Okay you guys ought to know that up until now I've had so much of the story pre-planned that it's been no fun to write, which is why updates were getting slower and slower. That being said this is the last chapter in that pre-planned part. Since it took me so long to get out, you get a really long chapter. I tried to break it up but there was no good point around the middle to do so. In other words you guys get a 13 page chapter instead of the usual 5-7 page chapter. Whoops.


It would be best, I had decided, to tell him before we arrived what my half-baked idea was. If nothing else it would kill off those stupid butterflies that refused to leave me alone. Of course, I still had no idea how to tell him aside from the obvious "use words" thing. I suppose I might as well just go for it.

"Erik? How are you, umm, how are you planning to support yourself here? I mean, you can't live in my father's attic all the time. Not that I mind, it's just-"

"I can't stay where I am forever. Yes, I'm well aware of this Elizabeth. The problem is that I don't understand how one gets money in this world. Your father brings home a piece of paper and then later it's gone and there's an envelope of money instead. What is that piece of paper and where is the money coming from?"

"It's a paycheck, you had checks back then. You get a paycheck from your job and then you take it to the bank and either deposit it into your account or, like dumbass-I mean, my father, you cash it and don't keep track of it."

He made a noncommittal sound and the conversation lulled a bit. Yeah, getting money wasn't nearly as easy here as it was there Erik. Well, I mean, he could get it the same way it would just be more difficult to get away with. That being said, maybe since he was already trying to find a way to earn some cash he'd be more open to my idea. Of course there was always the chance that he wouldn't react well to it.

"You know, I actually had an idea about how you could support yourself. I just, ah, don't know how you'll react to it."

"Well?"

"I was thinking...in every version of the story you're a really really good singer. Does that happen to be true?"

I didn't even have to look at him to know he had a smug grin on his face.

"I've been told that several times, yes. However I fail to see where you're going with this. You said that there aren't really theater productions here like there were there."

"True, but haven't you noticed the radio? Those people who sing on there, or attempt to sing in some cases, actually make a living doing that. It's a fact that most singers don't have any real training with their voice, but you do. I've never heard you sing but I'm going to hazard a guess that you're bloody brilliant by today's standards. And if you became a singer, you could do it all yourself which very few current artists can claim. If the rest of what I've read holds true, you're a talented songwriter as well and I already know that you're a brilliant musician."

"Hmm."

Very useful response, Erik. After that brilliant bit of the English language as given by our very own Shakespeare the conversation died off. If I were being completely honest I would say that I was rather thankful that it did. Had he asked how exactly I thought he should go about this endeavor all I would have had to offer him was a blank stare.

I wasn't worried about if he would make it as a modern musician, even without hearing him sing I had a good deal of faith in him. What I was worried about was how he'd go about it. He really only had two options, try to get signed on his own or go on something like Idol to try and win a record deal. It goes without saying that I don't have what he'd need to record on his own nor did I have any way of getting it. As far as something like Idol goes, lord only knows how he'd handle being on put on display like that.

Either way, though, he would end up out of his comfort zone by about a mile. I couldn't shield him from being thrown to the dogs and being judged by everyone for everything. There was absolutely no way I could ever protect him from that, no matter how much I wanted to.

-E-

To say that I didn't worry when Erik didn't say anything more on the drive back to my grandparents' house would be a lie. I worried, a lot actually. But I put it out of my mind in favor of more pressing things to worry about. Like how my family as going to react to him, for example. I hadn't exactly told anyone that I was bringing someone to dinner with me so they couldn't even prepare themselves. My biggest worry (or should I say fear?) was how my father would react to and treat him. He wasn't known for being open to...well...anything, really.

Uncle Jack opened the always-locked front door for us and tossed a hello over his shoulder, not really paying attention to the fact that I wasn't alone. Now, I love my Uncle Jack very much and he's a really nice guy but he can be so damn oblivious sometimes. He'd been like that for as long as I'd known him but it wasn't anything I ever paid attention to until I was older. For years he was just my new Uncle Jack and a fun playmate, that's just how I saw it.

