~Coming Home~



**Prologue**



Satine stared listlessly out the carriage window, as the French countryside lumbered by. She sighed deeply, and looked at her gloved hands, letting her fingers turn the worn paper over and over. It would be difficult, returning to Montmartre after all this time. But Harold's letter had been written with the utmost urgency. As much as Satine hated the thought of returning to a past that she had spent the past two years trying to forget...she knew...it would be her final chance to properly say goodbye. Marie was like a mother to her, and word that her health was quickly fading broke Satine's heart. She had insisted to The Duke that she travel alone-- the last thing she wanted was to upset Marie. And after all that had happened two years ago...

"No!" Satine scolded herself aloud, refusing to let her mind wander back to a time...to a place...and to a love long lost.

**

It was the smell that awoke her. The carriage had begun it's ascent up into Montmartre, and the stench of absinthe and broken dreams filled the air like a disease. Satine fought to hold down the nostalgic lump that had formed in her throat. She watched with sad eyes, as the carriage passed women of the night, absinthe-filled artists, and other creatures of the underworld. She suddenly felt as though she had been gone for much longer than two years. It felt as though it had been a lifetime ago that she had been the most famous face in town...that she had once roamed the halls of the Moulin Rouge, that she had sung like a bird atop a gawdy elephant...

That she had been loved...truly loved, and had loved in return.

The carriage pulled to an abrupt stop in front of the faded red doors of the building she had once called home. Taking a deep, shaky breath, Satine climbed out of the carriage, and straightened her dress, before pulling on the large, creaky door, and walking into the past.



***~***

Harold paced the empty stage nervously, his hand unconsciously twisting his greying moustache. He had received word that Satine was arriving today, but it was unclear as to whether or not the Duke would be accompanying her. If he was with her, it would complicate matters, that much was certain. But Harold was at his wit's end, and was desperate to try anything.

Marie was against the idea. She did not like it when Harold deceived people, no matter what the reason. But she could see that Harold was desperate...and she was as well. They could not go on like this...none of them could. Marie watched Harold for a moment, from the wings of the stage, before making her presence known.

"Harold, you'll wear a hole straight through the floorboards!"

"Marie, you mustn't be here! What if Satine walks in! She cannot see you! You are supposed to be near death!"

"It is your lie, Harold, I will have no part of it!"

"Marie--"

Suddenly, the door to the theatre creaked open, and flooded the darkened room with light. In the doorway, stood a lone figure, a tall, thin, silhouette, masked by backlight.

*

Satine walked slowly into the theatre, and the memories of her last night in Montmartre overwhelmed her. The smells, the sounds, the...

"Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with love!"

The words echoed in Satine's ears, and were as fresh as if they had been spoken only a moment ago. Tears stung Satine's eyes, and she froze in place, her feet refusing to take her any closer to her destination. She closed her eyes, and willed herself to let go of the words that had haunted her for two torturous years.

"Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with love."

But they were still there, they hung inside the theatre, taunting Satine's heart and soul. For try as she may, deny it as much as she could, Christian's dying words would never let her go.