|Primary Characters:||Génie, Lucien, Elsa|
|Warning:||m/m sex. adult themes, language|
|Description:||Takes place mostly after the end of the series. AU. Génie gets to Lucien in time to save his life. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of anger between them. When Elsa shows up in their lives again, she gets an unpleasant surprise. Will they ever get back together again?|
In the morning, Génie suggested that they leave Paris. Lucien had no objections. He knew his career was over. Even before Macha’s death and Vautrin’s attack, he’d seen the signs, even though he’d been too desperate to hold on to his position, to interpret them correctly. It was all over. There was nothing left for him here. Better to return home and try to find a way of getting on with his life. Having found Génie again helped a little.
Lucien still struggled with his anger and jealousy, but what he and Génie had done last night had helped appease him somewhat.
They still had enough money to take a train down south. Suddenly, Lucien felt relieved to be going home. No matter what the future held, it would be good to see his home again. A thought struck him and he turned to Génie.
“What about the murder charges?”
“It’s ok. Long story. I’ll tell you more about that later. Let’s just go home. We need to get you away from that sick bastard Vautrin.”
Lucien felt cold as he began to recall the events of yesterday. Whatever else Génie was guilty of, he’d saved him from that. Filled with a sudden warmth towards his old friend, Lucien ran across the room and pulled Génie into his arms.
At first Génie tensed up, but he forced himself to relax again. Lucien’s eyes searched his face and like last night, he couldn’t resist kissing him again.
“You – saved me from him.”
“I’m glad I got there in time.”
Lucien didn’t ask Génie how he had known to come for him. The questions could wait until later. They’d found each other again, and despite all he’d lost, at least that was something.
Génie felt uneasy about returning home, despite his reassuring words about the murder charges. Too much had happened, for him to ever feel entirely comfortable that close to his childhood home. Still, now it wasn’t his well-being that was at stake, it was Lucien’s. He’d be ok somehow. For the first time in years, he wasn’t alone.
They hadn’t been back for many days, when Génie felt an irresistible urge to go and look up Elsa again. As always, when he was close to her, he missed her, and the emptiness in his heart ached worse than when he was far away. Under the circumstances, he forced himself to resist the urge. Even before he and Lucien had done what they had, he’d known it was useless, trying to get her back. Now, he was afraid to even be seen by her. Somehow, she’d know and if nothing else had turned her heart away from him, this would.
The last thing they wanted was to draw attention to themselves, so they were forced to find lodgings in the slums. It seemed unlikely that Elsa would ever find them there, but they had only been back for a few weeks, when she ran across them sitting in a café. The sun was shining warmly, and there were already tables outside. Génie and Lucien were having coffee, coffee which had to serve as lunch.
Suddenly, Génie had the strangest feeling of being watched. It was as if someone was walking across his grave and he felt a shiver go down his spine. He looked up and saw Elsa standing no further away than a few metres. There was a look on her face, as if she could hardly believe her eyes.
“Génie. Lucien. What are you doing here?”
Though neither one of them was normally at a loss for words, they now found themselves strangely tongue-tied. Not that it mattered. Elsa was still too astonished to pay attention. Without being asked, she grabbed a chair and sat down.
After such a long pause, both men began talking at once.
“We’ve only just arrived.”
“Elsa – it’s good to see you.”
Lucien’s voice was just a little bit louder than Génie’s, though normally, it would be the other way around.
“Thank you. Good to see you too. I’ve – heard a lot about your work and – well, a lot.”
“I’ve heard a lot about your work too. You look – fantastic. What are you doing here? It’s hardly the first place one would expect to see you.”
“Oh, I do pro bono work and – besides, my work takes me to all kinds of places. Now tell me what your plans are.”
She still couldn’t quite believe her eyes and ears. She hadn’t seen Lucien for so many years and Génie – Whatever they’d said, it was at least as hard to imagine them in this neighbourhood. Her eyes kept leaping from Génie to Lucien and back again. She wasn’t exactly happy to meet them, but – still.
