WARNING: Sadness involving the lair.
So many memories flooded Erik's mind as he rowed across the lake beneath the Paris opera house.
It had been three weeks since they'd left London. They'd gotten to Paris early that morning, and had set straight out for the opera, and Erik's old home.
An assault of memories came hurling at him, and he found himself unable to think of the present, remembering everything in the past.
He remembered coming down here for the first time, bringing Ayesha, and later Christine, down to this place. The weekly meetings he and Nadir would keep...
It was no longer as comforting, this darkness. He'd been too long in the world of light and love to feel at peace here. Where once he would have reflected on the macabre beauty of the blackness of the lake, all he could think of was how dangerous it could be, if Christine or Arabelle should fall in.
He remembered the times he'd met Nadir down here, and he remembered, with painful guilt, how he'd lead Nadir and the boy nearly to their deaths. He'd have to disarm the torture chamber now. Dear God, why hadn't he thought of that before they'd gone to England? What if some poor soul had somehow been trapped inside? All these months; dead, and rotting...
Well, at least now he knew what had told him they had to come back here just one last time before going to America.
A tiny splash made him jump and swing around, terrified as thoughts of all the potential, horrible, reasons for that splash crossed his mind.
Christine was holding tightly to Arabelle, who splashed her small hand through the water, smiling and laughing.
"Keep her away from the edge," Erik warned quietly, voice strained and urgent, a haunted look in his eyes.
"Erik?" Christine asked, wondering what was wrong with him. "Are you all right?"
Erik nodded slowly, and turned back to rowing the small boat across the dark waters.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "It's just memories."
What had once been his only refuge now made him endlessly uncomfortable. Who knew if they were alone down here? Would he have to fight to defend his family?
The boat hit against the shore, and he tied it off, stepping out and helping Christine out.
Erik left Arabelle with her mother, moving forward through the gloom (Perhaps he was worried because his eyes were no long as strong in the dark as they used to be - a result of rarely being up and about in the dead of night in a dark place for the past sixteen months) toward the door. He felt around the stone, and when his hands found the hidden door, it swung open stiffly after months of disuse.
Erik swore when he saw the inside of his home. It had been destroyed more so than when he had torn it apart in despairing rage over a year ago. Christine had helped him repair it all, and now, it was ruined again.
The few lamps and candles in the sitting room were shattered and broken, the furniture splintered and cracked, thrown aside like unimportant garbage.
Kneeling, Erik picked up a music box he had bought in Persia. It was supposed to be a monkey, sitting on a pillow. The cymbal on it's left paw was missing, as was the entire right arm, and it's left foot. The right ear was broken off, too, and when he wound it, it rasped a few feeble notes before falling silent.
Priceless, irreplaceable mementos of his past had been destroyed, and it hurt. He was no longer comfortable here in this darkness, that was true, but once upon a time, this had been his home.
A vase from India lay in pieces in one corner. In another, a broken statue of a Chinese dragon. Several books lay scattered and torn in front of the bookshelves.
The bench in front of the piano was broken in half, and lay crushed on the floor. The keyboard was wrecked, keys smashed and missing.
With a disbelieving shake of his head, Erik turned to his old room, dreading what he would find.
The organ was in pieces. One twisted pipe lay in the middle of the room, next to his coffin, which had been hacked at with something very sharp, the lining ripped almost to shreds.
Broken glass, and bits of wire from his inventions, covered the floor, and crunched under his feet as he walked through the destruction of a place that had once been his only refuge.
Reaching the desk in the corner, he pulled out a drawer, and removed the back compartment where he'd placed his reserves of money. It was there.
But that did not help his mood much, as he looked around his room. This had once been home. This was where Ayesha had done the sweetest things, where she'd first laid on his chest during a rare night of sleep. This was where Christine had returned as he lay dying, and saved him with the confession of her tender love, always and only for him. This was where their daughter had been conceived. This was where his life had become a miracle that daily, he feared he would wake up from only to find it had all been just a dream.
Almost stumbling out of the room, Erik went back to Christine. She wasn't in the sitting room, and for a moment, he panicked. He checked the kitchen and the library, and finally found her in her room, holding Arabelle, and gazing sadly at the ruins of her wedding dress, the one Erik had convinced her to wear that night she'd sun Aida for her lesson.
The dress had been slashed and torn, almost beyond recognition. The over-skirt hung on by only a few stitches, hanging nearly to the floor.
But beyond that was what really caught Erik's attention.
Written on the wall, in what, on closer inspection, turned out to be his pricey red ink, was a very clear message; 'I wish it could have been more, Monster. Your life for my brother's.'
Erik snarled, barely containing the curse that threatened to escape (he couldn't swear around Christine and Arabelle. While she was only ten months old, Arabelle was very smart, and surely Christine would never forgive him for it).
"It seems the viscount's brother needs informing of current events," he growled glaring at the red writing.
Turning, he stalked back to his room to disarm the torture chamber.
Christine watched him go, and saw all the signs of his sadness, hidden behind the front of anger. He could never hide the truth from her. She knew how much this hurt him.
"Oh, Raoul," she groaned, realizing now that her dear friend had failed to tell his protective, doting older brother that he was leaving for England. Why he had neglected to tell Philippe, Christine would never understand.
