"Alright, Erik; it's bedtime now!" I said, gingerly taking his reed pipes from his hands.

"No! Why can we not keep dancing?" Erik protested, vainly trying to take the

instrument back. I held it out of his stout reach. "Because, cher—" I began, tucking

his precious toy away in my skirts, "We have been dancing for several hours; and I'm

about ready to collapse!"

"But—" Erik began to object, but I cut him off, gently laying him on his back

on the bed.

"Hush now… you need sleep." I said softly, running my hand with the

prudence of a glassblower down his papery cheek. He sighed, closing his eyes with a

small smile on his face. But then he reached up and grabbed my hand, opening his

eyes to their full, dazzling, golden glory. "Sing?"

"Haven't you heard and played enough music for one afternoon?" I teased

him tenderly. His sleepy toddler smile returned. "I will never have enough of music.

I would play my harp and my pipes and sing and dance all the time if I could! Music

is the best thing in the entire world!"

"And you are the best little boy I have ever seen; in singing, instruments, and

disposition." I smiled down at him. He cocked his head in befuddlement. "What's

disper—dispose-it—"

"Dis-pos-ition means your attitude or character. So I'm saying you are the

kindest, happiest, and most energetic boy I know!" I elucidated.

"But what about Quentin? Isn't he kind, happy, and energy-ic too?" Erik

wondered, pointing to the man. I glanced over to where Quentin stood—leaning up

against the wall—in the corner of the room; and he smirked as I began making a

show of "inspecting" him, making Erik giggle.

"No; Erik, you even beat Quentin." I said after a minute, winking jokingly at

the former policeman and turning back to Erik. The tiny boy shook with delighted

laughter, clapping his hands together. I laughed with him, and Quentin's sudden

protest of, "Hey! How did I get second place?" only tickled us further. I waited until

we'd calmed down a bit, then pulled the sheets out from under Erik and adjusted his

body position so that he could properly and comfortably rest beneath them. "Alright,

we've had our fun. Now it's time to dream." I purred softly; knowing our lurid

merriment had wound him up again. But he simply wiggled his arms out of the

blankets and took a firm latch on my arm. "Sing." he pleaded, gently tugging on me

until I gave in and sat myself down on the bed. "Alright, alright. Let's see… oh! I

know just the lullaby. 'Bonsoirmon tempsange pourfermer les yeux...

et enregistrerces questionspour un autre jour" as I began to sing I looked down at

him with a raised eyebrow; good-naturedly referencing his endless barrages of

questions. A tiny blush crept onto his pale, withered face; and it stuck out palpably

against the cream-like color. I smiled to let him know it was all in good fun, then

continued, "Je pense que je sais ce que vous avez été me demandant… je pense que vous

savez ce que j'ai essayé de dire. J'ai promis de ne jamais vous laisser… et vous devez

toujours savoir… où que vous alliez, peu importe où vous êtes; je ne serai jamais loin.

Bonsoir, mon ange; maintenant il est temps de dormeretle rêvemerveilleuxde votre

vie sera. Un jour, nous serons tous partis, mais berceuses aller sur et sur... Ils ne

meurent jamais c'est ainsi que vous et je sera…" I finished mellifluously; practically

swaying in exhaustion myself. Erik's eyes were shut, and he had a faint, sweet smile

on his face; but from the normal-paced rising and falling of his chest, I knew he

wasn't asleep just yet.

"Mamán?" he murmured as if answering my unspoken observation.

"Yes, dear?"

"Is this lullaby true? Do you mean it?"

"Which part?"

"That you'll never leave me?"

I sighed in a rather contradictory expression of contentment and sorrow, but smiled

and leaned down to wrap my arms around him. "Yes; of course I meant it. I am your

mamán, am I not? I will stay with you always, Erik. I love you, my sweet son." I

whispered directly into his ear. He let out a tiny, barely audible gasp; and I pulled

away to see his eyes wide. "You… do? You… love Erik? Me?"

"I do. I love you and am so proud of everything you do." I told him; my heart

beating quickly and swelling caringly at the same. Erik looked up at me with an

expression so near awed worship that I could instantly feel a blush burning on my

cheeks. "Really? Oh, mamán I love you too! At first I wasn't really sure because I

didn't know what you were supposed to feel and look like when you 'love'; but now I

know and I was just afraid to say it because I thought you might shout at me!" he

rambled sheepishly. A forlorn frown tugged at the small smile now residing on my

lips; but I forced it back as I slipped into the bed and pulled him into my arms.

"That's alright. But you don't ever need to be afraid of that again, okay?"

