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Author's Chapter Notes:
Hey guys! Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll let me know what you think of this first chapter! It's not amazing, but I hope you still like it!
Beauty and the Beast The first thing Howie saw when he opened his eyes was a castle.  He promptly shut his eyes and laid his head back down on the grass.  It was obvious to him that he was hallucinating.  Perhaps, he thought, if he just counted to ten and took deep breaths, everything would be fine.  So, after he did just that, he carefully opened his eyes.

Nope. The castle was still there.

Seeing no other option but to wake up, find his friends, and figure out what was going on, he stood.  It was immediately clear to Howie that he wouldn’t have to look far for the other four men.  They were scattered around the small clearing in the woods.  As he watched, Brian stirred while Nick’s eyelids fluttered as he pressed a hand to his head and moaned.  Kevin opened his eyes and muttered a string of rather foul words when he saw the castle. 

Howie was closest to AJ who had yet to awaken.  Although, it was quite possible that AJ was awake behind his dark-tinted glasses.  “AJ.” Howie shook the younger man’s shoulder.  “Come on, AJ. Wake up.”

“I’m awake,” AJ grumbled.  “I just don’t know how the desert suddenly turned into woods.”

Nick, who was fully awake and staring at the castle with a confused look on his face, shook his head.  “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.”

“Who are you calling Dorothy?” Brian asked him but studied the impressive stone structure looming over them.  “Well, hell. Where are those red shoes when you need them?”

When they were gathered together, fully alert, Kevin stepped forward, his eyes on the castle.  “I think we should go there and find out where the hell we are and how we got here.”

“What kind of freak tornado was that?” Howie asked but received no reply. 

“There aren’t any castles in America,” AJ muttered.  “Maybe we’re dreaming.”

“All five of us having the same dream?” Brian scoffed. “No way.”

Nick nodded.  “Even I’m not stupid enough to believe that.”

“Dude, it was just a suggestion,” AJ snapped.  He was decidedly not a morning person. 

“Instead of snapping at each other, why don’t we just go find out what the hell is going on?” Kevin suggested impatiently.  “It’s times like these when I remember why I quit the group.”

Howie sighed.  “Can we keep the biting comments to ourselves? Let’s just go.”

Casting dark looks at each other, the five men went forth and, pushing through the massive, and unlocked, gates, made their way towards the palace.

Nick’s brows rose slightly at the gargoyles that seemed to be the castle’s sentries.  They watched from the corners of upper floors and several were placed on either side of the path they were currently treading.  Their faces were fierce and seemed to leer at him.

“This place is creepy,” he whispered to Brian and gestured to the gargoyle closest to them.  “I swear, it feels like they’re watching us.”

Luckily for Nick, he did not look over his shoulder.  If he had, he would have found that they were indeed watching him.  Once the five men reached the door, however, the gargoyles resumed their original positions.  Creepy? For men such as these five and the world that they were from? Absolutely.

Kevin knocked on the enormous wooden door at the base of the palace and frowned when the banging of his fist barely echoed.  “Wow. That’s quite the door,” he muttered to himself before trying again.  Again, it was the same as before.  He thought it impossible that anyone within the castle would have heard.

“Let’s just go in,” AJ suggested.  “It doesn’t look like this place is hopping with people.  Maybe we’ll find some if we just go in.”

“Yeah. What if whoever lives here is all the way in the back?” Brian suggested.  “They’d never hear us.  I vote we go for it.”

Howie shrugged.  “Why not?”

“Can we just get away from these gargoyles?” Nick asked in a rather small voice.

The other four exchanged amused glances before Kevin nodded.  “Okay. Why not?”

It took both Kevin and Nick to shove the door open enough for them to slip inside, and, when their eyes had adjusted to the relative darkness inside the entry hall, those same eyes widened.

“Holy hand of Midas,” Howie murmured in awe.  “This place is a freaking treasure chest.”

“I’ll say.” Even in the dim lighting, Nick could make out the gleaming gold ornamentation on the walls, at the tops of the large columns in the hall, and in the trimmings on the antique tables and chairs scattered around.  When his eyes lit upon the candelabra set on a nearby table, he reached for it.  “Hey, AJ.  Got a light?”

AJ looked from Nick’s face to the object in his hand, and his brow wrinkled slightly.  “Yeah. Here.” He stared at the candelabra as Nick lit it.  There was something eerily familiar about it, he thought.

With the light from the candles now illuminating the hall, they ventured forth into the castle, unaware of hidden eyes watching their every move and invisible ears hearing their every word.

“I wonder who lives here,” Brian said in hushed tones.  “I bet they’re richer than Donald Trump and Bill Gates put together.  Look at this place.”

Howie’s eyes lingered on the furnishings as his busy mind calculated exactly how much such a place would be worth on the real estate market in Los Angeles…Hell, anywhere.  “Now I really want to meet the owner.”

When there was a muffled squeak from Nick, who had wandered ahead of the group, they rushed to his side.  The painting Nick stood in front of depicted a handsome young prince, though the canvas was shredded.

As though a pair of claws had ripped it apart…

“Oh my god.” Brian’s jaw dropped as his mind skidded back to the time he’d watched a particular film with his son.  “Oh, my god.  Beauty and the Beast.”

“What?” Kevin, still in the dark about their situation, frowned from his cousin to the destroyed painting.  “What are you talking about?”

Nick’s eyes flitted frantically between the painting to the candelabra he held to Brian’s knowing expression.  Before he could open his mouth, AJ grabbed the candelabra from his hand.

“Speak to me!” he whispered urgently to it.  “Come on, Lumière, I know you talk.”

Kevin’s brows shot up.  “AJ, are you out of your mind? It’s a goddamn candleholder.  Stop talking to it.”

“Actually, monsieur,” a new voice piped up, “I am not merely a candleholder.”

Now, it was Kevin’s turn to look shocked.  His eyes were glued to the candelabra in AJ’s hand.  Except that, where before the central candle had had a smooth, unmarred surface, there was now a small pair of eyes in it along with a hint of a mouth.  “Holy shit,” he whispered.

There was a short silence before Howie asked, “Um, by any chance, there wouldn’t be a Belle staying here, would there?”

“Ah, the fair mademoiselle?” Lumière smiled a waxy smile.  “But of course! Do you know her?”

Brian was having a hard time getting over the fact that he was actually hearing the animated candlestick talk in real life and shook his head.  “This is too weird.  We must be dreaming.”

“Dreaming?” Lumière clucked his tongue.  “Nonsense! I am real, you are real, and you are most certainly not dreaming.” He paused.  “Have you come to take the mademoiselle away?”

“What?” AJ frowned.  “Uh, no.  Not exactly.” He glanced around at his friends, unsure of what to do now.  Perhaps, he thought it best to speak to a live human being instead of a talking candlestick, for his next words were, “Can we see her?”

Lumière lit up, er, as much as an already lit candleholder can, of course.  “Mais oui, monsieur! Follow me.” He bounded out of AJ’s hand and onto the floor, where he proceeded to bounce along the floor.

The five men stared at each other, still thunderstruck as to what was going on, but, in silent agreement, decided to follow the still chattering candleholder.

They walked down a winding corridor, up a grand set of stairs, down another beautifully furnished hallway, and ended up in front of a closed door.  As weird as Nick had felt outside the castle, he definitely felt as though many eyes were trained upon him now.  When he remembered tidbits of the Disney movie, he decided it couldn’t hurt to ask.

“So, Lumière, are there others like you? You know, talking objects?”

The candelabra merely smiled and clanked his, er, arms together.  “Friends, say hello to Monsieur…”

“Nick,” Nick supplied and looked around warily.

Oui, oui. Monsieur Nick.”

At the sound of the candelabra’s request, dozens of voices could be heard calling out greetings, and AJ and Brian snickered when they heard one of the female voices say, “He’s awfully handsome.  Can we keep him?”

“Wow,” Kevin could only say, dazed.  It was still difficult for him to digest the fact that they were in a Disney movie, albeit in real life and not an animation.  It was certainly far too surreal for him. 

Howie glanced down at the candleholder before looking up at the door.  “Should I knock?”

“But of course! She has been in there for a week and refuses to speak to the master.  He’s been trying rather hard to be nice, and it is quite difficult for him to do so.” Lumière sighed sadly.  “Alas, we have been here this way for ten, long years, and the mademoiselle might be the answer to our prayers.”

“If your master falls in love with her?” Brian asked, remembering the plotline.

“Oui, and if she falls in love with him.  But, time is running short.” He looked around at the five men.  “Perhaps, she will be happier seeing the five of you.  It is likely that she is weary of constantly being waited on by such as myself.  Humans may be welcome.”

Howie nodded.  “Okay.  Here goes nothing.”  He lifted a hand and knocked.

“Go away,” came the terse response from inside.

“Belle?” Nick stuck his ear to the door.  “Can you open up?”

There was a short silence and then, “Who are you?”

“Uh, we’re here to help you?” Nick suggested, his eyes clearly beseeching his friends for help.

“That’s right,” Brian jumped in, leaning against the door as well.  “And we’re human, too. So can you please open the door?”

Kevin rolled his eyes.  “Seriously. Why are we doing this again? We don’t have to help some love-starved monster, do we? I just want to go home.”

AJ shot him a dirty look.  “Have a heart, Kevin.  As soon as we can fix this, we can wrangle directions out of them.  Then, we can go home.  It’s all a part of the master plan.”

While Kevin debated whether or not he would agree with his friends, the door finally creaked open, and a young woman stepped out of the room.

The Disney version of Beauty and the Beast describes Belle as this quiet, bookish but beautiful brunette—the kind of woman every man could fall in love with.  The reality of Belle, that our fair heroes now met, was rather different.  She was certainly not brunette.  In fact, her bright red hair fell in corkscrew curls down the back of her green dress.  Her figure, though not unattractive, was willow-thin, and her bright green eyes were red-rimmed and puffy.  All in all, in her state, no woman wanted to be seen by anyone—let alone five attractive men.

“Who are you?” she asked again hesitantly, her eyes warily sweeping over them.

Nick leaned his head close to Brian’s ear and whispered, “Wow, she looks awful.”

Brian bit his lip anxiously and nodded.  Certainly, this Belle was nothing compared to the Disney Belle.  “Yeah, she does,” he whispered back.  “We should help her.”

Howie had already stepped forward cautiously and offered her a gentle smile.  “I’m Howie, and these are my friends.” He gestured to the other men, who took turns introducing themselves.  “We, uh, accidentally stumbled onto your castle here, and Lumière told us about you.”

“Lumière?” Belle glanced down at the candelabra smiling hopefully up at her.  “Oh, yes.  He’s terribly helpful, isn’t he?” She reached down to pick him up and patted his base affectionately.  Then, she looked up at our heroes again.  “Did you want something?”

Kevin opened his mouth. “Well, actually-”

“We wanted to help you out,” AJ rushed in, sure that Kevin would’ve asked her for directions and ruined everything.  “You’re obviously upset, and we want to make things better for you.”

Belle looked at him curiously for a moment.  “Why are you wearing those spectacles?” she asked quizzically.  “Is something the matter with your eyes?”

Brian and Nick tried not to giggle while AJ frowned and shoved his sunglasses into his pocket.  “Uh, no. I just forgot to take them off,” he muttered, the tips of his ears turning red.

“Oh.” She shrugged a little and sighed.  “So you really want to help me?”

“Of course,” Nick eagerly said.  “What do you want us to do?”

“Get me out of here.”




“Look, we can’t just kidnap her and peace the hell out of this place,” AJ argued as the five adventurers waited in the dining room for Belle and the dinner service to arrive. 

Admittedly, all five of them had been half expecting to be regaled with “Be Our Guest”.  To their secret disappointments, there had been no sign of any sort of dinner theater.  After all, this isn’t exactly a Disney film, is it?

“Well, how else are we going to help her?” Nick wondered.  “She wants to get out of here, and she said so.  How can we keep her here and totally ignore what she asked us to do?”

Brian rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he, well, er, thought.  “Well, in the movie, she decides she wants to stay because the Beast starts being all nice to her.  So, all we have to do is find the Beast and make him play nice.”

“Look, I know this might sound crazy for me to say,” Kevin began, “but why on earth are we so caught up in helping this woman out? My concern at the moment is where the hell are we and how do we get out?”

They ignored him.

Howie’s brows lifted at Brian’s remark.  “Why does she have to stay?”

“Because that’s how the story is supposed to go, goddamnit!” Kevin lost his patience and blew up.  His green eyes were ablaze now as he decided to lose his mind and join his friends in the crazy schemes they were coming up with.  Clearly, they needed a leader, and it was going to be him.  “Belle has to help the Beast fall in love because it’s the only way he learns about treating others well and learns to be unselfish.  If we get her out of here, it just doesn’t make sense.  Besides, where would we go?”