But that wasn't so important right now. Erik was. Too much of this, and he could have one of his attacks. With the hawthorn tablets, they had become almost nonexistent, but Christine didn't know when they might come again. A minor one had hit him on the crossing from England, and he'd had to stay in bed for the next two days (Instead of crossing the channel to Calais, and then returning to Paris by land, they took the shorter, more direct sea-route in the interest of speed).
She found him in his room, and as she entered, saw him punch the wall as hard as he could, noticing when he did not, the drops of blood that beaded on his knuckles.
"Erik," she called softly, walking forward, and placing a hand on his shoulder.
There was outright fury in his eyes when she first saw them, but soon it vanished to sadness.
Christine could see in his eyes the loss. This place had been his world, once, and now it was destroyed beyond saving. Even the things in her room were too damaged.
Knowing it would make him feel better, Christine pressed Arabelle into his arms. The little girl looked around at the destruction nervously from where she clung to her father's neck.
"Bad, Papa," she whispered. "Sad."
"You're right, my darling. Come, Christine. We must leave."
Christine nodded, and followed Erik out of the building.
None of them said anything as the boat traveled back across the water, Erik rowing steadily, despite the blood dripping from his left hand. Only once they were safely in the small hotel room Erik had rented for them until their ship to America sailed in three days did either speak.
"I'm sorry, Erik," Christine said softly as she wrapped his injured hand. "I know your home meant a lot to you."
Erik laughed wryly, and smiled slightly at Christine.
"It doesn't matter at all compared to your safety, my sweet Christine," he said softly, kissing her.
Christine smiled up at Erik, her arms around his neck. She looked toward the bed to where Arabelle slept, curled into a ball, arms wrapped loosly around Ayesha.
Erik noticed her gaze, and followed it, heart warming.
"Three days, love," Christine whispered. "Three days, and we might not see this place ever again."
Erik laughed lightly.
"Oddly enough, I'm a bit glad for that, my dear."
Three days later, Erik stood with Christine, Arabelle in his arms, their bags beside them, staring up at the great wooden ship that waited in the harbor.
Eyes wide, Arabelle tapped Erik's shoulder, and pointed at the ship.
"Big," she breathed.
"It is, isn't it, darling?" Erik agreed, smiling slightly, and kissing Arabelle's cheek. Turning to Christine, he offered an arm as one of the sailors took their bags to their room. "Shall we go?"
Christine nodded, smiling a little nervously, and took Erik's offered han, starting up the plank with him. She'd said goodbye to Meg and Madame Giry, and Raoul back when they'd left London, and there was nothing now to hold them back.
A shout from behind caused both to turn.
"Erik!" a voice called out. "Erik, wait! Wait!"
Through the crowds on the docks came Nadir, a bag on one arm, other hand waving.
"Nadir?" Erik's eyes were wide and confused as his old friend slowed to a stop beside them.
"You didn't think you could escape me so easily, did you?" Nadir asked. "Someone has to keep an eye on you."
Erik laughed and rolled his eyes.
"Thirty-five years, and still my conscience," he sighed, smiling. "It's good to have you coming with us, my friend."
Nadir returned Erik's smile, and together, they all made their way up the plank and onto the ship.
"Nadir," Christine asked as they walked down the hall to their rooms - right next to each other's coincidentally, "where is Darius? I thought he'd be with you."
Nadir shook his head.
"It was time for him to return home," he said softly. "Back to Persia, and hopefully, his wife. I'll miss him, but I highly doubt I would last long in that country anymore."
Erik felt guilty. It was because of him that Nadir had been exiled from his homeland. It was because of him Nadir's only son - only child - had been dead for over thirty years. It was because of him that his best friend - next to Christine, now - had lived in poverty while in Paris, when compared to his home in the Persian Empire.
Once everything was set, Christine, Erik, and Nadir went back up on deck to see Paris one last time.
In the distance, Erik's eyes picked out the top of the opera house, and he felt a little bit of sadness, knowing he would most likely never again see his crowning architectural achievement.
All his life, it seemed, had led to this. He realized now, that everything that had ever happened to him, had been for a reason. Running away from his mother's. The gypsies. Giovanni, and Luciana. Russia. Persia. Building the Paris opera house. It had all led to here. Without even one of the past events of his life, he might never have met Christine, might never have had Arabelle, and known the happiness of their love for him. He would always be home, as long as he had his family at his side.
Christine could see the conservatoiree off in the distance, and she smiled wryly. If it hadn't been for that place, she never would have met Meg. And if she'd never met Meg, she wouldn't have sung that day, thus, never meeting Erik. She would have lived a predictable life. Raoul certainly wouldn't have found her. No one would have known she was even there. Everything she had, she owed to Meg, and the dancing school. It had set her on the path that led her straight to Erik's open arms. No matter where she went, she would always be safe, so long as her love was with her.
Nadir couldn't see his old apartment from where he stood, but he knew it was there, just beyond the tall buildings. Ten years, he'd lived there. Now, he was leaving. So much had happened here in Paris. He'd finally found Erik again after twenty five years. His friend had found, lost, then found again the love of his life, and then had a child. True, he was losing Darius, but who was to say it was forever? Surely, if they did not meet again in this life, they would meet in heaven, where he would see Reza again.
Goodbye, my one-time tomb. And good riddance Carlotta!
Goodbye, Meg, and my old home.
Goodbye, Darius, servant, and friend. May Allah protect you the remainder of your life.
"Ah!" Arabelle called. "Bye-bye city!"
Erik smiled, and kissed her black hair.
End of story. Sequel will be begun soon, I promise. I hope you guys liked this.