Author's Note: Finally a new chapter! My creative juices have begun to flow again; in fact they've begun to overflow with ideas for side-stories and possibly a prequel (I can't possibly fit all my back-story into my flashbacks, but I wish I could)

Reviews would be lovely, especially comments on what you think of the EG pairing. It's a little uncommon, but I like giving Erik someone who can compete with him mentally without being out of character.

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Chapter 12: Thoughts

Meg Giry was in shock. Just a few hours ago she had left the house expecting to have to rescue her mother from the clutches of a horrible monster, or worse. Instead she had found her mother standing in the middle of the stage, completely unscathed. Then, with hardly any explanation, she had ordered a carriage to take them back to the Chagny house and paid for it with money Meg could only guess at the origin of.

The two women now sat side by side in the closed carriage. Antoinette had hardly said anything since she had declared that she would not explain herself until everyone was together. Meg looked carefully at her mother as she stared straight forward. She looked terribly exhausted and possibly troubled, but Antoinette had always been difficult to read. The only emotion Meg had ever seen her mother really express was her love for her and Christine. Beyond that motherly love she kept her other emotions quite distant. Still, Meg was sure something was troubling her if she was being so quiet after such a long time apart.

Finally Meg had to ask, "Are you sure you're alright mother? Did the Phantom hurt you?"

Startled from her thoughts, Antoinette jumped a bit before regaining composure and turning to face her daughter. She the gave a simple reply, "I am fine." It was only really a true answer to the first question but she expected Meg would take it as an answer to both. While, in reality, Erik had hurt her emotionally and physically during her stay, she did not think Meg needed to know that. Meg would never be able to understand how she still loved him despite all that he had done; she barely understood it herself.

Silence fell on the carriage once more. By the time they were halfway to the house, Meg could hardly stand it. In a last ditch attempt she blurted out, "Christine and Raoul have already married you know!"

Antoinette only replied distantly; "Oh, it's too bad I missed the wedding." She was ready to let her mind drift back into thought, but she realized Meg was trying to create conversation. She wanted to just sit and contemplate the occurrences of the last few weeks but she felt guilty ignoring her daughter when they had been apart for so long. So she spoke again, this time with more enthusiasm "It most have been beautiful, tell me about it."

That worked just as Antoinette had intended. Meg immediately launched into a vivid description of everything, from the flowers to the place settings, which lasted them the rest of the trip.

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Hours of music had done very little to untangle Erik's thoughts. Frustrated, he got up from his organ and began to pace. He had nineteen years of misplace hatred to escape from, and that would not be easy. While his mind had grasped Antoinette's story, his hatred of her had been burned deep into his soul. For years he had fed on that rage, let it fuel his every action. In his mind, her departure all those years ago had only proved what he always believed; that no one could ever love him.

He sat down and put his head in his hands. All his years of cynicism made it difficult to face the truth; he was loved, he had simply refused to see it. A thousand questions came to his mind. Why had he never looked for the reason for her departure? Why, when she had never let him down before, had he immediately assumed betray? What if he had only looked for her as soon as he knew she had gone? All their misery might have been averted.

"Dammit!" He slammed his fist down on the table, "I am a fool!" It was probably to late now. He had done such horrible things; the shame was crushing. She had every right to fear him and never want to see him again. It seemed impossible that she would ever return.

But there was a flash of hope, her last request. "Don't make it hard for me to find you again, I've already lost you too many times." Perhaps she would return, but all he could do was wait.

xxx