AN: For those who wanted it, here it is. A story's epilogue. Thank you, readers and reviewers, for being so wonderful and kind to me and my work. But, before I end the story, a little explanation. You see, I couldn't let this story go because it was, in a way, my own little song for someone. You know who you are. Thank you.
For the last time, reviews make me so very happy.
Disclaimer: The angle is mine, the original story is not.
Madeleine was found by Antoinette, crying furiously in the garden. She scooped up her petite in her arms and sat down on the chair.
"What is wrong, ma chere?" Antoinette asked quietly, drying the tears in the young girl's eyes with a handkerchief. Madeleine sniffled and pointed to the guilt cage hanging by the peach tree. The little door had been opened, and the lark Madeleine had been given must have flown out. "Oh, Mado..."
"It was singing so pretty," the little girl replied, fearing her mother's disappointment. It had been her favorite present from her kind older sister, and had come all the way from Europe. Madeleine might only be five, but she understood it was far away. "I only want to pet it once. We were going to take it with us on the trip, and I thought it might be nice..."
Antoinette could not find it in her to scold her daughter. It had been a fine present, and the child's sentiment hadn't been malicious. "Well, perhaps it'll come round now and then, to sing in the garden. A lark, after all, isn't a pet. It's a songbird, and it's meant to be free." But this was not much consolation for a little girl who didn't know any better, and Antoinette merely held her close and smiled. "There, there, petite. Your soeur will not be disappointed at all. I'm sure she'll even be happier knowing the little bird is free to sing where it chooses." And, just then, they heard a certain bird's chirping, and Antoinette laughed and pointed to a branch.
"See there, Mado? The song is so much sweeter because it's free." It was true. The notes were more dulcet with every little breath it took. "Now come, we need to meet your father. It'll be a long trip to the airport and I won't have usarrive late."
Erik watched as the sun only began to dip in the ocean behind his home. The famed fishing boats of Marseilles lined the port a few hundred meters away, but the rest of the coast was beautiful blue. From time to time the call of the gulls sounded like notes, and he wrote down sounds on his music sheets. He wasn't sure how much longer he'd be left alone to compose, and he wanted to write down as much as he could before the house would become noisy.
Honk, honk. The sounds of a cab just outside jolted him from his reverie. He closed his composition and stood.
So much for the quiet. Erik sighed and moved to the front door. Already through the stained glass on the door he saw two fiigures. The third, he was sure, was still not tall enough to be spotted.
"Hello, Mrs. Giry, Daroga," Erik said as he opened the door. He looked down to observe the little girl staring at him in wonder. He smiled. Really smiled.
"A-are you Erik?" Madeleine had heard so many stories about the man, but this was the first time she could remember meeting him. He was handsome. His smile was kind. Remembering her manners, Madeleine curtsied and smiled back. "Bonjour, frere Erik. Je m'apelle Madeleine."
Erik laughed and touched the top of her black hair gently. "Has your mother been teaching you French, at such a young age?"
"Oui, and ballet." Madeleine said proudly. "I'm to be a prima ballerina like my sister, Meg."
"That," Nadir said, picking up his daughter and glancing at Antoinette, "has not been written in stone. She could be a world-class investigator, or-"
"With legs like hers..."
"Well," Erik interrupted, watching them with something like a smirk, "it's been a long time. Fine, thank you for asking."
Antoinette was first surprised that he'd made such a joke, then let a smile of delight grace her features. She moved quickly to embrace Erik. "We've missed you, Erik. Both of you."
Nadir set down Mado and she moved to take stock of the house. "Yes, I'll admit home's been very quiet and normal since you left. No one to call me Daroga or scowl at me until I'm ready to pull my hair out." It might have sounded sarcastic, but he clapped a hand on Erik's shoulder all the same. Erik looked at his hand, then up to his eyes. "I've missed you, you idiot boy."
"And I," Erik sighed, trying to keep his voice steady, "truly have missed your nagging ways. Not even Christine has managed to drive me up the wall as you do."
"An unhappy marriage?" Nadir raised an eyebrow. "After such a short few years?"
"Too, happy, I'm afraid." Erik looked serious and solemn. "It's bound to drive us both mad."
