Erik stared across the lake at nothing in particular. He didn't know how long he had been sitting like this, and he didn't care. This was his life now, long periods of silent melancholy then sudden bursts of violent rage before he broke down and the cycle started over again. He wasn't sure how long it had been since he had lost Mia, two years, three, four, but he still couldn't get over losing her, no matter how hard he tried.
He still looked for her sometimes. When he hit his lowest points, he would go wander through Paris, no matter the weather, still trying to find where she was now. There would be times where he'd just wander through the city in the dead of night, during the coldest part of winter. He would just walk until he couldn't feel the bitter cold anymore, trying to make sense of the pain.
There was a sudden sound, like the mirror being opened. Erik whirled around, wondering who on earth it could be. Madame Giry had come once, right when he had first lost her, and tried to figure out what was wrong, but Erik had lashed out at her violently, and she hadn't returned. His heart stopped when he saw her; he had truly lost his mind. "Mia," he whispered, slowly rising and walking towards her, certain that she would disappear once he got too close or tried to touch her.
That single word stopped Erik in his tracks, and shook him out of the fog he was in. "A-A-Amelia?" he stammered. She nodded. Erik felt faint. "What…" He swallowed hard. "What are you doing here? I…I thought…"
"I died?" she finished for him. "That's what Gaston wanted everyone to think. No, he sent me away, out to one of our country estates. 'To recover' is what he said, but he didn't want to risk me telling."
She lowered her gaze and changed the subject. "I lied to you. It wasn't Mia that night. I was just trying to protect her. That's my job. I was supposed to protect her and I thought keeping her with her husband like she was supposed to be would help. But nothing got better; if anything it got worse. And when we were finally away, I tried to leave. She didn't need me anymore. But when she found out we weren't going back to Paris, she couldn't handle it. She disappeared. I can't get her to come back out. I haven't been able to get her to come back out. Erik, she's gone. I'm supposed to protect her; if she's not there to protect, I've got no purpose! You have to bring her back!"
"What didn't Gaston want you to tell anyone?"
"I lied to you," she repeated. "Gaston doesn't know, but…" Amelia looked down. Erik followed her gaze and saw a small little girl behind her and hiding her face in Amelia's skirts. "She's…she's yours."
Erik stared at the child breathlessly before crouching in front of her. She glanced at him quickly before hiding her face back in her mother's skirts. In the quick glance, Erik was able to see some of his own features in her face. He felt a rush of emotions, but he didn't know how to react. But he couldn't help but feel an overwhelming rush of affection towards her. "What's your name?" he asked her softly, staring at her in awe.
The little girl looked up at her mother, who gave her an encouraging nod. "Marie." Her voice was barely audible.
He smiled and held out his hand. "My name's Erik." She hesitantly took it and the two shook. "It's nice to meet you. How old are you Marie?" She held up two fingers. Amelia nodded, to encourage him too. "Two? You're getting to be a very big girl." He glanced at Amelia, for some sort of sign on what to do next, but she offered him nothing. "Do you like magic, Marie?" The child didn't say a word but her eyes lit up. Erik smiled reassuringly and offered her his hand. "Would you like me to show you some?" When she took his hand, he led her to where his monkey music box sat abandoned under a pile of dust. Erik blew it off before turning to his daughter. "Clap your hands," he instructed. Marie did so once, softly. "No, you have to mean it. Like this." Erik clapped and the monkey began to play the famous Masquerade song. Marie laughed and smiled and when the song ended, she began to clap, urging it to play for her again.
Once she was enthralled with the toy, he turned back to Amelia. "What is Gaston trying to hide?"
"You have to bring Mia back. You're the only person I know who can reach her. I can't protect her if she isn't there to protect."
Erik nodded and took on a hypnotic tone. "Close your eyes. Breathe in, breath out." He coached her through a few breathing exercises to help her relax. "Mia, Mia, it's Erik. Come back to me Mia. I love you. I need you to come back to me."
She blinked a few times and her legs gave out from beneath her. Erik caught her and cradled her close against his body. "I thought you were dead," she sobbed into his chest. "You never came back. You promised me you would and you didn't. I thought Raoul shot you."
"He did," Erik admitted. "But he didn't wound me seriously. And I did come back for you, but Amelia tricked me. And then you were gone. When I heard about your accident, I tried to find you, but the doctor said you wouldn't survive. And then you were gone."
"It…it wasn't an accident. Gaston sent me away so I couldn't tell. He pushed me down the stairs. He sent me away so I couldn't tell anyone what he did to me. I can't go back to him again. I can't. Next time, he'll kill me!" Erik tightened his embrace and kissed the top of her head. He glanced over at Marie who was still occupied with the music box. "You promised me that you would take me away. Can I hold you to that promise?"
"Mia you know I keep my word. You and Marie will stay here with me until I can arrange for us to go somewhere."
"We have to leave before Gaston realizes we're not coming back. He's expecting us back before nightfall and sooner or later, he's going to eventually look here. I don't care where we go, but we have to leave. Tonight."
"Erik?" He looked away from the window and back at her. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I love you Mia," he replied. "I would do anything for you." He looked down at Marie who had her head in Mia's lap, having been rocked to sleep by the rumbling train. "And for her." Erik fell silent for a long while, staring at Marie, adoration and fear in his eyes. "Do you think she'll like me?"
"I know she will. Erik, you're her father."
"But she thinks Gaston is."
"Gaston sent us away. We haven't been in Paris since she was born, and Gaston didn't like coming all the way out to us. Marie has only met him a handful of times. She barely knows who he is, let alone what having a father is like. She's only two; I don't think she'll even remember Gaston when she's older. And you're here for her now. That's all that matters. Marie will grow to love you, if she doesn't already, I'm sure of it. I know I did."