With a roll of my eyes I shuffled Erik into a small room just off the living room to throw our coats and shoes. My grandparents' house wasn't small but it wasn't big either, it was somewhere in between. I had a good deal of memories in this house but a lot of them were hazy, like I was looking at them through a dirty window. Truthfully that was true for a good deal of my memories of my childhood; for being so young the amount I could remember about being a kid was pathetically small.

"Alright, Erik, I need you to do me a favor. Remember to watch what you say and try to avoid anything you think may be questionable. But try to be nice, don't throw up the old facade. Be yourself as much as you can."

"And what is my prize for being a good boy, then, hmm?"

I froze, shoes half off. Was...was he flirting with me? Judging by the smirk on his face as he leaned past me to add his coat to the pile in an old chair, yes he was. It threw me entirely off. How did one handle a flirting Phantom? I...uh...

"W-Well, that, ah, that depends on what you want as a prize." I said, trying very hard to play along with him.

"I would like a kiss on the cheek." He whispered in my ear.

Oh. My shoe slipped from my hand to drop with a dull thunk on the floor. Oh my. This wasn't just some off the wall request for him, it was one he'd made before when he was a child and it had been cruelly denied. It was painfully obvious that he was afraid of it being denied again. As if I could ever do something so cruel to anyone; it wasn't something I was capable of let alone even want to do to someone. I hazarded a glance out the door before turning to face him.

"Erik, chere, I thought you knew that you didn't have to ask for something like that." I said, pressing a quick kiss to his unmasked cheek. "For the time being, though, as long as my family is around you had better not take one. Any other time you can have one anytime you like."

"Is the reason I may not when your family's around because you're ashamed of me?"

"No, never! You stupid man. Think about it from their perspective. Here's a guy with me whom I've never mentioned before and, oh good god, now they're kissing."

He looked like he was on the verge of saying something else but we had already been in here for too long. We really needed to join everyone else before Uncle Jack realized I still hadn't showed up when he let me in nearly ten minutes ago. I emerged from the room, grateful that the living room was empty and there wasn't a chance we'd been overheard.

My grandmother was busy bustling around the kitchen, making it look like she was working so hard when really she had a good fifteen minutes before she even had to do anything. Nearly everyone was standing in the tiny room with her, mostly because it was the warmest room in the house and everywhere else was freezing.

My two youngest cousins, Matthew and Dawn, were watching Spongebob behind me with their older brother Timothy sat at the table playing some video game on his little hand-held game system. Aunt Anne and Uncle Jack were talking over by the bathroom with my father while my PaPaw could be heard messing with things in the fridge on the back porch. Typical family gathering on the whole.

"Hi Grandma, anything I can do to help?"

"Oh, hello Elizabeth. I think I'm okay right now, but thanks."

I knew her answer before I even offered but, maybe, if I was nice she wouldn't freak out so much when I told her I had a guest. Oh, who am I kidding she's going to freak anyway. And I would have offered to help either way.

"Um, Grandma? Ibroughtsomeonewithmehe'sintheotherroom." Just get it out in a rush, that'll totally make it better. Because she doesn't get annoyed when I do that or anything.

The entire room got quiet as they all turned to stare at me in varying degrees of horror. My grandma didn't say anything for what seemed like hours and with each passing second I shrank farther and farther into myself. Oh man this was going to be worse than I thought.

"And why didn't you tell me earlier this week?" She asked, fixing me with the famous you-fucked-up-big-time glare.

"Last minute plans." I squeaked. "Grandma, don't get mad! He just moved here and didn't have anywhere to go for the holidays. I was trying to be nice."

She pursed her lips and I knew that, though she may not say anything else tonight, I was going to get it big time in the future. As terrible as this is going to sound, I wanted to make sure Erik stayed near me all night because as long as he was around she wouldn't blow up on me. She wanted our family to appear perfect far too much for her to do something like that.