Something about them struck her as odd. Even though she’d heard rumours about what had happened to Lucien’s girlfriend, she had a feeling that was only part of it. They certainly had changed. It wasn’t just their appearances. In fact, that had changed least of all. It was more – Lucien’s way of taking charge and his tone, which was somehow commanding and at the same time bitter. Génie had always been bitter, so in a way, he’d changed less.
“Where do you live?”
Another awkward silence spread among them. Elsa could feel something stirring underneath the surface. What was going on?
“Well? Are you staying with your mother, Lucien?”
“I suppose it’s pretty full at the moment, with your mother and sister taking in that poor boy Gael.”
Lucien looked up. He hadn’t heard a word about his family taking in some boy. The name Gael was vaguely familiar and it made him uneasy even thinking about it. Surely, it couldn’t be the same child? Of course, Elsa had been involved somehow, he knew that, even if he’d been too preoccupied lately to dwell on – past troubles.
Elsa went on, not noticing Lucien’s reaction.
“And I suppose you won’t be staying at your place, Génie.”
“No. Uh – we have taken a room not far from here, as a matter of fact.”
Génie felt as if he would die of shame. He – who quite shamelessly went to prostitutes. Who once even – so long ago now, it almost felt as if it had been in another life – lied to a doorman outside Lucien’s place of work about being Lucien’s lover. Génie had never been superstitious, like many of the servants and peasants in the countryside around his childhood home, but it seemed to him that he was being punished for that deception.
The disbelief in Elsa’s voice was only too clear. She found it impossible to believe that anyone who had a choice would be staying in a neighbourhood of this kind. Génie’s face took on colour and it seemed to her that Lucien face hardened. Whatever the reason behind their choice of residence, it had to be something they didn’t wish to discuss. It occurred to her that Génie might be taking drugs, but if so, why was Lucien there? The last thing she had expected would have been to find the two of them together. After all the bad blood between them it was hard to imagine any reconciliation between them.
Sensing that she wouldn’t get to the truth at the moment, she decided to back off.
“Oh. I see. Where?”
She glanced around the street and towards a small square a few hundred metres away. This time, she hadn’t expected the reply to be forthcoming at once so she wasn’t surprised when again, a silence hung heavy between them.
The waiter sauntered by, rubbing a glass with his apron, glancing insolently at her. Elsa returned his gaze, scathingly and the man lowered his eyes and continued towards them, now with a little more respect in his attitude.
“Madame? What will you have?”
“A cup of coffee.”
After some hesitation, she decided that since it was lunchtime, she might as well have something else. She was hoping that the second-rate establishment would be capable of serving something decent.
“And a few sandwiches. Cheese.”
Something about Génie’s and Lucien’s eyes hinted that they were hungry. That told her that whatever they were up to, they didn’t have much to live on. She was hoping her theory about Génie using drugs wouldn’t turn out to be true. In her work, she often had to deal with drug addicts, mostly young women who were financing their habit by prostituting themselves.
When her order arrived, she picked up a sandwich and began to nibble doubtfully on it. She was glad she hadn’t ordered ham, because the bread was dry and the cheese of the cheapest kind. Still, she didn’t think she’d get sick from cheese. Ham would have been a different matter. Besides, though she wasn’t a practicing Muslim, somehow the thought of having pork in some form always made her hesitate. Of course, there were other types of meat, but ham sandwiches were the most readily available, at least in cheap little cafés like this one.
Impatiently, she waved her hand over the remaining sandwiches. The waiter had taken her order to mean she was asking for one sandwich for each of the members of her party. Surely Lucien and Génie did so too. After some hesitation, Génie’s hand hovered above the sandwiches and though Lucien cast a searing gaze at him, Génie defiantly grabbed the sandwich and wolfed it down. He hadn’t had anything to eat since last night and he was hungry. Even then, they’d only had a few sandwiches. It had been so long since he’d last had a proper dinner, he could hardly remember when it was.
“You still haven’t told me where you’re staying. Is it a big secret?”
She’d almost fallen back into their old cheerful repartee, from all those years ago. It was as if her tone temporarily made both guys relax a little.
Lucien smiled and shrugged.
“It’s over there. See that window on the second floor? Yes, there.”
