November 7, 7:00am
The steady beeps and hums from the various machines no longer kept him awake at night. Amazing what one can get used to over time. He awoke when a nurse bustled in to check the monitors. Glancing at the bed, she shook her head and scribbled a few notes on a chart before rushing back out again. Erik noticed her eyes never rose to his face. True, he hadn’t bothered with a mask while at the hospital and that seemed to unnerve a few of the staff. Still, he had expected more compassion. Once it would have angered him to see people so obvious in their avoidance of his face; now, he simply couldn’t find the energy to care. The door opened again to admit his old friend, Da’ud, who hobbled in on crutches. Awkwardly pulling up a chair, the detective sank into it and looked at his friend in concern.
“Erik, how are you holding up?”
“How do you think, Daroga?” He passed a weary hand across his eyes and gazed at the monitors once more. Had one changed rhythm? “I hate hospitals, you know that, but I can’t leave. Not yet.” Da’ud nodded sadly as his worry for his friend grew. There had been torment and anguish in those amber orbs when Christine had betrayed him but now there was nothing. No anger, no pain, no sadness just…nothing.
“I talked to a couple of friends in the Agency. They let it leak to the press that rival gangs had used the old opera house as neutral territory to settle a score. That should stop any awkward questions. Also, I gave them a copy of the thumb drive and all the papers. With the coordinates and a satellite photo, they can confirm if the facility remains in operation.” Erik’s eyes flashed with the only hint of life he’d seen in almost two weeks.
“I want to move on it, Daroga. I must see it to the end; I owe her that much.” Though buried deep, any thought of Alex immediately brought the agony to the surface. Da’ud wished he could help but knew Erik needed time, time and family.
“Angie and Meg called again. They really want to see you, my friend.”
“I know but I don’t know if I can face them, not after what I’ve done. I swore I’d never hurt a woman but I never even hesitated once I had her in my grip.”
“And a good thing, too!” Angelique Giry stood in the doorway of the hospital room looking every inch the stern, forbidding ballet mistress. The years had been kind to her since the death of her husband. Her hair showed only the slightest hint of grey and her face bore few lines that revealed her age. Watching the young man she’d raised torture himself over one she’d be happy to kill herself, however, broke her heart. Gracefully, she glided across the room to sit by Erik. “Stop beating yourself up over that she-snake, child, she isn’t worth your peace of mind. She offered you a choice that left you damned no matter what you did. And then, when it all went tits up on her, she tried to twist the love you had for her to her advantage. You’ve wasted too much of your life over that damned harpy; let it go.” Leaning over, she pulled Erik into a tight hug. “Comment allez vous, mon fils?”
“Je ne sais pas, maman. Elle est toute que j'ai.” Holding onto the only mother he’d ever known, Erik felt young, alone, and scared once more. He wept silently against her shoulder; his fear too great to hide from her. Angie held him tighter and stroked his hair until his tears slowed, her heart breaking to hear his pain. Slowly, the pain eased up enough to stop the tears. Erik whispered his thanks as they pulled apart, embarrassed that Da’ud had witnessed him breaking down like a child. The room fell silent as everyone took a moment to get their emotions under control.
“Erik?” The voice that broke the silence was one Erik feared he’d never hear again. Rushing to the bed, he tenderly stroked her cheek and made no effort to stop or hide the fresh tears that rolled down his face.
“Alexandra…ne pas m'effrayer comme ça, ma petite,.” He held her hand to his lips. “Please do not scare me again, ma chère.”
Erik never noticed when Angelique and Da’ud slipped quietly out of the room to give the couple some privacy. He could do nothing but stare into the pale green eyes that he loved so much. He’d known he loved her during their one beautiful night together but was reluctant to admit it to himself for fear of getting hurt yet again. And then he watched her risk her life to keep him from having to make such an inhumane decision and he knew he would be nothing without her by his side for always. When she tried to talk, he laid a finger gently across her lips and shook his head.
“Shhh, hush now, ma petite chère, and save your strength. We will talk about it later but for now you must rest.” His soft chuckle at her irritated frown was mixed with tears of relief and he couldn’t resist placing the softest of kisses on her lips. The smile that played on her lips was like a balm to his soul and, when she drifted into sleep, it wasn’t the comatose slumber of the past two weeks. Reluctant to leave her side, Erik nevertheless brushed the hair from her brow before rising to ring for the doctor. He explained that she’d awakened and said his name then protested when he was driven from the room so the doctor could examine her more thoroughly. Angelique was waiting outside the door and guided him to a seat in the lobby to prevent his bursting into the room and interrupting the doctor. Numb, he held a cup of the awful hospital coffee while trying to absorb the fact that Alex was awake. Only after the doctor had approached and reassured him that she was on her way to recovery did Erik allow his mother to take him home to get some rest. Though he protested the whole way, he was asleep almost before his body hit the bed. That night he dared to dream of a future with the one he loved.