He snuggled up closer to me; trying to wrap his short, thin arms around my waist.

"Okay. Mamán?"

"Yes, ma petite?"

"I love you."

"I love you too, Erik." I chuckled softly as he tested out the new phrase.

"And mamán?" he mumbled into my chest; and I could tell by the feebleness

of his tone that he was beginning to slip away.

"Mmhm?"

"Why did you call me 'angel' in the… lullaby?" he yawned out the night's final

inquiry.

"Because you are an angel. My darling little angel who has a cherubic talent

for music." I answered him quietly— the words that came flowing out of my mouth

ones I knew I would've felt foolish saying in the past; but now not only paid no mind

to—but I felt a lump in my throat as I dictated them. I loved him, and I felt it most

evidently now; but my terror had also increased. What if I failed him? What if he got

taken away from me? What if I couldn't give him what he needed? Couldn't provide

for him just after he'd learned to depend on me? What if my past caught up with me

(or the police, for that matter!) and dragged him down with me?

"Un ange? An angel… an angel of… music." Erik sighed before falling into the

rhythmical pattern of sleep. I looked down at the sound of his whisper, and I could

feel my eyes soften at the sight of his serene, unconscious expression. All of my

worries disappeared to the back of my mind; and though I knew they'd be back,

nothing else mattered but this little boy resting in my arms.

"Among other things." I heard Quentin whisper from the corner; and I looked

up to see him gesturing towards the dollhouse. I smiled, nodding in agreement. Then

I looked down at my sleeping toddler who had ended up with a very gripping hug on

me. "I suppose I should have changed before I put him to bed, shouldn't I?" I said,

looking down at my dress—which slightly dust-stained from my trips out for water.

"It hath been noted for future reference." Quentin chuckled, tapping his head.

"That was a very nice lullaby, by the way." he continued on with a smile.

"Thank you. My Uncle Jobelie once sang it to my sister and I whilst visiting

my father." I told him with a slight grimace.

"Why the sour expression? That seems like one of your more pleasant

memories." he asked; a slight hint of caution in his tone.

"That night was the last time I ever saw him." I responded grimly.

"Oh. I'm so sorry." Quentin said; eyes shocked. I couldn't tell whether he was

apologizing for my assumed loss, or for prying into the matter. Most likely a bit of

both.

"It's alright, you didn't know; though you should've by now. It seems like you

find yourself apologizing for my misfortunes quite often!" I said lightly, trying to

make a joke out of my frequently mentioned and very much ill-fated life. Which was

a joke in itself, might I add.

He grinned and—though I thought it looked the slightest bit strained—went along

with it; obviously as eager as I to brighten the mood. "Indeed I do. Almost as often as

you call Erik 'dear' now." he jested.

"What? Isn't that the appropriate way for a mother to address her son?" I

fired back.

"Well of course; but it makes you sound so much older! Like a maid of forty

instead of your late twenties—"

"I'm only twenty-six." I cut him off, warning him amusedly with my eyes.

"And I'll have you know that I know plenty of young mothers who call their children

such formal nicknames!"

"But just how young is 'young'?" he continued, obviously fighting back a

laugh as he walked towards the washroom.

"Oh, you're terrible!" I hissed with a laugh of my own.

"You can hardly mean that if you're laughing." he winked before shutting the

door behind him. I rolled my eyes before slowly and gently adjusting Erik's sleeping

form so that he rested on the pillow and wrapped him up to his chin in blankets. As

soon as I was sure he was securely settled, I got up and went to stand outside the

bathroom door. I rapped on it, practically feeling Quentin jump at the sound. "How

did you—" he asked quietly from the other side of the door. I smirked to myself.

"He's a four-year-old boy who's as thin as a tree branch, Quentin. It was hardly an

implausible feat."

"But you didn't wake him?"

I looked back once at the tiny child; who was rest assured in the exact position I'd

left him in. "No. He's quite a sound sleeper for his age." I replied, leaning up against

the doorframe.

"Well you better knock on w—" he began as he suddenly exited the

bathroom; only stopping when he walked right into me, face mere inches from mine.

He stared at me for a moment— eyes wide with shock— and I cocked an eyebrow

with a lopsided smile. "Something wrong?"

"Oh… n—no. I was just saying you better knock on wood as to not jinx

yourself. He's still very young."

"First; I don't believe in jinxes. Second; if nothing was wrong, you wouldn't

have looked like you'd seen a ghost when you came out of that bathroom." I

responded sassily. He shook his head, a small smile on his face. "You just surprised

me, is all."

"But you knew I was there, I knocked on the door."

