Three long years had gone by, and no one counted them like the father of a son he barely knew. Eric stood by at the train station, as he waited for his son to return from war. He had received a telegram begging him not to say anything to his mother, or the others. But he had written because he needed help getting home. It sounded strange to Eric because he knew Symon was more than capable of traveling on his own, but he did as told. It worked out for the best, since the others had taken a trip to the funeral of the Vicompte de'Chagny, Raoul, whom died of what was presumed to be heart failure. Eric guessed a broken heart, but then again he would be dead too now if it hadn't been for Gustave and the Gregorski family.
The Le'Clair'e family, really.
Eric would have gone to the funeral today, but life seemed more important than death, and though his son was hurt by Eric's decision to be absent from the service, he had made up an idea for why he understood what his father was doing.
Yet here he was waiting on a train.
The train rolled in some hour after he had taken a bench seat watching people come and go, others sitting about like he was waiting. No one saw Eric, which was all the better. The wheels screeched against the rails as the train came to a halt, and the doors opened to the military men coming off the train.
For a brief moment, Eric couldn't believe that the right train had come. Here at the very end of the first 'world' war, the soldiers on this train were the wounded. Not the heroes. But the wounded came out of the cars and into the arms of loving families.
Symon couldn't have mean this train, could he?
Eric stood looking at the faces, some met his gaze with hope, but when it was clear he was not the one they were looking for, they moved on. He waited, and as the last of the passengers disembarked, he finally knew he saw his son.
He was indeed wounded by war. Eric moved forward with his walking stick lightly used as he moved to embrace his son yet stopped himself at the last minute. Symon's left arm was broken, and a brace was on his right leg. That was the least of his concerns, and Eric knew why Symon had written Eric only.
Symon's face was badly injured.
"Symon," Eric smiled at his son, "Welcome home,"
Symon wrapped his good arm, about his father, "Thanks for coming," he glanced about as if wondering if the rest of his family had come.
For a minute an awkward silence passed between them, finally Symon spoke up, "I guess you can understand why I asked you to come alone then?"
"I couldn't let them all see me here at the station like this," he gestured to the left side of his face, burnt by some great heat and cut multiple times, "There was an explosion, and I pushed the commanding officer out of the way when the blast came. I wasn't awarded for the effort since apparently, the officer's head got cut." He paused looking about awkwardly, "I guess I don't have that much to complain about. Some of these boys are younger than I and are in worse condition,"
"But they aren't you Symon," Eric countered as a staff member of the train handed Symon his duffle bag.
"Thank you sir,"
"No problem, laddie,"
The two of them left, returning to the apartment that Michelle had inherited from her previous husband. Symon looked about, noticing that things had changed, and that he apparently shared a room with Gustave.
"I hope you don't mind; we were kicked out of the one across the street for no real reason, beyond the landlord wanted to shelter his family from being drafted."
"Cowards," Symon muttered more to himself, though Eric heard it, but quickly changed the topic, "Where is everyone?"
"Away," Eric answered in brief making certain that Gustave hadn't decided to make use of Symon's dresser, his son remained silent waiting for an explanation, but received none until Eric finished picking over the new dresser, "They went to attend the Vicompte's funeral."
"I am sorry if you wanted to go,"
For a moment, Eric almost did regret it but swallowed down the sympathy, knowing that Raoul had Christine now. "It doesn't matter. It would bring up bitter feelings I would rather not think on,"
Symon helped him put away his things, hesitating when he couldn't reach further due to his injuries.
"Don't worry, Symon. These things happen, and I do not mind."
"When will they return?"
"Sometime tonight," Eric answered, knowing that many of the people attending would recognize Gustave and wish to speak to him. Gustave was fortunate and was the only living 'heir' to Raoul's things.
"How are they?" he asked.
"They are well, and will be happier when they see that you are home,"
They sat in silence for a minute.
"Will they dislike me for how I have returned? I mean,"
"I know what you mean," Eric cut him off before Symon could stumble over his words, "They will love you just the same as they did the day you left. There will be some shock since you didn't really give them any warning, but they will understand,"
"But I look like a disfigured grotesque,"
Eric moved, kneeling now before his son, "Symon, I promise you that they will think no less of you just because you've returned different from what you looked like before." Eric's own face hadn't improved with age, but with age, he could at least let his scars look more like age lines.
Symon nodded, and they moved to the front room, and sat on the plush couch.
"Can I ask you something?"
"You can ask me anything,"
Symon looked about the room, "Have you married my mother yet?"
Eric shook his head, "I thought it would be best to wait to propose such a notion to your mother when you returned."
For a moment, Symon remained silent, as if trying to understand why Eric had decided on this. "I am glad, that you waited. It would have been a shame to miss seeing my mother look glorious on her wedding day to you,"
Michelle entered her apartment followed closely by Rachell and Gustave who leaned against his sister with some pain from this funeral. So many people wished Gustave the best, and many saw Rachell as his significant other instead of his step sister. Michelle wasn't certain whether or not she had thought of it as a compliment or not. The apartment was lit up, and the evening meal had clearly been prepared by Eric. The smell was far diviner than anything Michelle could create though she wasn't a lousy cook. There were five chairs at the table, candles were lit, and for a moment, Michelle missed the most important thing about it.
The fifth seat was occupied.
"Symon," Her hand caught the nearest wall for support, "When did you come back?"
"A few hours ago, mother," as he rose, she saw each wound one by one as he moved, her eyes catching the broken arm last.
"Symon!" Gustave and Rachell said his name in simultaneous cheer. He winced at the duel hug from his siblings, but didn't say anything on the account only too happy to care.
Michelle looked to the kitchen entry as Eric leaned against the doorway to watch the moment. He looked content and somewhat satisfied with himself, though, she could see a worried edge in his brow.
He looked away from the children long enough to look at Michelle and smile warmly. He turned his gaze back for a moment, then glancing at the clock, turned away back into the kitchen. Gustave and Rachell pulled away from Symon and now Michelle took the time to embrace her son, and placing one hand on his good cheek, kissed his scarred side, catching him off guard only for a moment.
"Welcome home my dear,"
"So it's all over now?" Gustave asked Symon. Michelle stepped aside and sat, in a chair watching them. Symon looked so much like his father, yet now, it was as if she was looking at a carbon copy of him, though admittedly, Symon's hair was thicker than Eric's had been at that age.
"For now—but there is already talk of another in the future. I will of course be too old to participate, as will you,"
They laughed, and chattered as they had Symon tell them a couple light stories of life in the military. For Michelle, who had read these tales in his letters already rose and stepped into the kitchen, where Eric was placing the final touches on the dishes already plated up.
"As always a glorious work of art,"
"And as always, my dear, you are too kind," he paused in his work to look upon Michelle with a warm grin.
"Thank you for picking Symon up today,"
He paused, his grin faltering briefly, "You knew?"
"Not exactly, but the evidence today makes it clear that you had planned this."
"You know Raoul, would have disapproved of me being there,"
"I know," she agreed, and two of the completed dishes in her hands, "But I still thank you for this,"
He tilted his head down and kissed her lips gently, "You're welcome,"
She turned and went out into the dining room where the young adults still spoke in eagerness.
"Wonderful," Gustave moved quickly sitting to Symon's right and Rachell to his left.
She set the plates down to her sons, and returned to the kitchen to pick up another pair, setting them out to her daughter and herself as Eric entered with his own plate. He helped her into his seat, and took his own beside Gustave whom couldn't stop looking at Symon with joy.
It was clear no one was looking at Symon because of his scars. She hoped he could see that as clear as she did.