|The Wretched Sigh
Author: pygmymuse PM
Translate "La Complainte de la Butte," throw in some "Affair to Remember" and add an "AU" label, and that's the story.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Chapters: 8 - Words: 42,324 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 10-23-09 - Published: 10-14-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5443801
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Wretched Sigh
Word Count: 7,422
Disclaimer: I can't own anything. The pygmies and debt collectors own me.
Summary: Translate "La Complainte de la Butte," throw in some "Affair to Remember" and add an "AU" label, and that's the story.
Spoilers: Up to 1x10, just to be safe, though this one significantly changes the "world" as we know it.
Author's Note: Story title comes from a lyric in Rufus Wainwright's version of "La Complainte de la Butte," and the snippets at the beginning of the chapter are from Cora Vaucaire's version of it. If anyone wants my translation of the lyrics...or any of the other French I used, let me know.
I really struggled with the end of this. I thought I had it all written, but as I typed it, it wasn't right. I tried to fix it, but it still doesn't seem right... Still, it is finished.
Je sens ta menotte
Qui cherche ma main
Je sens ta poitrine
Et ta taille fine
J'oublie mon chagrin
J'oublie mon chagrin
Tom kicked his desk in frustration. Two years, spring cleanings, audits, and a general sense of order—this was not Christina's desk, and yet he was still looking for that damned letter that seemed to have vanished into the air. He wouldn't care so much if he wasn't sick of waiting for her to come around. It wasn't like he'd expected Christina to jump into his arms as soon as Micheal died, but watching her mourn the man who had caused them both so much pain over the past fifteen, almost sixteen years was eating at Tom day after day. He'd tried, tried to let it go, let her go, but fifteen years had proved to him that he couldn't, and he was sick of waiting. Two years was longer than even Micheal would have expected him to wait to show her the letter, and Tom would never have done it if it hadn't come to this.
She'd gone to the pier with Amanda and Camille to scatter Micheal's ashes, and Tom had joined her there, and when she took his arm, he thought the waiting was over. But now he wondered if Michael had just been the excuse. Tom had been by her side, waiting, sometimes impatiently, never pushing her, for almost five years. She was still holding back, and while he knew that grief was something that only time could heal, that only Christina knew when she had finished grieving for Micheal, but this seemed different. Tom had to wonder if she didn't trust him, if she thought he would leave again. He'd tried subtle things, telling her that everyone deserved a second chance—they deserved a second chance—he'd gone along with her calls on medical decisions that should have been his, he'd run interference for her, he'd helped her through that Ramos life support mess, he'd tried making her jealous with Faye, he'd used French again, he'd held her face... Nothing subtle had worked. It was time to show her Micheal's letter and confront the past.
Only Micheal's letter was gone.
He sighed and went over to the end of his office, pouring himself a coffee. There was a knock on the door, and he called out for whoever it was to come in.
Well, that was a surprise. Amanda Hawthorne. He wondered what she wanted He didn't really deal with the board that much, and her recent cancer scare had proved to be nothing. "Morning, Mrs. Hawthorne. Is there something I can help you with?"
"I think it's time we discussed this," Amanda said, holding up an envelope. "I have a bit of a confession to make. I found this letter for Christina, in my son's handwriting, on your desk years ago, and I took it. I wanted to see what he—I didn't get a letter. She did. It was stupid and petty, but it was what I did."
"You read it?" Tom asked with a frown, taking a sip of his coffee and wondering what else could go wrong now. Now he knew what had happened to the letter, but telling Amanda Hawthorne that Camille was not her granddaughter was not something he'd ever intended to do. Micheal had been the one to tell her, and that was probably for the best. She wouldn't have believed anyone else. Or she might have, but only Tom was capable of explaining the rest of it. He knew more than Christina did.
"I admit I almost burned it," Amanda went on. "I didn't want to believe it of my son. He... He was better than that."
"Not when I knew him," Tom said quietly. He looked at her, attempting to apologize. He pointed to the table, and she shook her head, refusing to sit down. "I'm sorry. I know we want to believe the best of the ones we love."
"Is that what you do for your father?" she asked, and Tom choked on his coffee. He couldn't breathe for a second. What had Micheal put in the letter about Tom's father? And why? Why had it mentioned his father at all? It shouldn't have because he was supposed to write to Christina about what he'd done when they met, not about Tom's father.