I backed out of the room slowly as my grandmother went back to fussing over the stove and retreated to the living room where Erik was still standing. He was, understandably, nervous about this entire situation. What he needed was a good dose of "just jump in and hope for the best" which was, at the moment, what I was currently running on.

He gave me a half-smile but it was obviously a forced one. I knew better than to try and pretend that he hadn't heard that entire conversation. Unfortunately he'd hear anything said the entire night, what with everything being in the TV room and kitchen, which were attached to each other. I could only hope that no one said anything too terrible about his, er, situation.

With what I hoped was a reassuring smile, I laced my fingers in with his and nodded my head back towards where I'd come from. Might as well introduce him now and get that over with. I doubted it would do anything to help ease the tension in the house but a person could be optimistic. I wasn't that person, I was just stating that it was possible.

"Guys?" I called, attempting to get everyone in the kitchen's attention. "This is Erik. Erik, this is everyone."

I had to forcibly yank him into the kitchen doorway beside me so that they could even see who I was talking about. Yes, I realize he hated being around people in general but holy crap. Work with me here, would you? Thankfully no one said anything I would have to kill them over, although in the case of my father it was only because I shot him a dark look. I knew how intolerant of anyone who wasn't just like him he could be.

In fact, no one said anything; not even so much as a hello. We stood there for a minute or two before I awkwardly backed out and joined my youngest cousins in the other room around the TV. Erik was right on my heels, not wanting to be in a room of complete strangers when someone he was comfortable with was in the next room.

"Liz! Liz! Liz!" Little Matt shouted when he noticed my presence. "Liz, you here!"

A bright smile found its way onto my face as the five year old jumped up and rushed the four feet to me. He could be an absolute heathen at times (and by that I meant most of the time) but I loved the kid.

"Hullo, Matt." I said, helping him climb up on my lap. "This a good episode of Spongebob?"

"Uh-huh."

He quickly settled back against me and went back to watching his show. It reminded me of a time, when he was just a baby, that I'd held him the same way and he fell asleep. I couldn't move for a couple of hours, not wanting to wake him. Why that memory should come to mind now was a mystery to me but I didn't really mind. Sometimes random memories were nice, provided the memory itself wasn't a bad one.

The bad thing about having Matt sit on my lap was that I was a fidgeter and couldn't move with him there. I had to settle with moving just a little bit at a time. Unless, of course, there was always a monster that could come and get him during commercials. Hmm, yes, I liked that idea.

"You know, Matt, I heard there was a monster here."

Erik froze beside me, making me realize that my wording could have been much better. Ah well, too late now.

"A monster?" Matt asked with wide eyes.

"Mm-hm, a monster. Its got big fuzzy feet and feathers on its hands. Do you know what kind of monster it is?"

He shook his head violently, completely enraptured with what I was saying. Erik, I'm sure, had no idea where I was going with any of this. And that was perfectly fine.

"It's a tickle monster!" I declared, wiggling my fingers up and down his sides.

Matt shrieked with laughter, curling in on himself but not really trying to get away from me. I laughed along with him, having just as much fun as he was. Tickling children was always amusing and a fun way to pass a little bit of time, assuming you knew when to stop. Been over-tickled was never any fun.

It hadn't really dawned on me that Matt hadn't noticed Erik until he fell over into his lap. Dawn, who had been sitting across the room and steadfastly ignoring Matt and I, looked up at her brother's shocked outburst at finding himself in a stranger's lap.

Matt scrambled up and away from Erik, staring at him in the way a child does when encounters a new person they don't know how to react to. I instantly wrapped my arms around him in an attempt to calm him down. Dawn was staring at Erik, too, though she was at the age where I couldn't begin to guess at what was going through her head. Matt was my main concern, seeing as he was now on the verge of tears.

"It's okay, Matt, shhhh. Calm down, hun. This is just Erik." I said, rubbing his back gently. "Don't worry, he's nice. He's not gonna hurt you, sweetie."