“Oh. Right. Well, it’s getting late and I have to go. I have work to do. Will you be staying long?”
It felt odd to be talking like this, almost as if they were strangers or friends of had drifted apart. Of course, in a way they were, but they hadn’t simply drifted apart. Far more had happened and even after all those years, it still stung her. Back then, pride was all she had and those two had walked all over hers. The bitterness of the recollection almost choked her and she got up abruptly and flung a few banknotes on the table, before nodding curtly and walking away.
Even in her absence, the silence felt awkward. Lucien glared at Génie, who squirmed edgily, not under Lucien’s gaze, of which he was utterly oblivious, but at the thought of Elsa and how he’d lost her and now – it was all far too late. He’d betrayed her, then and he was betraying her now. His pulse was pounding in his temples making it hard to focus. The hunger had made him feel weak and now that he’d had a sandwich, he was suddenly dizzy.
Elsa had to blink to clear her sight. Once again, she’d let them make her lose control. She’d told herself when they’d broken up that it was better if she never met them again. Why hadn’t she followed her own advice? She’d been right then and it was still good advice. Those two would never let a woman come between them. She was nothing but a plaything to them. As so many times before, she reproached herself bitterly for not being able to accept Martineau’s love and return it. Why? He was a good man and she didn’t think he was asking for much in return. On the other hand, he wouldn’t have wanted her to live a lie.
Later on, when she’d seen her last client and was back home again, rocking the baby on her knee, she recalled the look in their eyes as they’d recognized her and how they’d kept studying her out of the corner of their eyes. Thoroughly disgusted with herself, she came to the conclusion that she was a fool. All her hard work and all her dedication didn’t amount to much compared to her weakness. She still loved – both of them – and nothing would ever change that.
Her fatigue was forgotten instantly and after arranging for a babysitter to take the baby, she hurried back into the city to meet them again. Perhaps they’d let her take them out to dinner. At the very least, she wanted to find out what had brought them back and what reason they could have for hiding out in the slums. There was something odd about the whole thing, she could sense it.
Since they’d pointed out their apartment to her, she knew where to find them, unless of course they’d already gone out to dinner. If so, they could share an after dinner drink. Even on a work night, she could still enjoy a glass of wine. The concierge was sure to know where they’d gone.
Walking through those mean neighbourhoods made her uneasy. She took a taxi all the way to the street where she’d found them and didn’t stay watching their window for long. Determinedly, she set out to find out if they were still up there.
There wasn’t a proper concierge but a slovenly old woman sat on a tatty old chair in the hallway, keeping an eye on all who came and went in her building.
“Good evening, madame. I have come to see the gentlemen who are staying in the room upstairs.”
Elsa pointed towards the staircase.
The woman grinned toothlessly. There was a look in her eyes which set Elsa’s teeth on edge.
“I think you’re wasting your time, dearie. They’re not interested in your services.”
The woman used a Provencal word which was lost on Elsa, but her meaning seemed clear. She had the nerve to suggest that – Elsa sniffed angrily and swept past the old woman, without casting a second glance at her. Even as she hurrying up the stairs, she heard the old hag laughing at her. With the laughter ringing in her ears and her temper up, Elsa arrived on Génie’s and Lucien’s doorstep.
They’d had dinner early. The little restaurant around the corner opened early for the workers who came by after work and stayed all night. If you didn’t look too closely at what was being served, the food was edible and best of all – cheap. After Génie had forced himself to swallow his pride, madame had been most understanding. If they did the dishes for an hour, they could have a few sandwiches in the kitchen. He’d never imagined he’d end up living like this. No matter how he’d scraped by earlier, he’d never been forced to go to bed hungry or freeze at night. Though the sun baked hotly through their window, at night, their little room was icy and he suspected it would be for at least another month.
After their makeshift dinner, they had no choice but to return to their room, to spend the evening there. Until they’d found work somewhere, their budget didn’t stretch to anything beyond the bare necessitites. One night, Lucien had angrily blurted out that he wished Génie would sell himself in some men’s room or down by the docks. At first, Génie had taken it for a joke, but after a while, he hadn’t been so sure. He still didn’t think Lucien meant it seriously, but he found the anger in his friend’s voice hard to understand.
