~ October 1935 ~

It happened one day. It wasn't any special day, nor even a particularly beautiful one, but for a while the rain let up and blue sky peered hopefully through the clouds.

Erik remembered looking up at the struggling sunlight, feeling the breeze on his cheeks, and realising he felt completely at peace. It wasn't just the relaxation he found around his family, nor the quiet bliss of holding Celeste, not even the focused clear-mindedness that came when he lost himself in music. It was a true peace, a contentment right down to his soul, and he knew that he was finally free of his past.

He had tried a thousand times to forgive those who had wronged him, knowing it was the only way to let go of his pain, but it was almost impossible. Forgiveness was one thing, but forgetting was another, and every time the memories crept back in, he was hurt all over again.

The visit from his mother had done a little to soothe his grief, not least by replacing the terrifying figure she had been in his mind. Her apologies did not fix the past, but they did take some fear out of the future.

Some scars did not fade, and some slights could never be undone, but his freedom came when he stopped caring about what he couldn't change. It wasn't that he was suddenly happy about all that had happened, nor that he could forgive everything others had done to him - or the terrible things he himself had done. Yet it no longer held such sway over his mind, over his future. The world was his for the taking, and he intended to seize it with both hands.

Erik drew a deep breath as he stood on the doorstep, the air smelling fresh and earthy. He gazed down at the town below, over the hills, and to the sun gradually setting on the horizon. The world was tinted rose-gold, the trees and the subtle rolls in the earth casting long shadows over the ground.

"Is everything ready?" Celeste's voice said behind him, and he turned to her, a smile automatically lifting his lips. Silver now touched the shadows of her hair, lines gracing the corners of her eyes. She was all the more beautiful for every sign of age, because it indicated another day she had spent by his side, another detail of her he knew and loved.

"Of course," he answered, then grinned, and watched her expression tense in resignation even before he spoke again. "Besides, what's the worst that could happen? If we end up in need, I'm sure I can find some foreign prince to sell you to."

She groaned, but refrained from saying anything as she approached him, so he continued teasing her.

"It wouldn't be so bad: you could sing for him, and I'll come and rescue you someday. In the meantime, you might get lucky and become his favourite concubine. You're already my favourite."

Celeste rolled her eyes, looking almost pained as she stopped before him. "Don't be an idiot," she sighed.

"I have everything planned," Erik reassured her with a wave of his hand, though he was still smirking playfully down at her.

She gave him a deadpan look, not quite successful in keeping the amusement out of her eyes. "That doesn't mean you can't be an idiot." Before meeting her, he had never known just how stunning a combination of joy and exasperation could look.

"True," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her lips as they finally twisted into a smile. He was more sure every day that fate had brought them together, for he still wasn't certain he deserved her, and would always work to earn her love. They may have married young and fast, but he hadn't regretted it for a moment - aside from periods of paranoia and guilt for being a burden, which she always eased him through. Their bond had only grown stronger with time, and he was sure he couldn't exist without her now.

Erik remembered the excitement in the danger of first drawing Celeste closer to him. It had been a game with the most wonderful of prizes, or so he had thought: her divine voice. He had delighted in playing with the managers and all their underlings, and had woven the perfect net to bring Celeste under his power, until he discovered the true reward for his hard work was her. Little did he know that it was she who had bewitched him, and that every moment had only brought him further under her spell.

He could still recall the thrill of realising she was beginning to care for him, wondering at each step whether she would choose to remain his. Every day with her since then had been a journey into the unknown, a voyage into a world he had always dreamed of but had assumed would be denied to him. Yet, day after day, she had supported and encouraged him, giving him all he could have wished for and more. It sometimes seemed like a miracle even now that she remained in his arms for safety and happiness, not by force or fear.

"You have packed all your masks, haven't you?" Celeste asked, breaking him from his thoughts. She had pulled a little away from him, opening one of the many bags at their feet and rifling through it anxiously. "And clothes for hot weather? And -"

"We've got everything," Erik said gently, tugging lightly on one of her arms until she stopped and looked up at him. "And if we don't have something, we'll just buy it. We'll be fine."

She sighed. "I know, I just… I want this to be perfect." She ran a gloved hand through her hair, a habit she had tried and failed to shake many times over the years. "I've never done anything like this before."

"I know." He took her hands in his, her eyes anxiously scanning his face like she was a nervous young girl in need of support again. "Let's explore the world together, my darling."

Celeste bit her lip, nerves and excitement warring over her expression. She glanced into the house, empty and dark behind them.

Both of their children had long since left home: Matthieu had gone to seek fame and fortune elsewhere in the country, and Belle, by now the star of Erik's music hall, had married Isaac Morais and moved into a sweet cottage near the doctor's practice.