"What'd you do to my brother?" Dawn demanded of Erik.

"Nothing, mademoiselle." He said, holding up his hands in a sign of innocence. "He was merely startled by my presence. I don't believe he realized I was here."

"You scared my little brother?"

"He didn't mean to, Dawn. Matt's fine now, aren't you hun?"

Matt nodded but kept his eyes trained on Erik. I'm sure he was aware, but I was trying to keep Erik from realizing that Matt was frightened of him. That was the problem with the way he and nearly every other child in the world had been raised. Fear anything that isn't "normal" because it must be bad. The world is total shit because of this kind of thinking. But, I digress. My feelings on politics and the raising of children is irrelevant at the moment.

"Say hello," I whispered to Erik. "be nice."

"Hello, Matt."

Erik offered him a soft smile, attempting to be nice and convince Matt he wasn't going to hurt him. I wish I could say that it worked, but that would be a lie. However the awkward situation was escaped by my Aunt Anne sticking her head into the room to announce dinner. Matt and Dawn ran off, eager to eat while I held Erik back for a minute.

"Don't say anything about the food, okay? My grandmother tries but she...ah...she's not the best cook in the world."

He quirked a brow at me but didn't comment. He'd see what I meant when he started eating. That is, assuming the man even ate which I had a feeling he really wouldn't. Maybe he would, though, seeing as it would be rude if he didn't.

The kitchen, which was small to begin with, felt even more cramped with everyone trying to grab food and sit at the table in the center of the room. I grabbed a stool from the corner of the room and plopped it down at the table, adding the extra seat needed. Erik wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to be doing and just hung back watching the commotion. It was only after I hopped in line to get food that he did the same.

He attempted to be the gentleman and give me the remaining seat at the table but I politely and silently refused. I already felt short enough around him, I didn't need him sitting six inches higher than me on a stool. With a sigh he let me take the stool and settled himself next to me. For once in my life, and probably the only time, I was the same height as him. To say it didn't feel nice would be a terrible, terrible lie.

As always, my father sat across from me with my Aunt on my left and my Uncle on my right. Matt, Dawn, Tim, and my grandparents had always sat at another table squeezed against the back wall. This was the part where things could end terribly, when there wasn't anything to do other than eat and talk to my family.

"So, Erik, where're you from?" Aunt Anne asked, trying to be sociable.

"France originally, but I've lived all over Europe."

"Really?" Uncle Jack chimed in. "Parents travel a good deal?"

"No, I did." He said simply, taking a sip of his water. "I traveled a good deal in my youth."

"Your youth? You talk like you're in your sixties! Come on, don't make me feel older than I am."

I kicked him under the table and gave him a sidelong look. Apparently he forgot that he's supposed to be watching what he says. Ever the master of a poker face, he didn't show any sign of just having received a swift and none-to-gentle kick in the shin. If anything, he smirked just a tiny bit.

"Au contraire, I will call it my youth for that's what it was. I started traveling around on my own before I was ten."

That earned him an even harder kick. Idiot. How many times did I tell him to watch what he said?! Honestly.

"Okay, mask boy," My father chimed in. "I dunno what crap you've fed my Lizzy but it's gonna stop right he-"

"Wow, rude much. I thought Grandma taught you to be respectful to guests." I said. "See, Erik, this is why I was leery of bringing you here. Doug doesn't know how to be civil or when to keep his fat mouth shut. And for the record, I'm not your Lizzy, I'm your daughter."

"Don't call me Doug, I am your dad."

"No, you're my father. There's a difference and I recommend you don't forget it."

Aunt Anne cleared her throat and delicately steered the conversation to safer topics. Erik did his best to contribute to whatever was being spoken off and, for the most part, he did fine. There were only a few times I had to stealthily come to his rescue when he didn't understand what was being said or couldn't figure out what the appropriate response would be.

