Final chapter.

Erik & co.; aw...

well, i'm not entirely sure i'm done with you guys yet. I have a few ideas.

Charles; like what?

i'm not sure yet. shhh, story time.

Epilogue; Ending at a Beginning

Soft, warm summer light flooded the station. It was a very small station, with just the one platform, and theirs was the only party there. One elderly woman, far older than even Erik and Nadir, sat on a bench at the far end of the platform. She was the only other person there.

Paler than he had been in some time, and leaning heavily on his cane, Erik followed his family, a hodgepodge of blood and close friendship, over to the waiting train.

It was difficult to see Arabelle leaving like this. For almost twenty years, she had been his, and his alone. Now, she was engaged, and about to leave for a women's college in upstate New York. She wanted to teach music, to share with others the gift her father had shared with her. A worthy aspiration, in his mind, but he would miss her.

"I'll be home for the holidays, Papa, I promise," Arabelle assured him, wrapping her arms around his neck.

Erik held her close for a long time, and tried not to cry. He told himself it was not goodbye, that she would be back, but...

Arabelle pulled back first, just enough to kiss the sliver of skin by his ear that was not covered by his mask.

"I love you, Papa," she sighed. Erik smiled weakly and set her back from him.

"I love you, too, dear-heart," he said. "Take care of yourself."

"I will, Papa," she promised, squeezing his hands before turning to embrace her mother.

"I am very proud of you, Arabelle," Christine said thickly into her daughter's shoulder.

"Thank you, Mama," Arabelle whispered, smiling. Her expression turned light and playful. "Take care of our men, Mama," she joked. "They cannot seem to take care of themselves..."

Charles looked suddenly very embarrassed. Two weeks ago, he had climbed a tree to get Johara's kite back for her. He'd gotten up the tree tine, got the kite, and reached the ground without trouble. While flying it with her five minutes later, he tripped on a squirrel's nut hole in the grass, and landed on his wrist, spraining it.

"Do your best, dear," Christine smiled. Arabelle nodded.

"I will."

Next she went to Charles, promising to bring him something from her faraway school.

"I'll see you soon, Charles," she vowed, kissing his forehead and turning to the next goodbye.

Johara was, as usual, very vocal in her farewell.

"You have to promise you won't forget us!" the girl insisted. "You won't forget us, right? You won't?"

"I won't," Arabelle agreed, smiling. Johara held out her hand and extended her pinky finger.

"Pinky promise!" she demanded. "You've got to!"

Arabelle nodded, and wrapped her pinky around Jo's.

"I pinky promise," she swore, ruffling Johara's hair as she stood.

"Good luck, my dear," Nadir said, hugging Arabelle quickly. The train was pulling into the station and unloading it's few passengers.

At last, Arabelle turned to Cody, and brushed her thumb along the comforting pewter ring on her left ring finger. After a heartbeat of staring, they held each other tightly. Cody stroked her hair, and sighed.

"I will miss you, Arabelle," he sighed. "Be safe."

Arabelle looked at him, and kissed him quickly.

"As I will you," she whispered, smiling sweetly. "And of course I will. Take care of them?"

Cody kissed her forehead softly.

"I promise."

The train blew its whistle, and the conductor was calling 'all aboard,' from somewhere down the platform. Arabelle stepped back, and picked up her bag. She stared at her closest family for a long moment, stunned that she was actually leaving them, and then the train whistle sounded again, and she snapped back to herself. Beaming, she turned and hurried to get on.

Erik felt her going like a string connected to him was being tugged. He took a desperate step forward, reaching for her, though she was no longer there. He had not said enough. There was more, so much more, that he had to say to his sweet Arabelle.

"I'll write twice every month!" she promised, waving at them from the window. Erik waved back, and behind him, he heard Johara yelling a final goodbye.

The train began to gather speed as it pulled away from the station. Erik stood, with his hand raised and his chest tight, watching until the train could no longer be seen.

Christine came forward then, and took his arm with gentle hands.

"Erik?" she said quietly, rubbing his shoulder. "Let's go home now, love." Erik looked at her slowly, and smiled.

"Home," he sighed. "Yes, of course, my dear Christine."

Later that night, lying in his bed, Erik wondered what Arabelle was doing right then. Hopefully sleeping, of course, but was she still on the train?

The train... How he envied her in that moment. She was going away to learn; a whole world was being opened up before her. How many grand adventures awaited his little girl out there? Many, he was sure.

After all, her life was only beginning.


I hope you guys liked this; I know I did. I don't think I'm completely done with this family, yet, so I may do some more smaller pieces. Review, please!