"How do you do know all this?" Erik asked. "Amelia said that you were completely gone, that not even she could reach you."
"I was still Marie's mother. I…didn't exactly take on an active role… I…. I couldn't, but I was still there. She was the only reason I had to hang on." Mia smiled softly. "And now I have both of you." She glanced out the window. "Where are we going?"
"Calais," Erik answered. "It was the first train out of Paris. And I thought once we were there, we could decide where our fate would take us from there, whether we're going to stay in France or travel elsewhere. We could go to England or America or wherever you wanted. There are enough ships in and out of the port, we could probably go anywhere."
"You know, I've always heard that England was nice," Mia said distantly.
The couple fell into silence. Mia didn't know what to say. She hadn't exactly been much of a participant in life for the past two years, and she had a feeling that Erik hadn't been either. Mia didn't blame Erik for anything, and she had told him so, but it had been nearly three years since she had last seen him. Running away the instant they found each other could be potentially dangerous. Three years was such a long time. But she still loved Erik and he must still love her, otherwise he wouldn't be willing to do this. She and Marie had shown up with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. Erik was going to have to provide everything, yet he barely blinked when he agreed to this. She rested her head against the train's window, and closed her eyes. There was nothing to worry about. He was still Erik. He would take care of them now.
Erik watched Mia as she slept. She was as beautiful as ever, but she looked so tired. Hopefully she wouldn't have to worry now that she was finally free of her abusive husband. He looked down at his daughter and studied her in great detail. Marie was small, and he could tell she was going to be petite like her mother. Whether it was because of the circumstances of her birth or Mia's own size, he wasn't sure. "She's got your nose," Mia murmured sleepily.
"And your eyes," Erik answered, as Marie blinked awake, revealing the bright blue orbs that were identical to Mia's. As Mia drifted back to sleep, Erik noticed his daughter was trembling. "Are you cold?" Marie nodded. "Come here." The little girl hesitated before leaving her mother's side and crossing the train car to him. Erik pulled off his cape and wrapped her in the warm black fabric. Little Marie was so small and his cape was so large, most of it was dragging on the floor behind her. Instead of moving back to Mia's side, Erik was surprised when she sat beside him and nestled close. He stared at her wide eyed for a long while, afraid to touch her and frighten her away, but when she fell back asleep, leaning against him, he slowly began to stroke her hair and hum. Maybe Mia was right. Maybe Marie could learn to love him.
"Papa?" Erik turned when he heard his twelve year old daughter calling him. "Papa!"
"What is it, Cherie?" he asked when Marie ran into the room. She nearly slipped on the floor and would have crashed if Erik hadn't grabbed her arm to steady her.
"Mama is looking for you."
He glanced at the teenaged redhead standing beside his piano. After they left Calais for London, Erik had taken up giving instrument and vocal lessons for London's upper crust to provide for Marie and Mia. "I'm in the middle of a lesson right now. It'll have to wait."
"She says it's important."
Erik nodded. When Mia said something was important, that usually meant something was wrong. He and Amelia had made their peace years ago, and while he hadn't been able to get the two to come together completely, things were far easier than they once had been, but occasionally Mia still had problems, mainly panic attacks. "I'll be there in a minute."
"Is there something wrong Mister Destler?"
"I'm sorry Rebecca," Erik sighed, running his hand through his hair. "I'm afraid I'll have to cut our lesson short. Just..." He glanced at the staircase. "Just continue working on hitting the upper range of the song. Use those exercises I taught you to help you reach those notes. Keep it up and you'll be able to hit them every time."
"Thank you Mister Destler!" the girl said with a smile. "Same time next week?"
"Yes, Rebecca, I'll see you then." He turned to Marie. "Cherie, can you show Rebecca out?"
"Of course Papa!" She led the older girl out of the room, chattering excitedly as most twelve year olds did. "I love your dress. The purple looks great on you!"
Once the two girls were out of the room, Erik made his way up the staircase. "Mia?" He found her in their bedroom, her hands over her ears. "What's wrong?" he asked, falling to his knees in front of her.
"Make it stop, Erik," she begged, throwing herself in his arms. "There's just so much noise I can't…"
"Just focus on the sound of my voice," Erik cooed. "You're having a panic attack. Just breathe. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
When Mia was able to compose herself, she buried her face in his chest. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."
"It happens," he assured her. "I love you no matter what."
"I love you too."
There was a knock on the door. "Mama? Papa?"
Mia leaped to her feet. She didn't want Marie to know about Amelia, and so they made every effort to keep their daughter in the dark about her condition. "What is it, Cherie?" she called.
The door opened and Marie walked in. "Papa, are we still going to have my lesson today?"
Erik glanced over at Mia. From an early age, Marie had displayed that she shared her father's musical talent and passion for it. They had lessons nearly every day after Erik's students left, but if Mia needed him, Marie's lesson could wait. "I'm fine," Mia replied, answering the unasked question. "You go ahead."
"Call if you need anything. I'm just a shout away." He kissed her once, then kissed her hands. Mia was wearing the ring he had bought her when they arrived in London. They weren't able to be married officially because legally Mia was still married to Gaston, but as far as anyone was concerned, Erik and Mia were husband and wife. Not even Marie knew the truth. "I love you."
She smiled gently. "I love you too. Have a good lesson." Once they walked out, Mia sighed contentedly. She had never known happiness like being here with Erik and Marie. She began to hum the song that she helped Erik write all those years ago.
"And the strange thing:
You're life could end up changing
While you're dancing