For the most part, I found myself regretting everything about today. Well, nearly everything. I shouldn't have ever brought Erik here. This was one of my worst ideas in a long time. He was, though, coping remarkably well with the unveiled dislike thrown at him by my father. The majority of my family was at least attempting to be civil, with my Aunt and Uncle putting forth the most effort.

How many times had I told him things were different here? That people were more accepting of others that weren't cookie-cutter here than they were there? Over and over I had assured him that he needn't hide himself as much now. So much for all that, he was treated differently from almost the moment he walked through that door.

I knew he didn't blame me, didn't think I had lied to him. I could see it in his face when I told him it was different here that he didn't believe me. Why would he? Never has he been treated as a normal person before. Or, rather, very very rarely is he treated like any another other person. So I knew that, for the most part, he wasn't disappointed to find my assurances empty. No matter how much he tried to hide it, I could tell he was a little...upset? Let down? Unhappy?

Erik was good at hiding things, it was a skill he'd had to develop rather quickly when he was a child. It served him very well for the most part. The only time it really failed him was around those few people he let close. In other words, right here and now, I was the only one who could see through his well-crafted facade. I'm sure he didn't even realize just how much of an open book he could be to me at times. Secretly, I enjoyed it. But still, the fact that I had essentially lied to him and built up a small hope within him only to have it crushed was something I couldn't escape.

"Je suis desole, Erik." I said quietly.

From the corner of my eye I saw him give me a strange look. I could only assume that he didn't follow why I was apologizing. That or my accent was truly terrible, but I seriously hoped it was the former. As idly as I could, like I was bored, I started drawing circles on the table with the butt end of my fork. Erik was subtly watching – the only one to have even noticed what I was doing – in an attempt to figure out what I was doing.

A few more circles and some arrows pointing around the room hopefully got my point across. I was sorry for bringing him here. I was sorry for putting him through this. I was sorry for making him deal with these people, most of whom were barely being civil to him. Most importantly, and emphasized with several arrows, I was sorry for subjecting him to my father. I had worried about his words and actions the entire time but I'd thought he would act a little better than this. I should have known better, really.

Comprehension dawned on his face briefly before he smoothed it over and hid it away. Not like anyone else at the table was really paying attention to either of us.

"Ne soyez pas." He replied just as quietly.

And like that, the entire subject was closed as far as he was concerned. I knew that I wouldn't move on nearly as quickly, myself. As silly as it was to dwell on something that apparently didn't bother him overly much I couldn't help it. I would be regretting this for a while, even if it was never mentioned again.

-E-

"That friend of yours, he's...different." Aunt Anne said as we stood together in the kitchen, ready to assist in cleaning up if needed.

Truthfully we both knew that my grandmother would never want our help and, frankly, I had been baffled as to why she instantly cleaned the kitchen after eating every Christmas and Thanksgiving. It had been this way for eighteen years and, judging by my Aunt's lack of interest in what was going on, it had been that way for as long as anyone could remember.

Uncle Jack had dragged a semi-reluctant Erik into the other room with everyone else and was attempting to engage him in conversation. For the most part it seemed to be working but, not being able to hear what was being said, I had no idea if looks were deceiving.

"What's so different about him?"

I followed her gaze out into the other room, trying to see what she saw when she looked at Erik. Perhaps I had been around him for too long, because other than his mask I saw nothing to warrant her pointing out that he was different. If anything he was much more polite and courteous than nearly anyone either Aunt Anne or I had ever come into contact with. While technically different, that was hardly anything to cause that odd tone she'd used.

"Well, dear, he has a mask to begin with."

"So do I, three or four actually. They're at home." I quipped.

To say I was startled by how quickly that had come to mind would be an understatement. I never thought of witty comebacks until hours after the conversation was over. Huh. I was proud of myself over that one. Aunt Anne, however, wasn't impressed in the slightest.

"Be serious, Elizabeth."

"I am, dear Aunt. I've never been more serious in my life than right now."

