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The Nightingale and the Rose

Chapter Text

“Raoul, you idiot!! How could you?!!”

Erik startled as he arrived at the mirror and heard Christine cry out in anger at his rival. Involuntarily a hint of a smirk begun playing on his lips; what had that daft boy done to upset such a forgiving angel like Christine? And more importantly; would he be able to comfort her because of it?

“You promised!!” Christine’s voice whined between sniffles.

“Christine, I said I was sorry. Why are you being so dramatic about it? I simply forgot!!”

Oh dear, Erik thought. Whatever that boy had so stupidly forgotten might have to do with the big gala the Opera was having that night.


It was a big deal for Christine: she, not La Carlotta was to be presented as the star attraction. His beloved student would perform a solo recital lasting well over an hour. The two of them had rehearsed her full set for weeks, painstakingly running through every song she knew and practicing new ones, until they had come up with the right songs in the right order.

After that these songs where what Erik and Christine lived and breathed. As she ran through her list with her pianist for the night, the famed Maurice Du Pont, Erik would watch like a hawk from his hiding place. Later that day he and Christine would run through everything again and he made sure she forgot all about whatever crowd pleasing but vocally damaging suggestions the man might have made. It was exhausting for the both of them, but they felt it was worth it. This was the biggest step in her career to date: the cream of Opera loving Paris would attend, including many that could further her career, if she was a success her future would be set!

Erik did all he could to support Christine in this endeavour. He had long since given up hope she could ever love him but he relished his new role as a supportive and loyal friend.
Even so, his heart had never stopped loving her: Christine and her career mattered more to him than anything. And Erik knew he would give all he had to ensure her future was set, despite knowing that her success would probably mean losing her forever.

From the moment he heard about Christine’s chance at the gala it had taken over his life; Christine should want for nothing during this time. He took care of everything and made sure she had time to rest both her voice as well as her mind and body. If Christine had tasks that he could take care of for her he would. When the day had been hard Erik cooked for her. And if she stayed over at his home he had her lay on the couch after her meal while he would read to her or entertain her in any other way she might want: magic, a song, poetry, it was hers to ask.

During the night he would write charts for Christine: things she had to work on, suggestions for the piano player, relaxation exercises and everything else that would help his nightingale. Then he had to make sure no-one at the Opera would forget The Phantom. The famous spectre had to assure everything at his theatre was running correctly and that Christine was still under his protection (lest Carlota would dare to interfere.)

The last few weeks keeping all this up had become harder for Erik. In fact he was rather exhausted from working over twenty hours all day every day. But he never complained about this, why would he? He was helping Christine to make her dreams come true and that was all that mattered.
The fact that he’d fallen asleep reading to her on a few occasions had truly been out of his control and it annoyed him. For some reason Christine was never angry about this. Instead she would cover him with her blanket and let him sleep, while she curled up in his big chair near the fire to continue the book for herself. After such a night he would always apologise profusely to her and she would smile, telling him that helping her did not mean he had to put himself aside for her sake.

“Erik, you’ve already become my teacher, my coach, my errand boy and my cook.” she had told him. “You don’t need to be my personal entertainment as well. My dear, I am not worth all this fuss and you clearly needed some rest.”

But to Erik she was worth “all this fuss”, and much, much more. It was beyond his comprehension that Raoul seemed to think differently. The “dreaded Viscount” had been a bane to him and Christine from the moment they had started rehearsing for the gala. The silly boy didn’t seem to understand that doing a full recital meant hours of hard work. He also didn’t understand that rehearsals are rather exhausting.

The times he would burst into the room when Christine worked with the pianist demanding she'd come on a pick-nick or the annoyance when she refused dinner in the evening were countless. Each time Christine would tell him that she refrained from all outings until after her concert but the boy simply didn’t seem to get it!

Even though Raoul’s behaviour was a bonus for him on when looked upon with the eyes of a man in love, it hurt Erik to see that the Viscount was upsetting Christine. The poor girl always felt guilty about rejecting the Viscount, but for goodness-sake how many times could she explain to him how important this was to her? No, Raoul had been so annoying that Erik had pondered on locking him up in one of the unused storage rooms to only let him out after Christine’s big night. Of course Christine had said no, insisting Raoul wasn’t all bad, but today the boy had clearly let her down again.


“You forgot, you forgot!! It’s two hours before my performance, oh what am I to do!!” The girl lamented in a shrill voice. Erik worried: Christine should not yell like that so soon before going on-stage; it could damage her voice. Cursing Raoul and his entire family under his breath he listened on.

“I am sorry Christine I can’t get it for you any more, I must go to my meeting!” How dare that boy sound so casual! Anything Christine wanted or needed she should get!! Especially now.

From his hideaway Erik watched a furious Christine rise, eyes blazing, as a suddenly terrified Viscount leaped out of the room. Erik waited till the bouquet of roses the boy had brought hit the door behind him and Christine had collapsed back into her chair till he stepped out from behind the mirror.

“Christine!!”

With a start Christine sat up. To his embarrassment it was only now that Erik realised that she was not wearing a white dress at all, she was infarct dressed only in her undergarments and skirts. To his relief nothing untoward was exposed. Looking at her face closely he could see that she was very distressed: her make up had started running and some of her locks had escaped from the rollers they were on.
To his surprise the look on her face that had been a mixture of anger and tearful upset brightened when she saw him. It made Erik’s heart leap up with joy: she was happy to see him, him!!

“Erik!! Oh, thank goodness!!” Christine said as she rose and threw herself into his arms. For a second Erik was too shocked to speak.

“Can I help you Christine?” Erik said after what seemed like hours, a tremor in his voice. “You seem upset my dear. Is anything wrong?.”

Two sad eyes looked up at him.

“Oh Erik, Raoul has let me down so badly ...”

Oh, has he now? Erik thought.

“Oh?” He asked, feeling sad when Christine let him go to start pacing nervously.

“You see, my dresser is ill and … Raoul … he promised to collect and bring me the dress I had made especially for the show. They could not finish it before today and I couldn’t go out to get it, you see? We had the final blocking for the gala. And … and he forgot … What am I to do?”

Erik kindly stepped towards Christine and gestured for her to sit. Once she did he gallantly knelt before her chair.

“Christine, the first thing you must do is calm down and rest your voice. You are singing, so your voice matters more than any dress you will be wearing!”

Christine nodded her understanding, but still seemed jittery.

“Now, I can bring you all the dresses you could ever want from the formal and gala wardrobe in your room at my house. Any colour you may need, tell me and I will get them for you. I will get you everything you need my angel, I promise.”

A watery smile before Christine begun to sob again.

“Erik, that is so sweet of you. But it has to be that dress, it was made especially for the gala, it fits the theme. Oh Erik … please … could you …?”

For a second Erik stared at her in confusion, had she forgotten who he was? He a strange masked man collecting a dress from a young ladies boutique? Getting that dress meant he’d have to go out now, during daytime, he had not done this in years. He would be exposed and that could be dangerous for him … On the other hand: Christine was so upset. His angel was counting on him and had he not promised to do anything for her and her career?

“Of course Christine, I’ll do anything you want, this is your day. I will go at once ...”

And so he did.

Chapter Text

It had gone well at first, too well. At the boutique he had received the usual round of suspicious looks. The confused and fearful glances had him panic at first. But then a flash of genius made him explain that he had been a victim of war and as expected the looks of distrust soon became looks of sympathy. He had to admit to himself he hated that even more as it reeked of hypocrisy to him.

Clearly wanting him out of the store swiftly the lady who owned the boutique made him jump the queue and Erik was not going to complain about that. The item paid for Erik left the store as fast as he could, Christine’s parcel clenched firmly under his arm. Then, out of no-where, it happened: something blunt hit his stomach with such a vengeance it took his breath away. Pain! A hand grabbing his wrist, then another trying to yank the parcel from him. A punch to his jaw that made him reel for a second. Thankfully the blow missed his mask.

“Stealing from my wife, are we?!!” A harsh voice spat at him.

Collecting himself Erik tried to force the man to unhand him. He was unsure if he should defend himself: what if he let go of the parcel and someone ran off with it? He’d rather be injured than let Christine’s dress be stolen or ruined.

“Monsieur, I assure you …” Erik tried as he gasped for breath.

“Don’t you Monsieur me you masked creep!” The owner of the voice clenched his hand tighter around Erik’s wrist, swinging him around. With a mighty effort Erik twisted round and managed to kick the man in the stomach which loosened the grip on his arm momentarily. Thinking himself released, Erik valiantly tried to escape without letting go of the parcel containing Christine’s dress ... But the attacker was not alone.

With an alarming force Erik was slammed against a wall. For a moment he saw stars and felt the world swaying. Then there was more pain as punches rained on him. Still he refused to hand over the parcel. Grey begun appearing at the corners of his eyes and he felt himself sink to the ground. “I’m sorry Christine … I tried ...” he thought as he collapsed. Then, suddenly, just as he had given up, a voice through the mist.

“Stop!! Stop!!! Antoine, Louis!! What do you think you are doing!!” It was the woman from the store.

“Taking care of the guy who tried to rob ya, Maria!” The voice of the man said, almost proudly.

“Leave him alone you idiots, he paid for it!!” Erik then hear the woman scream.

Skirts rustled near him. Erik sensed more than he could see that the woman had knelt next to him to make sure that he was still alive.

“What, why he’s wearing a mask then?” one of the men asked in confusion.

“He is a war victim, you fool!!” The woman said, sounding rather upset on his behalf.

A shocked silence.

“Oh, Monsieur, forgive me, I beg you pardon.” One of the men said, the horror clear in his voice.

As Erik tried his best to keep unconsciousness at bay a severe nagging ache spread in his wrist and arm and another one throbbed at his jaw, head and ribs. The rest of his body was dull and numb, and it felt as if he were shaking on the inside. He manfully willed himself to ignore his agony: he needed to be at the Opera, Christine was waiting.

“Can you stand? Do you need anything? Oh Monsieur forgive my husband, we’ve been robbed so often, he was just trying to protect me.”

A man doing his best to protect the woman he loved. Oh he understood only to well. But why, why did it have to be him?
The people around him asked him questions: did he want to go to hospital? Should a doctor be called? No, no, he wanted nothing like that: the chance of them taking off his mask was to great.
Did he need to lay down or want a glass of water? Yes, he thought he did but there was no time.

“Just … just get me a carriage, quickly.” he forced out eventually.

Instead of attacking the two men now helped him to his feet and supported him to a carriage, all the while apologising to him. Erik barely heard them, the world was swaying around him and he was lost in a cloud of pain.


Erik spent most of the journey back to the Opera floating in and out of consciousness, every hobble in the road adding to his misery. Despite it all, he felt a vague sense of pride: he had kept Christine’s dress safe and was taking it home to her. Now all he had to do was hold out till after she had sang. Then he could rest. But only then!


The struggle and the ride back to the Opera had taken far too much time, Erik worried as he rushed back to Christine’s dressing room. Ignoring the stabbing pains he felt he climbed the stairs back to her dressing-room faster than his injured body would have liked but far slower than he wanted.

Arriving at the mirror Erik made sure to lift up the hood of his cloak and hold the parcel in his good hand. He also forced himself to stand in his natural position. No matter how painful, he could not appear hunched near her as that would tell her something was wrong. He had to pretend all was normal and if he was careful Christine would never know what happened.

Limping into the room he soon found Christine was in no mood to look at him anyway.

“Why did you take so long?” The girl snapped the moment he entered, startling Erik. What had he done wrong? He had tried so hard to please her.

“I am sorry I was … I tried ...” Without listening Christine snatched the parcel away and dived behind her dressing screen.

“I only have half an hour Erik, half an hour and my pianists has not even arrived yet!” she cried out from behind her screen. “What am I to do?!! Please, help me warm up while I dress!!”

She isn’t angry you silly man, she is nervous. Erik’s brain told him as he collapsed limply onto the sofa. His eyes closed … darkness, rest … but he knew he couldn’t give into weakness now. With the courage of despair he allowed himself a moment to gather himself, take some breaths that would ease his pain and hopefully make his head stop pounding. Then, unsure of what else to do, Erik simply obeyed Christine’s wish and begun his warm up routine with her as good as his injured ribs would allow.

The sound of her voice, strained at first, but slowly calming into the pearly notes he loved so much encouraged him: he was helping her, he was doing well.

Halfway through the warm up Christine returned from behind the screen, a goddess in a sparkling silver glitter gown. He immediately understood why she had insisted on needing that dress. The theme of the Gala was “Moon” and she looked like the Goddess of the Moon in that vision of a gown.

“Erik, could you please tie my dress?” she asked shyly. “It’s a back tie and I can’t reach ..”

For a second Erik sat there blinking at Christine, wondering if his head had been hit too hard during the attack and he was now hallucinating.

“Me?”

But she just nodded at him tensely, so he had to have heard her correctly.

“Please Erik? Everything is going so badly today, you are the only one I can rely on to be there for me!!”

A sigh escaped Erik hearing those words. So he truly had to be doing this right!! Having never known what friendship was like or people wanting to be around him, he had worried about not being what Christine needed him to be. But to hear her say this, to have her ask him for help with something as intimate as this!! That meant something, didn't it?

“Of course, oh Christine, I am so glad to help you.”

Feeling overwhelmed by both her words and the request Erik barely felt the pain as he stood up in a daze and moved behind Christine. There he found the back of her dress open, which made him see a lot more of Christine’s delicate skin than he usually could. For a moment he breathlessly stared at the beautiful curve of her back.

“Please Erik, hurry!!”

Hearing the pleading in her voice, Erik forced his hands to stop shaking, and took the ribbons of the bodice in his hands. The pain that soared through his arm as he tried to use a small bit of force to tighten the laces quickly brought him back to reality and had him hiss in pain involuntarily.

“Is something wrong Erik?” Christine asked, a hint of concern in her voice.

“No, no … of course not.” Erik replied, making his voice sound as upbeat as he could possibly manage as he finished tying the ribbon.

Soon the two continued their warm up, as Erik helped Christine restore her hairdo.

After a few more scales Erik realised that it would only be ten minutes before Christine was due to sing on-stage. If he wanted to drag himself all the way to Box Five he would have to leave now. Even the thought of heaving his broken body up more flights of stairs made him shudder. But he reasoned that once he’d arrived there he would have an hour to recover, having Christine’s voice to sooth him.

“My dear, if I want to be on time to see you sing, I must leave for box five now.” Erk told his protégée, as he carefully brushed a rather persistent curl from her forehead. Immediately two fearful blue eyes shot up at him.

“But I am scared without you,” Christine pleaded as she turned to him. “please Erik, stay with me …!!”

“But ...” No, he would not object, when had anyone ever begged him to stay? And for Christine to still need him? No, he could not leave her now, not yet.

A knock on the door. Immediately Erik wanted to move to the mirror, but Christine shook her head. Then she moved to open the door, but not fully, making sure Erik would go undetected. To Erik’s surprise the man at the door was Monsieur Poligny himself, not a stage-hand.

“Ten minutes Miss Daaé. But I am afraid your pianist still hasn’t arrived. If he isn’t here in five minutes we will have to bring in a replacement if possible. If not we have no option but to cancel, I’m afraid.”

A chill overtook Erik: Carlotta!! This had to be that miserable woman’s doing!! All this!! The dresser, the dress, the pianist!! How dare she sabotage his angel on her début. They had worked so hard to get here. From the corner of his swaying gaze Erik saw a deadly pale Christine close the door, biting the nail of her thumb as she did when she was nervous. That poor girl, he had to do something!! But what?

“Oh, Erik, what am I to do?” Christine said, her voice shaking, “what if they don’t find anyone? And what if he can’t play the songs we selected? Some are rarely performed here, if at all. He won’t be able to play the aria you wrote without a run through!! He doesn’t know my key or range!!”

Once more those two deep blue pools gazed at him imploringly. With a groan Erik closed his eyes, wiling them away.
There was a solution, of course there was. He knew the entire order, every song, every note, every pitch by heart. How could he not? He lived and breathed Christine’s voice. For only the briefest second he thought of the amount of pain and danger he’d be in if he did what his heart told him to do. Then he heard himself speak.

“What position is the piano in?”

“At the side of stage … why?”

“Tell them to close the curtain as near to the stool as possible,” Erik sighed, “and dim the spotlight to bare minimum ...”

Erik closed his eyes wearily as Christine frowned at him in confusion.

“Tell them …?” then the realisation hit her. “Oh … thank you Erik!!”


It was a triumph, there was no way around it. Christine had brought the house down and he had been part of it, playing right there next to her on stage. Each song received a rapturous applause and his aria … his aria had received a standing ovation!! This was more, so much more than he could have ever hoped for. Every second of agony had been worth it to experience something like this, just once in his life. He didn’t care if no-one would ever know that it had been him who had written that song, him who had played that night for he had succeeded in the only thing that mattered: Christine was a star!! As the applause soared to a crescendo he bowed from his corner in the shadow as she bowed right next to him in the light, as it should be. His angel was ready to fly. One more encore and it would all be over for him, then he would set her free into the world.


As Erik looked on from the shadows backstage his heart swelled with pride when seeing how well wishers came flooding to Christine with flowers and kisses and all that came with it. With relief he also saw the people he had hoped for: producers, agents, composers. His mission had succeeded!! She was cheered, celebrated, a star!!

That very same heart of Erik broke a little when seeing many a handsome well to do man also clamour to be near her: she could have anyone she ever wanted, what use did she have for an old disfigured monster? No, his decision had been right: his job was done. He would go home and rest. There was no place for him any-more. As if to prove his point a shy looking Raoul entered, loaded with flowers and presents. This was the world his angel belonged to now. With a sigh Erik turned away and walked back to the dressing room, his heart breaking in a million pieces. It was over, he had to leave Christine now, before he changed his mind.

The pain in his wrist was now beyond agony and it would be a long time before he could be able to play music again. But it mattered not: he had done his duty for his angel, his protégée, his … love. Oh how he loved her. But loving her, being her good friend, meant letting her go.  Now she would have the chance to be the star he had always known she could be.

Chapter Text

“What a triumph Mademoiselle, what a triumph!!”

“Why, thank you!!”

A smile lit up Christine Daaé’s face in gratitude to the kind compliment bestowed on her and only the most careful of observers might have noticed that this smile did not entirely reach her eyes.

This, this was her night: the night she became a star. It was what she had dreamed off, all her father had wanted for her … all Erik had wanted for her. This was the moment of triumph she had envisioned from the moment she had set foot in the Opera and never in her wildest dreams had she thought it would ever happen.

Yes, by rights she should be the happiest women on earth right now, so why did it feel as if there was a hole in her heart?

The crowded room seemed empty, the compliments hollow, the success almost unearned. Something was missing and one look at the now empty corner in the shadows made her heart tell her what it was.

Erik!

Erik should be there, next to her, sharing this moment of victory. Without him she would have never made it this far. Left to her own devices she would have languished in the chorus and let her dream and chances slip away. For some reason he had heard the potential in her voice, even when she had lost all believe in herself.

For three long years he had worked with her, honing her voice with care and dedication. Erik had lifted her spirits after failed auditions, worked with her on each role, no matter how small. Slowly he had become the person she trusted the most, her best friend in a way. Erik was the one she would come to with her fears, problems and doubts and he had always been there to listen to offer advise and to help if he could.

Through him her confidence had grown to the point where she outgrew the chorus and was slowly offered better and bigger roles until one day she was playing leads. Then there was the moment she could tell him about this chance, her own gala recital!! He had been so happy for her.

Plagued by self doubt Christine had worried she was not ready to handle it, but Erik believed in her and for weeks he’d been her rock. No matter what he had been there: helping her, supporting her day and night, without fail, regardless of how tired he was. Yes, without him she would never have made it to this point, but no-one would ever know.

The thought broke her heart: No-one would ever know Erik, her Maestro, the amazing artist, her multi-talented genius. At the end of her recital it had hurt seeing him take his bow from the shadows, knowing that was where he would always be. Even the applause he received was not truly for him as he'd played under the pianists name. The beautiful aria he had written for her, a tragic tale based on Oscar Wilde’s “The Nightingale and The Rose” was listed as anonymous as was everything else he had ever written for her.

For a second Christine mind pondered on the story of The Nightingale and the Rose; the poor little bird who sacrificed everything to find a red rose for the beauty of love, not for herself but for others.

'If you want a red rose,' said the Tree, 'you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.'

A shiver ran through Christine as she begun to understand the tale’s true meaning. Erik always called her his Nightingale but now it was clear to her: It was Erik who was the nightingale. She was the rose, the rose who came to life through the birds song and sacrifice.

All that kindness, all that effort, all that time, all that music, all his dedication, only for her. How he loved her, loved her still after everything that had happened. No-one cared as much for her as Erik.

Today he'd been the only one to understand, to help her when everything threatened to go wrong.

He had ...

Then it hit her: he had truly risked it all, for her. Her maestro had left the Opera for her in daylight to fetch her dress because she’d begged him, deep down knowing he would never reuse her. And then, when he’d returned she'd snapped at him for being late. Instead of becoming angry at her lack of gratitude, he’d helped her with her warm up, dressed her, did her hair and then stepped onto the stage to play for her, once again risking exposure. And she had taken it, all of it, never thinking it through, not before now.

It was all for her, it was always all about her. Nothing, nothing for him.

“Christine, the Phantom has asked me to present you with this.” The voice of Madame Giry suddenly intruded her thoughts. Turning to look at her Christine saw he lady was holding a note and a rose.

For a second Christine was confused: “The Phantom??” Oh, of course Erik!! She never could relate the two, Erik was far too kind to be called “The Phantom”. Why had he written her? Surely they would meet up later that night? Was something wrong? Quickly Christine took the rose and the note from the kind box keeper.

“Lotte?” Raoul asked just when she wanted to distance herself in a corner. Seeing the young man stand there loaded with flowers and presents she understood why Erik had left. Despite all he’d done for her he thought he could never compete with a rich young, pretty Viscount and for a long time Christine had certainly giving him reason to feel this way. But seeing Raoul there now, she realised she cared more about reading Erik’s note than talk to Raoul and that it had been this way for some time.

It was not as if she had stopped caring for Raoul, he was a good friend to her. But that was it: he was just a friend and most of what they shared lay in the past. They had both grown up now and had different interests: for her it was art, music, books, culture. For Raoul it was sailing, the marines and having fun with friends. He loved outings to the Opera and was supportive of her but he could not understand what music truly meant to her. She on the other hand had little interest in endless talks of how boats were made and the adventures of his many sailing friends. Yes, she loved water and adored the sea but her interest in it was far more romantic: moonlight trips in a rowing boat, staring at the moon shining over the sea or walking the dunes in a storm.

Or … sitting in a gondola on the lake beneath the Opera as soft waves lapped against the boat and a soothing voice sang to her.

“Little Lotte, you were phenomenal.” Raoul cheered. “What a voice, what a beauty. I’m so sorry I couldn’t get your dress, but never mind eh, this one looked good too.”

It took a lot for Christine not to groan at that, but she knew Raoul well enough to know he wasn’t being mean. Still she couldn’t help but give him a slight dig.

“This is the dress Raoul, my Maestro got it for me.” To her delight Raoul took the bait, his eyes grew huge in surprise.

“What …? But you said he never leaves the Opera.”

He never would, Christine thought, her eyes stinging with unshed tears. He never would, except for me.

“He did it for me Raoul, he understands what this means to me.”

The flicker of hurt jealousy that coursed through Raoul’s eyes at those words didn’t escape her. True, that was mean, but she really didn’t feel like being all too nice to him after he had let her down like that tonight. She had only asked him to do one easy thing for her. The boutique was on his route to the Opera and he hadn’t even managed to do that.

But Raoul had already moved on, an arm around her waist and a big sloppy smile that hovered above her.

“Well … that was good of him. So Lotte, I don’t want to be a bore, but … would you come to dinner with me?”

What? Christine’s brow furrowed was he really serious?

“Now?” she asked in utter surprise.

A smirk from Raoul. “Yes, of course. Let’s just sneak away from this crowd and be together.”

This crowd? Her crowd, everyone was there for her. Tonight she was supposed to mingle and meet people who could help her career, that was the whole point.

“I have people to meet and thank. I could miss out on …”

Suddenly a person clearing his throat behind her cut her off.

Chapter Text

“Miss Daaé?” As Christine turned round she saw that it was a kind looking man who had approached her. Relieved to leave the awkward conversation behind she moved to him gratefully, leaving Raoul to sulk on his own. Meanwhile Erik’s letter was still burning in her hand.

“Yes Monsieur?” she replied with a cautious smile. The man made a slight bow to her, making Christine involuntarily stretch out her hand to him which he took and politely kissed without truly touching her. With the exception of Erik it was rare for Christine to be treated which such reference.

“My name is Eli Freeman,” the man introduced himself. Christine noticed a rather interesting mishmash of an accent as he spoke, he seemed well travelled. “I am a producer of Opera and theatre around the world and I thought I heard it all, madame. But never have I experienced a night quite like this … Your singing Miss Daaé it was like listening to a slice of heaven. But not just you madame, it was as if your wonderful pianist was one with your voice.”

Hearing those last words made Christine’s heart leap: he was the first person to say this tonight!!

“You noticed the pianist?” she asked eagerly, it felt as if these simple words meant more to her than any well meant compliment about her voice and appearance.

A friendly indulgent smile from the older man in front of her.

“Why indeed Miss, his playing was exceptional. This man knows how to touch the heart through music, especially on that one aria: The Nightingale and the Rose … the pain I could hear in the music! Oh, it nearly made me weep. Which is why I am surprised it’s author is sadly listed as anonymous?”

This, this was what Christine had been waiting to hear all night. Not the compliments, not the superficial things, but someone to truly notice the music, to connect with the world Erik had created with her.

Slowly she moved away to a quieter corner, taking Mr Freeman with her.

“Monsieur,” she said, thinking carefully about her next words, “you seem different from others, as you notice things many do not. I will tell you the truth. The pianist was not Maurice Du Pont but my tutor, my Maestro. He has also written the aria you liked so much, he is an amazing composer, my Maestro. He is also a violinist and harpist and oh … too much to mention.”

A look of understated surprise met hers, then it turned to delighted awe.

“If this is true madame, then your Maestro is indeed a remarkable talent. You are telling me he plays like a God, writes music that speaks to the heart and has honed the voice of an angel? Dear mademoiselle it is almost too much. Never in my wildest dreams had I hoped to hear a sound so heavenly, so unique. Oh, if I could I would wish to sign you both for a tour around the world as your music must be heard by as many as possible. Please my dear Miss Daaé, may I speak to you both tomorrow?”

For some reason Christine did not refuse, there was something about this man that appealed to her. Maybe she could convince Erik to speak to him. Imagine if they could travel the world together! They would both be free of the confines of the Opera and he would finally have the chance to travel the world as a respected musician instead of travelling it as a prisoner of a freak show. Finally Erik could get the credit he deserved. The nightingale had died alone and unheard, no-one knowing it had given it’s heart and music for the sake of love, but maybe Erik would not have to suffer such a faith.

“I would be delighted Mr Freeman. But understand that my Maestro is very private and reclusive. He has suffered a lot because there is a damage to his appearance that sets him apart from others. This is why he remains in the shadows. Still, I have a strange feeling that I can trust you to be respectful to him, this is why I will try and convince him of your appreciation of his work and hopefully he will agree to a meeting.”

To Christine’s surprise the man in front of her only nodded thoughtfully, no prying questions or any sign of annoyance at her curious reply.

“For someone to create heaven in song it is meant they have to suffer on earth.” Eli Freeman said thoughtfully, a hint of sadness in his voice. “I hope that his response is positive Miss Daaé, meeting a man as remarkable as you have described would be an honour. But even if not please understand that I would already be happy beyond words if I could arrange just one concert for you in Vienna, if you'd permit me.”

For the first time that night Christine gave a true smile as Mr Freeman handed her his card.

“I will keep that in mind.” she said kindly. “According to my Maestro Vienna is beautiful and the Opera among the best in the world. It was one of the few places he knew some happiness.”

The man next to her blinked a few times at her words and Christine felt confusion about why she would keep mentioning Erik to this stranger. Then she looked longingly at the letter and rose in her hands. A sigh escaped her, she really wanted to read his letter but it was clear more people were in need for her attention.

“Monsieur, would you stand with me a moment longer while I read this? I think it’s important and if people think we are still talking they may not bother me.”

A hearty chuckle from her new acquaintance.

“Of course I will Madame, anything to help.”

Christine gave a thankful smile, then she quickly opened the letter she was so desperate to read.
As she removed the note from it’s confines she frowned: the handwriting was oddly shaky, even for Erik and the ink had ran in places, as if the person writing the words had been crying.

An eerie feeling washed over her, she had been right, something was wrong!! Swiftly she focussed on the words and her heart broke.

My Dearest Christine,

Congratulations on your night of triumph, I always knew this day would come. You are a star now and will go on to have a great career. This means my job is done. I guess I came into your life to fulfil your father’s wish for you. But you don’t need your old maestro any-more, as you can fly on your own. So goodbye my dear Nightingale, I am setting you free.

Yours forever,
Erik

“Erik ...” Christine gasped. “Oh Erik …!!”

‘Look, look!' cried the Tree, 'the rose is finished now;' but the Nightingale made no answer, for she was lying dead in the long grass, with the thorn in her heart.

This could not be!! Her mind could not comprehend this message, Christine’s breath faltered and the world swayed. Suddenly there was an arm around her waist.

“Miss Daaé?” It was Mr Freeman, concern clear in his voice. “Miss Daaé, are you al-right? Someone help!”

Despite her shaken state Christine noted with surprise that this man she barely knew was strangely caring towards her and held her almost as carefully as Erik would, not using her incapacitation as an excuse to touch private places.

“He … he wrote ...” Christine sobbed breathlessly. Why, why did Erik have to leave just when she wanted to tell him that she loved him? When this strange Mr Freeman might give them a chance for a life together!! Why had she not told him sooner?! why had she taken him for granted?!

“Christine, what is wrong, you looks as white as a sheet!!” Raoul she noted through her haze. “Monsieur, unhand this woman, you ruffian!! You do not know her!”

Typical Raoul, telling of another man for catching her when she was close to fainting.

“I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you monsieur,” Mr Freeman retorted, “as I would not wish for Madame to fall down. Maybe you would be so good as to get Miss Daaé a chair?”

A chair was placed beneath her and Christine sat down then she received some water. Given some space to recover Christine’s mind returned to a calmer state and soon she could think.

Her first thought had been that Erik had left, but of course he would not have left the Opera, why would he leave his home? What he’d probably meant was that she would not see him again, that he’d stay underground from now on. Poor Erik. But he’d forgotten a tiny detail: she knew how to reach his home and she did not agree with this little goodbye note of his. She would go down below and get him back, and she would go there now!!

“Mr Freeman ...” she whispered, her voice tense.

“Yes Miss Daaé?” the man’s voice came from right next to her. Had he been guarding her?

“Please … help me to my dressing room. I need to be alone for a while.” Christine knew that where she to go on her own Raoul might follow her or ask questions and she needed to avoid this at all cost.


Slower, ever slower Erik dragged himself towards the dressing-room. The pain had gradually grown worse as the numbness left his body. He had almost reached the mirror but yet it seemed so far away. By now he was barely able to put one foot in front of the other. He had used the last of his strength going to Box Five to write his farewell message to Christine and leave it in the care of Madame Giry. It seemed that this final act had been too much for his body to take and he realised he would not be able to make it to his lair any more. He would never make it down all those stairs! But he knew he had to rest somewhere. Maybe he’d just stay there in the dressing room and sleep on the sofa. The thought gave him comfort: to sleep near all that belonged to Christine, for the last time. Could he risk her discovering him there, in this state? Oh, he had no need to worry he was certain: Christine would not be back tonight. The Viscount would undoubtedly successfully whisk her away to dinner at last, there was a lot to celebrate after all.

All he hoped for was that that boy would not propose, not yet. His angel had to be free, free to sing around the world and a marriage to a Viscount would prevent that.

Still his mind tortured him with a happy Christine smiling down at a kneeling man who placed a diamond ring on her finger. The thought was too much to bear and Erik had to stop for a while to gather himself. Shivers coursed through him while cold sweats ran behind his mask mixing with the tears that ran from his hollow eyes.

Oh Christine … For a second he wished she was there to hold him, to sooth his pain. He allowed himself a while to imagine her humming to him and … But no, no, he had to stop. He had let her go and that had been the right decision. What use was he to her now? As he leaned against the wall a massive back spasm took his breath away. The spasms had started during the carriage ride, no doubt caused by being thrown against that wall, and they were becoming more frequent now.

Just a few more steps and he would be there in the dressing room. Just one final effort and he could rest but Erik didn’t know if he had it in him to walk any-more.

One way or another, when Christine returned to the Opera he would be long gone.

Chapter Text

All alone in the cold, dark corridor Erik spiraled into a state of hopelessness he had never experience before. How strange, he thought, in all those miserable lonely years he had never felt quite as empty, as broken as he did now. There was no hope left, he had let Christine go, the only happiness he'd ever known. There was no point to it all any-more.

Everything seemed so strange … so hazy … Erik mused as he felt his eyes falling shut. Maybe he would give up … the dressing room was so far away. He would just sit there, where he was and sleep. Maybe soon everything would be over with.

But just as he had made that decision something odd happened: suddenly, out of nowhere the mirror swung open and someone holding a small lamp stepped through.

For a moment Erik thought he was hallucinating: How else could this be possible? No-one knew about this entrance. No one but him and … Christine?

Yes! Yes! It was Christine!! But what was she doing there? Why would she be going to his home? Didn’t she understand that he’d set her free?

“Erik?” Christine’s sweet voice called out. “Erik, I need to talk to you!”

Immediately Erik shrunk deeper against the wall, his heart pounding. No, no!! She should not see him, not like this!! What was she doing looking for him while she should be out there with her audience? His angel should be celebrating! Surely she didn’t need him any more?

Why did she have to come look for him? He had written her that note because telling her goodbye in person was more than he could bear. Even writing her those words had felt like slowly cutting his heart into a million little pieces and he did not have the strength or courage to do it again.

Silently he forced himself into a corner, hoping she would not notice him. Exhaustion pulled at him and he knew that he would not be able to hold out for long. What he’d do if Christine remained there for long he did not know. He also realised that if his sweet girl decided to go to his lair he would have to stop her: she might think she knew the way to his home but there were traps and tricks she did not know about.
But before Erik had a chance to think about what he should do, faith decided for him. A terrible spasm made him gasp and immediately Christine turned towards him.

“Erik!!” You’re here! Where do you think you are going?”

Knowing he could not remain silent any longer Erik appeared from the darkness and faced his Christine. Afraid to collapse in front of her Erik leaned against the wall for dear life and tried to be as casual as he could force himself to be. There was no way around this, he would have to break his own heart all over again.

“H … home of course Christine … I didn’t think I was needed any-more. I taught you all you need to know my dear, you are free of me now. Can ... can I help you with anything? Did you want to say goodbye to me in person?”

Squinting in the dark Christine held out her lamp to look at the man in front of her. Something was off, it looked as if he were shaking and his voice was more tired than she had ever heard anyone sound before. Why was he acting so strangely? Why did he not seem happy to see her?

“Erik stop this. Why did you sent me that letter? I never said anything about wanting to be free of you and you were leaving me just like that? Erik, this was our night!! You worked for this even harder than I did and you didn’t even give me a chance to thank you for everything you did today!!”

Sweet Christine wanting to make a monster feel wanted, such a lovely caring girl Erik thought. But he desperately wished she had not come. He was so weary, he did not have any energy left to pretend for her, he barely had the strength to keep his eyes open and the pain was making it difficult for him to speak.

“It was nothing ...” he managed to force out eventually. To his surprise he noticed Christine exhale sharply as she came closer to him.

“Nothing?” The girl exclaimed. “You left the Opera for me!! I only realised what I had asked of you once you had left. You went out in public at daylight for me … and then I was so mean to you when you came back.”

To Christine’s surprise Erik barely reacted to her words, it was as if he couldn’t, as if he lacked the energy to respond she also noticed that his eyes kept closing. Had her worries been correct? Was something wrong with him? A fear overtook her; was he ill? Would what happened between her and her father repeat all over again? She did not think she could cope with that!!

“Of course …” Erik’s tired voice came after a long time, “you needed me and ...” The rest of the sentence was cut short when Christine took his hand and he cried out in pain.

“Erik?” a terrified Christine asked, confused as to why her feather-light touch would bring out such an extreme reaction.

For a moment Erik could say nothing as he swallowed back tears of agony, finally the pain had become too much.

“It … it’s nothing …” He tried to reassure a confused Christine, “you … you simply startled me, I’m not used to touch my sweet Christine, remember?”

Still he was trying to be brave for her in the hope of sending Christine back to the party, to a world where she would be happy, certain that with him she never could be. But despite his best efforts he could not hide the fast breathing of someone in terrible agony, nor the awkward angle he now kept his arm in to keep the pain bearable.

To his horror he saw that the realisation begun to dawn on Christine, he noticed the fear that had started to rise in her eyes as she looked at him.

“Why are you holding your arm like that? Are you hurt?” Christine demanded, the worry clear in her voice. Erik did not reply, but Christine was not dissuaded, “Yes, yes, you hurt yourself!! I knew it, something about your playing was different tonight. I thought that maybe you were nervous but ...”

How easy it would have been to finally give in, to let himself collapse as his body yearned to do and have her know the truth. How he longed to have her hold him at last. But Erik never did take the easy way out.

“Christine, really it’s nothing, I swear.” he breathed feebly.

At that Christine looked at him sadly, clearly she did not believe a word he said. Kindly she reached out to him, placing her hand on his mask, brushing his jaw, again he hissed in pain. Guilt crept over him seeing the horror in her eyes.

It confused Christine to find that Erik seemed in pain all over. What had happened to him? Then, suddenly, a jolt went through her as the truth dawned on her: something bad had happened to Erik when he went outside to fetch her dress! Someone had hurt her Erik and it was all her fault!

“Oh, oh my goodness, were you attacked?” Christine exclaimed, a sick panic rising inside of her. “Did someone hurt you when you left the Opera?”

He had tried so hard to hide it, but still she had found out, Erik thought sadly. His sweet angel, he did not want her to feel guilty or upset about what had happened to him, it was not her fault. Slowly Erik let go of the wall and reached out to his Christine. Trying to comfort her he placed his hand on her shoulder and then he tried to force a smile.

“Not really my angel, a man just mistook me for a thief and I took some punches. Don’t worry, it was all settled soon enough. The important thing is that I kept your dress safe.”

To his horror he felt his angel tremble beneath him at his words, was she crying?

Hearing Erik talk about what happened so casually made Christine lose the capacity of speech for a second. Did Erik really think he was less important than her dress?! Oh, she hated the gown now and didn’t think she could ever were the tainted garment again.

“I wish … I wish I never ordered the damn thing!!” Christine exclaimed forcefully. “I … I can’t believe it! You were attacked and injured and still played for me?”

Despite everything Erik felt a sense of bliss to see her look at him so sweetly, so caring. Carefully he touched her cheek.

“Of course Christine, I could not let the woman I lo …” he faltered, then corrected himself, “my wonderful student … miss her all important concert.”

The woman I love. That was what Christine knew Erik had wanted to say and she it hurt to know he felt the need to correct himself. He probably thought she did not wish to hear him say these words. Was that what had made him want to leave her? She would tell him what she felt, soon. First she had to take the poor man home and nurse his wounds. Poor Erik seemed to be in so much pain. How could she have missed this before?

“What about your celebration. I don’t want you to miss out on anything.” she heard him say. That dear sweet man always the concerned tutor, even now.

“If anyone truly wants to contract me they will leave an address. I already met a very nice man today whom you might like as well, I’ll tell you all about him later. Let’s go home Erik. Right now you are what matters. Tonight it’s all about you. Don’t worry my hero, you will be well looked after.”

To her surprise Erik didn’t reply or seem happy at her words, instead his eyes darkened and then filled with sadness.

“Oh Christine … I can’t take you to my house … no matter how much I might want to.” he whispered brokenly.

“What, why not?” Christine asked, her brow furrowing with confusion.

A sigh escaped Erik before he replied, he was revealing far more than he wanted her to know.

“My arm … my wrist … I don’t think I’ll be able to row …” There, that was enough, no need to tell her that he would never make it down the stairs. Now to go to the dressing room, so he could finally sit and soon please, please … sleep! “I was looking to ask your permission to …” he begun with difficulty, but Christine interjected, a smile lighting up her face.

“Whatever you were going to ask, it is not necessary. I will row you home!”

Those words startled Erik, this was a turn of events he had not expected and for a while he stared at her blankly.
“What? But … can you row?” the confused man asked finally.

Still not fully aware of the true extend of Erik’s injuries, Christine smiled proudly, certain all would be well soon if she could just get him home and nurse him.

“Erik, I grew up in Sweden near a river with a father who loved adventure. I can row.”

If only it would have been that simple. As she spoke Erik begun to feel rather odd. For some reason Christine’s voice now seemed to come from far away. He was so dizzy and his body seemed to be tingling, he tried to ignore it as he answered, or at least tried to.

“But … it’s not polite to …” he was too dazed to think of what wasn’t polite about the situation, but Christine didn’t let him finish his sentence anyway.

“Erik my darling, I am rowing. After all you did for me it’s the least I can do.”

For a second a bright light reached Erik through his haze: Erik my darling!
Never in his life had Erik expected to hear those words said to him. Did Christine know what she was saying to a monster? Maybe she did truly like being around him, it probably meant she was insane, but who was he to deny her? Had he not longed for her to support him, to help ease his pain? She was there, close to him and wondering why he did not reply. His thoughts were disjointed now and he knew if he did not rest soon ...

“Would … you be al right sitting … in the dressing room with me for a short while before we go Christine …?”

Strength fading fast Erik felt his legs buckling, had he avoided the truth for too long? Maybe he should have told her sooner. He had a knack for making things more difficult than they should be.

“Of course but why …?” Christine asked in surprise. Why did Erik seem reluctant to go home? Then she noticed how he stumbled a little. “Oh, are you not well enough to walk? You poor thing, all those stairs!!” To her horror the man in front of her now seemed to be swaying alarmingly. Clearly there was more going on than just a broken arm and some bruising. Once again Erik had avoided the full truth to spare her and once again it had obviously made everything far worse.

“Erik, what’s wrong! Please tell me the truth!! Let me help you!!”

Stars started flickering in Erik’s vision as the dizziness overtook him, he gasped from pain as another spasm went through his back.

“I will be … fine ... Christine … I just need to rest for a while. Only a few minutes …”

But he would not be fine at all, things turned grey and he seemed to be falling.

“Erik?!!”

A small whimper escaped him as Christine brushed against his ribs when she steadied him. He heard her utter a sad choked sniffle. Oh! He was ruining her evening, she should have never known about this!!

With a mighty effort he tried to force himself to stand, he had to leave her, he was spoiling everything. But his body had been through too much, he lacked the energy to be strong and he felt himself collapse into her sweet arms as he released an undignified weary groan followed by a series of sobs. As his eyes closed he knew he was broken, he could not pretend any-more and finally he slipped away.

For a second there was darkness and silence, blessed silence. Then the strange, calming, feeling of being in a warm bath had him drifting of into a slumber. Relief … he let himself float there for a while.

Then, in the darkness, there was Christine.

“Erik?”

All he wanted was to sleep in that lovely warm bath, but through a mist he begun to recall. There was no bath, the warmth was his angel holding him, she had to be so uncomfortable … But … he could not bring himself to stand any more. A fresh stabbing pang through his back made him jolt and sob in agony.

“Are you al-right? Oh you poor man!”

How he wanted to open his eyes and reassure her, but he could not, not any more.

“Just dizzy,” he muttered, his voice barely above a whisper. Then he felt himself starting to cry. “I’m sorry … I’m … I’m so tired …”

Soft fingers caressed his broken body as he heard Christine’s soft voice whisper kind words above him, telling him there was nothing to be sorry about. It was what he had longed for, but he knew they could not stay like this: he couldn’t keep this position but Christine should not have to sit on a cold floor.

“Christine … would you mind helping me … to the couch …?”

If she could just help him to the dressing room, if he could just sit, all might be well.

“Of course not, my poor, poor maestro, come … Oh, why did I make you go outside!!

Gently Christine helped Erik through the mirror to the sofa. The weakened man leaned heavily on her and though he barely weighed a thing he was extremely tall. Still, she never complained or gave any indication of discomfort, after all that he had been through for her sake she would not dare.

Chapter Text

As they walked to the dressing-room Erik didn’t say a word, but Christine felt his shivers and heard the soft sobs and whimpers that came with every step he made. Her poor Maestro had to be in so much pain, she thought sadly. As they walked ever slower Christine was silently berating herself for missing what had happened to Erik, she repeated his return from the town over and over in her mind, but could find nothing. Either Erik was an amazing actor or she had been too wrapped up in her preparations. Or maybe it was because of the mask … she might have noticed something was wrong had she seen his expressions.

“Rest … a few moments …” Erik suddenly sighed. Christine bit her lip, the dressing-room was only a few steps away and Erik seemed close to collapse again. Maybe it would be better if they did not rest, as Erik might not find the strength for these last few steps.

“No Erik, I’m so sorry but we really should continue. Once we’re there you can rest as long as you like.”

A barely visible nod was her answer and Erik continued with Christine encouraging his every step. Silently she was using every ounce of her willpower to stop herself from physically comforting Erik each time he gasped in pain. What at other times would have been just ten steps now lasted endlessly with Erik unable to move more than a slight centimetre with each tiny step he could manage without too much agony.

Then at last they were there, inside her dressing room, never in her life had Christine been more happy to see it than at that moment. Carefully she supported Erik to the sofa and helped him sit down.
The moment Erik finally sat down, was the moment he dissolved into an uncontrollable flood of tears. The relief of sitting, the pain, the exhaustion and weeks of stress all exploded inside of him and had him shaking and convulsing from hysterical, ugly sobs that pounded through his fragile body.
Shocked by his breakdown and unsure what to do Christine just stood there for a while. Then, taking the utmost care not to hurt him Christine sat herself next to Erik. Silently she wrapped her arms around him and then carefully lay her head against his shoulder.

“I’m not hurting you, am I?” she murmured, as she rubbed his back gently

“No ...” Erik managed to choke out between sobs. Actually, she was, but he would never tell her. Not when she was finally so close to him, of her own free will for what could be the first and only time. To be held and comforted when he was crying was one of the things he had yearned for all his life. For a while they sat there in silence as Erik cried in Christine’s arms. Then, as Erik grew too exhausted to cry any longer, they just sat there.

If Christine had not been there … he would not have made it … Erik knew. He would have simply allowed himself to collapse in that hallway to await his death. Now … he wasn’t so sure what to do: if Christine did still need him … His head pounded so much he couldn’t think clearly, his vision was so strange as if he was underwater … His mouth was so dry, he felt both warm and cold... He wanted to sit there with his Christine forever but he desperately needed to drink something. He had been in the desert for years. But it was not supposed to be cold in the desert, was it? Yes, yes it was, at night. The desert was cold at night. Why … why was his sweet Christine in the desert? No … he was in the dressing room not a desert …

“Christine … Please …” he suddenly sighed, talking was so hard now.

“Do you need anything Erik?” Christine asked, as his barely audible voice reached her.

“Water … Please … water...” Erik pleaded. He was loath to ask her to do anything for him, but he truly did not have the strength to stand any-more.

That poor man, Christine thought. “Oh, of course!” she consoled him, as she carefully released him from her embrace. Without Christine’s arms to support him Erik sank backwards against the sofa pillow and let his eyes fall shut.

Seconds later he noticed that Christine tried to give him some water. He attempted to take the glass she held out to him, but his hands shook too much to hold it. Noticing his discomfort Christine held it for him as he drunk gratefully, his teeth chattering against the glass. Unfortunately after a few eager gulps his stomach begun to protest, making him feel nauseous, forcing him to give up on the desperately needed liquid.

“Are you al right Erik?” Christine asked in confusion, why did he stop drinking so abruptly?

“I … feel strange Christine...” Erik whispered dazedly. “My stomach … I don’t want to repulse you...”

Christine kindly put her hand on Erik’s shoulder and shot him a smile.

“You are ill Erik, I really don’t think you would ever vomit in front of me in purpose. Don’t worry I have seen people throw up before. I can remember the night I held up Meg’s hair after the champagne affair most vividly.”

A breathy little laugh escaped Erik. “So can I...” he muttered.

“Oh my goodness, you saw?” Christine exclaimed as she put the glass away.

“And heard ...” Erik added, as he leaned backwards again. Thankfully the nausea begun to fade, but he wished he could have drank more. Unable to stay open long, his eyes once again fell shut and for a moment there was silence and blackness. There was also cold, so much cold, making him shiver. Suddenly he felt something warm covering him. Had Christine given him a blanket? How good that felt. Maybe he could sleep now.


Things settled Christine sat herself on the sofa next to Erik again. Carefully she took his injured arm opening his shirt-cuff to reveal a badly swollen limb decorated with a rainbow of angry black, red, blue and purple bruising, the worst of it around his wrist. The girl gasped in shock seeing the true extend of his injury.

“Oh my goodness! Erik, your arm …” Christine gasped in a shaky voice. “Oh, your wrist looks terrible!! What if it’s broken? How could you bear to play for over an hour? It must have hurt so much! I … I can’t believe you went through all this just for me.”

A sigh came for Erik as he forced open his eyes again to look at his upset Christine. When had she opened his cuff-link? How could he not have noticed that? He should have stopped her, why had he not stopped her? But he had thought he could finally sleep. Why was he not allowed to sleep? But he knew he could not when Christine was upset, she should not be: he had played for her willingly and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

“I could because it was for you …” Erik’s weakened voice answered her question. “Oh Christine, you were never supposed to know about this.” He added regretfully.

A dark sadness filled the eyes of the girl in front of him. “But … why not?” Christine muttered as she carefully lowered Erik’s sleeve again.

“Because I wanted you to be happy. I’m so sorry Christine … I … I didn’t mean to ruin your night...”

A jolt went through Christine as a gasp escaped her, what was Erik saying to her? How low was his self esteem that he would think that his terrible pain and injuries were somehow less important than her life and career. Try as she might Christine could not get the image of Erik’s mangled arm out of her mind. Nor the thought that he had been beaten like that because of her and then had still done nothing but look after and help her. Tonight Erik had dressed her, sang for her and even played piano, all while suffering in silence, all for her. To realise this and then hear him say...

“Wait … what?” she as good as sobbed. “You are apologising to me?!! Erik, you were beaten up because I asked you to do something I should never have in the first place and you worry about ruining my night?! Erik, don’t you get it? This is my fault, not yours.” Her emotions overwhelmed her and she burst into tears. “Oh my goodness Erik … what if something worse had happened what if someone had … No, no … I can’t even say it.”

Slowly and with difficulty Erik lifted his hand to lay it upon Christine’s, her crying made him feel guilty. Why had she come to find him? Why did she need him still? All he could ever bring her was pain. Pretty, sweet, kind Christine was supposed to live her life in happiness now, leaving him behind. That had been his plan. She should not sit in her dressing-room and weep for him.

“Don’t cry Christine … please … Erik isn’t worth it.” Erik tried. The flash of black that shot through Christine’s eyes upon hearing these words startled him. Why did she look so horrified?

“Not worth it?” Christine cried out in offended anger that would have made Erik flinch had he possessed the energy to do so. “Erik, don’t you understand how much you mean to me?

With those words Christine stood up and turned to Erik, removing his mask in one quick swoop. There was one sad sigh when she noticed how swollen his jaw was. Then … suddenly, for a moment, there was no more pain, as soft pink lips begun raining on him. First on his cheeks, then his forehead, then … then his lips. Soft, sweet kisses, all for him. Kindness … for the first time in his life someone treated his broken body with kindness.

“Christine...” Erik gasped. “Why … how …?” It was overwhelming to receive kisses, so many kisses after never having had a kiss at all. Then to be kissed on the lips … Oh, he did not know how to respond, how to feel …Christine, his Christine had kissed him and for a moment, despite all the pain and misery, he was the happiest man on earth.

Gently Christine gazed down on him as she cupped his unharmed cheek in her hand, her thumb softly stroking his malformed skin. How he wished he could live in those lovely eyes.

“The woman I love, was that not what you were going to say back in the corridor?” Christine asked, her soft voice left almost husky from all the emotion she was feeling at that moment. It had not been her intention to tell Erik like this, but she could not bear Erik belittling himself any longer. No-one was allowed to talk about the man she loved like that, not even the man himself.

“Yes … yes ...” Erik gasped breathlessly. “Oh, but Christine … you don’t have to … not out of pity or gratitude.”

Oh, that infuriating man!! Christine thought despairingly, how could she make him understand that someone could actually love him for himself?

“Erik, I am doing this because I want to!” The girl exclaimed. “Because you’re the most wonderful man I’ve ever met!”

A small flicker of hope flashed through Erik’s weary, blurry eyes, but just as suddenly they were filled with doubt again.

“But my face …” he muttered sadly.

“I don’t care about your face,” Christine insisted. “I only care about your heart … Erik no-one has ever cared as much for me as you have. No-one has been kinder or more devoted. I have been so silly, all this time I saw you as my tutor then you became my best friend, but all the while I never realised that …”

A sharp intake of breath as Erik looked up at her, the hope and pleading in his eyes almost burning her.

“Y … yes?” his voice begged and Christine knew it was now or never. Carefully she sat herself back next to him, as she took his unharmed hand and pressed a kiss in the palm. Then she looked her maestro in his eyes and said the words she knew he had expected no-one would ever say to him.

“Erik … I love you!” Then she immediately, carefully, kissed him again. She kissed and held him until he begun to quiver in her arms again; Erik had silently begun to cry as she kissed him, the emotion of the moment too much for him.

“Oh .. Christine…” Erik sighed, his voice hoarse and broken, “I … I waited so long … I … never hoped or dared to dream...”

His tears were wiped away by a small kind finger as he heard Christine sooth him: “Hush my love, I am here now, with you and I love you!”

A shuddering breath escaped Erik, then he raised his hand to trace Christine’s cheek with a trembling finger as fresh tears ran down his sunken cheeks.

“Oh blessed angel ...” he whispered. “My blessed Christine ...”

Then his hand fell away limply and he slumped forward a little.

“Erik?” Christine asked worriedly.

A few strangled gasps where her answer and Christine sensed that in this state her confession might have been too overwhelming for him. Poor Erik, how tired he looked, how utterly exhausted, how terribly pale. All she yearned for was to bring him to his home, so he could have his comforts and get well again. But he clearly had no more strength left. The man was so weakened it worried her and she knew he needed to rest before he could go anywhere ever again. Then so be it, she would nurse him in her dressing room. Deep down she knew that he needed medical help, a doctor. These injuries were too much for her to handle on her own. If his arm was broken, he would need a doctor to set it. If left untreated he might never play music again. It scared her that the broken arm might be the least of his problems. Yes, he desperately needed medical help. But would Erik even accept this? Well, he would have to, because from now on it would be her mission to get him well again.

The first thing he needed, above all, was rest. Maybe she could look for help as he slept.

“You can lay down if you want Erik, come...”

Carefully Christine eased Erik onto the sofa and made him lay his head in her lap. Soon he enjoyed his first rest in a long time, his injured body and aching limbs laying peacefully, his pounding head soothed by loving fingers that stroked his hair accompanied by a soft humming. It was so peaceful, so calming and he was so very tired. Soon his eyes grew heavy as Christine lulled him into a calm he’d never known, then they fell shut. Part of Erik didn’t think he should go to sleep, in his state when would he wake again? So using a willpower he didn’t know he had left he opened his eyes again, though barely. Blinking sleepily he focussed on Christine, sweet Christine. His angel was smiling at him, such a sweet smile. This angel loved him! Him! Soon there were two, three, four Christine’s all smiling at him gently. Oh, how he could sleep now, safely on her lap. But he could not, could he?

“If you want you can sleep a while my dear...” Christine suddenly said in a warm, loving voice. “We have all the time in the world.” As she spoke she pressed a kiss to her fingers that she placed sweetly onto his lips.

Safe, he was safe at last with his Christine. She would watch over him as he would rest. “T … thank you...” Erik sighed as he surrendered and let his weary eyes fall shut.

Then, finally, Erik slept …

Chapter Text

For some time Christine sat there, singing to Erik and stroking his hair. Her poor Maestro had to be fast asleep before she could leave to get help for him, as she knew he would protest if he were awake.

As she sat there she dreamed of nursing Erik back to health and starting their lives together: would they stay down below or get a house together? A house would be so wonderful: with a conservatory and a music room. Erik would feel so much happier in sunlight … Maybe he’d even get a tan working in their garden. Oh yes, there would be a big lovely garden where Erik could potter about without his mask safe from prying eyes. She could picture all of it, their wonderful life.

But sadly, Christine’s brief moment of happiness was cut short when so noticed, to her worry that Erik’s skin grew whiter and his breathing became faster and then turned shallow.

“Erik!!” she cried out and started shaking him, but nothing happened. A terrified Christine shook her Maestro multiple times, crying out his name as tears of fear begun running from her eyes.

Why did Erik not wake up? What was wrong with him? Oh, this was her fault! She had been dreaming away precious time while Erik might have been suffering in silence, again!

There was no way around it: Erik needed help right now!! Carefully but swiftly Christine eased Erik’s head from her lap onto a pillow on the couch and ran to the door.

Sobbing wildly she threw the door open and began to cry out: “Help, help me!!” she called, her voice raw from tears and terror.

“Miss Daaé?” A friendly voice replied and a kind hand was placed upon her shoulder. Mr Freeman! He was still there!! Feeling relief course through her Christine lifted her tearful face to look up at him.

“My Maestro! He was attacked, he is wounded!! Please. Please help him!” Christine forced out in a voice that was choked with grief.

“Someone attacked him here, in the Opera?” Mr Freeman replied in horror. Grabbing his wrist to drag him with her Christine shook her head.

“No, he was attacked when collecting my dress for the performance, but he held out and played for me.”

Before the confused man could reply Christine pulled him into the room where she froze in her tracks: to her horror she realised that she had forgotten to replace Erik’s mask! Slowly she turned to face Mr Freeman. “He … he was born deformed …” Christine stammered apologetically, “he always wears a mask. That … that is why he is a recluse. I forgot to replace his mask … Please … don’t hurt him!!”

As Christine feverishly contemplated how she would protect her defenceless Maestro the face of Mr Freeman fell into a comforting smile.

“Hurt him, Miss Daaé? This man clearly needs help and I will be happy to provide it in any way I can.”

The relief those words brought her made the overwrought Christine cry even more.

“Don’t cry Christine, please, I will help him, I promise.” Even in her vulnerable state Christine was aware that the man had called her “Christine” and not “Miss Daaé” for the first time. She liked that, it was comforting for someone like her who hated formalities.
Her breathing fast she watched as Mr Freeman observed Erik and made his decision.

“Christine, we need to get your Maestro to hospital quickly. I will go find someone to help carry him to my carriage.”

A gasp escaped Christine, she felt as if she were freezing up: hospital! Would Erik ever forgive her if she brought him there? Erik was terrified of hospitals he had confessed to her once: he was afraid that the doctors would keep him there to do tests on him or to put him on display and do all sorts of horrible things. Could she really allow Erik to be brought to hospital, even if it might save him?

“Mr Freeman, no!!” Christine called after him. Already on his way to the hallway, Mr Freeman turned in surprise.

“Christine, what is wrong?” he asked, looking at her deadly pale face in confusion.

“Erik … my Maestro … we cannot bring him to the hospital! I can’t risk it!! What if the hospital keeps him for research? What will I do then?” Christine’s voice shook with anxiety as she spoke, at the same time the eyes of Mr Freeman dulled with sadness.

“Oh Christine,” The man said as he shook his head with regret, “I had not even considered that. You are right, it might be dangerous for him. But at the same time: is it not a risk we should take? Leaving him like this …”

But before Mr Freeman could finish his sentence a young man’s voice cut him off:

“They will never dare to harm the friend of a Vicomte …!”

Hearing the voice Christine turned to find … “Raoul?” in an overwhelming need for comfort Christine threw herself into the arms of her childhood friend, and let his arms envelop her.

“It’s al-right … I am here ...” Raoul said as he ran his hand through her hair. “Oh my poor Lotte, do not worry, I will never let anyone harm the man you love ...”

The man you love” A jolt went through Christine hearing Raoul say this and she lifted her tear stained face to look at him. “How do you know I love him?” she asked in utter confusion. She did not understand; how did he know? She had only just realised this herself today.

A sweet smile tinged with sadness was her answer: “You lost the note he wrote you and I saw how upset you were because of it. Oh Christine, I might be dense sometimes, I might not understand you as well as I did when I was a child. But I can certainly see when you love someone and that this someone isn’t me. It does not matter, all I want for you to be happy and for us to remain friends … I will do anything I can to help your Maestro and keep him safe. Will you trust me and accept my help, Little Lotte?”

For a moment Christine allowed herself to smile, then she hugged the boy who had once saved her scarf as tightly as she could.

“Yes Raoul! Of course!!”

Relief, Erik would be safe … they could take him to hospital now. Maybe, just maybe her dear Erik could finally get the help he needed. For a second the relief and the events of the evening left her too exhausted to function and she let herself remain limply in Raouls arms, like a broken rag-doll. Probably sensing her need for comfort, Raoul let her stay, as he and Mr Freeman discussed the next course of action. From far away she heard talk of how to best transport Erik to hospital.

This broke her heart: Erik would be taken away from the Opera, but he belonged in the Opera!! If only she had understood this sooner, if only she hadn’t asked for that dress. If only … if only …

Then, suddenly things begun to spin around her rather alarmingly.

“Christine?” she hear the worried voice of Raoul from far away.

“It’s my fault!!” Christine cried out in despair.

Then things turned black.