"Oh, just shut it. You'll wake Erik." he snorted.

"That's no way to talk to a lady!" I chastised him lightly, challenging him with

my eyes.

"Is that what you are? I hadn't noticed." he teased in retaliation, reaching out

and tugging on a strand of my still slightly-damp hair. I let my mouth fall open in

false offense. "Bastard!" I said, hitting him lightly on the arm.

"Is that any way to speak to a gentleman?" he fired back, eyes glinting in

sheer merriment. I stuck my tongue out at him in a gesture I'd often used in my

childhood, then shut the bathroom door in his face. He chortled from the other side.

"Well done. Very ladylike."

"Now you shut it." I joked in reply. His laughter faded as he walked toward

the bed, and I set to work changing out of my day-clothes. As soon as I had finished I

combed out my wavy hair and exited; walking over to the bed and blowing out the

last candle on my way. I climbed under the covers—taking special care to work

around Erik—before lying down; eyes boring into the ceiling as I waited for

exhaustion to overtake me and shut them.

"Anything interesting up there?" Quentin whispered in jest.

"Indeed! A most intriguing study of the color white." I replied in sham

fascination. We laughed mutedly together for a moment; and then I glanced over at

him, a sudden thought striking me. "It's rather satiric, isn't it? I mean; here we are,

sharing a bed, and yet we know so little about each other."

"I actually have an easy solution for that, if you feel you're up for it." he

whispered, turning to look at me. His eyes housed a challenge; but there was

nothing joking about them. That look startled me; but I slowly nodded and said,

"Alright; and what might that be?"

"Well, when I was younger; my brother and I would stay up until the wee

hours of the morning playing a game of questions. You see; the only rules of this

game are that you must take turns asking the question, and then both players have

to answer it. Sound easy enough?" he asked me.

I bit my lip. "Well, yes; but…" but then I looked over at him; this man who had

trusted everything I'd said since he'd busted me out of jail, and sighed. "And though

I'm sure I'll regret this later… let's play."

"Alright then... I'll come up with the first question as an example. Hm… oh!

What is something you wish you'd never done?" he fired right off the bat.

"Goodness; we're only one question into the game and already I'm finding

myself at a loss for an answer. My life has been made up of nothing but regrets." I

snorted.

"You can't keep telling yourself that," Quentin sighed, "when you've done so

many good things since I've met you."

"Yes but… before that…. well, let's just say I'm not an innocent girl." I told him,

eyes darting downward in shame. But they didn't stay there for long before I took a

deep breath and internally told myself to toughen up and face the past. "But, I'll

answer anyway. Well, the usual suspects are stealing, lying, cheating, conning… all

things that I grew up around; all things that my father taught me once we were out

on the streets. But…" I trailed off, thinking deeply, "those aren't the only things.

There's something that… that I still feel horrible about—even after all these years—

that have nothing to do with them. I'd… well, my parents used to fight constantly.

Once the money was gone, so was the supposed love they had for each other, and I'd

often come home surprised that they hadn't yet torn each others' throats out. It used

to become… just too much for me at times; all the screaming and yelling and beating.

So, I'd abscond from the flat and run somewhere else… anywhere else. But the thing I

regret about that is that I'd always leave my younger sister Azelma behind. I'd

always be so desperate to leave… to get out… to not have to hear it anymore… that I

would never remember to go get her; to tell her where I was going—though half the

time I didn't know myself. Now I've realized that I should never have left on her

own; I always should have always made sure she'd known when I was going to flee.

She was much more… innocent and… sensitive than I was. And I realize now that she

needed someone there. Someone to hold onto until everything passed over for the

time being. I shouldn't have left her but… I just… couldn't stay." I muttered; then

looked over at Quentin, heat rising to my cheeks as I came back from my

subconscious world. "I don't know if I'm making any sense but… to sum it all up, I

guess I just wish I could have been a better sister."

"And, one question into the game, you have also already stunned me. I

thought for sure you would dance around the intimacy of the question and just say

what I already knew; the lying, cheating, and stealing. But you opened up… so thank

you." Quentin said, smiling. I forced a smile of my own; a sudden thought popping

into my head. "Well; intimacy is what this game is about, no? And who am I to go

back to my old ways and cheat my way around that?"

But the crushing weight of the irony of that statement could have killed me right

then and there. Because I'd just realized that I was dancing around the all-

revealing nature of the question.

For I'd be damned if hurting Azelma was my only secret regret; and yet the other

one I was not at all eager or willing to bring into the light.

And that regret's name was Marius Pontmercy.

