Part I

She's not coming back.

It was the one thought he had as he bent over the rose, waiting. It didn't matter that he had saved her life. It didn't matter that he had changed for her. It didn't matter that they had spent one spectacular evening together, dancing in a ballroom under a dazzling chandelier.

In the end, he was, and had always been a Beast. And as much as he wanted her to stay, he knew in his heart, that her freedom was the best thing he could possibly give her. After all, she had never belonged here. She deserved to be happy, to be with her father, to live out her dreams, not trapped in a castle with a hideous Beast for the rest of her life. It had been wrong to keep her here, wrong on so many levels.

Still, he couldn't deny. Before she had left there had been a small sliver of something, when she had touched his cheek he had hoped…more like wished that something would happen…that she would change her mind perhaps? That she would decide to stay, realizing she felt more for him than she first realized? But no, he was being stupid. No one could ever love a Beast. It was just a fantasy now. A daydream. It was hopeless.

Gaston dashed from corridor to corridor, becoming more and more frustrated with every empty room he came across. His rage was not only charged at the Beast he was about to kill but at the woman who had brought him here: Belle. He could not believe how cheeky that girl was, to choose this hideous Beast over him, him, Gaston, the greatest man in the entire village! Sure, he had let her slip by him once before, figuring she was playing hard to get, but this time she had definitely crossed the line. And no one humiliated Gaston, especially his own bride!

Of two things Gaston was certain of: The Beast would be dead by tonight. And once he brought back his body and mounted his head on his wall, Belle would have no choice but to marry him. He would make no mistake about that.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as Belle pressed Philippe onward, her father in saddle behind her and Chip sitting inside the satchel she was wearing on her shoulder.

How could I have done this? she thought as they dashed through the darkness of the forest. Why didn't I hold my tongue about the Beast, or find another way to get my father out of the asylum that didn't involve him?

Yes, now that she looked back at the scene she'd caused back at the village, she wondered whether it was actually worse to have her Beast be killed by Gaston than to see her father locked up for something he'd been falsely accused of. Hadn't he suffered enough pain already? She hadn't meant to put his life at risk to save her father's; she hadn't meant that at all. And now he and all the servants of the castle, her friends were in danger because of her. Her only hope was that she could get there before it was too late.

The gates to the castle had been violently shoved open. A makeshift battering ram had been jammed into the front doors and several panes of broken glass had been scattered across the lawn from where Belle could only assume the villagers had broken in earlier. As soon as they crossed the bridge, she skid Philippe to a halt and leaped free from the saddle. She had no idea if Gaston had found the Beast already, and could only pray that he would see her from down here and know that help was on the way. He had to stay alive, for her.

But it was too late.

From up on the rooftops Gaston struck the Beast in the head with the makeshift club he had taken from one of the spires on the roof. The Beast stumbled backwards and slid down towards the eavestroughs. His last thoughts were of Belle and how he wished he could have seen her again, before he lay motionlessly against the shingles. Gaston stared at him and then stepped forward and kicked him in the side. Nothing happened.

I've done it then, he thought. He had defeated the Beast without so much as a scratch…because he was Gaston! How could he doubt his abilities when he was the greatest? Still there had been a moment when Belle had proven her father's delusions to be wrong that he almost thought…well he was just underestimating himself wasn't he? Gaston never lost!

"Gaston!" a voice shouted against the wind. He looked down and he saw her, his beautiful wife, whether she'd come to help the Beast or come to give herself to him, it didn't matter now, either way the battle had been won.

"Looking for this?" he shouted, lugging the abominable monster off the roof.

She heard a terrible sound escape her lips as she watched the Beast fall backwards, his claws flailing upwards, his cape whipping violently against the wind. He landed with a sickening crunching noise on to edge of the ravine, and then she was throwing her satchel off and running to him, feeling her heart doing somersaults in her chest, she would not, could not believe…

"No, please! Wake up, WAKE UP!"

There was blood everywhere, trickling on to the dirt, staining his shirt, staining her dress as she stumbled down beside him. She knew before she'd even touched him that nobody could survive this fall. His wounds were too deep, his body was too broken. Her dear Beast, the one who she had shared an unforgettable evening with, who she had read her favourite stories to, who she had played with out in the snow, was now nothing more than an empty shell before her, a prey that had just been slaughtered. And no one in the world would ever care, except for her. The only one who had seen his soul and the true beauty that lay within it. This was all her fault.

"Beast," she whispered, clasping her hands to her face. "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry…"

She didn't know how long she lay there next to him. It might have been years. A lifetime. She didn't even know Gaston was behind her until he pulled her away to face him, looking more savage than any animal she had ever seen in her life.

"Time to go, Belle," he said. "I think we've prolonged this wedding for far too long now, don't you think?"

Her eyes widened with horror. "NO!" She tried desperately to reach for the body but Gaston was already lifting her off the ground, carrying her nonchalantly back to his horse.

"We're going back to the village now," he continued as he chucked her on to the saddle. "And you, old man," he said, turning to Maurice, "Don't even think about making any detours on that horse of yours."

Belle's father was silent. His eyes were only for his daughter, who had always been so strong and brave and was now in complete hysterics as she sat on Gaston's black stallion. What in heaven's name had the boy done to her?

They rode back into the woods, leaving the Beast's body at the foot of the castle, the sound of Belle's sobbing growing fainter as they moved further away.

And from the West Wing, the last petal of the enchanted rose finally fell.

DeviantArt cover image credit: Belle Commission by ~yumedust.

This is just a crazy idea I had for a BATB story about a year ago which was buried in the depths of my iPod touch, before one of my readers, BronyBraeburn encouraged me to turn it into a real fic. Brony has also kindly agreed to beta-read this story for me, which I am extremely thankful for :) Despite what this opening chapter suggests, this story will have a happy ending, and will also feature lots of screentime from all three characters: Belle, Beast and Gaston. Updates will be inconsistent as I'm working on another BATB story at the same time, but if the reviews are good I may try to make a point of writing more/updating faster.

Thanks for reading!

The Green Archer