Erik and Celeste had been somewhat at a loss for what to do with both children grown and gone. They had thrown themselves into work at the music hall, but even that had become repetitive. He had never lived in one place for so long and, though he was incredibly glad he had a home, had developed a slight itch for travel. When he put this thought to his wife, she had tentatively agreed that she wanted to experience something new.

Erik was only too delighted to plan a trip away together; he would show her raging seas, skies that stretched further than belief, and forests that seemed large enough to cover a country. They would travel to the frozen North, the sweltering East, and everything in between. They would visit countries he had passed through decades before, when some even had different names and different borders, and some he had never set foot in. The world had changed a lot since he had ventured into it, but now they would see it together.

Celeste did a final check of essential items before allowing him to pack them into their car, fretting and worrying until he stopped to calm her again. He knew he had never done a trip as large as this before, and that she was leaving behind all she had known again, with him being the only constant by her side. But he would never do anything to distress her, and he knew she was excited beneath the nerves. This was simply a new adventure for them to embark on together.

Once everything was packed away, he strolled back up the steps and locked the front door, leaving the house deserted and silent. They would be back one day, though neither of them actually knew for sure how long they would be travelling. Some of their route was planned, but they would just see where the world took them.

Erik turned to Celeste, and saw that she was staring around at the valley that had been their home for so long, as he had been doing just a few minutes ago. The dying sunlight captured her face, making her appear like some magnificent statue. He was some new Pygmalion, in love with his creation: his little angel with a voice to make the heavens weep, who had surpassed everything he could have hoped she would achieve. She truly was a gift, a miracle, and he was starting to believe that - just mauve - he was worthy of her.

His angel turned and beamed at him, and his heart melted. He reached out a hand, and her small fingers instantly wrapped around his. Together they were unbreakable; they defied age and custom, time and distance. They had even escaped death like everything else: by each other's side.

Erik's life was his again, and he would spend every day until his last with Celeste.

THE END

~ October 1935 ~

It happened one day. It wasn't any special day, nor even a particularly beautiful one, but for a while the rain let up and blue sky peered hopefully through the clouds.

Erik remembered looking up at the struggling sunlight, feeling the breeze on his cheeks, and realising he felt completely at peace. It wasn't just the relaxation he found around his family, nor the quiet bliss of holding Celeste, not even the focused clear-mindedness that came when he lost himself in music. It was a true peace, a contentment right down to his soul, and he knew that he was finally free of his past.

He had tried a thousand times to forgive those who had wronged him, knowing it was the only way to let go of his pain, but it was almost impossible. Forgiveness was one thing, but forgetting was another, and every time the memories crept back in, he was hurt all over again.

The visit from his mother had done a little to soothe his grief, not least by replacing the terrifying figure she had been in his mind. Her apologies did not fix the past, but they did take some fear out of the future.

Some scars did not fade, and some slights could never be undone, but his freedom came when he stopped caring about what he couldn't change. It wasn't that he was suddenly happy about all that had happened, nor that he could forgive everything others had done to him - or the terrible things he himself had done. Yet it no longer held such sway over his mind, over his future. The world was his for the taking, and he intended to seize it with both hands.

Erik drew a deep breath as he stood on the doorstep, the air smelling fresh and earthy. He gazed down at the town below, over the hills, and to the sun gradually setting on the horizon. The world was tinted rose-gold, the trees and the subtle rolls in the earth casting long shadows over the ground.

"Is everything ready?" Celeste's voice said behind him, and he turned to her, a smile automatically lifting his lips. Silver now touched the shadows of her hair, lines gracing the corners of her eyes. She was all the more beautiful for every sign of age, because it indicated another day she had spent by his side, another detail of her he knew and loved.

"Of course," he answered, then grinned, and watched her expression tense in resignation even before he spoke again. "Besides, what's the worst that could happen? If we end up in need, I'm sure I can find some foreign prince to sell you to."

She groaned, but refrained from saying anything as she approached him, so he continued teasing her.

"It wouldn't be so bad: you could sing for him, and I'll come and rescue you someday. In the meantime, you might get lucky and become his favourite concubine. You're already my favourite."

Celeste rolled her eyes, looking almost pained as she stopped before him. "Don't be an idiot," she sighed.

"I have everything planned," Erik reassured her with a wave of his hand, though he was still smirking playfully down at her.

She gave him a deadpan look, not quite successful in keeping the amusement out of her eyes. "That doesn't mean you can't be an idiot." Before meeting her, he had never known just how stunning a combination of joy and exasperation could look.