"I don't know how I feel about my father," he answered slowly. "What—Amanda, I'm not sure why you came to me instead of taking the letter to Christina. She was the one who was supposed to read it, after all."
"Yes, but I had to know, Tom. I had to hear it from an outsider. The truth," Amanda said, taking a deep breath. "I spoke to David about things. He told me things that my son told him. He didn't know all of the details, but he knew there had been someone before Micheal, someone that Christina never got over. I used to, in my less kind moments, accuse Christina of trapping my son with a child, but this letter changes that."
"I'm not sure what you expect me to say," Tom told her. "I used to be Mike's friend. Years ago. Pretty much—I guess you would say I was their charity case."
"I understand that. What I don't understand is what my son did."
Tom looked at the letter in her hand. "What does that say?"
"That Camille is not my granddaughter. That Micheal knew all along that Christina's child was yours, and that he married her knowing that after deliberately withholding the truth from her," Amanda said, shoving the letter away from her as though it were something disgusting.
Tom nodded. "That is true. I guess what really matters, then, is what you feel about it. Does this change how you see Camille? I know she's not your granddaughter by blood, and were it up to me, I would never have lied about it. For Camille's sake, I never... I suspected, but I didn't know until Micheal got sick, and it didn't seem right to take that belief in her father or Christina's in Micheal away from them."
Amanda took a deep breath. "You are far kinder than one would expect."
Tom laughed a little, shaking his head. "Micheal said that I was self-righteous. Maybe I am. I'm not a saint, not that good of a person. There's a lot of what happened that I could have changed, and I didn't. We're all to blame for it, and it wasn't just our lives we changed."
"Would you say you'd do it all over?" Amanda shook her head. "I don't think you would. Through all of it, however it changed you, I don't think you would. And I wouldn't, either. Because you're right. Blood or not, Camille is my granddaughter. I'd rather never have seen that letter."
"You don't have to tell her you know. Though... it might mean a lot to her to know that you still feel the same way about her even if she isn't your granddaughter by blood," he said with a shrug.
Amanda studied him for a moment. "I guess this almost makes you family, too."
He stared at her, not sure how he felt about that or how to take it. "Um..."
Christina knew it was time. She'd let Micheal's ashes go into the water, the wind, she'd let him go, and it was time to let his stuff go, too. She'd packed it away after he died, but she hadn't actually gotten rid of it. Now was the time. Time to let it all go.
She'd sensed Tom's frustration with her lately. It would have been easy, so easy, to give in, to go back to everything they once were. The spark when he touched her wasn't gone. He still smiled at her in a way that made her weak. All of the physical attraction was still there, mixed with a whole new layer of admiration for his skill as a doctor and enjoyment of working with him. She pushed him; he pushed back. They were friends, better now than they had been. All that was missing was the sex, and really she should get that, of all things, out of it, because she might have been inexperienced, but it was good.
So she had to do this, had to let Micheal go completely. It wasn't fair to Tom to keep the distance and barriers up. She loved him, had never stopped loving him, and it was stupid to make him wait. Her last excuse—Camille—was running pretty thin, and she had to stop this. Camille was old enough to know the truth, she had said her goodbye to her father, and while it wasn't really—she deserved to know her other father. She did seem to like Tom okay, and at the very least he should know. He might suspect, but he observed the truth, and Christina owed him a conversation, at the very least.
She opened another box, this one full of papers, receipts, and one letter she'd hidden in the middle because she knew Micheal would never look for her there. She took it out and unfolded it. She'd compared his handwriting now on prescriptions and orders, looking for the similarities. It had deteriorated over the years, or maybe she was just looking at the wrong things. Then again, given the way this one had shown up, she never wanted to get another letter from Tom again.
"What are you doing?" Camille asked from the doorway. Christina shoved the letter back in the box, keeping the chain in her hand. She got to her feet.
"Oh, I was just going through these boxes. I figured it was time to clean out some of this. I just boxed it up before, but I—Here. I want you to have this," she said, giving Camille the necklace Tom had probably forgotten giving her. "This way you'll have something of your father with you."
Camille looked down dubiously at the necklace. Christina rolled her eyes and took the the chain out of her daughter's hand and put it around her neck. "Maybe it's not your style, but if you don't want it, then—"
"No, I'll keep it," Camille said, running her hands over the pendant. "Thank you for giving me this, Mom. I—I'm sorry I reacted like that. Can I go through Dad's boxes? You know, before you throw them out?"
"Of course. Those ones over there I've done. I'll get to these later. I'm hungry." She wrapped her arm in her daughter's and pulled her along to the kitchen, leaving the boxes behind for another day. She'd try to talk to Tom tomorrow, get this all sorted out.
"You might want to watch where you're going," Tom warned, and Camille looked up at him, distractedly playing with the chain around her neck. That was different. Most of her jewelry seemed to be clunky, and this piece was simple, a plain gold chain with some sort of pendant. He had taken more of an interest in Camille lately, trying to find a way to bridge a fifteen year absence from his daughter's life. He'd been there in the last few years, but not as a father, and he didn't really know how to be that. He couldn't make up for all the years that he was gone, especially since she had no idea that he was her father. "That's new."
"Oh, yeah," Camille said, lifting it to show it to him. "Mom was going through stuff, and she gave this to me. She said this way I could always keep my father with me."
Tom frowned a little. Wait a minute. That little heart, the designs, they looked familiar. There must be thousands of necklaces like that out there, but Tom knew that one was the one he'd given Christina fifteen years ago. He couldn't believe that she was letting Camille think that it was from Micheal.
"I don't think that she thinks I'm old enough to remember," Camille said, and Tom looked over at her again.
"Dad hated this necklace. He used to get upset when she wore it. One day, after a big fight, she just put it away," Camille explained. She shrugged, but Tom could tell that something was bothering her. "I don't think that he was that happy that she just put it away, either. I don't know why it would bother him if he gave it to her,"
Tom had a feeling he might know where part of her thoughts were taking her, what he might end up telling her, and out in the hallway was not the place to have it. He ushered her into his office and sat her at the table as he went into the side room and got her a drink from his fridge. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down next to her. "You don't think he did, do you?"
She shook her head, fiddling with the tab on the pop can. "No. Which kind of freaks me out, you know? I mean, that's like saying that my dad wasn't my dad."
Though Tom knew that Micheal was not, in fact, her father, he choked down his own pride and told her. "He was in every way that matters."
Camille made a face, popping open the can. She drank from it while Tom debated telling her the whole truth, part of it, or none of it. Her father was right across from her, and she didn't know it. "You don't know that's what it means. Maybe she thinks of your father when she sees the necklace because he hated it so much."
"I doubt it," Camille said, and Tom was glad that she didn't believe that. "I don't know... Doesn't that mean that my 'real' father never wanted me. Or he's dead. And I've lost two fathers."
Tom touched her arm on top of the table, shaking his head. "You don't know that, either. Maybe he never knew. Maybe he would have given up everything if he'd only known."
"So Mom kept me from him? Why? If she wore this necklace all the time, she still loved him, right? So why not tell him?"
"There are many reasons," Tom began. Camille made another face, but he went on. "Say your father was a young man who was involved in a stupid bet where he's supposed to pretend he's a lost foreign tourist and fool a girl—your mother—into taking him around for a week. It's a simple bet, fairly harmless, but then he befriends the girl over the course of the first day. She's a tough one, and he wants to help her, and he can if he keeps pretending to be someone he's not. He gets a concussion in a fight, gets hurt, defending his honor, and it's clear there's more to them than friends. He tells her she should be a nurse, and she laughs at him, He tries to tell her the truth, but he doesn't get to tell her everything and then... They get soaked in the rain, and he kisses her. They end up sleeping together, probably conceiving you the very first time. He loves her, knows she loves him, so he buys her that necklace and writes her the note, just in case. But he doesn't know that when he gets up the next morning, leaving with his friends for only a few moments,, that he'll never see her again."
Tom took a sip of his coffee. His throat was dry. Over the years, he'd regained pieces of what had happened that morning, though some of it he would never remember because of the concussion and the drugs. He remembered drinking coffee with them, feeling light headed, knowing he'd been drugged, and then nothing until after he woke in the hospital. "There was an accident. His friend was driving, and he was drunk. Your father was nearly killed. He couldn't get back to her. Later, over ten years later, that friend admitted that he tore off the part of the letter that gave her his name and address, the phone number where he was staying. Your mother had no way to contact him. She couldn't write or call, and by the time that he could walk again, she was gone."
Camille was quiet for a moment. "Do you think she should have stayed?"
"To take a risk on a man she barely knew versus what was best for her child? For you?" Tom shook his head even though his answer was yes. He wanted Christina to have stayed. He knew, though, that he was coming back. Christina hadn't known that. "Her choice was easy."