"Your friend is not normal. Doesn't that bother you?"

Another glance was spared to Erik, who was hearing every bit of this despite being in the other room, before I turned to face Aunt Anne fully. I don't think she understood that I really was being serious.

"No, it doesn't. Why would it? In case you hadn't noticed, I don't exactly fall under the category of normal either. Frankly, normal is boring. I tied being normal for years and all that did was depress me."

"Liz, there's being a little quirky and then there's...well..."

"Watch your words, Aunt Anne. You're getting dangerously close to offending me, let alone him."

She let out an exasperated sigh and ran a hand through her hair. I had no doubt that she thought I was being immature about this whole thing and not thinking anything through. To her I was still a little girl who had no experience in the real world and therefore couldn't be trusted to make the right choice. She was mildly right about one thing, I had virtually no experience in the real world. But I wasn't five years old anymore and I knew exactly what I was doing in this exact moment.

"Look, Elizabeth, I know you're not a little girl anymore but just listen to me for once. Stay away from him. There's something not right about that friend of yours and I don't want you getting dragged into anything just because you know him. You're my only niece, I just want you to be safe."

"Aunt Anne, I appreciate that you're trying to protect me from the world. Lord knows you're the only one on this side of the family that ever has. You want me to listen to you and I am, but that goes two ways. You need to listen to me once in a while. I know Erik better than you seem to think and I trust him. He's not going to murder me in my sleep or force me to rob a bank with him.

"Be honest with yourself, the only reason you're acting this way is because he looks different from what you consider normal. What if he looked just like you or me? You'd be talking with him easily and not standing here have a pointless conversation with me. Stop thinking what you were trained to think by society and think for yourself for a moment. What about him, really, is so different?

"He's much more polite than nearly every person I've ever met and that's not a bad thing at all. Chivalry isn't dead with him and aren't we women constantly saying how it'd be nice for a guy to open a door for us once in a while? Look, right there in the next room, there's a guy who'll do it because he wants to and you're shooting him down before he even has the chance to show you how kind he can be. I know there's no way you could know any of that but, had you not judged him from the get-go, you would've figured out a lot of it just by talking to him."

I left her sputtering in the kitchen and went to perch on the big wooden arm of the couch next to Erik, silently slipping into his conversation. He didn't do anything to outwardly acknowledge my presence but from my vantage point I could see the tension in him ease just a bit. What had he thought of my little speech? Did he believe me? Or did him simply think I was being kind? With him, anything was possible.

We didn't stay long after that. The official excuse was that it was starting to get dark and I had to take Erik home. The real reason was that I was getting sick of dealing with my family and just wanted to spend a little time with my...boyfriend? Another thing to figure out about us, I suppose, what the hell I was to call him. That was rather far down the list though.

After a brief moment of decision, I ended up just driving a couple of blocks away to the public park no one ever used. It wasn't warm or particularly private but it would have to do. Not like we could just go back to my father's house, it being pretty much across the road from my grandparents' house. Erik climbed out of the car the instant it was stopped and took off into the small park. Honestly, what was the point of this?

"Erik, get back here." I called, climbing out after turning off the car.

His only response was to sit on one of the swings and look at me. Gee, thanks for the cooperation. I sighed and made my way through the darkening park to sit next to him.

"What was the point of running off?"

"What was the point of coming here?" He shot back.

"Touche." I muttered. "Am I not allowed to spend some time with you away from my family? It is a holiday, you know. Supposed to spend them with the people you love or some such bullshit. To be perfectly honest I'm content to spend them alone for the most part. Better to spend time with my cats in my pajamas than to spend it putting up with people I wouldn't socialize with if they weren't family."

"And what about myself?" He asked the ground between his feet. "Where do I fall in that?"