Every day of my life since I'd seen him kissing that little bourgeois I'd regretted ever

seeing him; and then even more so for allowing myself to become friendly with him.

Every day of my life since that night on l'Rue Plumet I'd regretted loving him.

Because now I couldn't fully let him go.

I cursed in my head; forcing the abominable thoughts back before forcing myself to

say, "What about you? This should be interesting; I've never before heard the

confessions of a policeman."

Quentin laughed quietly. "You may be surprised to hear this; but I'm not as perfect

as I may seem." he winked, and I rolled my eyes amusedly at him. But then his face

grew somber again, and he continued, "I've made my fair share of mistakes in the

past too. But one of my biggest regrets does not stem off a blunder in moral… but is

that I never told my parents how I really felt about becoming a servant to the law."

My eyebrows shot up. "Really?" I breathed in surprise.

"Yes! I mean, the path was not my choice; but I never spoke of my displeasure,

either. Perhaps my father would have relieved me of my duties had I said

something… but I never did. Never took the chance of finding out. So, I guess it was

partially my own fault that I never found much enjoyment in my profession." he

chuckled dryly.

I cocked my head, examining his expression. There was true shame there; this

obviously bothered him more than he cared to admit to me. So, I put on a sort of

understand half-smile and I said, "Well it's not entirely your fault. You just… didn't

want to disappoint your father. It's understandable; trust me, I've been through the

same thing. It's a difficult situation to be in; but you mustn't worry, for men mightier

than you have fallen into the trap of satisfying their parents." but then I stopped,

jestingly tapping my chin. "Alright now, my turn… ah! Has there ever been

something you've longed to be able to do—ability or material-wise—but couldn't

because of lack of money or skill?" I asked, propping myself up on an elbow as I

looked at him questioningly. He grinned at me in response; eyes glinting. "Well, the

idea of being able to sing has become more appealing to me lately, since you and

Erik are both so blessed in that area."

"Oh, don't say that. Everyone can sing. And I'm not even that good—"

"Yes you are. Again; don't be so modest." he winked.

"Anyway, continue." I urged as I blushed; trying to steer the conversation

away from any false flatteries pointed towards me.

"Well, all else aside; I guess I… wow, there's just so much out there a man

could do. I've always inwardly grumbled about being stuck patrolling the streets of

Paris; but I've never once thought about what I yearned to do if I ever got out. Well…

for one thing… traveling." he stated decisively.

"Traveling?" I asked; slightly surprised.

"Yes! Just… seeing the world. Getting out of Paris and venturing out to distant

lands. Getting to experience first-hand the cultural diversities… hear the languages…

taste the traditional foods! Does not the adventure and excitement of it all just…

beckon to you?" Quentin hissed in animated enthusiasm.

I couldn't hold back a grin of my own; his vigor was contagious. "I must admit… the

more you speak of it the more intriguing it becomes. I guess I've… never really

thought about what else was out there. I've always just been so focused on my life

and what was right there in front of me. I completely understand why it holds such

allure to you."

"Yes. That and… perhaps even publishing some of my writing." he added; a

bit quicker and more hesitant.

"Really?" I questioned; grin widening to a beam in encouragement.

"Yes. Getting admiration for that which I find such enjoyment in." he

continued, and I could practically feel the heat rising off his skin. And the reaction

was understandable; if he'd truly never shown anyone his writing before, this was

bound to have been a difficult admittance for him. And she was sure she'd feel the

very same way as they got deeper into the game; embarrassed and shameful.

"Well; I think that is a wonderful dream." I told him blithely, "I mean, just

imagine it! Traveling the world and writing about your experiences. And then

releasing your work to the people so that they may share in your encounters as if

they were right there next to you!"

"Oh, I don't know if my words could do that, but—"

"They most certainly could! Don't be so hard n yourself, Quentin; you have a

real talent. Ad that's the last I want to hear about it." I winked, waggling a finger at

him. He chuckled, but quickly found a way to turn the conversation back to me.

"Alright, well what about you?" he asked, catching my eye.

"Well, like you said; there are just so many things out there! One aspiration I

remember from when I was a little girl was the desire to learn to play the piano. I'd

always hear of those grand, elegant ladies sitting down in their parlors and so

gracefully playing the most wonderfully sweet music; and dreamed of growing up to

be like them. And for some reason unbeknownst to me, my young mind thought that

learning to play could get me there. But I came to understand that that dream was

senseless and childish; not to mention nearly implausible. That's why when I look at

Erik—see all he's accomplished in just a few weeks—I swell with such pride…

almost as if he were realizing this old wish for me. But now…" I trailed off in thought,

"Now, with all that's happened recently… and all that I've been through in the past…

I've realized how much I long to be able to just… settle down. To stop running for

once. All my life I've run, Quentin; as a child from the debt collectors, as a teenager

from my father's blows and punishments, and now from the law. And though now

I've got a wonderful new friend and sweet little son; I've always secretly dreamed of

rooting myself somewhere—a quiet little piece of land with a house of my own;

perhaps where Erik had the space to run and climb and play for as long as he desires.

