Author's Note: 20 years ago today, Beauty and the Beast premiered at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood. I don't care, I feel old. I've loved the movie ever since I saw my first trailer on the 1991 VHS release of The Jungle Book, and I knew I was watching something really special. Those feelings haven't changed in 20 years; if anything, they've grown stronger. In honor of this event, I've decided to tackle something I've been curious about for 20 years now: what went on in Belle's head when the Beast transformed into Adam.

As always, I thank my beta readers ArtFlourish and Emily, and the team that made VLC Media Player for making it so easy to watch the movie at 0.12x speed, allowing me to better interpret many scenes.

Life was never a fairy tale, never going to come close to my books, no matter how hard I dreamed of it, until I realized that I could make my own. Even if I didn't live in a castle, if the servants weren't enchanted objects, and if the Beast had a body that matched the gentleman in his heart, I'd still say I was living my dream. The servants were my extended family, and the Beast was the greatest man I will ever meet. Someone who really understood me, who cared about me, and he never wanted to change a single thing about me. I can't describe how he makes me feel when he looks at me, touches me, and speaks to me. It's all so new and wonderful and I never want it to end. It physically hurt me to leave him; my father could be lying dead somewhere in the forest and still I didn't want to leave my Beast! I vowed to speak to Papa about coming back with me when he was well enough to ride, to tell him how I felt about the Beast and pray he would understand. Then Mssr. d'Arque came, and my life in Molyneux suddenly turned into a nightmare.

I knew all those faces outside my door, their names, their families, their life stories, but I never seen them look and act so cruel. They always seemed tolerant of my father, like he was just an amusing little joke, but now they wanted him committed, and for what? The Beast was real, and if he wasn't, what harm was an illusion? How could it possibly hurt others? Was I next? Would they suddenly decide I was sick in the head for enjoying books, or for turning down Gaston's proposal? Watching d'Arque's men drag my father into their carriage made me lose my mind in fear, seeing flashbacks of the men who took my mother's body when she died. I lost one person I loved with all my heart; I wouldn't lose another, not when I had the power to save him. I had no choice when I showed them the mirror, my heart breaking as I heard the Beast roar from heartbreak. Gaston had hunted and killed so many predators; couldn't he recognize the sounds of aggression and hostility from those of pain? Perhaps, but I made it worse, I sealed his fate.

"No, no, he'd never hurt anyone. Please, I know he looks vicious but he's really kind and gentle. He's my friend." I could feel my expression softening as I looked at the mirror, but I didn't think to hide it. I forgot the world around me as I looked at his beautiful eyes, wishing I could reach into the mirror and have him pull me back into the safety of his arms, but I was cruelly dragged back into reality when Gaston grabbed me. I could feel the anger in his grip, like he would crush my shoulder if his lackeys weren't watching.

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you had feelings for this monster," Gaston said, putting special emphasis on the word monster. His eyes and the evil they promised scared me, but I was too angry to give those fears any thought.

"He's no monster, Gaston, you are," I defended as I wrenched myself from his grasp, clutching the mirror close to me as if I could protect the Beast from his insults. The Beast may have imprisoned my father and then me, but he had a good heart and soul buried under years of anguish and torment. He let me go to save my father, though I never would have had the courage to ask him. I never allowed myself to think of my fate as a prisoner, only a guest of the castle as Lumière suggested my first night, though I was always aware I could never leave. The Beast would never threaten harm against my father so I would marry him. Tonight was all a set-up, it had to be. Gaston just had to snap his fingers to get the entire village to go with anything he said. He must have told them all my father had to be committed for his own safety, and like lambs, they agreed, suddenly deciding he's dangerous, if only to himself.

The way Gaston looked at me, and declared me just as crazy as my father, I expected him to throw me into the carriage as well, but when he tried to grab the mirror, I knew his intended target was the Beast. My fate was delayed, first he was going to hurt me by harming the man I loved so dearly. I gripped the mirror as hard as I could, desperate to keep it away from him, but I was no match for his strength. My appeals to the crowd were in vain when Gaston began to paint him as a mindless animal with a desire for human flesh. Many were farmers, or at least had a small amount of crops and livestock of their own, and were always afraid of losing their hard work to the stomachs of animals. Gaston knew how to play to their fears, and he would become the village's savior by killing the Beast, have a trophy for his wall, and remove his competition for my hand while wounding me deeply all at once. No one could ever accuse him of being dumb.