The suggestion had stung him, but there were times, when he almost considered it. How difficult could it be? After the nights he spent with Lucien, he thought he could bring himself to do it. Within reason. What kept him from trying, was the certainty that if he did, Lucien’s jealousy would be even harder to take.
When they’d closed the door behind them, Lucien stretched out on the bed. Génie sat down on the edge of his own bed, not ready to go to bed yet. He was considering going for a walk, to get away from the cramped space and the strained atmosphere, when Lucien drew in breath to say something. Thinking his friend was about to continue their argument from earlier that evening, Génie sighed.
“What are you sighing about? You might as well come to bed. Or do you have some other plans?”
“I was going to -”
“You were going to? You were going somewhere without me? What did you expect me to do on my own in this room?”
“If you’re sleepy -”
“I’m not sleepy.”
“Ok. Then I’ll -”
It dawned on Génie that Lucien wanted him to join him. He should have known. Sex was one of Lucien’s ways of blotting out the past and his concerns for the future. Génie had done the same, too many times to count – but with a difference. This didn’t help him. Or in a way it did, but only for the brief time it lasted.
“Right. Never mind. I can always go a little later.”
Resignedly, he got up and moved across the narrow strip of floor separating their beds. When they’d taken the room, they’d been standing together, but the man who had shown him the place – a cousin or other relative of the owner – had helpfully shoved them aside. Génie had felt relieved and fortunately, Lucien hadn’t protested or demanded he move the beds back.
Lucien moved over a little to give Génie some space. Once he was stretched out beside his friend, Génie decided to get it over with as fast as he could. He really would take a walk this time, a long one. There wasn’t anywhere in particular he wanted to go, just away from the room and – away from Lucien. He felt guilty the moment he realized what was on his mind. To atone for it, he began to kiss Lucien, while his right hand made its way down to his his friend’s crotch. It wasn’t difficult, techically. All he had to do was what he’d done for years, for himself, before –
This time, Lucien wouldn’t settle for his businesslike approach. He complained and argued and in the end, Génie found himself compelled to shed his clothes, and wait while Lucien did the same. Grinding his teeth slightly, he took his cue from Lucien. One way or another, he’d get through the evening and then –
When it was over, he began to look for his clothes. As he was about to get up, he heard the door handle click and he snatched up the sheet to cover himself. He never made it out of bed, before the door was flung open and he saw who was standing on the threshold.
Lucien too, caught sight of their uninvited visitor and a wild scramble for their clothes broke out. Pushing and shoving each other, they searched the floor and the bedside table for their discarded garments.
Elsa couldn’t think of anything to say. What she saw, could only be interpreted one way. Suddenly, what the rude old hag from downstairs had said made sense. ‘wasting your time’ ‘not interested in your services’ ‘they’re -‘ She had a feeling she knew what the Provencal word meant. How could she have misread them so thoroughly? Had they only been using her to cover up their secret? Her throat constricted and she was unable to get one single word out.
She turned on her heel and ran down the stairs, recklessly and blindly. It was sheer luck that she didn’t twist an ankle and fell headlong. Outside, in the street, she didn’t stop to consider. A taxi passed by and she hailed it. At least at home, she had her child. Why had she felt it necessary to see those heartless, cruel, selfish bastards again? Hadn’t they hurt her enough?
Upstairs, an even more violent quarrel than ever before broke out.
“You pervert. If it hadn’t been for you, she would have -”
“How dare you? So this is my fault? Weren’t you the one who -”
“Me? You were the one who wanted to -”
“Get out of my way, you fag. Look what you’ve done.”
“Look what you have done. And who are you calling a fag?”
“How dare you? You, who insisted -”
“What about you? It was obvious that you knew exactly what to do. Are you trying to deny that you were selling your -”
“I’ve never done anything like that in my life, until you came along and demanded -”
“Demanded? Are you denying that you more or less seduced me when we were children?”
