Author's Note:

So, as I was writing the next chapter of Volée, I realized there was no way that Erik was getting the first embrace of his life without some capital-letter Feelings, and so I thought I'd write a quick drabble to give readers a chance to see his experience - even if his current defense mechanisms wouldn't allow Christine to see him so unguarded.

...And of course, the thing with starting a drabble is that sometimes it doesn't end up a drabble, and a thousand words later you've got a nice chunk of story that doesn't fit into the rest. :-)

At this point I'm committed to showing Volée entirely from Christine's point of view; I can't fit it into the story - so I'm just calling this a deleted scene. I originally had just posted it to the Tumblr and mailing list, but I got a few notes suggesting that a separate story just for outtakes and extras wasn't unheard of on ff.n - so here we are. Hope you enjoy, and I'd love to hear what you'd think.

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Moments After Chapter 12:

Years ago, he'd been dragged into a knife fight in Marseille, his first. He'd been sixteen, seventeen at the most, and the man wielding the poignard in pursuit of his wallet's meager contents had been stronger, and heavier by far. Erik didn't remember finishing the fight or the conscious decision to run, immediately and as fast as he could; just the savage urge to survive and then finding himself in an alley at least a mile away, braced against a dumpster with his hands on his knees, shaking and bloodied and sick to his stomach. He later supposed it must have been some survival instinct; to stay alive through the immediate peril, and then to get himself to whatever passed as safety in his life.

...He'd only made it as far as the hallway outside their train compartment, this time.

Leaning back against the closed cabin door, Erik held his hand against his brow and drew great ragged breaths, the tide of emotion moving within him in enormous, incapacitating waves. He was dizzy, struggling, out of his head... But she was safe, and he was out of her sight, able to feel in relative safety — half struggling to wrest control of his racing emotions and half wanting to dive headfirst into re-living the last ten minutes over and over. Her arms around him. His terrible, bloodstained hands, pulled willingly into hers. Hers.

Had he ever been more exposed to attack than this? Paralyzed in a train hallway, unguarded entry points on both sides, sickeningly vulnerable and driven to complete abandon of everything he should be doing. His chest shuddered as he pressed his hands in the place where her arms had embraced him, trying to summon again the exact sensation he had felt - foreign and frightening and exhilarating - trying to commit it to memory without losing any of the details. His skin was thrumming; the very surface of his body seeming to have its own heartbeat, and conscious thought spiraled vertiginously inward.

This might be real.

Nausea lurched through his stomach; the narrow escape and the peril of the last two hours could be settling in - but no, this was more like need, unleashed and urgent, more unslakeable than any of the previously familiar pangs of addiction. The feeling of Christine's small hands, somehow more powerful than all the world's intoxicants combined - and then he was pressing his hand into his leg, lest he lash out and punch the window in front of him. Debilitating weakness, pathetic susceptibility...

But strength and pride were just words, when he could still feel her arms around him, and still had no idea if - if -

This was awful; this was untenable. The instability of their environs should be consuming his attention and setting him into action, and he could think of nothing but the urgency of needing to understand why. Why she'd done it. Why now. He pressed his head into his hands and tried to steady his heartbeat, tried to introduce logic, but every thought was impatient, anxious, consumed; he was completely incapacitated.

Christine was just on the other side of the wall; he could throw the door open and ask. Drop whatever semblance of dignity he had been maintaining, whatever limited ability he had to project that he was something other than a desperate man with his fate in her hands — he could walk back in as he was now, armorless and urgent and ask Christine what it meant, ask what it was that had changed…

Today she saw the violence of which you are capable.

The voice of reason was insidious and toxic, a lifetime of evidence imposing on something as futile as optimism, posing an insurmountable case for what must be true. The girl was traumatized. A person would do things unthinking when in shock, and what shock greater witnessing firsthand the veracity of the horror story; that the Opera Ghost was a monster in deed as well as looks? Stockholm Syndrome was an adaptive survival trait, after all.

Erik could almost feel the freefall, the drop in his stomach, as the flickers of optimism left his body.

She had no idea he was capable of so much worse, and somehow he had held back, for her whim.

He fought the urge to scream.

Erik clenched his fists at his sides. Everything about this was nauseatingly unsafe, from compromising his ability to manage a threat, to their current confines… to the way that even now he kept thinking back to the warmth in her eyes as she had tried to reassure him, had cared enough to try and reassure him… and even with the cruel whispers of logic filling his mind with fatalistic likelihoods, something visceral was twisting in his chest that felt dangerously like hope.

Secure the perimeter. Assess available supplies. Treat minor wounds. Dive headfirst into the logistics of survival and tell her you love her. Beg for her love...