"Well, that's no good," smirked Nadir. "You've got to be responsible now-"
"Where is ma soeur?" Madeleine asked, rounding the corner back to where the adults stood talking. She'd moved all over the house, but the child hadn't found any trace of her beautiful 'older sister'.
Erik smiled. "It was a beautiful day out, and she wanted to give me a little time to myself. She's out by the shore playing by the waves." His eyes seemed so full of someunnameable emotionas he mentioned her, and Antoinette and Nadirfinally felt the last of a heavy burden lift. "I'll go get her. You both stay and make yourselves at home. It's been a long trip."
"I'll make a pot of tea," Antoinette offered, and shooed him with the wave of her hand. "Go and bring Christine. Madeleine has wanted to see her for so long. Both of them."
Erik somehow beamed moreat Mrs. Giry's words, and without delay ran out to find his wife. Antoinette closed the door behind her husband and took off to the kitchen to prepare tea, leaving Nadir and his daughter alone. Madeleine tugged at her father's sleeve to get his attention.
"What is it, Mado?"
"What am I supposed to call them?"
"What?" Asked Nadir, clearly confused. Madeleine frowned.
"Erik is ma frere, and Christine is ma soeur. What is the other?"
He found her not far from the house. She wore a long white dress, the hem flowing with the water and the wind. Her hair was unbound, curls gently kissed by the ocean's spray as the waves came in. Her face was lit by the afternoon sun, and was calm and at peace. She smiled, not noticing Erik as he walked along the shore towards her. All she noticed was the small child whose hands she held.
He squealed in obvious delight and kicked his tiny feet as the waves softly came and went. Christine had long since removed his swaddling clothes, and on this perfect afternoon he played with his mother in the cool water. Her little boy. Hers and Erik's. He was perfect, down to the last little detail. She could never have dreamed for better, and she knew it.
This, all of it, has been my dream.
"Are you sure you won't both get sick?" Erik's voice made her turn, and she picked the baby upin her arms. He wasn't cross, far from it. He smiled and she noticed he'd taken off his shoes and rolled up his pant legs. She watched him wade towards her.
"He was stifling under his clothes, and just itching to play in the water," she said as she felt him rest his little head on her shoulder, tired. "Though now may be a good time to go home and let him rest. I'm sure the Kahns will be able to wait until he's had a decent nap to see him."
"Don't be so sure of that," Erik smirked. He already imagined Mado's persistent pleas. So much for quiet. But he pulled a curl away from her face, and tucked it behind her ear, letting the hand travel down to touch his son's downy black hair. "He should have had your beautiful hair." Erik murmured.
"Well, I rather like his dark hair and green eyes," she laughed softly, so as not to wake the baby. But she took his hand and pressed a kiss to it, a mischievous smile on her face. Then she brought it down to her small stomach. "Maybe the next one..."
"We'll have to get to work on that little project, then," Erik returned her gaze, and pulled her gently to the shore. His lips touched her and he could taste the sea and the air and her promise to remain by his side, for better or for worse. This, he knew, was Paradise. They had found it together."But right now, I believe I have a house full of people are clamoring for your attention. Will you sing once more, Prima Donna?"
Christine sighed and pulled him in another direction. "In a while, Erik. Now, take a walk with your family." He walked without much encouragement, looking from Christine to the baby and back again.
"You know, I was thinking about writing an opera."
"Really, Erik?" She was excited. He'd been slaving away at the instrument for a month now, and would seem worlds away sometimes. Was this what had captivated him? The waves fell, barely touching them as they walked the white sand of the shore.
"Yes. Do you remember Lucifer?" He squeezed her hand gently, and watched her kiss their son's forehead with tenderness.
"You mean from Paradise Lost?" She mused absently, stroking her long fingers over the child's soft back as it slept.
"I think I'm going to write about a man like that. A man who fell into a dark pit and wanted to reach for the light. Who fell in love with a beautiful chorus girl, and finally found his redemption." He laughed as he caught her curious look.
"And why, I wonder, does that sound so familiar?" She smiled over the top of that small bundle's head. It was a knowing, adoring look that he'd savor for the rest of his life.
"I think it may just be our lovesong."
The world was all before them, where to choose
their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitary way.
–Milton, Paradise Lost
AN: Thank you all a thousand times over for letting me entertain you (at least, that's what I hope I did). The pieces have come together, and now I fade into black. Will you review this story once more, though?