed him to, not really. Not now.

Belle spoke as clearly as she could. "No."

The crowd, which had been pleasantly quiet, whispers here and there, fidgeting and casual and happy, became completely still.

The priest's eyes grew a little wider than they had been. "I-I-I beg your pardon, what?"

"I will not marry Gaston today or on any other day because I neither love him nor respect him because of who he is, and who you, Father, know him to be: a selfish and callous bully."

And now the stirrings started.

Belle turned to Gaston and this close, his eyes filled much of her field of vision. She watched the black within the blue shrink to almost nothing. Her heart made an uncomfortable little flutter in her chest as a spasm of fear shot through her whole body. But she didn't let her presence convey this reality to him, and she turned back to the priest, attempting to keep herself entirely composed.

The priest's little glasses had fallen down his nose. He adjusted them and glanced to Gaston, before looking even more flustered, and then looking down. "Monsieur, shall I—?"

"But you said you'd marry me."

Belle glanced up at Gaston again, hearing the simple, surprised tone coming from him. The look on his face wasn't anger as it seemed like it initially was becoming. He looked... hurt.

Belle shook her head. "Gaston... you couldn't have thought..." She paused, narrowing her eyes as she looked at him, trying to somehow make him understand something that should have been so obvious. "You forced me into this, you threatened someone I cared about. Why would I want to be your wife after that?"

She felt a flicker of guilt then, even though she knew she had done nothing wrong. "Gaston, I—"

And then turned as she heard a squealing sound, and Gaston turned too, and the whole crowd was turning to see what it was, people were covering their ears, it was such a loud sound, a terrible sound, she knew that sound.

And then Belle saw it, charging down the path, a gigantic machine fronted by sweeping knives and saws and on the top rode her father, goggles over his eyes enlarging them to three times their normal size. People were screaming, leaping out of the way, men and women alike, all of them scrambling and trying to get away from the madness.

"Papa!"

A shot boomed over the existing cacophony and Belle watched the machine pitch sideways, throwing her father off, him rolling and the machine rolling and it breaking off into component pieces as he ended in a heap, legs sticking up oddly above his head.

"Papa!"

Belle started forward, but a firm, large hand captured her upper arm. She turned to its owner, to Gaston, as he used his other hand to place a smoking musket at his side.

"Papa?"

The townsfolk had stopped screaming and stared openly at the scene, waiting, waiting for something.

Her father didn't stir.

Belle tried to wrench away. "Let go of me!" But his arm might as well have been made of solid iron. She looked up at him and saw her own desperation reflected in the drolling satisfaction on his face.

"It's a shame about your father, Belle."


A/N: Hey, everybody! I'm finally updating! Thanks for your patience with it!