I always imagine myself sitting out on a clean, white porch on a warm summer

night… just closing my eyes and feeling the bliss of stability and normality like

everybody else does." I sighed, but then abruptly stopped and snapped my gaze over

to look at Quentin; whose green eyes bored into mine. "Forgive me; just listen to me,

rambling on!" I flushed.

"Oh no! I mean, no you're… uh… doing great, actually. Answering just how

you're meant to answer in this game. You don't need to… stop."

"I'm not boring you?"

"N—not at all."

"Oh. Well I'm glad I'm doing well for a first timer, then." I giggled. He chuckled

in reply, then urged me on again. "Alright. Well, as I was saying… the idea has always

just been… so appealing to me! Even though deep down I know that I can never truly

have it because of my rather… illicit lifestyle; it's always just been a nice wish… a

pleasant thought in dark times. I'll just retreat to that little house I've invented in my

mind and escape… even if for but a moment." I finished with a small, half-hearted

smile. I'd forgotten how much it pained me to think of that peaceful life I so desired

but could never really have. Especially now, since it would also fulfill my hope for a

better life for Erik. But, as always, the notion of it all was solacing as well as

lamentable.

It was silent for a few moments after I'd concluded as Quentin pondered my words. I

soon grew a bit restless in the anticipation of what he would say; but was surprised

to hear only, "That is nice. 'Right; my question?"

I was nervous for a moment as I thought over his response; did he think me foolish?

A silly girl with impossible fantasies flying about in her mind? But I was swiftly able

to banish these thoughts from my head with contradictions of, 'It's better that he

said nothing. Think of the discomfiture should you have gone any deeper into such an

intimate dream.'

"What is one of your deepest fears?" Quentin asked with a devilish grin,

cutting my internal debate short. I laughed shortly. "How did I know that it would

come to this at some point in time?" I teased. He shrugged—playing along—but his

eyes probed mine as if to say, 'Your turn.' So, I took a deep breath and began with,

"Well, after the life I've led; there's not much that fazes me. But the few that I had

have recently undergone a large transfiguration in order to revolve around a certain

baby boy. And the most prominent of these is that Erik will never… never find his

place in the world because of his deformities. That… I'll fail him as a mother; forcing

him to life his life in solitude because of the one thing he can't change." I could feel

the tears welling up in my eyes before I surely realized how much these words

affected me. This had truly been my worst nightmare since I'd taken the child in; and

images of his experiencing these horrors had long since only begun to plague my

mind. Failing him—the first thing I'd come to care for in years—was truly the most

horrid thing I could currently imagine.

I took in a shuddering breath; reaching down and wrapping my arms around Erik's

tiny, sleeping form in an attempt to calm myself. "That thought terrifies me. Because

I do love him… and I just wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing that because I

hadn't done enough, that was how he had to live." I choked.

"Éponine? Look at me. Hush now, don't cry. It makes perfect sense; I'm sure

that's every mothers' worst nightmare. But listen to me; you won't fail him. You're

intelligent enough to figure out what's best for him, and caring enough to find the

determination and drive to get those things for him. Not to mention he absolutely

adores you." Quentin countered in assurance; sage-like eyes soft.

"I know… and that's even more petrifying." I whispered.

This hushed statement must've acted as a warning flag for how close to the edge I

was; because Quentin quickly decided that any more insurances would do no good

and just changed the subject. "Well, what about something you feared in the past?"

I snorted in half resentment, half embarrassment at the first thought to come to

mind as he said this. "You're going to think I'm horrible and vain." I protested as I

dried my eyes.

"No I won't. Just tell me." he dismissed with a smile.

"Well… one of my worst fears before Erik came along was that… that I'd

never be loved. Truly, deeply loved. You see, I used to think I was loved; back when

my family was rich and we had no troubles. But then, as soon as our fortune ran out;

my parents would fight, my father would hit me… and then we were out on the

streets. That was quite the wake-up call; and when this fear first came to surface.

