"I will stay with you," Christine whispers, falling down to her knees.
She hates it. She hates everything and everyone at this very moment – him, Raoul, herself, this whole situation, the absolute lack of a good solution, one that wouldn't hurt people around her.
She's so young. Naive. Inexperienced.
She needs her Papa.
She's not strong enough to survive it.
And now he's looking at her, wide-eyed, his mouth slightly open.
Christine still has trouble not wincing every time she looks at his face. It's ugly, bloated, twisted, and makes him look even more horrifying when he's lashing out at her – as if his fury alone wasn't terrifying enough.
"What did you just say to me?"
"I said I would stay with you. I will. I will become your bride," she repeats, eyes downcast.
"I, ah," he clears his throat, "seem not to have thought that through."
Christine laughs bitterly. She cannot help it, really, because god damn it, has he ever been more right in his life?
"You haven't, have you?" she asks.
"I was so certain you'd say no, I knew how this would end. I would have to kill Raoul," he explains, words leaving his mouth quickly. "You'd mourn him, never speak to me again, but at least he would cease to be a problem. I did not expect you to agree."
"Well, I do. Whatever shall you do to me now? In this sick, evil plan of yours: should I kiss you in order to seal the deal to some extent, and then, what? Should I just go to my room here and strip so that you can make me officially yours?"
She smiles widely when he flinches.
He's not the only one who enjoys inflicting pain upon other people, it would seem.
"I would... I would never force myself upon you, Christine," he says quietly. She almost feels bad now; he looks mortified at this very thought, not quite believing she could think him so low. How can she not, though? When he's taking everything away from her? Her life, her future, her career, her freedom?
Still, she almost feels bad.
"You hate me," he says at last. It's not a question. He's calmly stating facts.
Christine blinks and clenches her teeth. Then, she stands up, gathering the skirts of her damn wedding dress in her hands, and looks him right in his eye.
"I despise you," she agrees. "I regret ever having met you. I regret our every lesson, I regret every minute I have spent with you. I wish you had never appeared in my life. I wish I had never had my Angel of Music."
He turns around, gasping for breath, as if her words were too much for him to bear.
He deserves it, though, does it not? He kidnapped her, forced her to give up her life in order to save Raoul, made her promise him forever.
Forever with this beast.
This freak of nature.
Christine stops dead in her tracks when she hears him.
He can't have just–
"I said, go!" he growls, turning to her again. "Fucking leave this place and never come back. It will be exactly how you want it to be – as if I have never existed. Go, and leave me here alone. You will never see me again. Go, Christine. Don't make me change my mind, my dear! The monster's bed awaits!"
The last sentence is all that Christine needs; it is what snaps her out of her stupor.
She's going to take this chance, seeing as there may never be one ever again.
And she shall not share her bed with this thing.
"I hope you rot in here," she sneers, turning on her heel and bolting as fast as she can, leaving his house behind. She's frantically trying to think of a way out; seeing as she only knows the main corridor, Christine has no idea how to get back to the Opera.
"Christine?" She hears when she's on the verge of crying – she's afraid he will, indeed, change his mind and come for her after all. She's afraid of being here, in these dark catacombs, all alone. She's afraid she will be the one to die.
The voice is her salvation, though.
Dear, sweet Raoul.
She is free.
Everything seems good, at last, when Christine crosses paths with a certain cat.
Christine still cannot quite believe how amazingly normal her life has got once her dark Angel has disappeared for good.
In fact, she has almost forgotten how it feels not to be a part of an ongoing drama – her days are now deliciously monotonous, filled with rehearsals and meetings with her fiancé. And it is nice. Truly.
Raoul is being an actual most darling person she could have ever hoped for. He is dutifully taking care of her, fulfilling her every whim and fancy. He has saved her, he has understood her, and she does agree with him; Raoul thinks the Phantom was but a cruel creature that deserves nothing but to be loathed, which is what she told him when she was leaving his lair. Raoul repeats these words every so often, thankful that it is over, and Christine always nods, because he's right. She will never forgive that monster for what he was trying to do to them.
She is so lucky to have such an amazing gentleman by her side.
Days pass and when Christine sits by her vanity, brushing her golden-blond, almost brownish, locks and staring at her reflection in the silence of her flat, she cannot help but feel at peace with the world.
Things are looking better and better, after all. She is loved, she's got friends, she performs.
She has got so much – she's got things she once feared would be taken from her forever. It is still quite overwhelming.
And most importantly, she has not heard from him ever since that dreadful night.
Perhaps he's dead already.
Life has got simple, indeed.
"Monsieur Firmin asked me to tell you that Carlotta is going to replace you in the role of the Countess in Il Muto as of tonight," Madame Giry informs Christine one day when she enters the Opera House.
It's been a week since that dreadful night. The Opera nearly burnt down; thankfully the mob decided to take care of the fire instead of following her and her abductor, and they managed not to let it spread. It was for the best, really, because not only did dozens of people not lose their jobs, but there was no riot either – if the mob went after her and the Phantom, she could've got hurt in the process. This way the losses were minimal.
Her smile fades immediately and she asks confusedly, "Why? Did I do anything wrong?"
"I don't know, girl. You should ask the managers, I am simply delivering you the message."
"What about the... Opera Ghost? Do you not remember what happened the last time they cast Carlotta in that role? He specifically chose me."
"Erik is gone, Christine," Madame Giry snaps at her. "You know what happened that night. He let you go, you said it yourself. He is no longer adamant about you being the leading soprano. He no more cares. He might have chosen you in the past, but you made it quite clear you didn't want to have anything to do with him ever again. And when he told you it'd be as if he never existed just like you wished? Well, my child, he was being serious."
She turns around and leaves Christine standing there in shock.
She doesn't feel bad or betrayed, no. She's angry, because this is... Erik's way of trying to hurt her.
Raoul's words keep ringing in her head: He is hardly a human being, nothing more but the Devil incarnate, I swear.
He's right, as always.
Her Angel from Hell is trying to ruin her for the second time, and she will not let him do so.
She hurries to her dressing room as fast as she can and loudly shuts the door behind her. She then stands in front of her mirror, despite having hoped she would never be forced to use it again, and calls for him.
"Erik? Is that your name? You have never told me how to call you, to be honest. You probably haven't had the time, since you were busy either kidnapping me or hurting somebody else. Come on, reveal yourself to me. Do not be a coward. Why did you let them replace me? Am I not your beloved protégée?"
Christine is greeted with silence. No-one answers.
"Damn you!" She growls, sitting on her bed.
She knows she has got no right to throw temper tantrums because he stopped interfering in her affairs – this is what she demanded from him, after all, then. She didn't think he would listen, but she should be glad he did.
He has truly set her free.
It's just quite hard for Christine to learn to be on her own. She has always had him – he would guide her, help her, teach her everything. Now he's gone, and it is an odd feeling, indeed. Nonetheless, the mistress of her own life she wanted to be, and it's high time to become independent.
It does sound a little better in theory.
A knock on the door interrupts her musings.
"Come in," she calls, and smiles gently when Raoul enters her room.
"Lotte, dear, Madame Giry told me about the managers' decision."
"Oh, yes." Christine sighs. "He did let me go for good, Raoul."
"Are you as relieved as I am?" the Vicomte asks, chuckling.
I'm not sure.
"Yes, of course I am."
"Good. We can forget about this foul thing now."
"Of course. We should. He has hurt us both too much."
"No matter, Lotte. He's gone, and we have got a wedding to plan. Then we will move to the country, and we will live happily ever after."
"You want to leave Paris?" Christine gasps.
"Of course! I've never liked this city, if I'm being honest. I think it's a good decision."
"Have I ever let you down, Lotte? Trust me. It's for the best."
Christine smiles tenderly when he kisses her hand. He's right. He's always right.
"If you say so... Yes, we should move."
Raoul will keep her safe and happy. This much is certain.
"And we shall never mention the Phantom again, alright? It's time to move past these events. Do you swear, Christine?"
After all, not speaking about him is an easy enough thing to promise; not thinking about him is harder.
Then again, for a woman claiming to hate that man so much, Christine thinks it is rather odd she cannot make herself get his ring off her finger.
The truth is, despite what she told Raoul, that Christine doesn't want to leave Paris. She doesn't like this idea at all, but she was so shocked when he told her about his plans that she did what she always does – she agreed with him.
Because so far, Raoul's decisions have always proven to be the right ones.
And, perhaps, she will love the country. She's never been anywhere much, really. Her hazy memories of Swedish landscapes can hardly count as seeing the world, whereas Raoul has travelled far and wide, and he surely knows what will be good for them.
Still, it hurts, Christine thinks as she strolls through narrow Parisian streets leading to her block of flats. She will miss this city's atmosphere, the views, the crowds, the liveliness of this place.
Hell, she will miss the Opera. She's not stupid; Christine knows Raoul will not have her perform anymore. It would be a disgrace for a Vicomtess.
She has lost her position there, anyway. Without her voice lessons and his help, her career is over. The managers will never let Carlotta leave, seeing as they seem to prefer her over Christine, so she is not delusional.
She will not be the leading soprano in Opera Garnier. Ever.
All of her dreams have literally shattered in front of her very eyes, and there was nothing she could possibly have done to prevent it.
It's twilight and Christine decides she must cut her walk short as it would be very silly to wander through Paris alone in the darkness any longer. That's when she hears it – a soft, quiet, pathetic sound coming from somewhere in the vicinity of a wooden bench standing nearby. She squints her eyes and waits, thinking that maybe she is just hearing voices in her head – again.
But no, there it is again, the soft noise, and she kneels down in front of that bench, trying to decipher what is making it. That's when she sees it; a wee kitten sitting next to the rubbish bin, dirty and sickly thin, meowing pitifully. It must have been abandoned by its mother, Christine thinks, taking it in her arms. She cannot leave it here – the kitten will surely die all alone, hungry and cold. She's not so heartless.
She wraps the little thing in her cloak and starts walking fast, trying to get to her flat as quickly as possible.
It seems she has just acquired herself a pet.
When she gets home, she unwraps her little companion, which is shaking to its very core, from both stress and chill, she guesses. Christine has got no slightest idea as to what to do with it now. She knows she must feed it, and clean it, too, but she doesn't quite know how to start.
"Will you help me?" She asks the kitten. "Please, be nice to me and help me take care of you."
She lights her paraffin lamp and finally really looks at her new friend, as it was too dark to see what it looked like back in the park.
It's unsightly. Dirty, thin, with clumps of black and white fur stuck together; its left eye and ear seem battered, and she doubts if it can see out of that eye. It's a small disaster, really, and she falls in love with it immediately.
"Don't worry, little one, you've got me now. I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise," she whispers, patting its tiny head. The cat meows, and she can't help but smile at it. "I know what I shall name you, too!" Christine giggles. "You will be called Lord Horatio Nelson. He was blind in one eye, too, you know? I know it's not very patriotic of me, since he defeated the French fleet, but I'm not French, am I? And Sweden holds no grudges against this Viscount. So Lord Nelson you shall be!"
She takes it – him – in one arm, the other hand holding the lamp and struts to the kitchen. She finds some milk there, and pours it into a bowl, hoping to God the cat is old enough to drink it on his own. She places Horatio in front of it, and scratches him behind his good ear.
"Come on, Lord Nelson, eat up. We need you to get strong and healthy, do we not? I will fetch you something delicious tomorrow, but tonight milk's all I've got, dear."
She purses her lips, waiting patiently for Horatio to understand what he's supposed to do now, but the kitten looks adorably confused. "Well, perhaps, you'd rather not eat whilst so dirty, hmm? Would you like me to clean you up? Let's try it, shall we?"
And clean him, she does. Once she's dried him up with a towel, Christine proudly notices that Horatio looks a little better. Now all she needs to do is fatten him up, and she will be an owner of one cute kitty.
Still, it takes some convincing to get Lord Nelson to drink his milk. She tries different methods of encouragement, and when she's on the verge of tears – after all, he's going to die unless he eats something – she dips her finger in the white liquid and then pats him in the nose. Horatio licks his mouth, tasting these few drops that she's left there, and then proceeds to lick her finger, too. So she does it again. And again. And, finally, only few droplets are not quite enough for him, and Lord Nelson starts drinking his milk from the bowl with which she has presented him.
Christine laughs out loud at that, cheering on her kitten enthusiastically.
As she stares at it, a huge smile still present on her face, she realises that this is the first time she has laughed in weeks. Months, probably. She hasn't really smiled since Raoul came up with his plan of capturing her Angel.
She cannot believe this is how her life has played out. The relief she felt just a few days ago, this feeling of content, is slowly being replaced by emptiness and dullness.
She should be grateful, she knows. She's got Raoul, she's getting married in the near future, she will want for nothing. She knows that.
And yet, somewhere in the dark pits of her soul, in places she'd rather never visit, there are voices telling her that it will never be enough. That she and Raoul are too different to be truly happy, that she needs more, and she wants from life more than just being glad; after all, she has always dreamt of passion and bliss, of extreme happiness.
These voices also tell her that there is one person who could give it to her. Passion, rapture, ecstasy.