I wanted to distract him, make me his new target as I grabbed his arm. I didn't care what he'd do to me, as long as he forgot about the Beast for even a moment, but he couldn't be distracted, and tossed Papa and I into the cellar to stop us from riding ahead. If Chip wasn't there, I fear we would have been down there until Gaston and the others returned with the Beast's corpse draped over his horse. Once free, I grabbed everyone and mounted Philippe, not wasting breath in conversation on the ride to the castle. I had to see the Beast, I had to save him. I could see his pain in his eyes before I left him; he didn't need more pain from an arrow in his great heart.

Seeing the castle in the distance felt like I was returning home and Philippe felt the same as he put on an extra burst of speed. I didn't know what to expect, only prayed that the Beast was alright, but his fate was displayed before my eyes, he was seconds away from having his head bashed in. I had never seen him so helpless; did he give up? Did he assume I was never coming back? He didn't succumb to the pain of his injuries until the wolves had fled; he swam to the depths of the lake to save me last Christmas; was I his reason for fighting, to make sure I was safe and we could be together? It must be; I watched him stir as I called out to him, heard the concern in his voice, and he moved like lighting to stop Gaston's hand.

Philippe broke the front door and let me guide him to the stairwell leading to the west wing. I barely paused to thank him as I left him there, running as fast as I could, wishing and praying with all my heart that my Beast was alive and while. Was it really only a few hours ago that I was here, my heart full of joy that I would able to see my father again? It was such a heavenly night, why did it have to turn into hell?

"Beast!" I shouted as I ran out onto the balcony, searching the rooftops for him. I had to see him, had to touch him, anything to tell me he was alive and well. When he turned to face me, I saw Gaston's body lying on the roof. I didn't know if he was alive or dead and I didn't care. I wasn't thinking, I was too distracted by the blinding need to be with him as I reached down for him. If it was daylight and the roof was dry, I would have climbed down to meet him halfway, but I was afraid of slipping, and I didn't have claws to dig into the tiles. Once again I was unaware of the world around me, stretching as far as I could to reach him as he came near. I would never leave again; it only invited trouble and pain as we tried to protect each other.

My heart rejoiced and the tension left my body as he took my hand like a gentleman, leaning against the balcony. Our eyes were locked with each other as he reached out for me, and I momentarily forgot the danger we both endured, feeling as if our wonderful night was never interrupted. I surrendered to the softness and warmth of his touch as he rested his paw against my cheek, wrapping my hands around his forearm. He was safe, we were together, and Papa was on the castle grounds, my life was perfect.

The cruelness of reality came crashing down as his arm muscles tensed and I could feel him struggle not to clench his fist and dig his claws into my head. Cries of terror were frozen in my throat as I watched him thrash wildly, his face contorted with pain. I didn't know what happened, I just watched helplessly as he suffered such pain, uncertain of anything I could do. I never felt my heart beat faster than when the Beast began to lose his balance and threaten to fall, like it might explode from the intensity. I reached out and grabbed his cape, pulling back with all my might. Only then did I glance to the side and watched Gaston plummet to his death. He must have stabbed the Beast and then lost his balance. Strangely, I felt nothing, not anger, not happiness, not sadness, absolutely nothing. He wasn't my concern, the Beast was.

He fell forward against the balcony and I helped him climb over, feeling my heart jump into my throat as I saw his wound. Gaston stabbed him in the side, possibly hitting vital organs if I remembered my biology books correctly. Damn him, he knew what he was doing! One way or another, he was determined to separate us. I eased him to the ground, studying him for signs of life, praying he would somehow make it through. My heart stopped for a moment as his head fell to the side, was he gone so soon? Couldn't I at least get a few more moments with him? Gently I touched his cheek, smiling softly as I felt him stir, and felt my heart break as he weakly looked at me. His breathing was shallow and I could see him struggling but still I prayed, unwilling to let him go into death's embrace. I wanted him in mine and no one else's.

"You…you came back," he said with some excitement, as if his wounds meant nothing to him. If only I could say the same thing.

"Of course I came back. I couldn't let them…" oh but I did. I killed him just as much as if I stabbed him myself. "This is all fault," I lamented as I quickly hugged him, praying he would forgive me. "If I only I'd gotten here sooner."

"Maybe it's better…it's better this way," he wheezed.