Horrible things were done by my father's hand in that time… people were

murdered—murdered, Quentin!—robbed, and blackmailed into submission. And I'd

often sit on the corner, looking up at the nighttime sky and think, 'Who could ever

love a girl like this? A girl who's as poor as the dirt that covers her from head to toe

whose father would have no second thoughts about killing him off should he get too

nosy. Who would look past this rough surface to see a girl who just… wants to be cared

for?' That's all I really wanted back then. And now that I've found a better life, I don't

think about it as much; but every once in a while it… drifts through my train of

thought."

More silence as I watched Quentin's expression—slightly… wide-eyed at the

moment—looking for some sign of disgust with my romantic, narcissistic dread. But

there was none. Only a slight tenderness, pity, and another strange expression I

couldn't put my finger on.

Finally, he intook a deep breath and said, "You shouldn't… shouldn't worry about

that, Éponine." he paused, averting his eyes. "You're an exceptional young woman."

I opened my mouth to make a satiric comment; but found I couldn't find the

pettiness or words to form it. That was perhaps one of the kindest ways anyone had

ever described me; in this life and the last.

"You really think so?" I whispered.

"I know so." Another pause. "You're… intelligent, kind, clever, full of life,

and… dare I say it, very pretty." he finished; words jumbling together slightly as they

quieted to a half mumble.

"Really?" I asked in near-disbelief. No one had ever given me such a

thoughtful compliment; let alone call me pretty.

"Yes." he breathed, sneaking a glance up at me. His eyes were full of bashful

discomfiture; but were also sincere and warm. Now it was my turn to flick my eyes

downcast. "No one's ever told me such before. Thank you, Quentin. That means

much to me." I told him quietly.

"You're welcome, Éponine." he replied in the same manner. A slience settled

over us once more; but before it could take firm root, I broke it saying, "I'm actually

quite tired now. Would you mind if we turned in for the night?"

"Not at all. Sweet dreams, Éponine." he was quick to respond; shooting me a

small smile.

"Same to you. And… thank you. For everything." I whispered as I rolled over

and shut my eyes.

"My pleasure." I heard him murmur in reply.

It didn't take me long at all to fall fast asleep; for I truly was exhausted. But all I

could think of as I slipped into unconsciousness was Quentin's generous words; and

how the things I'd longed for someone to tell me had had finally been said—and yet

about 26 years late.

~o~*0*~o~

"Mamán!" a tiny, cherubic voice called out. I opened my eyes to see Erik waving

excitedly to me, sitting in the middle of one of the grandest rooms I'd ever seen. I

blinked rapidly in surprise; glancing frantically around in bemusement. Where were

we? When would the true proprietors show up to kick us out?

"Yes, love?" I finally managed, focusing back on Erik. I nearly rubbed my eyes as

my gaze fell upon him; sure that I was dreaming. The tiny child sitting across the room

from me was clean as a whistle, no longer thin in dangerous malnourishment, and

positively glowing with health. It took me several moments to realize that this well-

cared-for boy was my adopted son; but it certainly helped that his twisted deformities

were absolutely unmistakable.

"I made a new song! D'you wanna hear it?" Erik bubbled excitedly, pointing to

the object he was sitting down at; a grand, glossy piano. I had to suppress a gasp as I

saw it; pianos were so expensive! And delicate! Oh God, and we couldn't possibly be the

owners—

"Erik dear? Let's not play with the piano right now." I said in an attempt to stop

him. He glanced back at me, visibly confused. "Why not?" he asked.

"We wouldn't want to break what isn't ours." I replied simply.

"Isn't ours? But Mamán; I thought this was ours! We've had it for a lot of weeks!"

I rested my head on my hand for a moment, trying to process what had just been said.

If we did own the piano, then this was our house…

"Forgive me, Erik; sometimes I forgot these things. Of course we own it; go

ahead and let me hear your song." I finally said, plastering on a smile. In truth; I was

curious. If we'd had the piano for several weeks, his skill level should be…

"Okay! Here I go!"

Great. And it was; the melody which flowed from his little, underdeveloped fingers

was as breathtaking as anything I'd ever heard. I sat in awe for several minutes as he

played; then clapped enthusiastically once he had finished. He turned back around to

face me; a beam lighting up his misshapen face. "You liked it, Mamán?" he asked me.

"Of course! Wonderful, as always." I told him with a smile.

"Oh thank you! Will you come sit with me?" he inquired eagerly. I chuckled. "Of

course, dearest."