"Still, that's tragic. Romeo and Juliet kind of tragic".
"It's kind of like the plot to An Affair to Remember, actually," Tom corrected, then realized she hadn't ever seen it. More things that... If he had been able to know his daughter when she was younger...
"But still tragic because he'll never know. And I'll never know," Camille shook her head. "I'm not sure it's better."
"Maybe he meets you by accident, sometime. Sees you wearing the necklace he gave your mother. And he knows," Tom offered with a smile. He didn't know why she liked the "story" so much. It was the truth, but she had really gotten into it when he figured she'd give him a dismissive that would never have happened and taken off. Talking like this, though... Camille had sat with him, he'd helped her, and it felt good despite how awkward it all was.
Camille picked up her soda. "Thank you, Tom."
He smiled at her as she started to leave, and then she turned back and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. He touched his face and stared after her for a long time.
Camille continued to play with the necklace back at her house, unable to stop thinking about the story that Tom had told her earlier. The whole afternoon had been kind of weird, but the story stuck with her. He had spoken with too much detail, too much emotion, like he wasn't really telling the story as much as remembering it. The way he'd looked when he saw the necklace, the way he'd been as he told the story, even the suggestion at the end...
She headed upstairs, to the room where her mother had been going through the boxes. She figured that if her mother found the necklace here, and she'd shoved something back in the box, so the other stuff, if there was any, was probably there, too. She didn't know that there would be anything there. It could just be a story. But maybe it wasn't. The letter, if Tom wasn't telling a story, then there was a letter. And if there was a letter, the letter would be here, where the necklace had been.
She reached into the box, finding an old envelope, worn and faded, probably read and held many times over the years. Chrissie was written on the front of the envelope, and she shook her head. Her mother never let anyone call her Chrissie, not even her dad. She used to get so mad at him when he did. The letter was something special, the person who wrote it special, too.
She unfolded the letter and started reading. There were smudges on the page, like her mother had cried when she read it. It was all there, like Tom had said. The bet, a truth about her grandfather that she would never have suspected—and yet none of it seemed like a goodbye. If this was all her mother had, no wonder she cried, no wonder she'd gone with Camille's father—with Micheal.
It was torn at the bottom, just like Tom had said his friend had done. He wasn't telling her a story. He had told her the truth, told her what really happened. He'd met her mother all those years ago. He'd been the one who... He was Camille's real father.
She could have kept pretending, could have denied knowing, just had a suspicion that her father was not her biological father, but now she had a story. A story with proof. Tom was a good man. He was. So it shouldn't bother her that he was her real father. Why hadn't he just told her, then? Because she would have yelled at him, cursed him, because she would never have believed him if he'd just told her. He was good, better than her father at figuring her out. Probably because he knew her mom so well. Her father had never understood her mother. Loved her, yeah, but he didn't get her, not like Tom. It made such twisted sense.
"Camille, what are you doing up here?" Christina asked from the doorway.
"Dad wasn't my real father, was he?" Camille asked, getting to her feet. She held out the letter. "This man is my father, isn't he? He gave you that necklace. That's why Dad hated it so much, isn't it? Because it reminded you of him."
"Where did you get this?" Christina took the letter and folded it back up. "Why are you doing this? What makes you think—?"
"I have a right to know the truth. I have a right to know my father. He has a right to know me," Camille said with growing conviction. Tom was just going to have to deal with her being a part of his life. He was going to do all those dad things, the ones her father did, and even the ones her father had never done. If that wasn't okay with her mom, that was just too bad.
"Is the man who wrote that letter my father?"
Christina lowered her head. "Yes, he is. I'm sorry, Camille. I was so young back then, and he was gone. Your father—Micheal—he found me, offered to take care of me and you. Since I had no way of contacting your biological father, I let him. He was a good man, and he loved you. It didn't matter that you weren't his. I think that he forgot that most of the time."
"Do you—He left his name and address. He gave you a phone number," Camille said, watching her mother frown. "On the letter. He gave you a way to contact him, but his friend tore it off."
Christina shook her head. "What? How do you know that?"
"He told me."
Christina sat down on the edge of the bed. "He told you?"
Her mother was shaking. With fear? Anger? Something else? She brushed tears out of her eyes and started to speak, but Camille got there first. "He recognized the necklace, Mom. He told me the truth, how you met, about the bet and stuff. He also told me what his friend had done to the letter. He never intended to leave you—us—but he was in a car accident and by the time he was able to walk again, you were gone."
