Later

Lumière really, really didn't want to be the one to break the silence, but someone had to.

"Master?"

A snap of the neck, hackles risen, lips curled back: "What?"

Yes, someone definitely had to say something. A man, an innocent, foolish passer-by was now an innocent, foolish prisoner. He couldn't leave him in that tower, he wouldn't – would he? It chilled Lumière to his very core to find that he didn't know. The Master wasn't... evil, not really, not actually, truly evil... He would relent. Probably. If it occurred to him. If anyone were brave enough to suggest it to him. He wasn't evil, but it would have been stretching a point to call him reasonable. There was a terrifyingly real possibility that that poor old man could be a casualty of stubbornness following a panicked decision by the Master. He couldn't have wanted this to happen. He just didn't know what else to do. That had to be it.

He couldn't verbalise any of this. Eventually, Mrs Potts caught his pleading look and stepped in. Metaphorically. Lumière was grateful – another moment of that and he might actually have melted. Could that happen?

"You have to let him go, dear."

The huge, white, gleaming teeth were clenched. "Have to? Are you giving me orders now?"

Mrs Potts believed too strongly in the essential goodness of humanity to feel the same fear that had silenced Lumière and appeared to have paralysed the nominally-present Cogsworth but, even so, she hesitated. After all, she couldn't be sure, not completely sure, how much humanity was left in the Master. She hated to think it, but it was a notion she couldn't get away from. None of them could. "N-no, of course not, dear. It's just that..." She pulled herself together. "Well, you can't very well keep him here forever, can you?"

"Can't?"

"Shouldn't. Mustn't. No, that is..." She closed her eyes, remembering him as a child, blue-eyed, beautiful. What had happened? It wasn't just the curse, she knew that. It hadn't exactly helped, but something had been lost long before then. And there it was, the other idea she couldn't escape: She was his nurse. It had been her job to love him, to bring him up to his parents' satisfaction. Evidently, she had failed. What would her younger self have thought, she wondered, to see her like this? Not just crockery, though no doubt that would have given her pause, but trying desperately to control a dangerous, monstrous overgrown child. How had this happened?

He should have been married now, a father, an adult. She tried to picture him: smooth-faced, smiling, content. Surely that man was still inside him, somewhere?

She tried again. "What I mean is... we would advise you to let him go. Isn't that right? Lumière, Cogsworth?"

"Exactly," said Lumière.

"Precisely," squeaked Cogsworth, arguably discovering a frequency that the human voice had never previously explored. Then, feeling that he owed it to his colleagues to contribute a little further, he coughed and added: "He's not doing us – er, you – any good. Though it's up to you, of course."

"Of course," Lumière confirmed.

"Absolutely," continued Cogsworth, warming to his theme.

"I know," snarled the Beast. "Which is why he stays. Understand?"

They understood. He stalked off, leaving a relieved silence in his wake. Mrs Potts allowed a safe distance to develop behind him, then excused herself: she had matters to attend to in the kitchen.

"Well," said Cogsworth. It seemed to summarise the situation.

"Indeed," Lumière returned.

Silence echoed once more.

Eventually, Cogsworth folded his arms. This was actually quite uncomfortable with the short, gilt appendages he had to work with, but Cogsworth's particular brand of pomposity was an art he was willing to suffer for. "Of course, I blame you for this."

Lumière wasn't exactly surprised. "You do not say."

Cogsworth overlooked this interruption. "Couldn't keep quiet, could we? Just had to invite him to stay, didn't we?" He put on a high-pitched, faux-French accent. "Serve 'im tea, sit in ze Master's chair, pet ze pooch."

Lumière had been unbearably difficult to agitate even before he'd been made of wax and brass. "I was trying to be hospitable."

"Hello?"

For a moment, they simply stared at each other. Was that... a female voice? A strange, human,female voice? They knew it was impossible, but the sudden lurch in what passed for their stomachs suggested otherwise.

"Hello? Is anyone here? Papa?"

They stared at each other, unselfconsciously open-mouthed. It couldn't be.

But it was.

"Is someone there? Wait, I'm looking for my father, I..."

Lumière grabbed at Cogsworth's arm. The flammable timepiece leapt out of the way just in time.

"Be careful!"

Lumière withdrew his arm. "Sorry. I was just going to say – she must be the old man's daughter!"

"You're very astute."

"What?"

"Never mind. Look, you lead her to her father. I'll go and alert the Master. Understand?"

Lumière nodded, then, as Cogsworth left, mouthed "Understand?" at his retreating back in a way that he would probably have considered insubordinate.