As I stood up from the chair I'd been perched in; I was surprised to stumble slightly as I

took that first step. I looked down and saw a fine, elegant, expensive-looking gown

adorning me; and quickly realized that I'd tripped over the fashionable pair of heeled

shoes on my feet. This time, I could not suppress my gasp; and it escaped from my

mouth in my astonishment, causing Erik to look at me strangely. But I didn't see his

befuddled expression; all I could focus on was the fact that I was dressed in the very

clothing I'd never been able to afford but always secretly wished for. What the hell

was going on?

"Mamán?" Erik asked; nervousness creeping into his tone. His dictations

brought me back, and I quickly composed myself to look up at him. "Coming, coming!" I

practically sang; cheerfully making my way over to his side. I sat down at the piano

bench, smiling warmly, "So, how did you come to make up that glorious little tune of

yours?"

That dissipated any uncertainties the little boy had left; and seconds later he was

rambling on about the birds and the spring and all the things that had made him think

of his song. Then he began to get more technical; telling me of the chords and tempo

and other bits to the melody—speaking as if he'd been taking lessons for years. I had to

fight to keep my mouth from dropping open; where had he learned all this? The only

thing he'd known how to do that I knew of was play by ear; and we'd never be able to

afford lessons.

'Unless…' It suddenly dawned on me, 'unless we are suddenly ande

miraculously rich enough to do so.'

It all made perfect sense now! The house, the dress, Erik's newfound knowledge of

musical phrases and structures…

But the question was now, 'How?'

"Hello? I'm home!" a voice suddenly rang out; piercing though the silence. A

very exuberant and familiar voice, might I add. 'Ah; so Quentin too is going to make a

cameo in this dream.' I laughed internally, 'Good thing, too; maybe he can explain

how we acquired all of this!"

"Papa!" Erik squealed, scrambling off the piano bench to the source of Quentin's

call.

Papa.

Papa…

I could feel my eyes widen as I realized what that one, simple word meant; and my left

hand was flying up to my line of vision before I could fully process what was happening.

And sure enough; there was a large, glittering diamond ring wrapped around my ring

finger.

In this world… where we were all healthy and happy and well-off… I was married to

Quentin.

They entered the room once more a second later; Erik chattering away about his song

and the games he'd played that day whilst sitting comfortably in Quentin's arms. And

Quentin patiently smiled and nodded and listened prudently before kissing Erik's

forehead after he'd finished his childishly airy explanation. "That's wonderful, son!

Papa is so proud of you!" and turning to me.

I'd been watching their sweet, nonchalant encounter mouth agape; hardly able to get

over my shock to close it. Married… married!

"Something wrong, dear?" I suddenly perceived Quentin asking playfully. I

looked up at him— so sharply dressed in a stylish, sleek suit—and shook my head; half

as a response and half to attempt to clear away my perplexity.

"Glad to hear it." he laughed, putting Erik down and walking towards me. Erik

rushed back over to the piano and began playing again; so it was only Quentin and I

engaging in conversation.

"How was your day?" I blathered before I could stop myself. For silence was

leaving me alone in my near-frightened incredulity; and this was all I could think of to

otherwise occupy myself. He smiled down at me; stunningly vehement adoration

lighting up his eyes. "Very good…" he began, and then before I could comprehend what

he was doing; he had leaned down and softly pressed his lips to mine. I grew rigid—

completely unprepared for this sudden display of affection—and just sat there

awkwardly with my heart hammering luridly in my chest as he kissed me slowly.

Finally, after what seemed like decades, he pulled away; a small, blissful smile playing

on his lips. "But much better now." he murmured with a loving grin.

"Oh…" was all I could muster; trying to calm my racing heart and figure in my

mind what had just happened. He instantly noticed my hazy, vacant expression; and

his brow furrowed in worry. "Are you alright, ma cherie?" he asked concernedly.

"I just… I don't know if I… I think I need to lie down." I murmured, covering my

eyes with a hand. And after I had, I felt two strong arms wrap around my waist; and

opened my eyes again to see Quentin pulling me to him, his thumb tilting my chin up to

look at him. "Alright. You do look rather pale. Why don't you go up to our room for

some peace and quiet? I'll take care of Erik for the rest of the afternoon."

'Our room…'

"Alright. Th—thank you." I stammered, turning towards the stairs.

I could feel two pairs of eyes burning into the back of my neck as I exited the room, but

I didn't stop to assure them of my well-being. Partially because I wasn't so sure I'd be

telling the truth. I finally got to the stairs and took a single step onto them… only to fall

right through into some sort of black pit. It happened too fast for me to scream; in fact,

I hardly knew that I'd just fallen until I hit the ground. I looked around in bafflement;

wondering how much shock a person could experience before just dropping dead from

stress. And that's when I heard a quiet, hissed utterance of my name.