She silences them, though. Gentle is good. Safe. Comforting.
And thus, the reasonable part of her argues that not changing anything and thanking God for what she now has, is the best option.
The reasonable part of her wins.
"Are you done, my sweet?" she asks when she sees Horatio backing away from his bowl. She scoops him in her arms, and takes him with her to her small boudoir. Placing the cat on the bed, she quickly changes into her nightgown , thoroughly washes her face and briefly brushes her hair. When she's done, Lord Nelson is already fast asleep.
She feels warmth spreading through her chest as she lies down next to him and closes her eyes, waiting for sleep to come.
Raoul doesn't like what Christine's doing, and she's angry, and needs her Angel again. Things are getting a wee bit more complicated, then.
Christine wakes up to the feeling of something licking her chin gently, and when her confusion fades away, she smiles widely at the little intruder.
"Hello to you, too, Horatio! Did you sleep well?" She sits up, and the kitten purrs quietly, scratching her hand. "You're getting playful, are you not? Being clean and with food in your belly, you surely feel better, eh? We're going to take care of you, worry not. You will never be cold in your life again, I promise."
She gets out of the bed after a while so as not to be late for rehearsals, and quickly gets ready to leave. The kitten is much more willing to drink some milk this morning.
"You're going to drown yourself in this stuff, do slow down, little one," she laughs, wiping white droplets off his head. He's a messy eater, that one.
Christine knows she cannot possibly leave Horatio all by himself in her flat, so she's got no other option – she wraps him in her cloak and takes him with her to Palais Garnier. Hopefully, he will be okay in her dressing room.
When she gets to the Opera house, she tries not to draw attention to herself; she's not sure as to whether any pets are permitted there – probably not – so she prays to God no one will notice Lord Nelson. She heavies a sigh when she closes the door of her dressing room behind her and places Horatio on the small bed.
"You'll be safe here, dear," she tells him quietly.
They both jump when the door suddenly swings open.
"I was hoping to see you here, dear Lottie!" exclaims Raoul. "Oh good Lord in heaven, what is that thing?" he asks, pointing at the cat.
"Close the door, quickly!" Christine grumbles, and when he does so, she continues, "Allow me to introduce you to my new pet, Lord Horatio Nelson."
Raoul blinks rapidly.
"You've got yourself a pet, not having talked to me about it beforehand?"
She doesn't like the tone of his voice, Christine decides.
"Well, I found him in the park. Poor little thing, probably lost his mother."
"I am certainly not shocked she didn't want it," Raoul says.
"Have you looked at it? It's... a walking mess."
"I will fatten him up, but I think, aside from that, he's quite healthy."
"I didn't mean that. He's... he doesn't have a pedigree."
"Of course not, silly. He's a feral cat."
"And it's quite... Well, honestly, it's hideous."
Christine gasps, not quite believing her own ears.
"It's no-one's fault if one is born ugly. Or, if other creatures hurt them. The victims of violence are blameless, Raoul."
He ignores her completely, it seems.
"You cannot possibly keep it."
"Watch me. He's staying. He's my cat."
"You'd better get rid of it before our wedding, Christine. Or I will."
Raoul turns around and leaves, not saying another word.
Christine kisses the top of Horatio's head, trying hard not to burst into tears. Every time she gets closer to having something good in her life, someone does everything they can to destroy it.
The rehearsal is long and boring.
Christine sighs loudly, going through her warming up routine and striving to remember Erik's tips. It's been so long since her last lesson it's getting more and more difficult to recall all those little things. She constantly worries about her voice, and now she's also deadly worried about her kitten being all by himself in the dressing room, which causes her to be extra edgy this morning.
"Christine Daae, if would be so kind as to join us," Monsieur Firmin calls for her at one point and Christine stops what she's doing and runs to the two managers talking with Madame Giry.
"You called, Monsieur."
"I have some news for you, Miss Daae," begins Monsieur Andre. "I'm afraid we're going to ask you to join corps de ballet again."
Christine blinks, not quite understanding what he's telling her.
"Due to rather unfortunate publicity your recent actions have brought us, you can't–"
"But a few days ago Madame Giry said the only change taking place would be me not playing the role of the Countess anymore..." she interrupts him, feeling the panic rising inside her. This cannot be happening.
"Rumours are not fading, though. We must make you a little more anonymous, so to speak, for a while. Hopefully, this is only a temporary thing. Then again, with your impending nuptials... Well, you may go. This is all."
"Go," Madame Giry orders. Christine flinches, obediently going back to the rest of people rehearsing their roles.
Her whole life is slowly falling apart again, even though she worked so meticulously to re-build it.
"Meg," Christine asks shakily when she finds her friend. "Do you know what the managers told me?"
"Mother mentioned something earlier this morning... I'm sorry."
"What publicity?," Christine cries out. "What rumours? What on earth were they talking about?"
Meg looks around and takes her aside before answering.
"Well, you know... People had been talking about your strange affair with the Opera Ghost for ages now, especially when the chandelier crashed. They knew you two had a... relationship of sorts. But you were courting Raoul, so those were just rumours, and the managers enjoyed them because they kept people interested in coming here to see you themselves. Then the Phantom literally proposed to you. And suddenly people were talking about you..."
"About me what? What did they say?"
"Must I really tell you?" Meg seems to be quite uncomfortable talking about it, but Christine insists, "Definitely. Speak!"
"Well, people are saying you've been sleeping with the Phantom to become the Prima Donna, and with Raoul to become the Vicomtess."
Christine's heart skips a beat, and she feels herself go pale.
"I... God, I have not..."
"I know, I know!" Meg rushes to reassure her. "The managers don't like it anymore, because it makes our Opera look somewhat dirty. As if we, as a community, were shameless and such. So they decided to make you a chorus girl again so that people don't... notice you anymore, and as a result, move on."
"I don't understand... Oh, my," she mutters brokenly, when Meg's words sink in. "Please tell your mother I was feeling unwell. I will just go to my dressing room and try to pull myself together, alright?"
"Of course. I'm so sorry, Christine. But perhaps it's better you know."
"Yes, it is, I guess." She nods and turns around, nearly breaking into a run to get alone as quickly as humanly possible.
She lets herself break down once the door closes behind her. Christine slides down its wooden surface, violent sobs wracking her body, because she cannot believe people can be so cruel. It's what it must have looked like, though – the Vicomte's fiancée dancing suggestively with and uttering quite sensual words to a murderer.
She loved being Amnita, she must admit. She felt free, like a completely different person. She'd never dare be so wanton in real life and it felt so nice to discover that these things were inside her, just waiting to be awoken.
She now sees herself like a complete harlot, especially that, oddly enough, she has never felt that way with Raoul before.
It is frightening, the things Erik has made her do and feel, and she thought she'd never want that again, but right now she is desperate to talk to him. She needs her Angel. Her fallen Angel.
"Erik? You didn't answer the last time, but now you have to. Please, show up," Christine says, trying to stop crying. She hates being so weak.
"Come on, I know you're listening. You can't have disappeared, this is your home, after all. And I know you're spying on us, still, so show yourself to me." Her voice gets firmer, but he still doesn't answer.
"I need you. Do you hear me? I need you, and you cannot leave me here like that. Not in this state. You owe me this conversation, do you understand? Chop, chop, come to me."
Horatio keeps bumping into the mirror, sometimes literally throwing his little body at its glossy surface, as if he was desperate to get to the other side. Christine laughs, wiping tears off her cheeks.
"There's no use, dear, he's not going to show up this time." She stands up and goes to pick him up, worried he'll finally hurt himself, then places him on the pillow. "Calm down, you, we'll be going home soon."
"I think your newest pet sees me in the mirror." She squeaks when she hears this voice behind her. Taking a few breaths to collect herself, she turns around to face Erik.
He has come to her.
Christine knows she should be devastated, not relieved. She cannot help it, though. She has wanted so much him to visit her tonight.
She quickly collects herself, trying to look as casual as she can.
"Quite possibly, I think," she agrees. "He may not look it, but Lord Nelson is extremely intelligent, I assure you."
"An indisputable fact, indeed. It must live up to its name, after all."
"It's a he. Show some respect," she laughs quietly, taking Horatio in her arms and scratching the cat behind his ear.
"My apologies. You... called, Christine. I tried to disregard it, but you were being quite adamant."
"I was, was I not?" She sighs. "I just... needed to see you. We've got some unfinished business, wouldn't you agree?"
"I'm surprised you want me here, I must admit. You made it quite clear you wished me dead."
"I was... angry. I shouldn't have said that."
"You shouldn't have, yes. But then again, there are some things I shouldn't have done either."
He clenches his teeth, she can see that even with his white mask on.
"Do you know I'm no longer performing? First they told me I wouldn't be playing the lead anymore, now I'm back to being a ballet girl. It feels like the last year didn't even happen. I think they're blaming me for that disastrous premiere of Don Juan Triumphant. I mean, we, you and I, have managed not to turn the whole place to ashes with our fights and our issues, but the word got around, and... Well."
"With no voice lesson, it was inevitable, anyway."
"You know damn well why it happened the way it did."
"Why you were so proud that you thought you wouldn't need me anymore? Dear Lord, Christine, you haven't had a proper voice session in six months. Soon enough, your exquisite voice would go to waste. Talent is one thing, putting some effort into becoming divine is something entirely else."
"And all because of a boy," he snarls, and that's what makes Christine finally snap.
"You've kidnapped me, Erik! Why are you making me feel as if I was the cruel one?" She screams, not being able to control herself any longer. He's just standing there, not showing any emotions whatsoever, even though she expected him to lash out.
So different from the person that was going to force her into marriage that night.
"You tore my mask off in front of everyone, Christine. In front of the entire Paris."
"You're exaggerating. There were, perhaps, two hundred people present."
"And this is making the situation better, how exactly?" He chuckles. "The only person for whom I had ever cared. The one that I had trusted with my life, had taught everything I knew... Did exactly what other people would do. Humiliated me when I poured my heart to her. I... I only wanted to have my opera performed. I had worked on it for years and years, and I was so incredibly ecstatic to see it onstage. I hadn't seen you in six months, and I knew it was over. I still wanted you to play Amnita. Piangi saw me lurking around in the shadows, and wanted to call the gendarmes... I'm not proud of having killed him, Christine. I was so desperate his death not to ruin the night, I decided to play Don Juan instead. And you felt my mask, and decided to..."
Christine's lip is trembling violently now.
"Why should I? There's no point in lying anymore. Nothing I say will ever change your opinion about me, so I don't care what you think anymore. You wanted to know why I did what I did. So I'm telling you. Want to hear the rest or should I just go?"
"Please," she whispers.
"You felt my mask under the hood and decided to remove it; I wanted to flee, I did, but the police were everywhere. So I took my chance. I proposed. I shouldn't have, probably, but I knew they'd kill me soon, anyway. And you... You could have said no. And let them shoot. But you decided to strip me off my dignity instead. You... pretended to lean down so that you could kiss me. Do you remember that?"
"I thought you'd kiss me, then. How silly of me, eh? I thought I'd get my first kiss. And I closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew were people screaming and laughing at me. I couldn't stop myself from hurting you back. That's why I took you to the lair."
"Raoul said it would..." Christine starts, trying to hold back tears. She has no strength to be angry, to demand answers, to fight with him; this conversation has been quite enlightening after all. It seems she wasn't blameless either.
"Raoul, Raoul, that stupid boy of yours again," Erik growls, turning around. "Why are you listening to him still? You're an intelligent woman, capable of thinking for herself. Why are you following his lead so blindly?!"
"He knows what is best..."
"See, this is your biggest problem, Christine. You're unable to be your own person. You continually need someone else to guide you, to tell you what to do. Do you know what my one last advice to you is?"
"Break off this stupid engagement, close yourself in your flat, alone, and grow up. You don't need anyone – you don't need me, Giry, Raoul, anyone. You're strong enough to survive on your own. You just have to learn how."
"Does this mean you're going away again?"
"Of course I am. You despise me, remember? You regret having met me. I just wanted to make some things clear. Take care of yourself, Christine. I do hope one day you'll find it in yourself to forgive me."
"Farewell, my Angel." He smiles softly at her and his eyes linger upon her for a little while longer, and then he disappears behind the mirror. She runs to it, and tries to open it again so as to ask him not to leave her alone, but there's no use. Only Erik knows how his tricks work.
And now Erik is gone, again, and Christine is not as happy as she was the previous time.
If she is being completely honest with herself, she is still not quite sure why she removed his mask that night. She was scared, of course. She didn't want him to die, but she didn't want to go with him either. She didn't want to marry him. Raoul's plan was the only sensible option she could think of, even if she was angry that he and the managers were making her do that.
Now that Christine thinks about it, she sees how awfully she behaved; he laid himself bare in front of her. Erik asked her to be his, and instead of being gentle when he let himself be so vulnerable, she pretended to agree just to unmask him and embarrass him in front of everyone.
She wanted to be free, though. And it was the only way in which she could distract him for long enough so that she could flee.
It didn't exactly work out either.