Her mother put her head in her hands. "I never knew... He came back?"
"He couldn't find you," Camille said, sitting down next to her mother. Damn, even after he came back into her life, her mom had gone on believing that Tom had abandoned her. Why hadn't he told her that he didn't? Why hadn't her mom asked?
"A part of me always thought that I should have stayed, that he might come back, but I always told myself that was just wishful thinking and that I should ignore it. I didn't have anyway to take care of myself back then. I had to do what was right for the baby..."
"You gave me a good life, Mom. Dad did, too."
"I know," Christina said, shaking her head. "I can't believe Tom told you."
"He didn't really tell me," Camille said, and her mother frowned again. "I was talking to him about the necklace, about remembering you and Dad fight about it, how I thought it meant Dad wasn't my dad. He gave me options. He told me a story, said it could have happened like that. But what he told me was the truth. So... why didn't you tell me? Why don't you know about the letter and stuff?"
"I was married when I met Tom again. We both knew if we brought up the past... So we just never did. I didn't know. He doesn't know all of it, or at least he didn't. I never actually told him about you. Not because he shouldn't know, but because—"
"Because I wouldn't have understood, and then Dad got sick. Then he died; I get it. But I know now. And I know you still love Tom. Why are you sitting here with me instead of asking him why he never told you about the letter or the accident after Dad died?"
Christina wrapped her arms around Camille for a moment. "One big revelation is enough for me tonight. Besides, I don't think you really know how you feel about this yet."
"I was thinking about it... Did a lot of thinking before I talked to Tom and then after I did. Given the other possibilities, I'm okay with it being Tom. I prefer that over the other options."
Her mother laughed.
"So...About that story you told Camille," Christina began as she walked towards the table where Tom sat, working on a tall stack of patient files. She sat down next to him. "She figured it out. She knows. She seems fine with it, but I'm not sure about anything that she tells me these days."
Tom looked over at her. She winced. "So now we have to fight about me not telling you she was yours, is that it?"
He sighed, leaning back in his chair, setting down the pen. "We both know that the reason that we never discussed any of that was because you were married. If you'd told me, I might have wanted custody or visitation rights, and I never stopped wanting you."
He shook his head, putting an envelope on the table wand waiting. She pushed it back at him. "I can't do it, Tom. No offense, but I never want another letter from you. I can't... Not again."
"That's not from me. That's from Micheal. And before we discuss anything else, you need to read it. After that..."
"After that, what?" Christina asked, but he went back to his paper work and ignored her. She made a face, shaking her head as she picked up the envelope. She opened the letter, wondering why it was so important that she read it now.
I wouldn't actually be writing this letter if it wasn't for Tom. You'll think that's strange because you think I just met him, but I didn't. I met him when I was ten, on a trip with a friend, Stephen. Stephen's parents called Tom his "charity case," and they told me I always had to be nice to him because he didn't have what we did. They actually paid Tom's father in exchange for Tom spending time with Stephen. I always thought that was stupid. Didn't know why Stephen even bothered. Tom was...sort of a friend. I say sort of because he... I resented that Stephen's parents gave his father money to have him spend time with us, and if I was really any sort of friend to him, I would have noticed things—like you did—about how his father used to beat him—and I never would have done what I did to both of you.
Right now, you're probably frowning, wanting me to get to the point. I've been trying to figure out how to say this, how to explain why I did what I did, but there aren't really good reasons. Stephen regarded Tom as a toy he could play with, but I just found him annoying. He was a self-righteous prick most of the time. He was a bookworm, loner, and loser. It was funny to watch him at parties because he never knew what he was doing. Girls came on to him, and he stuttered like an idiot unless he was drunk, and then he'd speak in French and the girls just loved him.
I guess I was jealous. I mean, here was this kid who had nothing getting everything so easily... I didn't know what it was like for him at home, and I didn't care back then. After he graduated—I guess I should say after he got out of the hospital after his graduation—Tom had decided to move to the states and go to med school. It seemed to me like just another pretentious thing to do. I mean, I knew his mother died of cancer, but I didn't connect it, and I just figured he wanted all he could get from the states, too. I still saw him as the charity case, especially since Stephen insisted that Tom live with him rent free while he went to school.
Stephen came up with the bet. I would have been the one to do it—maybe that's another reason why I did what I did—but Tom was the one who actually spoke French, unlike the rest of us that never managed to learn it, so it had to be him. Stephen and I picked you because you were some tough street girl, and we thought it would be funny if you beat him up and chased him off.