“Seduce? I’ve never heard such nonsense in my life. If it hadn’t been for you, Elsa and I would have -”
“Yes? What would you have done?”
“I would have married her.”
“You? Why would she want to marry a pervert like you? When she finds out about you and those whores, she’ll never -”
“She’ll never look at me again anyway. Not after what she saw tonight, here in this room. Are you denying that you were the one who -”
Lucien slapped Génie’s face hard. A red spot appeared on the cheek and Génie’s hand nervously touched it. He glared back at Lucien and he raised his fist in the air, hesitating. For all the love he had for his friend, at this moment, he wanted nothing more than to smash his fist into that arrogant face. Lucien clearly felt himself above his old friend. Maybe Génie would have agreed, if it hadn’t been for Elsa and for Lucien’s obvious assumption that he was the guilty party. After his own demands, that was just a little too much to take.
The unfairness of it all drove Génie out of the dingy little room. He’d talk to Elsa one last time and after that – he might as well go off on his own. His promise to Lucien had been kept in full and he no longer owed him anything. He was free to get on with his life. Alone, but at least no longer forced to prostitute himself. Lucien had had the nerve to suggest he sell sex to keep them. He was welcome to try that on his own now. If someone would have him.
Finally, Génie had found all his clothes and he ran outside and down the stairs. He heard Lucien coming after him, but he didn’t stop to find out what his old friend wanted. It was over. He didn’t care what Lucien wanted anymore.
Before he’d crossed the street, Lucien caught up with him and grabbed his shoulder.
“Hey. Where are you going?”
“None of your business.”
“You’re going to her, aren’t you? Tell me where she lives.”
“It’s none of your business. Find out for yourself, if it means that much to you.”
At first, it looked as if Lucien would strike Génie again, but somehow, he restrained himself.
“I’ll follow you. You can’t stop me from doing that.”
Génie was about to tell Lucien that, yes, he was going to make sure he didn’t see where he was going, but suddenly all the anger left him. What was the point? He’d much rather have gone on his own, but Elsa already knew the truth. Arriving with Lucien wouldn’t make any difference. Too late was too late.
“Ok. Come on. We’ll have to take the bus and I don’t know if we have enough money for our tickets, but that’s the only way we can get there. Unless you’re suggesting we hitchhike?”
Lucien began to rummage through his pockets. All they owned was in their pockets. They’d left nothing of value upstairs, because they didn’t have anything. After pooling their resources, they found that they had enough to get most of the way out to Elsa’s place. The rest of the way they would have to hitchhike or walk.
By the time Elsa was almost home, she had stopped crying. She was still angry with herself for her own weakness, but she’d come to the conclusion that she only had two choices. Either she learned how to live without them – or – she found a way of getting them back. Her chances of doing the latter were so slim it would have been far easier to accept the fact that she would never have them. Despite that, some shred of stubborn pride made her consider the second option.
She’d never backed down from a challenge in her entire life and if she didn’t do it now, she’d have a much better chance of imposing her own will on them. It was time she stopped expecting them to come to her. She had to make them want her again. This time, she would be the one to lead, not follow. As she came to that conclusion she noticed that she was right outside her own door. She’d get some sleep and early tomorrow, she’d go back and see them. The decision made her feel much better.
She paid the babysitter and went in to check on the baby. Everything was fine. Realizing that she hadn’t had any dinner, she opened the fridge and began to set the table. There was no reason for her to starve. She wouldn’t allow them to do that to her. After enjoying her meal, she’d go to bed and have a good night’s sleep.
As she put away the last of the dishes, she heard a noise from outside. Frowning, she got up. At times, clients would seek her out even at night, but it was unusual and normally, she’d be aware of the risk of late night work, when she’d looked into the case. Right now, there was nothing which ought to demand her time and effort at this hour.
The doorbell rang and she went into the hallway.
“Elsa, it’s me. Please let me in. Give me a chance to explain.”
“I’m here too, Elsa. Please. I need to talk to you.”
Both of them. She didn’t like their rapport, but in a way, it was just as well that they showed up like this. Even if she’d intended to tackle them in the morning, she might as well do it now, while her resolution was still firm.