"Éponine…"

And the voice was as recognizable as if it were my own. 'Oh God no. No, no, no, no, no!'

"Éponine…"

"M—M—Marius?" I squeaked, scouring the darkness around me for a sign of

him. And then there he was; stepping out of the shadows towards me. And the rage

etched into his face was evident. "How could you, Éponine?" he asked, looking down at

my place on the ground coldly. I simply stared up at his strikingly handsome face; my

heart nearly bursting as all the things I'd once felt for him came flooding back. "Wh—

what?" I choked; and I could physically feel my heart shattering as his eyes flashed in

anger as they glowered down at me like searing flames.

"Do not play games with me, Éponine! You know exactly what you did! You

know exactly how you betrayed me!"

"Oh God, Marius; please! I do not know what you speak of!" I cried out

desperately; trying to make him see how he was breaking my heart. He clenched his

teeth, leaning down and grabbing my wrist all in one motion. Grabbing my wrist and…

pointing to the wedding band.

"Oh no… no! My sweet Marius; this is not what it seems!" I begged him to listen;

tears beginning their descent down my face.

"Do not call me such names. I think it's exactly what it seems. You betrayed

me, Éponine." he growled, dropping my wrist and turning half away from me.

"No…" I whispered, reaching after him.

"Yes. Betrayed me, my trust, and my love." he hissed as he began walking away.

"No!" I screamed, scrambling to my feet to rush after him with intentions to beg

his forgiveness. But in just seconds he was gone from view; leaving me in a sobbing

heap as the words of my past flame resonated in my ears…

"You betrayed me, Éponine. Betrayed me, my trust, and my love…"

"Marius, no!" I yelled; bolting up in bed. I was panting like a dog and my hair

stuck to my cheeks in wet clumps from my tears; but I soon had bigger things to

worry about than calming myself down. When I had so abruptly sat up, I had

propelled Erik off of my body and sent him in a tumbling heap to the middle of the

bed. He woke with a gasp midair; and when he landed there were only a few

moments of his bewildered silence before the terrified sobbing began. I snatched

him into my arms as soon as he started, rubbing his back and hugging him close to

me. "Shh… it's alright, Erik. You're alright." I whispered soothingly to him. His little

hands found my nightgown, and took hold of it as if hanging on for dear life. "M—

M—Mamán!" he blubbered.

"You're alright… My dear, sweet Erik." I rocked us back and forth. But he

continued sobbing luridly; as if unsure of how else to express his distress and shock.

And, with just my luck, he woke Quentin as well. "Wh… What's happened? What's

going on?" he exclaimed, sitting up.

"Nothing. He must have had a nightmare. You can go back to sleep." I

muttered as I tried to assure the little boy; the mere sound of his voice causing a

great heat to rise to my cheeks.

"Ah… I told you that you should've knocked on wood." he whispered in reply;

and impish grin springing to life. I grimaced at him. "Not helpful." I hissed.

"Well then what would you have me do?" he asked, growing serious again.

"Nothing; go back to bed."

"Are you sure you don't need—"

"Yes, I'm fine. And we've got a busy day tomorrow, so good night!" I cut him

off slightly; trying to make my tone sound semi-cheerful so that I did not end up

snapping. He didn't look entirely convinced with my charade, but he laid back down

without another word.

I continued calming Erik down until his cries reduced to mere sniffs; and by that

time I was relieved to hear that Quentin's breathing had slowed to the steady and

even pace of a sleeping being once more. "Ready to go back to bed, little one?" I

quietly inquired.

"Mmhm. But Mamán… why did you tell Quentin that? I didn't… I didn't have

nightmare." he mumbled sleepily. I felt his eyelids flutter shut as soon as he'd

finished saying this, so I found it safe to let my expression return to its post-incubus

state and whisper, "I know… but I did."

Author's Note: Hey guys! I'm sorry this one took so long; but it was a long, arduous, annoying process. Not even my usual laziness! It just took forever! I wrote out an outline first, then decided to put myself in Eppie's position to get into character by staying up late one night and recording a conversation with myself of how I wanted the question game to go. Crazy? Perhaps. But it helped this author out.

Then I had to keep referring back to the tape recorder, typing it into the computer, and then I ended up changing the outline… Gahh! It was just a mess. I'm rather happy with how it turned out, though.

Ponine/Quentin fluff! or… *ahem* weird dream, right? Where did that come from? *grins evilly*

For those of you who stick with me despite my inactivity, thank you so much! R&R if you want; I'm not even going to ask for them after all the hell I put you through waiting for these. But I love hearing opinions! ~DonJuana