"You're probably the only person I actually enjoy spending time with. As a rule I hate being around people because all they do is judge everything. I don't like having myself torn down all the time simply because I'm a little different than them. You're not the only person who gets it, Erik. In today's society people are torn down and their self esteem shattered just because their hair isn't the right color. Why would I ever want to go around people like that? No, I'd much rather sit at home where I'm safe from the jabs of the vox populi. You of all people understand this and I really appreciate the fact that you just roll with the punches."

I may or may not have gone a bit off subject but I couldn't find it in myself to care. He wanted to know and I told him. Just with perhaps too much detail and elaboration. Still, I thought he would understand what I was trying to say even if I was a bit confused by the end.

He said nothing, gently pushing himself back and forth with one foot. It was getting dark enough that I couldn't tell if he was lost in thought or simply didn't know what to say next. I just left him be, not knowing where this whole thing was going or what to say next myself. Sometimes I wondered why I even hung out with Erik, most of the time we just sat in silence.

"You don't tell your family that you love them." He said eventually.

"For the most part, no, I don't. Nor do they tell me they love me. Most of them I love only because they're family. If you told me I wasn't actually related to most of my family I'd happily shove them off a cliff. The only one I ever tell that I love them is my mom and, in turn, she's the only one who tells me."

"Can you...explain what you mean by you love them only because they're family?"

I started, not expecting that. I thought that was something universally understood but, then again, Erik's only family had been his mother and she certainly hadn't ever shown any love towards him. Of course he wouldn't understand what I meant.

"Well, they're family and I was raised that you're supposed to love them no matter how much you actually hate them. That's just how people are raised to think anymore. Blood is thicker than water and all that. If I'm honest, I really do hate most of them. They're like the Dursley's but I'm not forced to sleep under the stairs." Even though I couldn't really see it, I knew he was giving me a confused look. "Right. Harry Potter. Wrong time frame. Sorry. Let's try that again, yes? They're horrible. Some are just terrible family members while others are terrible people in general."

"And yet you still go around them?"

I sighed. "It's complicated, Erik. Even though things have changed in the years between you and I, the fact of the matter is that I'm still just a young girl without any money or any means of supporting herself. And let's say for the sake of arguing that I did try to cut them out of my life and stopped putting up with them. They'd turn me in as a missing person so fast it's not even funny and all because they supposedly love me. After I was found, probably relaxing in New England and happy as can be, they'd force me to come back because apparently you can't just up and leave your family."

Where was he going with asking all these questions, anyway? Surely he couldn't be this curious about something as mundane as family tiffs.

"One more question, Eli-"

"Erik, if it's about my shitty relationship with my family please don't ask it. I don't want to talk about them anymore or at all, really. Can't we just have a nice conversation between ourselves before I absolutely have to take you back to my father's house?"

Silently he reached over to hold my hand in his and I smiled in the dark. Which one of us started swinging first I don't know but there we were, sitting in a darkened park holding hands and swinging like children. In that moment nothing else mattered at all. It didn't matter that I should really be driving home right now. It didn't matter that the guy who held my heart was fictional. It didn't matter that he was over a hundred years older than myself. It didn't matter that it was getting rather cold out or that it was supposed to rain tonight.

All that mattered was that for the first time in my life I was truly happy. At this very second in time there wasn't anything I would change. Well, I take that back, there was one thing I wanted to change. Not letting go of Erik's hand I stood up and reseated myself on his lap. The swing was absolutely tiny but, being meant for small children, it was low enough to the ground that his feet were planted firmly enough to support my weight. Not that I had really worried about that.

He froze for a moment before the hand that had been holding mine went to hold me more securely against him. If asked, he would have said that it was simply so I wouldn't fall but it was just as much, if not more, a sign of affection. He absolutely loved having me be close to him like this, even though he tried to hide it because in his mind it wasn't proper. I tucked my head under his chin, determined to get as comfortable as possible. Apparently I relaxed more than I realized or intended to. Things I hadn't set out to say were spilling from my mouth.

"I love you, Erik." I sighed.

And with that he began to cry.


Ta-da?

Hopefully I'll get the next chapter out much faster but I promise nothing.