“Just a minute.”
She unlocked the door and stood aside to let them enter.
“This had better be good. I don’t think what I saw can be misunderstood. But please, you’re welcome to try.”
Génie looked into her smouldering eyes. With a sinking feeling, he came to the conclusion she’d already made up her mind. He’d known all along that he didn’t stand a chance, but he hadn’t been able to resist the temptation of seeing her just one more time.
Lucien didn’t know what he could tell her. He knew, deep down, that he’d been unfair to Génie, but all his life he’d been jealous of him. Over his looks and his position and – everything about him. Everything he himself had achieved he’d worked hard for. Though that hadn’t been enough. It had all been a part of Vautrin’s sick game, nothing more. In the end, he had nothing more than Génie. He knew now that the reason he’d demanded sexual favours from his friend had been a childishly cruel wish to lash out at someone, anyone. To make someone suffer like he had. It had been easy to choose Génie because he was there.
“Go on. Sit, if you like. Just keep your voices down. The baby is sleeping.”
They sat down by her kitchen table. Again, the silence felt almost as a physical barrier between them.
After a while, Elsa made eye contact with them, one at a time, as if willing them to begin their explanations. Still, no one said anything. She appeared to lose patience with them.
“Well? I thought you were the ones who came to me? What was that you said about explaining, Génie? What did you want to talk to me about, Lucien?”
Génie’s mind was on something else and he didn’t reply. It had just occurred to him that the baby – couldn’t be Martineau’s. Something clicked inside him and he had a sudden insight.
Even though Lucien had demanded to be taken to see Elsa, he now couldn’t think of anything to say. What was there to say to explain away what Elsa had just seen? How could he explain it even to himself? What a fool he’d been. Blaming Génie couldn’t hide the truth. He’d been just as responsible, if not more, since the idea had been his to begin with.
“If you’re not going to say anything, I will.”
Again, she broke off, as if giving them one final chance to speak. They didn’t. She nodded to herself.
“Ok. Were you using me as a sort of – alibi? Hiding behind your relationship with me? Well?”
Génie had to say something. He couldn’t believe she could come to that conclusion. During their time together, he’d been happier than at any time in his life, before or after.
“No, of course not. I loved you. I still do. That’s what I wanted to tell you.”
“You love me? You have a funny way of showing it. I don’t just mean tonight. What about back then? The way you treated me then -”
“I’m sorry. If I had a chance to live my life over again, I’d make a different choice.”
“So what was that all about? What I saw tonight.”
“I love you too, Elsa. I know that might be hard to believe, but – I have to say the same thing, Génie just did. If I could do everything over again, I would have chosen you. That was the happiest time in my life.”
She knew this was too good to be true. It was exactly what she wanted to hear and she still wasn’t in any way convinced that she could trust them. Still, she knew one thing and that was that she’d had too many issues to struggle with back then to fully work on the relationships. That didn’t mean they hadn’t betrayed her. It only meant that even if they’d made a different choice at the time, it might not have worked out anyway. She was thinkiing about telling them that, but decided to wait until later.
“I see. If you really love me so much, why were you doing what you were doing – or had just been doing when I walked in?”
Génie’s eyes had an expression of such pain, Elsa almost softened.
What was he going to tell her? This was the hard part. How could he explain what he didn’t understand himself?
Lucien’s mind raced. What was the reason he’d demanded sex from Génie, when all he’d wanted was reassurance? Suddenly, what they had done disgusted him. Worst of all, he knew he was responsible. He decided to tell Elsa everything. That might not explain what they’d done, but at least she’d know where he stood now.
“Elsa – I’m not sure how much you know about my career and Macha and Vautrin -”
“I’ve heard that Macha is dead. I’m sorry.”
“Do you know how she died?”
Lucien’s eyes filled with tears. That pain was still too fresh in his mind. How could he tell her about that? On the other hand, he knew he had to. So haltingly at first, but as he gained momentum, more fluently, he told her everything about Vautrin and his sick games. Eventually, he was able to bring himself to tell Elsa about what had happened to Macha.
As his account went on, Elsa’s eyes, too, filled with tears. What a sick, cruel man, that Vautrin. This was far worse than what she’d imagined. She didn’t think it in any way explained what had happened between Lucien and Génie, but it certainly told her why Lucien had been so distressed in the first place. She knew more about Génie’s troubles and found that she didn’t need him to explain after all. Their bond went back so far, she knew she’d have to accept it.
Suddenly, the baby began to cry. Elsa ran into the other room to comfort and soothe the baby. Soon, it stopped crying. When she returned, all was quiet again.
Lucien glanced at Génie and something passed between them. For some reason, the fact that Martineau could have had nothing to do with the conception of the child was a relief. Which one of them it was, wasn’t important. All that mattered was that they wouldn’t have to compete with Martineau for Elsa’s affections.
Once again, Elsa was in control of herself. They’d all suffered. In their childhoods and later on. It was time they put a stop to that suffering. Only they could make that decision. She could choose to hold on to past grudges or – she could accept their words at face value and trust that they did love her and not each other. Not that way. Their friendship didn’t pose a threat to her. She was strong enough to put all their differences behind her. All she could hope was that they would too.
“I said, ok. If you really were serious about loving me -”
“I am. I’ve never been more serious in my life. Elsa, I’ve never loved anyone but you. Please believe me.”
“Ok. Just remember that if you ever betray me again, you’ll have lost your chance.”
Lucien stared at Elsa as if in disbelief. She’d meant both of them. Even after what she’d seen tonight, she was willing to forgive them.
“I’m serious too. I swear I’ll never betray you again. What you saw tonight – it will never happen again. You have my word.”
“Mine too. I – don’t mind saying that – I don’t care if I never do anything like that again. You won’t believe me, but I -”
“Sh. The past doesn’t matter anymore. It all starts now. Our lives. Our relationship. Ok?”
“It’s getting very late. Or shall I say early? Time for bed. I’m not sure we’ll all fit into my bed, but if you’re willing to try -”
“I’d sleep on the floor, if you’ll only take me back.”
“That’s not going to be necessary. I know. There are two spare beds in the closet. They won’t be very comfortable, but you’ll have to make do. We’ll put them one on each side of my bed. Quickly now, because I need to sleep.”
She emphasized the word sleep, but she didn’t have to do that. Génie fully realized that she wouldn’t want to do anything else for some time. Not after what she’d – almost – seen them do. He was far too pleased that she’d forgiven him to regret that. After all, a day, a week, a month – what did that mean – when they had the rest of their lives ahead of them? He could wait.
She showed them the closet and went into her bedroom to get ready for bed. They wasted no time setting the folding beds up. The bedroom ended up even more cramped than their miserable room in the city, but this time, it didn’t worry them at all.
Under Elsa’s amused gaze, Génie self-consciously undressed again. She’d already seen him at a disadvantage, but this time, he preferred to at least keep his underwear on. Lucien did the same.
To their surprise and delight, she embraced them both and – even more amazing – kissed them both on the cheeks.
“It’s good to have you here.”
“It’s good to be here.”
“Elsa – I don’t know how to -”
“Then don’t. Tonight we all start over, remember? Go to sleep now. I have work to do in the morning.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“I love you both.”
Génie couldn’t believe his luck. This was the last thing he’d have imagined would happen. He felt so happy, his eyes filled with tears. In time, he knew he’d be able to forgive Lucien. It must all have been part of the shock of losing Macha and almost being raped by that monster Vautrin.
Lucien couldn’t take his eyes away from Elsa. It was true. The nightmare really was over. The thought of Macha would always fill him with pain, but he no longer regretted losing his position. All that meant nothing compared to having a family and someone to love.
Elsa knew it wouldn’t be as easy as she was trying to make it sound. It would take time, maybe a long time, but eventually, she knew they’d all be ok. She’d outrun her past and so had they. Together they would make their own future.
She couldn’t help glancing happily from one to the other. One day, she might know who was the father of her baby, but it didn’t really matter. There was no reason she couldn’t have another one, with the one who wasn’t this one’s father. The important thing was that they were here. Everything else could wait.