A shudder racks her body when Christine remembers how they sang together.
She has never felt more wanted and desired than in that very moment.
Sighing, she stands up and gathers her things. There is no point in staying here, anyway; Erik is not going to come back and they are not going to finish their conversation. Soon, perhaps. Not tonight.
Christine doesn't know that on the other side of her mirror Erik is watching her leave . It is his personal nightmare, it would seem – seeing the only person he has ever truly loved turn around and abandon him all over again.
Raoul is pushing her and Christine doesn't like it. She likes what Erik's telling her, though.
Christine comes to the conclusion that Horatio is too young to eat anything else than milk, anyway, and decides not to worry about finding him something better than that. She scolds herself and thinks herself extremely irresponsible before apologising to her cat profusely, but the events of the day have left her dead tired. She wants nothing more than to just crawl into bed with Lord Nelson and fall into dreamless slumber.
First there was Raoul, Christine recalls as she brushes her hair. Horatio is purring softly in the background, trying to get comfortable under the duvet. Raoul, who demanded she got rid of Horatio, calling him a walking disaster. She cringes at that thought, still not quite believing her dear fiancé was capable of being so insensitive. After all, just as she said to him, it’s not Horatio’s fault that he was born ugly.
A loud gasp leaves her when Christine realises what that sentence truly meant.
Not his fault he was born ugly.
How can she be so unfair, then?
She repeatedly called Erik a monster, a freak of nature, a thing.
And yet, with her pet, she’s being sympathetic and protects him from other people’s cruelty.
How can she treat an animal with such empathy and love and call a human being an oddity? Both Erik and Horatio cannot help it they don’t look like others.
Her father would have been so ashamed of her.
This epiphany leaves her at a loss for words. She cannot quite believe she has been so blinded. Ever since that fateful night with the chandelier nearly killing her, Raoul has been by her side, telling her again and again that Erik was a monster. And she heard it so many times, she must have – at some point – forgotten which thoughts were those of her own, and which have been implemented in her mind by the Vicomte. Which is why she believed she truly perceived Erik as a freak.
Then again, Christine cannot blame her fiancé only; after all, just like Erik said, she’s got a mind of her own, so she should have been wise enough to see that Raoul had been manipulating her.
She turned against her Angel, not having given him even a fighting chance. She’d torn off his mask, had run away from him, had told Raoul all of Erik’s secrets, and then dared be shocked that murders had followed these events.
Christine feels faint.
It took a bloody cat for her to finally understand it.
It saddens Christine greatly to think that perhaps Raoul isn’t always right, after all. He is so confident, though, so sure of himself whereas she’s scared and weak. How else should she function? Taking care of herself is truly frightening a concept, in fact. She can’t really imagine a universe in which she’d be able to be her own guardian; it is utterly abstract, to be honest.
She remembers Erik’s words, though – he told her she did not need anybody else. That she could be independent and strong if only she put her mind to it. Oddly enough, it has never occurred to her before. She was so used to having someone else guide her – be it her Father, Madame Giry in the Opera House, Erik when her Papa died, Raoul when the Angel of Music fantasy shattered. She’s never been alone and on her own.
Christine bites down on her lip.
Maybe one day.
Not right now.
She shakes her head and decides to stop contemplating it seeing as she won’t be getting any rest otherwise, and God only knows she needs it.
Still, it takes a few hours for her to finally fall asleep.
The days get even more depressing when she adjusts to changes made in the Opera Garnier. Carlotta hates Christine – has hated her since the very beginning – and now she’s absolutely insufferable. Christine knows she has no right to blame her; after all, it is partially her fault that Piangi is dead; she cannot imagine what La Carlotta must be going through now. In their own odd way, those two were a perfectly-matched couple. Hence, whilst snickering, hateful comments and obnoxious huffing every so often bother her, Christine doesn’t let it show. She doesn’t want to give La Carlotta this satisfaction.
She struggles with the choreography, having forgotten the technique that was no longer required of her once she started performing as the lead. Madame Giry is trying to be patient with her, but she snaps at Christine all the time, anyway.
It’s tiring, humiliating, and Christine almost wishes she could marry Raoul right away and be done with this place once and for all.
Thankfully, all bad things come to an end at some point, and Christine is about to head home, little Horatio snuggled against her chest, when Raoul stops her in the corridor.
“Lotte! Haven’t got rid of that thing yet, have you?” He grimaces visibly when he notices the cat.
“I told you he was staying. Is there anything you wanted to discuss with me, Raoul? If not, I’m quite exhausted tonight so I’d rather go home.”
“See, you distracted me with your silly stubbornness and I forgot what I was going to say to you.”
“It’s not silly. Lord Nelson is not going away. I do hope I am making myself quite clear,” she repeats.
“Are we really going to have an argument over a homeless cat?” Raoul asks, spewing the last words as if it were an insult.
“There is no argument to be had, actually, because you’re not going to change my mind, anyway. So stop it.”
“Oh, dear Lord. We shall discuss this issue later, then. Now, I remember why I needed to find you. Could we talk in your dressing room? It will only take a moment.” He’s clearly irritated with her.
Christine heavies a sigh and goes back to the room. Not wanting to disturb Horatio, she sits on her bed and gently strokes his back. Raoul takes a seat next to her.
“There is a problem, dear.”
“What? What happened?”
“Nothing happened, per se. The managers made you a chorus girl so that the rumours would die down. It did not exactly work, however. I mean, now people are saying that it is simply a disgrace for a Vicomte to marry a dancer.” Again, the word-spewing.
Christine closes her eyes in exasperation.
“What do you suggest?”
“You leaving the Opera at once, of course.”
“Not happening, Raoul,” Christine answers.
“Why ever not?”
She thought about resigning just a few hours ago, but now when Raoul actually suggests she leave, she thinks the concept completely ridiculous. In her zealous stubbornness, which he called her out on earlier, she decides to do the exact opposite.
“This Opera is my life and I am not leaving until I have got no other option.”
“You haven’t got any other option, Lotte. You’ll be leaving it, anyway, sooner rather than later, so why not now? This is as good a moment as any.”
“I shouldn’t behave like a complete coward. I need to face the people and prove them wrong. This is what Papa would have told me to do.”
“Your Papa is not here anymore, Lotte. And as you said, things have changed. As your future husband I think that you should not work here any longer. The Vicomtess needs a respectable job if she truly insists upon actually having one.”
“What do Vicomtesses do with their time if they don’t work?”
“They run the household. Attend parties. There are charities as well.”
It sounds quite pointless, Christine thinks.
“And what do you mean ‘respectable job?’ Is being a performer not reputable?”
“Hardly, Christine. Don’t kid yourself.”
She shakes her head sadly, having no strength to fight him tonight.
“Do you think you would have decided to court me if I had never been the leading soprano? If I had always been a ballet girl, would you have noticed your Little Lotte? Or would you have disregarded me?” Christine asks quietly. She’s afraid of hearing his answer, but at the same time she has got to hear it.
Raoul looks pensive for a moment. “Well, it is a difficult question. I think I wouldn’t have recognised you. You’ve changed, Lotte,” he chuckles. “Thank Lord you’ve been a famous singer, though, even if only for a short while. Mother would have never allowed me to marry a mere girl from corpses de ballet!”
“Lucky me, indeed,” Christine mutters sarcastically. “I’m going home now, Raoul. I will see you around.”
“Surely. Good night, Lotte.”
She doesn’t even remember how she got to her quiet little flat that night – when she sits down on the sofa and sets Horatio free, she’s still shaken to her very core.
She has no idea what’s happening to Raoul. Why he’s being that way; forcing her to do everything he pleases, not listening to her at all. She hoped things would get better – they should, now that Raoul isn’t obsessed with the idea of killing Erik anymore. And yet, she’s decidedly less satisfied with their relationship than she’s ever been before. She doesn’t like the way it looks now.
She knows she’s got two choices. One is to just accept it as it is and stop having second thoughts; agree silently that Raoul is her soulmate and live... happily ever after, however happy that ending would be. The other is to simply end their engagement. Tell him she cannot be his wife and face his wrath; then not let herself be bothered with rumours and mockery. Perhaps end up in a gutter if Raoul decides to convince the managers to fire her.
Both choices are bad.
For either way you choose you cannot win.
The following day, Madame Giry literally throws her out of the rehearsal after she’d tripped half of the chorus girls up due to her clumsiness.
“What now, Christine?” The sound of Erik’s voice startles her, but instead of acknowledging him, she keeps playing with Horatio.
“Hello to you, too. Showing up uninvited again, are we?”
“You cried twice today. Excuse me if I still care enough for you to ask you what is wrong,” he answers.
“I’m sorry.” Christine shakes her head. “I don’t know what is happening to me. I’ve never been this way. Not even when my papa died.”
“May I sit down? Or would you prefer me to leave?”
“No!” Christine cries out. “I mean, you can stay. Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” he says and chooses to sit on the chair in the corner of her room. She looks at him, then, for the first time this evening – he’s wearing his elegant cloak again, the same he wore when he first revealed himself to her. His white mask is glowing in the gloom of her dressing room.
His attire does make him look rather appealing, she notes, and then internally scolds herself. No strings attached this time. She wants to be free, after all.
“You probably know that some people are spreading filthy rumours about us.”
He nods, indicating for her to continue.
“I wanted so much to be admired by the general public. Instead, I’m perceived as the Opera whore.”
“I know. They don’t, I guess. And now, Raoul wants me to quit and makes me feel as if I should be grateful he’s willing to marry me. As though it was some kind of a favour,” she continues, her voice breaking. “I feel dirty. Worthless. I have no idea what I am supposed to do now, really. My career is over, my upcoming marriage makes me want to throw up, and I’ve lost you, too. Really, Erik, when did my life turn into such a mess?”
“Somewhere between me throwing a chandelier at you and me kidnapping you and forcing to marry me, I think.”
“You let me go,” Christine reminds him. Erik chuckles humourlessly.
“Hardly makes up for it. What do you want, Christine?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what do you want. Have you thought about your life, your goals? Where do you see yourself in, say, five years?”
“Stuck in a huge mansion located somewhere in a godforsaken French village, being bored to tears as nannies take care of my seven children. Probably. I may be getting some details wrong.”
“You can’t have seven children within five years time, for one. Basic maths, Christine.”
She actually laughs out loud, giving the poor Horatio a fright.
“Always here to help. And this is what you want, then? Having a big house, many children, not having to work...”
“No,” Christine answers truthfully. “But this is where my life is currently heading.”
“You do realise, of course, that it does not have to be this way, right? You are the one who is in control of your own life. You can change each and every thing, right now. You can drop everything, leave the country and become an incredible fashion designer in Milan. Or a prima ballerina in Moscow. Hell, you could be a University professor in London. If you want to, you can do anything. You just have to believe in yourself and finally acknowledge that you don’t depend upon other people. You’ve managed to free yourself from me and it’s an awe-inspiring deed. If you fought the monster and won, the world is at your feet.”
“Don’t call yourself that,” she whispers, suddenly hating herself for having made him believe he was nothing but one.
“Just saying it as it is, Christine. This is no matter, let us focus on you.”
“What if I can’t survive on my own? I don’t know anything about... well, anything much.”
“Nonsense. You’re a brilliant young woman who doesn’t need anyone in order to become successful or pleased with her life. If you don’t want to just sit at home and birth one child after another, don’t. And I’m not saying it just because I cannot stand that bloody boy of yours.”
She giggles, shaking her head. She feels lighter than she has in what seems like ages.
“He may not be mine for much longer. He’s pushing me, and it’s getting annoying, and... maybe I’ll find it in myself to tell him we can’t be together anymore. Soon. Perhaps. I think... I think we may never be able to create a loving marriage. He’ll cheat on me when he finally gets sick of his unhappy wife, and I will have to pretend I’m stupid enough not to notice anything while serving afternoon tea to his trollops.”
“Do my ears deceive me, or did you just speak ill of Raoul?”
“I didn’t, not really. I’m just being realistic. These last few days have been quite revealing, you know. He hates Horatio and says he doubts he’d have fallen in love with me if it hadn’t been for the spectacular role of Elissa in Hannibal.”
“You’re a wonderful person, Christine. Don’t ever question yourself, just because some fool doesn’t appreciate what an honour it is to call himself yours.”
“I’d burst into tears now, but I think I’ve cried myself dry by now,” she sighs, shaking her head.
“Chin up, dear. You can do it. I know you can; just... take your time and don’t listen to Raoul, but to your heart instead.”
Christine nods and looks Erik in his eyes. He’s staring at her with such confidence and with such faith in her, it takes her breath away. She’s never felt safer than she does now.
And stronger; she’s never felt more capable of standing up for herself than now.
How in the hell did she allow other people ruin what she and Erik had?
A complete and utter idiot, that’s what you are.
“I was thinking about what you told me the other night. And you were right.”
“Christine, we have been sitting here for the last quarter of an hour and all I’ve been trying to make you understand is that you have to stop listening to other people’s opinions. This includes mine. Stop believing me!”
“No, no,” she rushes to add. “I contemplated your words and came to the conclusion, all by myself mind you, that they make sense and that what I once thought was true, was wrong and twisted.”
“Well, I am glad, then. That you’re taking your time to think before blindly agreeing with others.”
“And this is why I would like to...” she takes a deep breath, “to apologise to you.”
“You? Apologise to... me?” he snorts inelegantly. “Whatever for?”
“For all those horrible things I said that night. I’m sorry. Truly, I am.”
“You said yourself, I kidnapped you. You were perfectly entitled to think me a monster. It’s okay.”
“No, it was cruel of me. Will you forgive me?”
“Yes, of course.” Erik waves his hand in a dismissive manner. “No harm done.”
Christine thinks forgiveness is one thing, but he’ll never forget what she did to him.
In which Erik gets some screen-time, and Christine gets fierce.
Thank you so much for reading!
Erik was on his way to his home when he heard the sound of muffled crying. He ignored it, at first, but he couldn’t help but wonder who was making these noises and what could have prompted them. Having nothing better to do with his time, anyway, he decided to check up on the poor soul sobbing their eyes out. True, the Opera was filled with incompetent people, and Erik wished time and again he hadn’t been forced to live in the shadows – had he been born normal, he would take good care of this place.
He’d fire everyone, probably.
Still, even though he didn’t care that much, he was madly curious. So he followed these pathetic sounds someone was making, and suddenly he was hit with a strong feeling of a déjà-vu.
It was Christine. Obviously. He’d never stop somehow stumbling upon her, even though he was desperate to honour her wishes.
She had wanted him dead, so dead to her he would be.
It was exactly how he’d found her all these years ago – she had been but a small girl, crying in her small room, clutching a photo frame to her chest. A picture of her dead father, a brilliant violinist, who’d passed away a while back, leaving her all alone – that’s what she told him later on, at least. She’d then put the picture on a small bench and taken two candles out of her pocket, lighting them on both sides of the photograph. She had been silent for a long while, her fingers caressing the frame, and then – almost absent-mindedly – she’d begun humming. Just a simple melody, one that he hadn’t recognised, but he suddenly couldn’t move. It had been exquisite in its simplicity, and Erik couldn’t believe such angelic sounds were coming from such a small child. He’d known he wouldn’t be able to leave; he had to meet the girl, and had to come up with an idea for him to guide her, to take care of her. To help her reach brilliancy.
His query as to how to approach her had been answered by the child herself.
“Oh, Papa,” she’d cried brokenly, “you’ve promised to send an Angel of Music to me, and I’ve yet to encounter him. Please, hurry. I simply cannot do this alone.”
He had smiled and that’s how the... nightmare commenced.
Well, he shouldn’t be calling the best years of his life a nightmare, but in the end, that’s exactly what it was. And maybe it’s really for the best that it’s over now.
It was Christine’s voice that snapped him out of his daze; she was calling his name.
His given name. She was demanding his presence.
And he fought, he fought so hard to resist her, but how could he? He was madly in love with this awful woman, and he couldn’t ignore her pleas, no matter what had happened between them.
He seemed addicted to the pain she was continually causing him.
Besides, her silly-looking kitten apparently sensed his presence and was desperate to break the mirror into pieces just to get to him. He chuckled before sliding it open; he had no idea Christine got herself a pet.
And so talk they did. She mostly sassed him and shouted, to be more precise, but they did manage to exchange some words without him losing his mind. Which was a success, really. She looked sad, though, and it broke his bloody heart to leave her alone, but he had to. That was what she wanted.
And now, they’re doing it again. Truly unbelievable a notion, Erik thinks, and yet it’s happening – they are having a conversation. Mostly about the Opera; she seemed upset about the managers’ decision, understandably so, and yet it angered Erik a little. Apparently, Christine wanted to have everything. She wanted him gone, and yet she wanted to be the Prima Donna; she wanted to get married, yet she wanted to continue to work here. She wanted everything and didn’t seem to understand that there were things she couldn’t have. She had to make some choices, but was unable to make decisions on her own, constantly asking other people for guidance instead. Christine had to grow up, and Erik was at a loss as to how to make her understand that. What was surprising, though, was the feeling of calmness inside of him – he had no desire to yell, demand, lash out on her, things he’d have done in the past when something had bothered him.
Erik thought the reason for that was that he knew he’d never have her for himself.
And he had come to terms with that.
There was no use fighting for her anymore. She had made herself quite clear that night. So, if he knew he had no chances left, he didn’t feel the overwhelming need to make her... love him. With no emotions clouding his mind, he could stay composed and focused, and actually help her a little.
She also told him about her fiancé – or, her personal douchebag, as he liked to call him – and she shared her fears and doubts with him as well.
If he could do anything to make her happy, he would. If her happiness was with that boy, so be it.
He knew it now. Better late than never, Erik supposed.
“I should leave you alone now,” he says when he feels the silence between them is no longer comfortable. Christine blinks, probably having been lost in her own thoughts.
“Oh. Is... Is your house intact? They haven’t found you?”
“They’ll never find me. I shall forever remain the Opera Ghost if that’s what you’re asking about.”
“I didn’t mean...”
“I know. Don’t worry about it. Your little companion here looks sleepy,” Erik points at Horatio. So adorable a pet, that one. He looks as if he’s been through a lot in his short life, and Erik cannot help but sympathise with the cat. “Heroes must get a good night’s sleep, so I’d advise you go home now as well.”
“I will,” Christine nods. Erik smiles softly at her, his heart breaking a little; it shatters into million pieces every time they share a peaceful moment that inevitably comes to an end. These moments are so much, and yet not enough. Never enough.
“Take care, Christine.”
Erik stands up and with a quick movement of his hand has the mirror slide open.
“Erik!” Christine calls after him. He turns around and sees her biting her lip, suddenly shy.
“I... Thank you. So much. For everything.”
“You are very welcome. This is the least I can do for you now.” She smiles. Actually smiles. And it’s too much for him to bear. “Goodnight, Christine.”
“Goodnight,” she replies.
And then he’s gone.
Christine feels suddenly heavy, as if the reality was coming crashing down on her. She hates that the conversation with Erik felt so right, even though it shouldn’t have. She hates that Raoul was wrong.
But at least she acknowledges that.
As he flops down on his coach, Erik flinches at how damn quiet his house is. Having been so engrossed in music for as long as he remembers – or as long as it’s safe to remember – it’s really difficult for him to get used to this silence.
Music does not make any sense anymore, though. Christine was his diva and his main inspiration; with her gone, he has no desire to compose or play again.
He closes his eyes when he remembers the last time she was here. It was completely unplanned an event, and he really didn’t know what he was doing; but she had humiliated him when he had proposed to her, so forcing Christine to marry him seemed like as good a plan as any at the time. And she agreed. She said she would stay with him.
And for one moment, one insane second, he was the happiest man alive. The only thing he’d ever dreamt of was going to come true; he was going to taste normalcy. He’d have a loving wife by his side, they’d sing together and lead a deliciously dull life as a married couple.
Expect the woman he wanted to marry so badly was looking at him with such hatred and disgust in his eyes, he was suddenly at a loss. He’d never thought she’d agree, but in every scenario he’d envisioned, she looked at him with nothing but love.
He realised, then, that she’d never be his.
And he had to let her go.
It makes sense – it was the right thing to do. But, oh god, why did making good choices hurt so fucking much? It doesn’t encourage one to keep doing good things; he feels his heart break every time he so much as thinks about Christine.
It’s not fair, Erik thinks – he gave her her freedom back, he tried to make her happy. He shouldn’t suffer so.
Christine didn’t look happy, though. She seemed tired, helpless, and so incredibly sad. She truly didn’t know what to do, the poor thing. Erik wishes he could hold her and tell everything would be fine; he wishes he could comfort her.
Not as a friend. Not as an acquaintance.
As a life-companion. He’d die to do that in the role of her significant other.
The person he will never be.
Erik sighs heavily, his eyes fluttering open. Being a delusional lunatic is a nasty habit, indeed.
Christine is sure things cannot possibly get any worse. Except they can, and when she accidentally bumps into Carlotta during rehearsal, causing the lady to fall down flat on her bum which is, obviously, followed by an insane temper tantrum delivered by yours truly, Madame Giry tells her to just go home and take the day off.
She is literally useless. Christine cannot believe she’s got so bad at dancing. She was always mediocre, never quite catching up with Meg, but she... got by. Now she cannot do a single thing right, and it’s so frustrating, because she knows she could do it, provided she could focus on her tasks.
There’s so much going on, though, that she’s distracted beyond belief and, hence, absolutely... well, crap.
Christine doesn’t even have the strength to be disappointed or depressed anymore.
She is angry.
She is furious because they do not appreciate her and make her do things she’s not good at. It’s infuriating, really, and she wants to scream with rage.
She’s done with being sad. Being broken has been exhausting and she is not going to spend her entire life crying her eyes out. Never.
It is time to be fierce now. She looks around her dressing room, trying to decide what to do first – she’s not sure. Sighing, Christine takes Horatio in her arms and tells him, “We’re going to find Uncle Erik today, my love!”
Again, she’s doesn’t quite know how to begin her search, but she’s determined to succeed. It has to mean something.
She dresses in her cloak, hiding Lord Nelson underneath it, and leaves the Opera. She vaguely remembers Erik telling her about the Rue Scribe; apparently, when he needs something from Madame Giry that is where they meet. She assumes, then, that there must be some kind of a door or a window, perhaps, that would allow her to enter the catacombs.
It takes a while; thankfully, the narrow street is empty and no one questions Christine actions as she’s strutting around and squinting her eyes suspiciously, looking for anything out of order – something that’d cleverly let her in. Finally, she raises an eyebrow at the huge pile of cardboards resting against the wall of one of the buildings. It looks out of place, and clutching Horatio securely against her chest, she tosses it away. And here it is, a tiny wooden door, and Christine almost screams in triumph.
She looks around, double-checking if there is no one is there – it could endanger Erik, after all – and doesn’t hesitate to pull it open and walk in. The corridor is nearly dark, the only source of light being a few torches placed alongside it. Heart beating wildly in her chest, Christine takes one step after another, slowly but surely making her way through the catacombs. She’s scared, of course she is – Erik did tell her about his... surprises for unwelcomed visitors. She’s probably going to die here, Christine thinks, which isn’t that bad an option, either. She’s finally being brave, so if this is going to be the last journey in her life, so be it.
She’s finally doing something rebellious, and it feels so good.
“What the hell are you doing in here, young lady?” She hears behind her, and a high-pitched scream leaves her throat.
She’s having a heart-attack, Christine suspects. She twirls around and sees Erik, his arms crossed, clearly expecting an answer.
She opts for rage, instead.
“What is wrong with you? You scared the poor Lord Nelson to death!” She growls at him, stroking her cat gently.
“The cat looks anything but frightened, Christine. You, on the other hand, screamed like mad. Prideful, aren’t we?”
“Malicious, aren’t we?” She fires back.
“Trying to distract me, aren’t we?”
“Oh, shut up... will you?”
“You’re so bad at bickering, Christine.”
She shakes her head, desperate not to let him know that after the initial shock, she’s glad to see him. And that she’s having fun.
“Just leave me be.”
“I did!” Erik laughs. He actually laughs. “I let you go, and here you are, strolling through my secret corridors. Do you want to, perhaps, tell me anything?”
“Not particularly,” Christine mutters, pretending to be busy by scratching Lord Nelson thoroughly. She had so much she wanted to say to him, but with the way he teased her just a moment ago, she wants to be all nonchalant about the entire thing.
So, she entered the catacombs all by herself, armed only with a cat, and he caught her. There’s no need to make such a fuss over this, is there?
“Are we going to just stand here, then, and have a staring contest? I’ve got time, Christine!”
“There are rats, though. And I think I saw mice, too. I don’t know which you find worse.”
Christine shivers and her eyes go wide.
“I’ve got a cat,” she says meekly.
“Lord Nelson is a wonderful pet and protector, indeed, but I doubt he can fight snakes.”
“Oh, gosh! You’re not being serious right now!” She squeals, looking around alarmed. Surely, if she was in danger, Erik wouldn’t let her be there, would he? Then again, she’s said so many awful things to him that night, he might want to punish her now. And he’s clearly not afraid of any of the creatures he’s just mentioned.
“Just... Just take me to your house, Erik. Please!”
“As you wish, my dear.”
Erik was sure nothing would surprise him anymore. He thought he’d seen it all, and he was ready to encounter whatever oddity life would throw at him without so much as batting an eye.
When he heard the alarm indicating that someone was on their merry way towards his lair, he didn’t care who that person was – he had to protect himself, whether it was the mob or the Vicomte himself. Whomever, really. He would fight them, and he would win, because this was who he was.
Preparing himself for swords, fists and punches, Erik had to pinch himself when he found himself following a petite brunette, who was clutching a wee kitten against her chest and trying really hard not to lose her footing.
If there was one thing that would surely be the cause of his death, it’d be this woman. No doubts about that.
Instead of being nice, he chose to tease her, like the old fool that he was, and the poor little thing got even more scared than she had already been – and then she asked him to take her to his home.