“Maybe Belle knows where to go,” Nick suggested.  “After all, she lives around here, right?”

Brian shrugged.  “I don’t know, but I think we’re not supposed to stray from the plot.”

There was a small silence before AJ sighed.  “As crazy as that sounds, I guess you’re right.  Maybe I’m a Disney kid at heart, but I guess it won’t be right if they don’t end up together.”

“So, next step.  Find the Beast,” Howie said with a sigh.

At that moment, Belle bustled in to the room, a cart full of dishes rolling along beside her.  On top of the cart, a teapot called out orders as dishes leapt off the tray and made their way towards each place setting. 

Howie was overcome with sheer joy and snatched the teapot off the cart, hugging it close to him.  “Oh, my god, Mrs. Potts! I can’t believe I finally get to meet you!”

AJ leaned over to Kevin and whispered, “Are we sure he’s not gay?” Kevin just smirked.

Obviously, teapots have feelings as well, and Mrs. Potts was clearly uncomfortable for she said, “Um, thank you, dear.  But I’m going to scald you with hot tea if you don’t put me down right this instant.”

As though he’d already been hit by the tea, Howie set her right back down then proceeded to stare at her, confused.  “But, but, you’re Mrs. Potts!”

“That’s right, m’dear.” The teapot barely acknowledged him and continued on to issue orders, and Howie’s face looked crestfallen.

Belle patted his hand sympathetically.  “She’s all business, Howie.  Don’t let it upset you.  It’s not personal.”

“Right, yeah.” Howie sighed sadly before taking his place at the table.  “So, now what?”

“I think I should ask that,” Belle said, her green eyes skimming over her dinner companions.  “Have you any plans to help me escape from here? I really want to go home.”

Brian opened his mouth, but, before he could speak, the dining room doors slammed open and set all the candles flickering.  The figure in the doorway was massive and, well, beastly.  Nick slapped a hand over his mouth while AJ gaped.  They’d thought it impossible, despite all the evidence to the contrary—Lumière and the other animated appliances, anyone?—but the Beast really did exist.

“How dare you trespass on my property?” The Beast’s voice roared at them, and a sudden chill filled the room.  Kevin suddenly wished he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt.  “Who do you think you are?”

“Well, actually,” Brian said after a brief silence, “we’re here to help you.”

The Beast roared some more.  “Did I ask for your help? You’re eating in my dining room without my permission! I’m going to make you sorry that you ever set foot on my property.”

“Now, look.” Kevin was getting tired of all the melodramatic characters he was dealing with today, and he was ready to do something about it.  Fortunately, his Disney knowledge was coming back to him.  “There is no need to bite our heads off about whatever’s crawled up your ass, okay? And, yes, I can see your teeth, and I know you can do it, too,” he added when the Beast opened his mouth to retort.  “But that’s not going to help reverse that enchantress’s spell, is it?” By the flicker in Beast’s fierce blue eyes, Kevin figured he’d hit a nerve.  “So you might as well sit down, stop yelling so damn much, and listen up, okay?”

“Yeah!” Nick spoke up.  “Because, the way you’re going right now, there is no way Belle is going to cooperate any time soon.”

Belle turned her nose up.  “Try never.”

“She’s not helping matters,” Beast complained (though it sounded rather close to a whine) as he pointed an accusing finger at her.  “See? She’s been doing this all week when I try to talk to her.”

“That’s because you roar at me,” she accused him right back.  “Nobody likes losing their hearing during a pathetic excuse for a conversation.”

“Argh! This is exactly what I’m talking about!” Beast was indignant.  “I offered her a week of meals, gave her a great room, she’s got the entire castle at her disposal, but noooo, she just goes around and acts like a baby about it.”

Belle leapt out of her seat and jabbed a finger at his chest.  “Oh! Oh! You big, fat beast! You scared the living daylights out of me, and you threw my father out!”

“Jeez.” Brian shook his head as the two continued to argue.  “If that’s not true love in the making, I don’t know what is.”

AJ nodded.  “Seriously.  Hey,” he said when a thought struck him.  “Do you think she ever went up to the west wing?”