Tom pulled it off, though. He fooled you that first day, and Stephen was enjoying the bet, but I was getting a little worried. Tom liked you; I could see that. I didn't understand. He was—whether he was aware of it or not, he could have had anyone; Stephen had thrown plenty of women his way over the years, but he fell for you. He tried to deny it when I accused him of being in love with you, but I knew he was. And he was already in debt because of school, he was living off Stephens, and I wasn't going to let him forget about all of that. He would have given it all up for you. Med school, the life he was living. So Stephen and I, we decided, after a long night of drinking, to drag Tom away from you. Stephen got the drugs and put them in Tom's coffee. I was supposed to drive, I hadn't had as much as Stephen, but Stephen got behind the wheel and took off without me.
Next thing I know, Stephen's calling me from the emergency room. He kept saying that Tom was dead, that he'd killed him, and when I finally got the truth out of a doctor, I found out that Tom was badly injured, but they thought he would make it. Stephen told me about Tom's letter, how he'd torn off the address, and told me to find you and tell you what happened to Tom.
It took a while before I did. I wasn't sure what I'd tell you. At first, Tom was comatose. Then he was in and out of consciousness. He couldn't move for a while, and he blamed us for the accident when he woke. I was supposed give you good news.
But I saw you there, crying over him. I'd been jealous of Tom the whole week he was with you, and I was angry at him for reasons I don't even remember now. I knew what I was doing, but you didn't. You never suspected that I deliberately took you away from him, that I knew all along where he was. I could have taken you to him at any time. Instead, I married you, claimed his daughter as my own, and I kept you from ever knowing.
Now I've gotten sick. Tom confronted me. He told me I was going to die. He actually refused to treat me because he would have let me die for what I'd done. He was right to refuse. I wrote a letter to him, too, but I tore that one up. He won't forgive me, and he doesn't have to. If he does what I ask, he'll give this to you after I've gone. He could do it before, but I don't think he will. He will let me tell you, not because he's afraid to, but because he always was the better man.
I have always loved you. I love Camille. I'm sorry I didn't do the right thing. I was selfish. I hope you do find happiness. With Tom, if you have to, though I find it hard to wish him any sort of happiness after all these years of jealousy.
Tell Camille I love her always.
Christina stared at the letter for a long moment after she finished reading it. She couldn't help it. She looked up at Tom. "You knew?"
"Stephen told me in the hospital that Mike went to look for you and that you were gone. When Mike turned out to be your husband, I figured it out," Tom said, getting to his feet and crossing to the other side of the room, pouring himself a coffee. "Mike had stopped speaking to me years ago. It made sense."
"So you knew four years ago, and you didn't tell me?" she demanded angrily, standing up to face him. She couldn't believe that he hadn't told her. She understood why they'd never discussed the past while Micheal was alive before, but now, knowing that he'd betrayed them both like that... How could Tom have just sat back and said nothing?
"I gave him my word that I would let him tell you," Tom explained. "He gave me the letter. I didn't—there were times when I almost told you anyways. I thought about it several times, but a part of me didn't think you'd believe me or that it was petty... I love you, Christina. I have since I met you, pretty much. We lost fifteen years, mostly because of Micheal. I just couldn't say that because you had a life with him. It might have been based on lies, but it doesn't change how you felt about him or what he was to Camille. "
"You would have let her go on believing that he was her father to keep her happy, wouldn't you?" Christina asked him, and when he looked away from her, she had her answer. She crossed the room to him. "You are a very good man, Tom. An excellent father, even if you haven't had much practice."
"I want you, Tom. Fifteen years, all kind of mistakes we made, and I'm tired of making them, sick of waiting. I'm angry at Micheal, too, because while I loved him, it was never like what I felt for you," Christina said, knowing that she was never really going to get over what Micheal had done. She would never feel the same about him again. And while she wanted to take that anger out on something, someone, she didn't want that someone to be Tom. It had been too long, and things hadn't changed. She loved him, wanted him, needed him. The rest... It didn't matter.
"What?" she asked as she leaned into him. "Why is it when we get to this point you're always dragging your feet?"
'Because one of us has to be practical," he said in between her kisses as she struggled to pull his shirt out of the waist of his pants. "Because this is my office and because—stop that—aren't you listening to me?"