Erik had to pinch himself again.
“As you wish my dear,” he hears himself say to her, and he mentally kicks himself for being so weak.
Christine is his undoing.
Every second spent with her hurts more than he can say, but at the same time he’d die time and time again, he’d give anything he owns, just to have her attention for a short while.
He suspects he is a bit masochistic, then.
When they get to his house beneath the Opera, he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. The last time Christine was here... Well, that did not go that well. He is desperate to make new memories and to prove to her that he’s not devoid of humanity; he wants to show Christine that he can be a gentleman, and then, perhaps, she will not choose to disappear from his life completely. Which is a ridiculous concept, truly, seeing as she has cut all ties once before; why wouldn’t she do that again, when she marries that boy?
She’s not going to be here permanently, Erik reminds himself. Temporarily only. Yes, she’s going to leave again.
Better be ready when she does so.
“I’ve never... I’ve never taken my time to truly look have a look around,” Christine says quietly. “It’s truly beautiful a place.”
Erik snorts inelegantly. “I rather liked the word ‘lair’ with which you so eloquently described this cave. I even started using it myself, you know.”
Christine feels heavy all of a sudden.
“Erik, I am so sorry,” she whispers, tears welling up in her eyes. With no Raoul putting thoughts and beliefs in her head, she feels so ashamed of herself, time after time. How could she call this house a lair? A lair, a wild animal’s resting place? Truly unbelievable, indeed, seeing as the house is actually quite lovely. A bit raw, she admits – no knick-knacks that would make it seem homey, but rather elegant and intimidating, with a huge fireplace decorated with ornaments carved in marble stone, an organ in the corner (one that he did use that night, she recollects), and a black sofa with a small coffee table.
If she were to guess, she’d say the rest of the house is furnished in the same style, and it certainly suits him. She likes it, Christine concludes.
“I told you there was no need to feel sorry.”
“I feel so bad, though,” she replies.
“Don’t. Now, would you... sit down?” Erik asks, gesturing at the sofa.
“Thank you, I shall.” Christine perches herself upon the settee, and Horatio wiggles impatiently in her arms, now wide awake. “Do you mind if I let Lord Nelson explore? I mean, unless you’re averse to cats, in which case...”
“No, no,” Erik waves his hand. “Do let the little admiral conquer the home of the enemy,” he chuckles.
“You’re not his enemy. Raoul is,” Christine tells him.
“Young Viscount isn’t fond of cute kittens?”
“It would appear so.”
“He’s such an idiot,” Erik mutters, shaking his head. Christine laughs and it’s the sweetest melody. “I’d offer you something to drink, but I’m afraid I’ve only got some tea. If you’d like–“
“No, that’s quite fine,” Christine interrupts him. “That’s not the reason why I was looking for you.”
“It was very silly of you as well, Christine. You could have called for me.”
“You didn’t answer the last time,” she reminds him.
“You could have called for me. I would have come. Wandering around is very dangerous, you know. There are all kinds of traps set there, in the catacombs. You could have got hurt.”
“I didn’t care. I needed to see you.”
“I care,” Erik mutters. “I’d have been devastated if you had injured yourself because of me.”
“Oh,” she gasps, blinking rapidly. She tends to forget that in his peculiar way, Erik is in love with her. At least, he claimed to be. She doesn’t know anymore. “It was unwise of me, you’re right. I’m sorry.”
Erik nods, sitting down in his chair. “Why were you trying to find me, then? What was so urgent?”
“Were you present at the rehearsal?” She asks, deciding to just go with it.
“No, I wasn’t. I was otherwise occupied.” Sulking in my room, Erik adds mentally.
“Well, I managed to knock Carlotta down and then had to listen to her, rather strongly-worded might I add, lecture.”
Erik knits his eyebrows, trying to comprehend what Christine is telling him, and when the mental image of Carlotta falling down whilst screaming with rage hits him, he roars with laughter. It is the first time Christine witnesses it, and she can’t help it – she joins him and laughs heartily as well.
“You are Carlotta’s worst nightmare, are you not?”
“I’m afraid so,” Christine giggles. “She was absolutely furious and nearly knocked me down in the process, literally throwing herself at me. It shouldn’t have been that funny, right? I should be embarrassed, not proud of myself, eh?”
“I do realise she’s still holding a grudge against the two of us – she should hate me, not you, though, seeing as I’m the one who killed her fiancé, but you’ve been patient long enough. She has no reason to be that mean to you, so, no, Christine. By all means, be overjoyed. It must’ve been hilarious!”
“It was!” Christine nods enthusiastically.
“I wish I’d been there to see it for myself. I think I’m going to have to start spying on you all again.”
“Oh, perhaps you’d better not.” Christine’s face fails a little. Erik notices, and he’s suddenly desperate to remedy that.
“Why? I promise I won’t throw chandeliers at anybody ever again.”
She titters, but her smile doesn’t reach her eyes. “It’s just... You’re used to seeing me perform and do so exceedingly well, and now... I mean, I’m that chorus girl who forgets her choreography in the middle of a song and bumps into somebody, causing physical damage more often than not. I don’t know if I want you to see that.”
“Don’t say that. You’ll practice and soon enough you’ll be the best chorus girl this Opera has ever had.”
“But I don’t want that!” She cries, getting to her feet. “I don’t want to be a ballet slash chorus girl in this damn place. I’ve tasted what it feels like to be a diva, and a diva I wish to remain! I want them to want me back. And not just because you threaten them; I want them to see that I can be better than Carlotta, even though she’s a brilliant performer.”
“She is, Erik. You hate her, but she’s great. The thing is, I want to be even greater.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I need your help.”
“Oh, of course,” he mutters. “Why didn’t I see that one coming.”
“I would like to know how you feel about... teaching me again.”
“Would you be so kind as to be my tutor? Again?”
“Christine Daae!” Erik stands up as well and raises his voice. “I asked you to come back once before, did I not? I told you you’d so much still to learn, and you chose to celebrate your engagement instead. You chose love over career that day, what’s different this time? Moreover, you wished me dead. Why are you here? Why do you keep calling my name? Why do you keep coming back? Why do you torment me so?” He’s panting when he’s done, and Christine doesn’t back away.
“I don’t know. I do not know why I keep coming back to you, but I do. Perhaps I’m bewitched. I’m not sure anymore. I tried, and I thought I could, but I cannot live without you in my life.”
“Do you think I will just be your slave, then? Your wish is my command and all that crap? Raoul might be your faithful puppy, I will not be one.”
“I prefer cats, anyway,” she says matter-of-factly. Erik snorts.
“So I’ve been told. You’re mad, too. Perhaps we should join forces.”
“I will... I will think about it.”
“Thank you, that’s all I wanted to hear.” Christine smiles sitting down, and Erik feels the familiar tingling in his chest. She’s so incredibly beautiful and perfect, and he wants nothing more but to have her sing for him again. Perhaps his music would come back to him as well? Then again, he’s so damn afraid of letting his guard down; it has taken all he had in him to pull himself together, and now that he feels mostly... sane, she wants him to be her teacher. Erik is so scared he’ll become so overcome with her and his music, and her voice that he’ll lose himself in the process.
He just doesn’t know if he’s ready – or strong enough, for that matter – to go back to how things used to be between them.
“What about the boy?” He asks, having calmed down a little and resuming his place in the chair.
“What about him?”
“He’s not going to let you continue to meet me. He’ll lock you in his mansion, probably, until you’re married and you can’t do anything unless he specifically permits you.”
Christine grows silent, absent-mindedly playing with her hands on top of her lap.
“Is that it? Is that how marriage supposed to work?”
“I wouldn’t know; I’m not that familiar with social rules, you know.”
She sighs deeply. “Let me worry about Raoul. Just think whether or not you will take my under your wings again. I know I don’t deserve it, but I think it’s best we move on. We both have made mistakes in the past, but it doesn’t matter now, does it?”
“I guess not,” Erik agrees. “If you’re certain.”
“I am. I am quite sick of beating myself over things I cannot change. It happened. I was being a cruel trollop, you made some poor choices under pressure, and now we have to fix it. And we won’t be able to, unless we stop going back to that night. Would you agree?”
“Believe me when I say I am sorry for what I’ve done.”
“So am I. You’re forgiven. Am I, also?”
“Of course, Christine.”
“Good. Now, you mentioned something about having tea to offer? I’d love to drink some.”
“As you wish.” Erik stands up, and then raises an eyebrow at Christine. “Wait, you command me to do something, and I just obey you blindly? What about that part about me not becoming your loyal puppy?”
“You’re hardly a puppy! Besides, you’re being a good host, is all. We’ve never had the chance to just sit here, at your house, and talk. Make me tea and we’ll do that now.”
He nods, muttering something under his breath whilst grinning like an actual fool, for which he wants to punch himself in the face.
Christine. Not permanent. Temporary.
When he comes back, with two white mugs filled with steaming tea, he hears himself say, “I agree.”
“You do?” She gasps, excitement and relief clearly audible in her voice.
“I do. But our relationship will be strictly professional. Don’t misunderstand me, Christine, but I cannot be your friend. It’s a little too much for me, to be quite honest.”
“I understand,” she replies quietly. “Voice lessons, nothing else. No teas, no conversations, no strings attached.”
“If that’s fine with you, that is.”
“Yes, yes, of course!” Christine rushes to add. She cannot help but feel disappointed, though. She wanted to be free from him, yet not having him by her side as a confidante and friends seems odd. She could always tell him everything and he would always listen and try to help her. But that was... well, years ago, actually. Ever since Raoul appeared in her life, these thirteen months ago, things have not been the same.
Christine feels nostalgic, she thinks. She misses the time prior to her relationship with Raoul.
She ought not to, right? He is still her fiancé and she’s going to marry him in a matter of a few months.
“Does it mean I should leave?” She inquires, suddenly unsure as to what is expected of her now.
“Don’t be silly,” Erik sooths her. “I see nothing wrong with the teacher and his student sharing a cup of tea. We don’t have to be that rash.”
Christine smiles taking her first sip.
It may be too early to say that things are looking up, but she is Erik’s pupil again and they did forgive each other, so some issues have been resolved. And it’s enough to make her feel happy, even if only for a moment.
I don't really know what to say, aside from a huge I am sorry. It's just, I started my MA this month; with the interview, moving out, getting used the new schedule and other personal things I don't want to bore you with, there was no time for me to write. But it's all good now. And so, here's the new chapter.
For all of your comments and incredibly touching kind words you've left in my inbox, as well as for your kudos - thank you. You're the best.
Days just seem to blur together, Christine thinks to herself on her way to Erik’s home. She thought they wouldn’t; she thought that now that Erik was back to being her teacher, her life would become exciting again, and that she would feel... different.
She doesn’t. Her days are tedious and tiring, filled with Erik throwing mad fits when she just can’t get her voice to be as clear as it used to be, and with Raoul moaning and groaning about their upcoming nuptials.
Apparently, she isn’t committed enough.
And yes, both of them actually claim that.
“Christine, I am sick and tired of you walking out on me,” Raoul growls when they are in her dressing room one evening that following week. “I mean, what is happening with you? You’re walking around with your head in the clouds, as per usual, but you seem more distant and more edgy, methinks? What is the reason of that, Christine?”
“Well, you’re wrong, my dear Raoul. I’m more at ease than I’ve been in ages. There’s no need to worry.”
And she means that. Even though she thought her reconciliation with Erik would change her life completely – which it didn’t – she’s quite content with how things are at the moment.
She’s singing again.
That’s all that matters.
“Then why are you avoiding me?”
“I am not!”
“You are, too! For one, you haven’t visited me in my house for weeks now. I have to either stalk you and corner you here, or run after you to your flat. Honestly, Christine. Is that how my future wife is supposed to act?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know. Luckily for you, this is the first time I’m getting married.”
“Don’t you get sassy with me!” Raoul snaps, crossing his arms. “I’m serious.”
“I just think we should wait. Why hurry? We’ve been engaged for, what, a few months?”
“Nearly half of the year.”
“Exactly! This is all too soon. We should wait.”
“Is there some game that you’re playing? Do you think I’m going to beg you to marry me?”
“Not at all! Are you ready to accept Lord Nelson as a part of our new family?”
“You’re going to get rid of that pet, or so help me God…”
“Then we’ll wait until you are ready. Honestly, it’s me and the cat, or nothing.”
“Christine, you cannot be…”
“I must go, Lord Horatio is hungry and as you probably realise, aristocrats get rather grumpy when they’re hungry or tired. Go get some sleep, my dear. I will see you around.”
“Christine! I will not have you– ”
She doesn’t wait for him to finish, though. Christine grabs Horatio and runs for her life, forgoing her voice lesson.
She just can’t deal with the guilt right now, and wants to be left alone. How does one tell their fiancé that they have made a terrible, terrible mistake?
“But tell me: do they believe me dead?” Erik asks, roughly stroking his cheek.
“They do, yes,” Giry replies, nodding. “For heaven’s sake, I have believed you dead! I still would have, hadn’t I spied on Christine!”