"True," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her lips as they finally twisted into a smile. He was more sure every day that fate had brought them together, for he still wasn't certain he deserved her, and would always work to earn her love. They may have married young and fast, but he hadn't regretted it for a moment - aside from periods of paranoia and guilt for being a burden, which she always eased him through. Their bond had only grown stronger with time, and he was sure he couldn't exist without her now.

Erik remembered the excitement in the danger of first drawing Celeste closer to him. It had been a game with the most wonderful of prizes, or so he had thought: her divine voice. He had delighted in playing with the managers and all their underlings, and had woven the perfect net to bring Celeste under his power, until he discovered the true reward for his hard work was her. Little did he know that it was she who had bewitched him, and that every moment had only brought him further under her spell.

He could still recall the thrill of realising she was beginning to care for him, wondering at each step whether she would choose to remain his. Every day with her since then had been a journey into the unknown, a voyage into a world he had always dreamed of but had assumed would be denied to him. Yet, day after day, she had supported and encouraged him, giving him all he could have wished for and more. It sometimes seemed like a miracle even now that she remained in his arms for safety and happiness, not by force or fear.

"You have packed all your masks, haven't you?" Celeste asked, breaking him from his thoughts. She had pulled a little away from him, opening one of the many bags at their feet and rifling through it anxiously. "And clothes for hot weather? And -"

"We've got everything," Erik said gently, tugging lightly on one of her arms until she stopped and looked up at him. "And if we don't have something, we'll just buy it. We'll be fine."

She sighed. "I know, I just… I want this to be perfect." She ran a gloved hand through her hair, a habit she had tried and failed to shake many times over the years. "I've never done anything like this before."

"I know." He took her hands in his, her eyes anxiously scanning his face like she was a nervous young girl in need of support again. "Let's explore the world together, my darling."

Celeste bit her lip, nerves and excitement warring over her expression. She glanced into the house, empty and dark behind them.

Both of their children had long since left home: Matthieu had gone to seek fame and fortune elsewhere in the country, and Belle, by now the star of Erik's music hall, had married Isaac Morais and moved into a sweet cottage near the doctor's practice.

Erik and Celeste had been somewhat at a loss for what to do with both children grown and gone. They had thrown themselves into work at the music hall, but even that had become repetitive. He had never lived in one place for so long and, though he was incredibly glad he had a home, had developed a slight itch for travel. When he put this thought to his wife, she had tentatively agreed that she wanted to experience something new.

Erik was only too delighted to plan a trip away together; he would show her raging seas, skies that stretched further than belief, and forests that seemed large enough to cover a country. They would travel to the frozen North, the sweltering East, and everything in between. They would visit countries he had passed through decades before, when some even had different names and different borders, and some he had never set foot in. The world had changed a lot since he had ventured into it, but now they would see it together.

Celeste did a final check of essential items before allowing him to pack them into their car, fretting and worrying until he stopped to calm her again. He knew he had never done a trip as large as this before, and that she was leaving behind all she had known again, with him being the only constant by her side. But he would never do anything to distress her, and he knew she was excited beneath the nerves. This was simply a new adventure for them to embark on together.

Once everything was packed away, he strolled back up the steps and locked the front door, leaving the house deserted and silent. They would be back one day, though neither of them actually knew for sure how long they would be travelling. Some of their route was planned, but they would just see where the world took them.

Erik turned to Celeste, and saw that she was staring around at the valley that had been their home for so long, as he had been doing just a few minutes ago. The dying sunlight captured her face, making her appear like some magnificent statue. He was some new Pygmalion, in love with his creation: his little angel with a voice to make the heavens weep, who had surpassed everything he could have hoped she would achieve. She truly was a gift, a miracle, and he was starting to believe that - just mauve - he was worthy of her.

His angel turned and beamed at him, and his heart melted. He reached out a hand, and her small fingers instantly wrapped around his. Together they were unbreakable; they defied age and custom, time and distance. They had even escaped death like everything else: by each other's side.

Erik's life was his again, and he would spend every day until his last with Celeste.

THE END

A/N Thank you so much to everyone who has read this, especially if you have followed, favourited or reviewed!

It's been several years since I started writing about Erik and Celeste - it began because I just wanted so desperately for someone to have loved Erik, and if that didn't happen in the story then I'd make it happen myself! Thank you so much to people who have supported me from the beginning, and everyone who has joined since; I could never have continued writing without the wonderful encouragement from every reader, follow, favourite and review.

If you enjoyed this story, please check out my other Phantom of the Opera fanfiction: Broken Melody, a modern day AU. It is currently being edited and is halfway through being published on my profile.

Thank you again, and I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing!