Disclaimer: I do not own Phantom of the Opera
I heard him move behind me, but didn't expect the hand that came down on my shoulder. It reminded me strongly of my wedding day, when I had felt his support and strength as I stood, prepared to marry his mother.
"Won't you come with us?" he asked softly. "Or let us stay here with you?"
"Nicolas," I heard Laure say behind me.
She must have shaken her head, because he didn't press me any farther.
"Can I come visit you, then?" he whispered.
I looked at him over my shoulder. "Yes. I want to talk to you, in greater depth about what happened. But not today."
"Am I in trouble?"
I shook my head, "Not with me. Your mother, yes. Your grandparents, probably. But I can't bring myself to punish you, Nicolas. I can only hope you'll show more sense and consideration for your mother in the future."
"I'm sorry, Father. You want us to leave?" he asked quietly. "We'll go, then. But I'm coming back to see you. I...I do love you, Father. I do wish you'd change your mind."
His words caused the most painful, mortal wound to enter my gut. I felt the knife inside, twisting tighter and tighter, and knew that I was going to be tormented after they left.
He loved me.
It was still true.
"I love you, Nicolas," I whispered, and reached up to touch his hand briefly. "I hope to see you soon. Take...take care of your mother."
For me. Take care of Laure for me.
I didn't couldn't say the words, but he promised, and I released him. I stood up and turned around to face him, and he smiled for a moment before he went to assist Christine in the boat.
She had not taken her eyes off me since I turned, but I avoided her, not wanting to incite a conversation with her. The last thing she wanted was to be here, although for some reason she had followed Nicolas around like a lost puppy. The mask that had covered each side of his face, all the way down to his lips hadn't been the most clever disguise. I had no idea why she couldn't tell us apart. My eyes were green. His were hazel. His voice...completely unlike mine.
Was she really confused?
I had no idea what to think about their time together. I wondered for a moment if Nicolas had practiced his charm on her, and if she had fallen for it. I prayed that he had not. The last thing I needed was for her to remain in my life, for any reason at all.
Laure was still standing in front of me, looking directly at me in a way that made me both uncomfortable and expectant. I moved towards her slowly, and offered her my arm.
"I hope that you aren't angry with me," I said softly. "I know I have contradicted myself, wanting a family...and turning you away."
I stopped her near my writing desk and produced a leather case, filled with money. Her eyes widened as she looked inside, then back up to me.
"My fortune," I said gently. "Most of it, anyway. I want you to take it. I have no need of it."
"Is this forever, then, Erik? Are you kicking us out of your life permanently? That isn't what I want. That isn't what Nicolas wants," she said insistently. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet," I admitted. "I want Nicolas in my life..."
"But not me?" she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "Nicolas, and not me? I'm your wife. Do you remember anything you've said to me the last two days...on our wedding night, or the days and nights after that? Have you forgotten so much?"
"I will never forget," I said brokenly. "I...I just need time to figure out what I want Laure. I know I'm not the sort of man..."
I stopped as her hand reached up to cover my mouth. She pressed her palm to my lips, and shook her head.
"You are the sort of man I need. And want. You're the only man for me. I hope you realize it soon. I won't come here again, Erik. I won't force my presence on you. So if you want me, you'll have to find me."
"Find you?" I echoed.
"I'm not returning to Corsica. When I settle somewhere, I'll send Nicolas here. That should give you enough time...to decide. Your conversation with Nicolas will have to wait. I'll need his help, and since I have no idea where we're going, I can't guarantee you'll see him for awhile."
"How long?" I whispered, my words muffled beneath her hand.
"A couple of weeks? Honestly, I don't know. I've never done something like this before. I'm not trying to keep him from you, but I'm not willing to let him go off by himself so soon," she said firmly.
"I guess this is goodbye, then," she choked out. "You're eager to be rid of us, and I'm ready to start my new life. I only hope you will allow yourself to be in it. I promise, it will be worth it."
She brushed a kiss on my cheek, and hesitated a moment, her breath against my skin for what felt like forever, then with a soft groan she kissed my lips, her hands sliding up through my hair, her body pressing close to mine. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her back desperately. I knew then I had made a terrible mistake.
A terrible mistake.
The only place safe...was in her arms. The only comfort I ever found in my miserable life...was with her. And I had pushed her away.
No, I had shoved her away.
"I love you," she whispered, her eyes sparkling bright with tears. "I love you, Erik. Don't torture yourself down here too long. It ends when you want it to."
With a final kiss, she moved away from me, and stumbled down to Nicolas and Christine, who had been watching with fascination.
Laure took her place in the boat beside Christine, and faced stiffly forward as Nicolas pushed them away from the shore.
None of them looked at me as they left.
And not one tear fell as I sank into true despair.
What had I done?
I hoped you enjoyed this story, and will read the sequel, Diminishment of the Ghost. Erik has abandoned his family, and must come to terms with his decision. There will be considerable struggle for all three of them, and he must make amends for things he has done wrong.