Belle heard him and spun around, her face bright with anger.  “No! He’s such a liar.  He never lets me go up there, and he says he gave me the entire castle. Hah!” she shrieked at Beast.  “You’re just a miserable excuse for a…a…beast,” she finished lamely.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Kevin muttered before turning to Beast.  “Look, this is going to sound really random, but…do you have a library?”

Beast shrugged one massive shoulder.  “Of course, I do.  Where do you think I spend all my time hiding out from her?”

For once, Belle seemed incapable of finding an insult.  “You have a library?” she asked incredulously.  “Like a serious library, with books?”

“No, with chickens,” he retorted.  “Of course with books! What do you take me for, an idiot?” He looked past her to Kevin.  “Why do you want to know?”

“Can we see it? Like, now?”

Beast nodded.  “Sure. Why not? I’d rather not keep on with this ridiculous argument anyway.”

As the group, led by Lumière and his light, moved through the elaborate halls, they were, for once, in silence.  Beast seemed to be in a better mood because of this, and Howie could’ve sworn he heard Beast humming under his breath.  Well, this Beast was certainly turning out to be much different than the Disney one.

“I thought you couldn’t read,” Belle spoke up at one point during their walk.

Beast looked down at her, his eyes uncertain.  “I don’t know how to read.”

“Oh.” She folded her arms over her chest and looked unwilling to relent but clearly wanting to do so.  “So, what do you do in the library?”

“I look at the pictures in the books and make up stories for them,” he replied after several long moments.  “It’s better than nothing,” he muttered.  If it was possible, AJ thought Beast was actually blushing under that fur.

Belle didn’t say anything until they were in the library, and the curtains had been drawn open to let light into the rather large library.  “Oh, my.  This is fantastic,” she breathed, in awe.  “Why didn’t you tell me this was here?” she asked Beast.

He looked uncomfortable and tried to jam his, uh, paws into his pockets but remembered at the last moment that he would probably rip his pockets if he did so.  “Because you never asked.  It’s my favorite place in the castle.”

“Really?” Belle ran her fingers over the spines of books and read their titles.  “You have some rare books here, ones I’ve always wanted to read.”

Our fair heroes stepped back from the scene and watched the magic happen.  Belle chose a book and gestured for Beast to tell her the story he’d come up with for the characters portrayed in the pictures.  They knelt on a rug together, heads close, and, when they exchanged hesitant smiles, Brian did a small victory dance.

“Yes! We did it,” Nick whispered, not wanting to break the magic.  “Quick, let’s go before they remember we’re here.”

They slipped out of the room and hurried towards the front of the castle again.  None of them were sure what to do now or who to ask for directions, and, once they were in the entry hall again, they looked around, uncertain.

Kevin jammed his hands in his pockets, and his fingers brushed over a metal object.  Curious, he pulled it out and stared, disbelieving, at the compass that Nick’s Gorgeous Girl had given them.  “Hey, guys.  Look at what I found.”

“It’s the broken compass,” Nick snickered when he saw it again.  “Fat lot of good it did us last time.”

“It doesn’t matter which way we go,” Brian pointed out.  “I mean, we don’t exactly know what lies north or east or west or south of here.”

AJ stared at the compass, an errant thought jiggling in his mind. 

Howie took the compass from Kevin and turned it over to examine the inscription.  “Yeah, and it’s not like this poem is going…” He trailed off.  When his eyes lifted, they met the knowing look in AJ’s eyes.  “Oh, my god.”

“What? What?” Brian looked curiously between his two friends and the compass.  “What’s going on?”

“When did that freak tornado come through?” AJ asked quickly.

Nick shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I wasn’t looking at my watch or anything.”

“No, what happened five seconds before everything went crazy?” Howie reiterated.

Realization dawned, slowly but surely, on Kevin.  “I read that inscription.”

“Read it again,” all five said together.  It sounded crazy to all of them, but, hey, crazier things had just happened to them, hadn’t they?

Howie held the compass up to the light and read, “‘From here to there, from there to here.  Witches and princesses, magic and royal messes.  Princes to the rescue, from here to there.  Let them all beware.’”

For one, humming moment, there was silence.  Then, a sudden, roaring wind swept through the room, toppling everything.  Brian watched in horror as a column tipped over towards him.  His feet were rooted to the spot as dust and rocks swirled up around him.  Unable to move, he stood until the column fell, and his world blew apart.