“Which was a wrong thing to do, anyway,” he mutters.
“You’re the last person to tell me I did something wrong.”
“You’re right, I guess,” Erik shrugs. Giry rises her eyebrow, carefully studying him. It was a great surprise to her, and a source of great relief as well, to learn that Erik hadn’t died in the fire. Or that he hadn’t killed himself, for that matter. He had been stupid, he had done terrible things, but Giry couldn’t help but feel relieved when she overheard Christine speak with him in her dressing room.
Demanding that he speak to her as well was an obvious thing to do; still, she’s quite shocked he revealed himself to her.
Remaining a cold professional in Christine’s presence meant that Erik couldn’t have her sit down and tell him everything that was happening in the Opera. It would require them to share a cup of coffee or tea together again, and even though he told her there was nothing wrong with doing so, he tried to avoid it altogether now – he couldn’t pull himself together after that one time the two of them drank tea in the same room and chatted about everything and nothing, so he decided not to take that risk again.
Erik sighs deeply. He’s so pathetic. Used to be the great and feared Phantom of the Opera, and now he’s but a ghost, buried in the memory of the performers now living their lives, and reduced to an unhappy pet of a divine soprano.
“You’ve changed, Erik,” Giry says when she’s done studying him.
“Hardly,” Erik snickers. “I’m just more bored with life now. I used to have quite a few responsibilities around here, you know. Terrorising people, running the Opera, making sure everything’s excellent, tutoring Christine... and now I’ve got nothing to do, and I’m just so... bored.”
“It’s not that I’m looking forward to hearing from the Phantom again – God, no, I used to be constantly scared of you and scared that they’d kill you at last – but things are not looking good, to be quite honest with you.”
“How so?” He inquires.
“Some of the cast left. New people are not very well trained. La Carlotta is doing well, but you know how she is; temperamental and prone to take offense. So the managers spend the majority of their time trying to reason with her and make sure she doesn’t threaten to quit and leave this place. She has got a lot worse with Piangi dead...”
“God, I wish I hadn’t killed that one. It had to be done, otherwise I’d be the one dead now, but...”
“I... understand? I think? No, I condemn you, but I get it.”
“Oh, stop it. And the ballet... Well, Christine may be a great singer, but she must be the worst ballerina I’ve seen in my life. I’m afraid we’ll have to give her some other job.”
“What other job?” Erik narrows his eyes at Giry. “You made her a chorus girl already, even though you all knew she’s an awe-inspiring performer. And now she’s still not good enough? You have got to be kidding me right now, Antoinette!”
“I’m not. Either we do something drastic, or the opening night will be a disaster.”
“You’d better make sure Christine gets to do something onstage. Otherwise I will make sure that the opening night is a disaster,” he growls; Giry smirks a bit, even though she tries to cover it.
“You haven’t changed that much, after all.”
“He’s getting quite big, is he not?” Erik asks, stroking Horatio behind his ear.
“Indeed he is!” Christine cries cheerfully, crouching down in front of her kitten. “Aren’t you, Lord Nelson? Soon enough, you’ll be the great aristocrat that you were always meant to be!”
“Don’t pressure him, Christine,” Erik chuckles. “You know what they say about parents that push their children into becoming something they don’t want to be.”
“You think I’m being that kind of a mother?”
“You sure are. So, careful. Or your son will hate you.”
“You would never hate your mummy, would you, Lord Horatio?” The cat meows loudly, causing both of them to burst into laughter.
It feels so good, Christine notes, just being here and not caring about the world upstairs. Their singing lessons are the brightest part of her day, undoubtedly, even when Erik gets mad with her and starts lecturing her. It’s not always that nice, but it’s good to see him in his teacher mode. Earlier this evening she had to remorsefully apologise for having skipped her lesson the previous night, and listen to how disappointed Erik was with her. She did feel bad, but Erik seemed to understand that she was in no shape to work after her conversation with Raoul.
“The boy getting in the way of your career again, I see,” was the only thing he said. She promised she’d never let him do that again.
Thus, even though she thinks her days are dull and uneventful, she does love these few hours she spends in his home.
She shouldn’t feel so many things – she shouldn’t not care what Raoul thinks, she shouldn’t not give a damn about her wedding, she shouldn’t enjoy her time with the man that abducted her. Christine thinks that the version of herself that hated Erik with a passion on that night he kidnapped her and wished to God Raoul would save her was the right version – she was the person she ought to be, then.
Now... now, she’s not.
And yet, she’s happy with how things are going.
It’s so confusing.
“You should head home, Christine,” Erik’s voice snaps her out of her thoughts. “It’s getting late and I’d hate for you to walk through Paris all alone.”
“I was actually hoping I could stay here tonight,” she says quietly, not daring to look at him. “Surely you’ve got a spare room for me to sleep in?”
“No, I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
“Why? Why would you want to stay the night? I thought we agreed not to be friends anymore. I’m your teacher. You’re my student. That’s all.”
“I know! And I understand! But I don’t want to go to my flat tonight.”
“Why?” He pushes the question.
“I... I’m afraid Raoul is there, waiting for me.”
Lie, lie, that’s a lie.
“Why would he be waiting for you there?”
“I have been avoiding him, and he’s... he’s furious with me! Who knows what he will do when I tell him I don’t want to speak about the wedding?”
Erik narrows his eyes. “You think he’d hurt you?”
“Well, not me... I think...” She can’t tell him Raoul would hurt her – Erik’s not stupid, he knows Raoul is way too gentlemanly to raise his hand at a woman. “But he just hates Lord Nelson. What if he... drowns him, or something!”
“Downs him? Where?”
“How would I know?! I don’t walk around my flat and wonder where I could drown my cat, for pity’s sake.”
“Christine, I’m surprised you’re such a convincing actress onstage. You’re terrible in real life.”
“Don’t you accuse me of overreacting, Erik.”
“Overacting, rather. Very well. Stay here for the night. I am quite fond of Lord Nelson, I don’t want him to be drowned.”
“Why, thank you! Will you show me the way?”
Erik sighs and shakes his head. “Follow me,” he says, standing up.
The room he shows her is lovely. Tastefully furnished, not in a cosy way – it’s elegant and sophisticated. Like Erik himself.
“The bed looks quite comfortable,” Christine says without thinking when she notices it. It’s huge and stocked with pillows; she can’t wait to lie down upon it.
“I wouldn’t know; I’ve never slept in here, rest assured.”
“I didn’t mean– wait, if you’ve never spent the night here... is it a guest room?”
It’s not like people visit you that often, she almost adds.
“It was supposed to be a room for you. When your initial shock wore off, remember? After you tore off my mask and realised I was hiding a dreadful deformity underneath it, you were so scared... but then you weren’t. And you apologised for having done so. So I thought we would continue our lessons. I know how tired you get sometimes; you can’t keep your eyes open,” Erik chuckles. “It never happened. We never had a lesson again. But I didn’t have to heart to destroy this room. So it stayed intact.”
“Thank you,” Christine says quietly, laying her hand upon his shoulder. “It was very thoughtful of you, and I appreciate it. I’m sure I will use it now.”
She’s not sure why she wants to stay here so badly.
But she does.
“Don’t make promises you know you’ll have to break at some point,” Erik mutters, smiling sadly at her.
Thank you for your incredible support. Couldn't be more grateful. <3
Christine cannot sleep.
Well, she would if she made any attempt to, probably, but she is decidedly not about to sleep her bum off when an opportunity quite like this one may never happen ever again.
Erik has been so incredibly unwilling to let her sleep in his house, he will most decidedly try never to touch upon this topic again. She needs to make the best out of this one.
That's why she finds herself brushing her auburn curls thoroughly in front of the vanity mirror in the room (clearly, Erik has thought of everything) and then, casting the last glance at her sleeping wee kitten, goes back to the living room.
Erik blinks rapidly when he notices her re-entering the room. So much for some peace in his own house.
He cannot help himself, but stare at her, though; he's never thought his Christine would ever want to talk to him, and yet, here she is, standing there and playing with her hands (an adorable habit of hers, he remembers, when she doesn't quite know what to do with herself) and looking absolutely breathtaking.
Sometimes, he loves her so much it hurts.
He hates her, too. With a passion.
"Why aren't you in bed?" Erik inquires, setting his book on the table next to him.
"I can't fall asleep, I'm afraid."
"Must be the clothes you're wearing," he muses. "That corset can't be comfortable."
"It isn't," she smiles gently. "Fashion means suffering, though. It's a price I am willing to pay."
"It's ridiculous, too. You don't have to wear such things just to be perceived as beautiful, you know."
"Says the man whom I have never seen wearing anything other than perfectly tailored and expensive-looking suits!"
"It's different with me, though." He shrugs, taking a sip of his wine. "I'm an owner of a monstrous face, so my fashion choices are some sort of compensation for not having anything else to offer."
Erik pretends not to notice the way her breath catches in her throat.
"Don't say-" Christine starts, but he interrupts her.
"Don't say what? That I'm a monster? Why? It's the truth, one that you have admitted in the past."
"We will always come back to that night, right? I will always be forced to remind you that you kidnapped me and was about to force me to marry you. Of course I called you a monster! But I've forgiven you, and you have forgiven me. So can't we just move on?" Christine cries, stomping her foot.
"I am sorry, Christine. This is why I am desperate for us to remain professional with each other. I can't have us try to be friends again, because we'll never get back to what we once were. Too much has happened. So, do forgive my rudeness. I am being the worst host possible."
"It makes me so mad," she mutters, sitting down on the sofa. "We had something special, didn't we? Back then, when I still thought you were an Angel sent from heaven, from my papa. We sort of… understood each other. And then… we could've had it all."
"We couldn't have, really. You were going to find out about my lies and bad deeds sooner or later. You were going to see my horrendous face. We were destined to end up falling."
"Were we, truly? Perhaps, if Raoul hadn't appeared in the Opera, I would've been able to learn to think for myself, like you said I should. Perhaps I would have understood."
"Would have, could have, should have. It's no matter now, Christine. We shouldn't talk about any of this anymore. It's over. The music of the night is over."
"Isn't it tragic, though?"
"Life usually is."
Perhaps he is right, Christine thinks; perhaps they were doomed from the very beginning. Two lonely people, one trying to piece her life back together after her guardian's death, the other desperate to have something, anything, to live for.
Because, in fact, that was it for Erik – to have someone in his life. A person he could talk to, and to listen to them, too. To have them see him as a person, as a living, breathing human being, not a monster. To see him, not his disfigured face.
He didn't mean to fall in love with her. Erik only wanted a friend.
She was perfection, though. It was impossible not to love her.
"I miss it, you know. I miss us. I miss the way we were before," Christine whispers, shaking her head sadly.
"I cannot be your Angel anymore. You have to come to terms with that."
"I know. I just wish there was a way for us to... fix whatever it is that has to be fixed between us."
Erik chuckles. "You should probably say these words to your future husband. The Vicomte must be rather displeased with your behaviour if you fear he's waiting for you in your flat."
"I don't think we'll be getting married," she replies matter-of-factly.
"Is that so?" Eriks tries to feign nonchalance. "You did mention something at one point, but I thought it was merely... what do they call that? Getting cold feet?"
"My feet are frigid, indeed, and Raoul can do nothing to change it. It's not sudden, though, this feeling of fright – everything about this wedding feels wrong. I have to end it, I think. And soon." She nods and then looks at him. "Does that change anything?"
"No, not really. Well, aside from the fact that with the boy gone, we can focus on your voice and be sure that you'll be actually using it onstage. I have been quite worried we've been wasting our time thus far."
"Well, we are not. I really want to sing again."
"I must admit," Erik continues. "I am rather proud of you. You are making choices. You are following your heart. It is a very pleasant change."
"It's difficult. But it feels so good."
Erik smiles at her, taking another sip of his wine. "Cheers."
Christine tries to smile back, but she's afraid it looks more like a pitiful grimace. "Would you mind it terribly if I sat here with you for a little while longer?" She asks.
"Not at all," he replies. "We may as well have one evening off, from that teacher-pupil thing. We have crossed several lines tonight already."
"I'm sorry," she sighs.
"Don't be. It's nice, having somebody over, I have to say. I don't think anybody has ever been here."
"I... I'm enjoying myself, too. Even if it's a little bit painful," Christine laughs humourlessly.
"I'm sorry if I said something that upset you."
"No, no, I'm fine." God, they have to stop this; all they do tonight is apologise to one another, Christine thinks. "You know, Lord Horatio is sound asleep," she says, trying to lighten the mood. "He's even snoring a little, I think!"
"The wee fellow likes his new bed, then? I'm glad," Erik chuckles. "Honestly, I've never thought kittens were able to make the Phantom of the Opera feel all gooey inside, yet here he is, completely taken with one."
"You like him?"
"Is it possible not to? I mean, yes, I know about the Vicomte's views, and I can assure you I'm not saying I like your pet just to be perceived as a better person than he is. The little one is ruining my image, that's certain. Please, don't tell anyone."
"Your secret is safe with me. Speaking of secrets! Madame Giry says hello."