How could he say that? How could he even think that? "Don't talk that that. You'll be alright," I tried to undo the clasp of his cape as he coughed but I failed, and immediately my hands found his face, desperate to hold onto his life. "We're together now. Everything's going to be fine, you'll see."

"At least I got to see you," he said weakly as he reached up to touch my face. I held it against mine, trying to preserve his strength, "one last time."

It was perhaps the sweetest thing he had ever said to me, and I pressed my face against his paw, wanting to know nothing but him, and for a moment, I got my wish, but then his paw began to slide down my face. Worriedly, I looked at him, and watched his final moments on earth as death claimed him. My heart and soul screamed and I stared horrified at his lifeless body. For once, my stories were wrong. The fact that his murder had been avenged as Gaston was already dead did nothing to soothe my pain. "No, no! Please. Please. Please, don't leave me," I begged, and when he didn't respond, I buried my head into his chest as the tears fell freely and finally admitted what I hadn't been able to when he was alive. "I love you."

I was prepared to lie there forever, having lost the only man I would ever love so strongly, but someone had other plans as bolts of color rained down from the sky, shattering into bits of solid light on the stone floor. I wasn't sure how to feel about this strange event. I knew magic existed, how else do you explain the past winter, but I still feared this sudden, new power. I didn't know its purpose, didn't know its cause, or how to stop it. I felt the Beast's body stir and suddenly I turned to face him, hoping that somehow his life was restored and we could be together again. At this point, I would believe in anything. I still didn't know how he came to be, or why the servants were inanimate objects and the only harm to befall me and the Beast were forces of nature, not the will of magic, and I trusted the trend would continue.

But the Beast wasn't rising from his own power, more like invisible hands cradling him, and I fearfully crawled away. Was the magic the result of some powerful being, a wizard, a witch, God Himself? What did it want with him? A soul was supposed to travel invisible to the human eye to heaven while the body remained on earth. Why couldn't it leave the body so his physical presence would always be there in his grave? I got to my feet as he stopped his ascent and instead hovered above the ground, rotating in place as his cape wrapped around him, and then his body began to convulse inside, fighting his restraints, and light suddenly penetrated the cape. I moved a little closer, wanting to take the paw that slipped out, but suddenly it transformed to a human hand. I took two steps back, confused and frightened. He was dead, why couldn't the body be left alone? What was going on?

His other arm and legs soon followed suit and the body was turned until he faced me, and I watched a gust of wind change my beloved's face into that of a man. He fell backwards but was caught by the invisible hand and eased down onto the ground. Who was this man? What happened to my Beast? I carefully approached with my hand out, wishing to touch him, but I jumped back the moment he stirred. Was he the enchanter who put the spell on the castle? I didn't want him, I just wanted my Beast!

"Belle, it's me," he said as he flashed me a smile and took my hand in his, making me step back. Just who was he to be so forward with me? He looked nothing like my Beast, and certainly didn't sound like him. Did the enchanter want me for himself now that my Beast was dead? His hair was quite soft, much like his fur, I mused as I combed my fingers through it, but I still wasn't convinced. When I caught a good look at his eyes, I knew it was him. No one has the eyes of my Beast.

"It is you!" I exclaimed, laying my hand against his cheek, so relieved that he was alive and well again. I didn't want explanations at the moment, I just wanted him. His touch was so soft and tender as he brushed back my hair, I just wanted to melt into him. When our eyes met again, I was lost under his spell, and I couldn't resist his seductive pull, slowly moving close until our lips met for the first time, and I knew if I kissed him forever, I could never get enough. My arms had a mind of their own as they moved from his chest to his neck, pulling him closer just as he did the same for me. He would always make me ignorant of the world around us, as when we parted, the storm was gone and sunshine was in its place, and the castle lost its gloomy aura with so many gargoyles replaced with angels, and the gray stone now painted white. The servants were human again, Sultan was now a cute, chubby dog, and Chip was a little boy with a chipped tooth.

I may forever wait for answers as my Beast was now my prince, and what better way to celebrate everyone's returned humanity then with a dance as he suggested? Only this dance wouldn't be hindered with a wish from the heart, nor a deadline of midnight before my clothes turned back into rags and my coach a pumpkin. I had forever to spend with my prince, the man I loved more than anything, who loved me perhaps more than even that. I am living my own fairy tale, and the prince and I shall indeed live happily ever after.