The sight of her pale father hunched behind those bars would stay with Belle forever. He was the only person in the whole world who meant anything to her, he was her whole world, and to see him like this, a small, frail figure in a cavernous darkness froze every ounce of her resolve to be brave into sharp, fragile crystals.

Maurice stared through the darkness, wide-eyed, into his daughter's face. He had never been so happy to see her, and yet he wished desperately that she were far, far away. "How did you find me?"

Belle pressed his hand to her cheek. "Oh, your hands are like ice! We have to get you out of here."

In one hideous flash, Maurice saw what was going to happen, what had already happened. She had come to save him. His only daughter, whom he cherished so much more than life itself. She had come to his rescue. What had he been thinking, raising a decent, good, honest, loving young woman? A self-centred little brat, that was what he should have aimed for! A wicked, undeserving child who would have stayed safely at home and out of harm's way. What was the point of a kind heart if a monstrous Beast stopped it with one sharp, curved claw?

"Belle," he said, trying to communicate with his eyes an urgency, a desperation that he didn't have the words for. "I want you to leave this place." Even as he said it, he knew it wouldn't work. Belle wasn't just good and innocent, she was stubborn. Nothing would stop her now. It was all there: the fire in her eyes, the reddened cheeks. He loved all this about her, had loved it all about her mother, and it was going to get her killed. He was going to lose her too.

He made one last attempt. "No time to explain. You must go, now!"

She didn't hesitate. "I won't leave you."

Maurice's heart didn't have time to sink.

"What are you doing here?"

Cogsworth, hiding out of sight, rather felt that the Master had missed some of the finer points of the situation as related to him. That is, he had grasped the "intruder" part, but seemed to have overlooked the "young" and "female" elements. He could feel hope being snatched away from them, but compared to the terror of pointing something out to the Beast, eternity as a clock really didn't look that bad.

Belle stared into the darkness. She saw nothing. "Who's there? Who are you?"

"The Master of this castle."

So it was him. The monster who would treat an old man who had done nothing to harm him like the lowest of criminals. She was afraid now. She had imagined moments like this a thousand times: the heroine facing her fears, staring into the face of evil with a cool, level stare. She had always thought that courage would find her when she needed it, but all she felt now was desperation.

"Please," she begged, "let my father out. Can't you see he's sick?"

The curtain of darkness remained impenetrable. "He shouldn't have trespassed here."

"But he could die!" The words were a realisation. It had taken this long for the notion to formulate, but now it settled in her throat, almost choking her. She couldn't lose him. She just couldn't. "Please." She held back a sob. "I'll do anything."

"There's nothing you can do."

She wished she could see him. She wished she knew who he was, this man who was threatening to take everything from her. Only an hour ago her biggest problem had been Gaston, Gaston and his odious wedding cake! At least she knew what Gaston wanted. This man, this voice in the darkness, what did he want? Perhaps both answers were the same.

She didn't give the idea time to revile her. She lifted her chin and faced her fate.

"Take me instead."

"You!" And then, slowly, finally, the red mist faded and the Beast could see the situation clearly. What was he doing? This girl was a chance! The only chance the Enchantress had given him. Even if she was crazy. "You would take his place?" The man was half-dead! What did she stand to gain?

"If I did, would you let him go?"

The words winded Maurice. This couldn't be happening. Even in his worst nightmares, in his most horrific imaginings, nothing like this had ever happened. Belle was offering herself, for his sake, to a monster. Death couldn't possibly be worse than this. Hell couldn't be worse than this. "Belle!" he cried. "No! You don't know what you're doing!"

The Beast blocked him out, focusing on the girl. He couldn't afford any distractions now. The old man was a detail. The landscape was salvation. He had to seal the deal. "Yes. But you must promise to stay here forever." He didn't trust promises, of course, but he didn't need to. There was nothing to stop him from keeping them both here at his leisure. The privileges of royalty and a dangerous animal were remarkably similar like that. But where they differed was that a Beast, unlike a Prince, could not simply command a woman to love him, and he was dimly aware that a promise might work better on that score than force. And anyway, there was always force to fall back on.

The girl thrust her chin at him. "Come into the light."

An unexpected development, but it had to happen sooner or later. He stepped forward. The girl gasped.

"No, Belle!" Maurice tried once more. "I won't let you do this!" But he didn't have that power anymore.

"You have my word."

"Done," the Beast snarled, and it was.


Again, only relatively subtle differences so far. I tried not to patronise you all by just repeating the movie where I didn't have to (hence the jump!), but since the whole point is to reinterpret what's actually there I had to keep suppressing the urge to re-write the dialogue. I hope it's interesting!