"She told you she knew?" Erik sounds surprised. "Damn that woman."
"She is still being quite hoity-toity when I'm around, and I think this isn't going to change any time soon. But, yes, she told me to say hello."
"We... talked. Once. She overheard us in your dressing room and demanded I speak with her. It was a very brief encounter, but she filled me in on things happening at the Opera."
"I'm glad. Although, my image must have been ruined. She probably told you what a horrible ballet girl I was," Christine laughs, but when Erik grows silent, her laughter dies down. "She did, didn't she? She thinks I'm terrible?"
"You're not, Christine," Erik rushes to reassure her. It doesn't work, though. She can tell he's lying.
"I am. Oh, Lord, I am absolutely useless now that I don't sing. Oh, God," she cries. Obviously, she suspected she must have been as bad as she thought she was, but to actually hear it – it still hurts. A lot.
"You are a divine singer, Christine. Hey– Hey, look at me," he tells her. "You are a magnificent performer, and we are going to make sure the world realises that. Do you hear me?"
She nods gently. "You're not going to terrorise them, though, are you?"
"No. For now."
"Thank you for having such faith in me, when even I don't believe in myself."
"Always, Christine," Erik replies hoarsely.
She finally does manage to fall asleep, even though she can't quite pinpoint the exact moment that happened. All Christine knows is that she wakes up quite rested, with a certain kitten still sleeping soundly upon her chest.
"Hey, you," she pokes the cat. "Are you in a coma? Should mummy be worried? Give me a sign, Horatio!"
Lord Nelson lifts his eyelids and blinks sleepily, before looking Christine dead in the eye, and moving to lie down on the bed instead, clearly showing her he doesn't want to be bothered.
"Have you just given me attitude? God," she groans, shaking her head. Having made herself somewhat presentable, she leaves her room only to find Erik sipping his cup of coffee in the salon. He is all dressed up, looking impeccable as always. Christine makes a mental note to ask him about the mask one day; whether it's comfortable or not, because good Lord, does it look good on him. "I think Lord Nelson is turning into a huffy teenager," she informs him.
"Good day to you, too, Christine."
"Good morning, Erik. Have you slept well?" She rolls her eyes.
"Thank you, I am touched you bothered to ask. So, your cat's being naughty?"
"You know. Children."
Erik chuckles, shaking his head. Christine smiles widely, feeling a lot better than she did last night.
"I made some porridge, and there are also some fruits left for you. Maybe you would like to eat something?"
"I really don't want to impose."
"Nonsense. You have to wait for Horatio to wake up, anyway, so you may as well have breakfast. I'll let you go as soon as it's possible, don't you worry," he assures her.
"It's not that, I'm not in a hurry!" She chirps. "I just don't want you to get sick of me."
"What a ridiculous thing to say. How utterly laughable a notion!"
"You never know," Christine mutters, taking a seat next to him at the table.
"I don't think you'll ever understand what you mean to me," Erik sighs, staring at his hands.
"Nothing. Eat up. We need you to be strong if you're to conquer the world."
"You're insane," she laughs.
"Aren't we all? Madness is so subjective."
"You're trying to make sure I don't start getting teary-eyed again about my situation at the Opera, are you not?"
Christine smirks when Erik merely blinks, not saying a word.
"If you are, you're succeeding."
I am the absolute worst. But life has been tough, and I am sorry. Two days before Christmas, though, I give you a sort-of Christmas-y update. One which starts with Raoul, but ends with Erik. One which — I hope — will satisfy you. I do intend on updating in-between Christmas and the New Years, but you just can never be sure, so I'm not making any promises. It'd be nice, though. So we'll see.
Without further ado, have at it.
“Miss Daae has decided to come back home and let her fiancé know that she hasn’t been murdered! How very kind of you, mademoiselle!” Raoul’s harsh tone makes Christine stop dead in her tracks.
She was so sure she managed to successfully avoid him on her way, which made her so relieved, she completely forgot he could be waiting for her inside. After all, Mamma Valerius knew and trusted him – of course she would give him the spare key to her flat.
“What are you doing here, Raoul?” Christine inquires calmly, setting Horatio free. The cat ostentatiously ignores their visitor, disappearing in the kitchen.
“What am I doing here?” He stands up and crosses the distance between them. Christine flinches at the tone of his voice. “You were gone, Christine! You disappeared! I haven’t been able to contact you for two days. Have you got any idea how worried I was?”
“Don’t. You eschew responsibilities like a bloody toddler, you careless, careless girl! Where have you been?”
“That’s plenty of my business. Where have you been, Christine? Answer me, god damn it!”
Anger flashes in Christine’s eyes as she suddenly straightens up and meets the Vicomte’s furious gaze.
“I will not have you speak to me this way, Raoul.”
“I am your fiancé, I have every right to be angry.”
“And yet, I still deserve some respect, and you’re not showing me any.”
“How am I to respect a woman, who’s been spending her nights at another man’s house? Although, ‘man’ and ‘house’ are both major understatements. ‘Beast’ and ‘lair’ respectively would have been better word choices, that’s for sure,” he snarls.
Christine blinks, not having any idea as to how he guessed where she’d been.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about!”
“Will you stop finishing my sentences for me, and let me actually say something?” She snaps.
“Did you or did you not spend the last night with that man?” Raoul demands.
“I did not spend the night with him, no.”
“But you did see him.”
“How do you know that? Did you follow me?” She asks angrily, trying to shift focus from her misdeeds onto him.
“Don’t you change the subject, Christine Daae!” Damn. “Miss Giry was kind enough to inform me, upon seeing me so distraught, that if you can’t be found, then perhaps you’re spending your time with your former voice teacher, the Phantom. At first, I was so sure she was speaking nonsense! So certain, truly! But no, then all those little things started to finally make sense – your hesitation, postponing our wedding, being so... distant, with your head in the clouds. And I figured she was right. You had found him, and you had found him – unfortunately! – alive and well, and he had bewitched you again. Oh, Christine... What have you done...”
“The right thing, Raoul,” she answers, not trying to lie her way out of this one anymore. “I have gone back and apologised, and you should, too.”
“The hell I should! He’s a beast, he murdered that stage worker. Or have you forgotten?”
“And the singer!”
“Honestly, you could just learn people’s names, Raoul. Piangi, he killed Piangi.”
“And yet, it is fine with you? That he has taken lives?”
“Of course it is not. But I’ve done bad things, too. I was helping people that wanted to take his life.”
“Because he deserves to die.”
“No one deserves that!” Christine stomps her foot. “Don’t be so cruel! You’re acting like a beast yourself right now!”
“Don’t you dare compare me to that thing,” Raoul growls. “I know what’s happening to you, though. You love him,” he states calmly.
“Don’t try and deny it so vehemently, Christine. If you just stopped and looked into your heart, your dark and twisted heart, you’d find that I am right. You love that monster. Just as much as he loves you.”
“Why are you saying this?” Christine cries.
“I want you to give me the ring back. Our engagement is over. We are through. I will not marry... such a woman.”
“Am I not good enough for you, then?”
“No. You’re not. And you’re not in love with me. I deserve better.”
They fall quiet. Christine nods silently, knowing that it’s over. And she’s so relieved.
“You do,” she agrees, taking off the ring. “Be happy, Raoul.”
“I shan’t say ‘likewise’, because you won’t be happy with him. But take care, Christine. And if I ever see that man again, be sure of one thing: I will kill him.”
“Thank you for not searching for him, though,” Christine whispers.
“I won’t. It would tear you apart. Nonetheless, if I ever chance upon him...”
“I will make sure to remember about it.”
When the door closes behind the Vicomte, Christine falls down to her knees.
And then, she cries.
It is Christmas Eve when Christine pulls herself together. It has been four days since Raoul ended their engagement, and these days have been tough. The reality came – again – crashing down on her, and she felt small and all alone in this world. She had no one – for the third time in her relatively short life. She felt like she wasn’t strong enough to face it, as though she wasn’t possibly capable of surviving this. She cried, shouted, sobbed, and slept respectively, but enough is enough.
True, she had wanted to end things between her and Raoul, but she had been trying to delay the inevitable for as long as she could – she hadn’t expected him to be the one to break up with her.
It was what she wanted, though, and no matter how difficult it was for Christine to realise that she didn’t need anyone but herself to endure what life throws at her, she did it. Because she is her own hero.
And she isn’t going to let it – the breakup she actually wished for – ruin her Christmas.
She takes a bath and thoroughly washes her hair, making a promise to herself never to let herself get so unkempt ever again. After that, she runs to the little shop just across the street and purchases fresh croissants and some fruit to finally make a proper breakfast. She buys something for her little one, too, because she’s got a feeling Lord Nelson is going to kill her in her sleep if she feeds him milk today again.
As Christine eats her meal and sips on her delicious tea, she thinks about the Opera – for the first time in four days – and decides that it is more than certain Andre and Firmin will kick her out as soon as she enters the building. She left no note, she told no one she wouldn’t get back (she didn’t know, but that doesn’t make the situation any better), she didn’t show up at rehearsals, and it is quite frightening – she will be jobless, come the day after Christmas.
She’s ready. She will be fine.
Still, it saddens Christine that no one thought of checking up on her. She could’ve been dead, after all – and neither Meg, nor Madame Giry cared enough for her to make sure she was alright.
And neither did Erik. But he’s an entirely different story.
She has spent these four days – aside from sobbing her eyes out and being utterly lost – analysing Raoul’s words.
You love him.
Christine doesn’t want to be alone this day. And it is Erik with whom she would love to spend Christmas. She’s not sure if she’s welcome at his house, but she’s got nothing to lose, really, so after she’s finished her breakfast, she gathers Lord Nelson in her arms and grabbing a basket on her way out, she locks the door to her flat behind her.
Christine Daae thinks she finally knows what she wants.
It takes some time, but Christine feels more and more comfortable wandering through the corridors beneath the Opera. She finds the way to Erik’s house easily enough, and hesitates only for a moment before entering.
The silence inside is deafening; Erik is nowhere to be found, and Christine sets Horatio free, growing more and more anxious. At last, she sees her former Angel – he’s sitting in the corner of his large living room, his head between his knees and he’s... frankly, he’s a mess.
“Erik?” she calls, running towards him.
When he hears her, Erik lifts his head and blinks slowly, as if not comprehending what is happening around him.
“Christine?” he inquires, his voice rough. “You’re here?”
“Of course I’m here. I’m sorry I’ve been gone, but...”
“Indeed. You were gone. You left me again. And I knew it would happen sooner rather than later, and I knew it was my fault, because I had tried so hard to distance myself from you, but I couldn’t, you were just too good to me, and we spent that lovely, incredible evening together, and then you left and never came back. And you had promised you’d use your room more often, and then I just thought you had been so cruel to say so, and to break that silly promise the next day... Oh, Christine, it all made sense, so why are you here?”
Christine smiles sadly at him when it dawns on her – he thought she had humoured him and played pretend with him, only to leave and never come back. The last few days must’ve been difficult not only for her, but for Erik as well.
She’s here now, though, and as she looks at him, Christine wonders if this is love indeed. She wonders if the strong pull towards Erik, the overwhelming need to be near him, is what love should feel like.
She knows that she wants to be with him, not with anyone else. Thus, perhaps, Raoul was right.
“When I came back to my flat that day, Raoul was waiting for me. He ended our engagement, so I’m a free woman now,” she laughs tiredly. “And I... I kind of lost it. I had no idea what to do next, because I was all alone again...”
“...you had me,” Erik whispers, not meeting her eyes.
“I had you, yes, but you told me I had to be my own person. So I had to come to terms with what happened, and I had to decide what I wanted from life. Really, really wanted.”
“And what is that?”
“I think... I think it’s you.”
“Now, I’m going to stop you right here.” Erik clears his throat. “Don’t say things you don’t mean.”
“I do mean them, though. I want to be here with you.”
“As in spend time with your teacher?”
“No. As... your woman.”
“God, Christine,” he groans. “You need to apologise to that idiot. You should be with him. He’d be good for you. Really.”
“I know! I realise I ought to be thankful for Raoul! God knows he was trying,” Christine cries out. “He was taking care of me, truly, just like he’d been taught to. But he’s... He is the one I should want. And I don’t. I don’t want him, Erik! I want you!”
“You don’t know what that means, Christine” he groans, shaking his head frantically.
“Oh, but I do!”
“How can you? You’re but a child, scared and confused–“
“Don’t you dare say that to me,” she interrupts him before he says things he shouldn’t out loud. “Do not dare call me stupid.”
“I’d never call you stupid, Christine. You’re brilliant. Just... you’ve no idea what you’re talking about right now, and I can’t have you continue speak this nonsense, because it hurts, you know? It hurts, because I want you so fucking much and I can’t have you. And I spend my days telling myself this, telling myself you’re off limits. So you can’t just barge in here and tell me you want me, too. I cannot bear it.”
“Pity. Because you were the one to tell me to be strong and follow my heart’s desire. That’s what I’m doing now – I’m being me. And my mind, my heart... and my body... they all want you.”