"So what? It's your office. It has blinds, it's private, and you can lock the door," she said, running her hands over his beautiful chest again. "I meant it when I said I don't want to wait anymore."
"The last time we did this, you ended up pregnant, remember?"
"Camille's always wanted a younger brother or sister," Christina told him, and they both laughed. He caught her hands and held them tightly for a second.
"After fifteen years, there's a lot that's happened, a lot that we still have to work out, you and I, and we should spend more than a few quick minutes in an uncomfortable office. Come away for the weekend. Just you and me and a lot to make up for," he said, letting her hands go and straightening his shirt.
"As long as we go right now," Christina agreed, and he laughed again as he reached for his coat, hanging over his arm as he turned off the lights and pushed her out the door. She stopped and looked at him. "No letters this time."
"But there will be more French?"
"Nous sommes là," Tom said, looking up at the familiar building without the sick feeling in his stomach that he thought he'd have looking at it again. Christina's arm was wrapped around his waist, her head against his chest as she smiled a little. The trip had been her idea, and he had to admit, he hadn't really looked forward to it. These places were full of memories, so many old wounds that he didn't want to reopen, but she'd wanted to see them, wanted Camille to see them, and since Camille was actually looking forward to the trip, he couldn't say no.
"This is where you grew up?" Camille asked, taking the headphones out of her ears and looking up. "It's...nice, I guess."
Tom gave her a small smile. "It wasn't much, and you don't have to say that it was. I really... I don't have many good memories of this place."
"Does your dad still live around here?" Camille frowned at the open window on the third floor, and Tom nodded.
"He still lives in the same place, actually. But I'd never ask you to see him, Camille. I don't want you to, really," Tom admitted uncomfortably. Christina fiddled with the ring around her finger and gave him a pointed look. He knew that one. She wanted to go up and give his father a piece of her mind. "Come on. There are better things to see in Montmartre."
"Like the Moulin Rouge?" Camille asked, putting one of her headphones back in as she turned away from the window. She moved her head to the music as she walked a bit ahead of them. He didn't really know what he was thinking, offering them a walking tour of Montmartre. He wasn't a tour guide. Christina had said she loved hearing about it when they were younger, but he didn't remember what he'd told her then, and he didn't know what to show them now.
"You liked that movie?" Christina asked suspiciously, looking at her daughter like she didn't recognize her. Camille rolled her eyes. Tom smiled at their interaction, giving Christina a quick kiss on the forehead.
Camille shrugged. "You two are so into each other that I've had to find a new way to spend my time. Now, Tom has a very large movie collection, and I've been enjoying it. Moulin Rouge wasn't his, though. That one was Suzanne's."
Tom guided them up the hill, listening to them go back and forth, still adjusting to this. It was different, being a part of a family. He'd been alone for so long that he still had trouble with it, with other people being there. Camille expected so much of him, and though Christina told him not to worry, that no one did it all perfectly, ever, and that Camille was really just happy to have a father again, he felt out of his depth. He had no idea what he was doing.
Camille stopped, pulling her headphones out of her ears. "Hey, Tom?"
He looked at her. "What, Camille?"
She smiled at him. "Thanks for showing us this. All of it. It's... It's nice to see where I came from, you know. You're a lot more than people think."
He laughed. "I'm not that complicated, Camille. It was different, growing up with the dual language, dual citizenship thing, and life could have been better, I guess, but—"
"Tom," Christina interrupted. "Your teenage daughter just gave you a compliment. Don't argue about it, just accept it with a smile because it might not happen again."
Camille rolled her eyes. She put her headphones back on and looked out at the city below them. Christina leaned against Tom's chest with a sigh of contentment, closing her eyes. He smiled at her and studied the familiar view. He used to come here to get away from his father, and it was nice to enjoy it without pain or dreading returning home. This was nice. He had thought, long ago, of bringing Christina and possibly their children here, and this wasn't really how he'd pictured it, but it was good.
"You know," Christina said, looking up at him. "You were right. Everyone deserves a second chance."
He frowned at her. "You don't mean my father, do you?"
"No. Not him. Us. All of us." She shook her head and wrapped his arm around her stomach, her hand on top of his. Camille looked at them and rolled her eyes again. She lifted her camera and took a picture from the top of the hill and started to head back down. Christina caught Tom before he could follow her. "Just a second. I know that we've said a lot of this before, but—"
"Tu m'aime," he said with a smile, leaning down to kiss her. "Je sais. Je t'aime aussi."