Erik is absolutely desperate for her to see, to understand, that she’s speaking nonsense, and he prays to God she shuts the hell up, before the entire thing gets out of control. But, then there’s also another part of him, the less reasonable one, which is screaming at him to just bloody kiss her already, because the love of his miserable life is currently telling him she desires him, and this notion is so abstract he can scarcely believe it’s happening.
“Do you hear what I’m saying?” She inquires, growing quite impatient.
“You can’t possibly fathom what I feel for you, Christine,” Erik growls. “Love the likes of which you have probably never experienced. One that creates passion far greater than reason – you saw what I’m capable of as far as you’re concerned.”
“I did, yes. I know about all those horrible things you’ve done. You have lied to me, victimised me, to finally kidnap and very nearly forced me to become your wife.” Erik visibly flinches at every word she says, as if it physically pained him to remember all these events. “But for all your shameful deeds,” Christine continues, “you’ve also done quite a few that were awe inspiring. And the most amazing of them all, was doing the most selfless thing one can possibly do. You let me go, Erik. You had taken away my freedom, but then decided to give it back. Because you knew I deserved it – I had the right to be free. And Raoul... Raoul wanted to take it away again; he intended to marry me and then put me in a cage. I wouldn’t be able to sing, to decide for myself, I’d become his prisoner. And if the last month has taught me anything, it’s that I deserve the same respect any man deserves. That I’m not inferior to anyone, and that I am capable of making difficult choices on my own, without anyone’s guidance. That’s all you wanted for me, isn’t it? And so I have decided. And my choice is you.”
Erik is breathing heavily, having a hard time wrapping his head over the things she’s just said.
“What– What do you expect me to do now, then?” He asks, his voice barely audible.
“At last, he gets it!” She giggles, unable to hide her excitement. “What do you think? You simply have to kiss me now.”
“I... I can’t–“ he starts, and Christine grits her teeth.
“Honestly, Erik, if you want me to repeat myself, I shall. But I will not change my mind about it, so help me God if you’re trying to come up with another excuse...”
“That’s not it. It’s just, I can’t kiss you with my mask on... and...”
Christine smiles widely, and closes the distance between them. “When I tell you I want you, I mean I want you – and that includes your face. Let me familiarise myself with it, let me learn every centimetre of it. I promise you, I won’t be disgusted. You just have to let me prove myself.”
He figures he’s got nothing to lose; he has come to terms with the fact Christine would never want him, so this situation is so horrifyingly surreal he’s half-convinced he’s dreaming, anyway. Furthermore, Christine has seen him a few times without his mask, and so it’s not like it will be something new.
So, truly, Erik has got nothing to lose.
He lifts his mask.
And she doesn’t scream.
“Does it hurt?” Christine asks, trying not to blink. The urge to wince is still there, but she hopes it will pass soon. She doesn’t know what to do with herself, actually: on one hand, she’s thrilled that Erik is letting her see his face without screaming or threatening her at the same time. When he’s calm and collected, when he’s not throwing temper tantrums and roaring with rage, he looks so much less terrifying.
She has seen that face before. It was ugly, twisted and bloated. That didn’t change.
But what she sees in his eyes – the love, the devotion, the utter bewilderment – makes it so much more pleasant to look at, now that she thinks about it.
She hasn’t chosen a handsome man, that much is certain. But, in some sick and twisted way, she does find him beautiful.
That’s quite possibly another proof she’s mad.
Still, Christine doesn’t know how to behave – should she look? Should she ignore it? Should she pretend it’s not fascinating and that she doesn’t want to spend hours on end just studying the swollen flesh, its texture and its colour? She isn’t sure. And she doesn’t want Erik to lash out on her again (which he might, come to think of it.)
“It does sometimes,” he whispers. “It’s quite itchy, and when I wear my mask for too long, the skin gets really angry. It’d probably be less of a bother if I took some care of it. But I truly try not to look upon it too often, let alone moisturise it, or whatever you ladies put onto your lovely faces.”
“Oh,” she breathes, nodding gently.
“You’re not screaming,” Erik states.
“Neither are you. So why should I?”
He chuckles. Christine notes quietly that he looks even more appealing when his eyes start to glow with amusement.
She could definitely get used to his deformity.
“Is that so? It’s a chain reaction, then? You only scream when I do, too?”
“Indeed,” Christine smiles at him. “And boy, if you ever scream at me again, I’m going to use my full potential on you. And you are going to be sorry.”
“Interesting. And duly noted. I’ll make sure never to scream at you.”
“Well, you may. But I’m going to fight back.”
“I know. You have before.”
“You sound... proud?”
“I am the Phantom of the Opera,” Erik exclaims. “Of course I’m proud to see the fire in you!”
“Fair enough,” Christine laughs. “Look at us! Teasing each other, with your mask on the floor, and with me basically asking you to court me. Would you believe it?”
“Not really, no,” Erik murmurs, looking at his feet. “I still don’t know what to do with you.”
“Just love me,” she answers, taking his hand in hers.
“No, you don’t understand, Christine!” He squeezes her palm and looks her in the eye. “I’ve got... I’ve got this... love. This overwhelming love that I feel for you, I’ve got it locked up.... Locked up in a wooden box, if you will, and you’ve got the key. And if you turn it, and you... and you open that box? Oh god, there will be no going back. I’m giving you the last chance to back away. Truly, Christine, if you don’t mean it... If you don’t want me... if it’s just your... whim or fancy... Just go.”
“I shan’t. I want you to love me. And I want you to teach me how to love you. The only reason why I’m not saying the words right now, is because I want to truly mean them when I say them. And I’m still not certain if what I’m feeling for you is love. I mean... I do know that I don’t want to live without you. I’ve tried that... and ended up going back to you. I want to spend every moment with you, and never to be parted from you ever again. I think... that’s love... But I’ll say it when I am sure.”
“I’ll love you enough for both of us.”
“You won’t need to. Soon, I’ll know. Trust me.”
“So, that’s it, then? You’re mine?”
“I’m mine. And I choose to be here with you.”
“I do not deserve this honour, Christine.”
“You do. And before it gets so sweet we both get sick, you, monsieur, was going to kiss me, I believe.”
Erik sighs, knitting his eyebrows. “It is going to be clumsy, though. I have never kissed anyone. Nor have I ever wanted to.”
“It will be ours, therefore it can’t be clumsy. It will be perfect.”
Erik laughs breathlessly, still not quite believing his luck. This beautiful, brilliant, impossible woman, who has finally proven to be strong and capable of just about anything, is standing in front of him, demanding that he kiss her.
And he’s been denying himself this pleasure for so long, it seems silly to prolong the inevitable. His lips ever so gently touch hers, and, of course, Christine was right.
It is, indeed, perfect.
“Christine you’ve got to stop kissing me now,” Erik mutters after Christine’s grown tired of nibbling his upper lip.
“Why would I do that?” She giggles, placing a wet kiss in the corner of his mouth.
“Your lips are going to get sore, for one.”
“Don’t care,” Christine murmurs, shrugging a little.
“My legs hurt from standing up for so long, for another.”
“That is probably the only disadvantage of relationships with a bigger age difference,” she nods, smiling at him.
“We’re in a relationship,” Erik breathes.
“Indeed. Are you going to adopt Horatio, then?”
“Why, obviously. We wouldn’t want your child not to have a father, would we?”
“Decidedly not! Speaking of, where is Lord Nelson?” Christine asks, stepping backwards and releasing Erik at last. “Oh my God, I’ve forgotten about him. He must be off, doing something mischievous!”
“He couldn’t have done anyth—“ Erik doesn’t finish himself, as they both gasp in horror upon seeing Christine’s tiny kitten sitting on the top shelf of Erik’s bookshelf, tearing music sheets apart.
“How the hell did he get there?” Christine cries out, trying to reach the cat and failing miserably. Erik laughs behind her.
“Now, I don’t know about that, but I have just discovered an advantage of relationships with significant height difference,” he states, shooing Christine away, and taking Horatio off the shelf. The cat meows loudly, clearly angry that he has been interrupted.
“You are the worst,” Christine laughs.
“Both of you!” She’s still laughing as she takes Lord Nelson in her arms and scratches him behind the ear. “Meet your daddy, Horatio! Oh, you’re getting so big, aren’t you? And now you’ve got us both, and no-one wants to get rid of you. You’re going to be the happiest kitty that’s ever lived on earth, believe you me!”
“You’re ridiculous, Christine.”
“You love it,” she fires back.
“That’s very true, yes.”
Finally, Horatio gets sick of his owner showering him with love, and scurries away.
“Did he destroy anything valuable?” Christine worries, trying to stand on her toes and reach the sheets her cat tore. “I’d hate for you to lose your music because of him.”
“I’m not really composing nowadays, so I doubt it was anything of importance.”
“But I’m back, Erik. Why has your music not returned to you yet?” She inquires, turning to him. “I thought it was back.”
“I don’t know, really. Perhaps Don Juan was the one opera I was supposed to finish, and leave my so-called career at that? Maybe I’m not going to create anything ever again.”
“Oh, but you must. The world deserves more of your brilliance!”
“Please,” he laughs. “Let us not talk about it. I’d rather not dwell on that. If it’s gone, so be it. I need your voice in my life, and I do have it. I don’t need my music.”
“You know you do. But yes, we’ll come back to it later. For now, we’ve got Christmas to organise!”
“Christmas? Here? Are you kidding me?”
“Not at all. Listen to me, and listen to me good. I shall go up now, and get us all that we need. Food, well, a tree? Yes? No? Maybe?”
“A tree? How do you think you’ll manage to get it in here?”
“Very true. It’s too late for it, anyway. Next year, then. Food, candy, candles, lots of candles! And something for Horatio, too.”
“Oh, God. Alright, then, let me give you some money.”
“No, no! I hav—“ Christine stops then, because, well, she doesn’t have money, actually.
“Do allow the Phantom to pay for our first Christmas together.”
“If he insists,” she tries to pretend to be nonchalant about it.
“I have never celebrated Christmas before,” Erik mutters, mostly to himself, looking around. Christine spent everything he’d given her, every last sou. He is quite in awe of her.
She did go a little bit overboard, he’s got to admit that, no matter how sickly in love he is with her. There are candles, chocolate, biscuits, croissants, some bows (he has no idea whatever for) and other Christmassy knick-knacks; she even bought a miniature Christmas tree, the little fool.
“That’s not a typical French Christmas Eve, I know. Nor a Swedish one. But it’s ours, right? It’s going to be incredible?” She looks up at him, putting her purchases on the table.
“I... I don’t know, Christine,” Erik answers truthfully. “I am not that familiar with present Christmas customs.”
“We will make our own! Who will forbid it? No one. There is only us in here, and we’re entitled to create our own Christmas traditions.”
“How are you that cheerful?” He inquires gently, a small smile playing on his lips.
“I don’t know! I guess sorting out your life, being honest with yourself, and finally moving on does that to oneself. It’s amazing, you know? I feel great. I haven’t been happier in a very, very long time.”
“I’m glad,” he says quietly.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Christine knits her eyebrows.
“Your mask is gone, you can’t lie that easily now that I can see your face. Did I do something to upset you?”
“No!” Erik shakes his head furiously. “It’s nothing, really. Nothing at all. I’m just wondering when I’ll finally wake up and how much it’s going to fucking hurt.”
“Watch your language in front of a lady!” Christine gasps in mock horror.
“It’s never bothered you before.”
“Nor does it now, I just wanted to be funny. All joking aside, Erik, you’re quite awake, let me assure you.” She stops making the table for a moment and takes his hand in hers. “I’m here, and I’m not leaving, and you love me. And we’re going to have the best Christmas together this year, we’re going to make plenty of new memories, and... doesn’t that just thrill you?”
“Oh, it does. It’s just quite difficult to comprehend.”
“Kiss me, then, and stop over-thinking things.”
“You’ve become quite bossy.”
“You’ve rubbed off on me.”
“Do you think there’s any hope for us, for our story, to have a happy ending?” Erik asks hours later, when they’ve already finished their festivities. Christine is laying on the settee, with her head placed upon his lap, his hand gently stroking her auburn curls.
“Of course there is.”
“I just don’t think I deserve it, you know?”
“Erik, of all the people that I know, I think it is you who deserves some happiness the most,” Christine tells him. “Everybody deserves to be loved. And I’ll try to make you the happiest man on earth.”
“I already am happy. Frighteningly so, in fact. I still can’t believe you’re here with me.”
“I am. And we will fight, and throw things at each other probably, and you’ll lash out on me, I’ll stubbornly refuse to talk to you for days and then get mad you didn’t try harder to reach me... We’re going to be a mess. And I am so ready for it.”
“You are? The picture you’re paining isn’t that optimistic.”
“Think of the times when we’re not mad at each other, though. The love, the fire... not many people are lucky enough to experience such raw passion. This is what I’ve always wanted, I think. My darker side needed you.”
“I love you. Irrecoverably and desperately.”
Christine closes her eyes, snuggling closer.
“And so will I.”
For all kudos, comments, and your endless support - I thank you. You've been incredible.