|Sam is not a (littleingenue) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2012-03-21 20:26:00
|Entry tags:||christine daae, door: phantom of the opera, phantom, raoul de chagny|
Neil, Liam and Sam Christine, Raoul and the Phantom
What: Exploration leads to a tug of war
Where: Beneath the Paris Opera House, Phantom Door
Warnings/Rating: Y for Yelling, B for Boys, and SD for Stupid Damsels
Sam hadn’t thought anything of telling Neil about her intended trip to the Opera House. She’d thought, if anything, that it would help him keep Erik out, and she didn’t have any concerns heading in that she’d run into anyone while she was there. In the same way, she hadn’t thought to warn Liam. She hadn’t talked to him since the ill-fated beer outing and she didn’t think Raoul would wander anywhere near the Opera House even if he was in France. She didn’t know what the hell Vicomtes did with their spare time, but she was pretty sure wandering around closed underground lairs wasn’t on the agenda. And, honestly, she just wanted to get away. This whole thing with Louis and Iris was making her a little crazy, no matter how she pretended otherwise. Her family wasn’t perfect, but they weren’t assholes, and she was afraid she’d get pissed and throw a punch somewhere along the line. Sure, she’d grown up broke, and she’d gotten into more scrapes than a normal kid might, but her brothers had loved her, and she’d loved them, and her moms and pops were pretty cool too. Broke, criminals, but cool. She didn’t think she’d be able to make anyone really get that, not if they hadn’t grown up with her.
So, she stopped by the hotel, because it was on par with climbing on an I-beam without a rope or having sex with some stranger in a club, and she walked through the boring black door that led to Christine’s boring residence in Paris.
It was Christine that ducked out of that same residence an hour later, after requesting the driver and covering her white day dress with a deep, red hooded cloak and pulling it over her long brown hair. The curricle was black, and it rocked as it progressed along the uneven streets of Paris. She’d not returned to the Opera House since the fateful night of Don Juan, and she knew she should not be returning now. Raoul had settled her in the house she now inhabited, and she had staff and servants and invitations to dinners where the guests pretended she was not a tarnished soubrette that was after the money of a Vicomte. It was a difficult world for her, but she never voiced any displeasure in it. Perhaps she should have done, perhaps Raoul would understand. But, non, this was her new life, and it would only take time to become accustomed to it.
But this did not explain why she disembarked at the back entrance of the Opera, and asked the driver to wait for her in the stables until she was ready for him, oui? The interior of the Opera House was dark and quiet, and her feet barely made a hint of noise as she wound her way to La Carlotta’s dressing room. The mirror there, she knew, would still lead to where she wished to go. It would be safe, she reminded herself as a chill chased along her spine. It was empty, and nothing would happen to her. She was not normally brave, not in this way, and she wondered if this was the influence of the other mademoiselle, the one from outside Paris. It did not matter, in the end, and she ran her fingers along the mirror until it gave and allowed her to enter the stone passage beyond.
The Opera House should have been empty. Neil had every intention of remaining safely in Las Vegas while Christine was doing her thing in Phantom land, and he’d thought that Erik shared his sentiments, but at some point quiet acceptance became a desperate need to see her despite the repercussions. In retrospect, he should have seen it coming. Erik was never predictable. He could easily go from one extreme to the next, all in a matter of minutes, yet Neil was fool enough to believe that they’d actually managed to come to an understanding. What began as a small, irritating tug on the corner of his mind progressed to the point where it was near unbearable, and Erik needed no words to make his demands clear. The worst part was the plea in it, one felt rather than heard, and Neil lasted an hour before he finally gave in. He paced the floors of his suite, considered contacting Aiden for assistance, but in the end he did none of those things. Sensible things, because going through that door was stupid, and he knew it. Part of him hoped that Sam had changed her mind, or that her timing had been off and they’d miss each other, but as Neil called a car to Passages he knew what would really happen. It would be his fault, for not being able to keep Erik under control, but Sam should’ve known better than to tell him about her plans in the first place. The less Erik knew, the better.
Neil tried to tell the driver to stop, to refuse him, but all it earned him was a strange look as his trip to Passage considered unhindered. Then, before actually entering the hotel, Neil tried to walk away, but Erik directed him past the gates and through the doors. He crossed through his door attempting to explain to Erik why this, what he was doing, was a terrible idea.
Erik found himself beneath the Opera House, within the labyrinth of tunnels and carved-out caverns he’d constructed for himself. There was nowhere else for him to go. The man called Neil would, at times, bring food along, though it was not necessary; he had ways out, beneath the streets of Paris, where he could obtain what he needed to survive while escaping notice. When he was not playing his music the air was silent, save for the lapping of shallow water beyond the light of countless flickering candles. It was a solitary existence, wherein time did not exist and what lay beyond his opera house meant little, but Christine’s presence disrupted the very basis upon which this farce of a life had been built upon.
He did not meet her in the passageway beyond the mirror, nor was there any visible sign that someone was present beneath the lawyers of stone and arch. The faint sound of music, however, most certainly did not belong, and it beckoned. Lower. Come. See.
Christine had never made this journey alone, never on foot, and she knew she would only be able to go so far before the water forced her to make a choice. It was cold, stones and no illusions to make her think what lived beyond was anything but as it was. At first, at least, this was the case, and her feet slowed and stopped at various intervals - in the passageway, on the dark stairs. There was nothing lighting her way, and perhaps she should have considered this, oui? But it was not a well planned out thing, and she knew if she turned around she would not find the fight, the strength to continue on. She should not be there, and it was tempting fate, and cool dread and fear ran light fingers along her spine, beneath the white corset that held her in so tightly that it was difficult to breathe after a time of walking.
When the music reached her, beckoned, she did not fight it. She had always been powerless to, it had always been a weakness, and now she allowed it to take the fear of this place, the shadows and the monstrosities she knew lurked just beyond her line of sight, away. It beckoned, the tune, like something mournful and, faint and forgotten, as if the very stones were weeping. And yet, it was beautiful too, and by the time her feet reached the water’s edge it was a lure, the song, the pied piper’s flute and the melody of an angel. It had always been easy to give herself up to this, because it required no strength, no thought, nothing of her. She was helpless, and in helplessness she was freed.
The dark, cold waters licked the tips of her shoes, and she waded out with that same kind of trusting blindness, the red fabric of her cloak billowing and surfacing on the inky pool like so much blood in the bitter darkness. She knew, without needing to think, where the gate was, and she moved toward it, the heavy weight of her skirts making her movements slow, leaden.
Somewhere within the recesses of Erik’s mind, the man called Neil hoped that, by some miracle, Christine wouldn’t come. There was nothing to be gained by a reunion between the two, no good to be achieved, and while Erik himself knew this it was beyond the scope of his ability to do what was best when she was so close. He might have stayed beneath the Opera House until his dying day, never venturing near Christine again, but now she’d come to him. Yes, he’d coaxed Neil into crossing the door knowing what he’d find on the other side, but if she’d stayed away none of that would have mattered. Perhaps just once would be enough.
Erik had no way to measure her approach, not when she was beyond his range of hearing, yet he knew she approached all the same. The music was a way to soothe himself, as much as it was to soothe her, since he knew Christine must have been afraid to some degree. He wondered why she came, what she would do when she found him here, though he should have been coming to terms with the inevitability that he would have to allow her to leave afterward. Once had been hard enough; twice would only tear open old wounds and reignite old pain.
The gate shuddered on its hinges, protesting with metallic groans and creaks as it rose slowly from the dark waters to allow her passage. Candles lit the way beyond, allowing just enough for visibility without completely eradicating the darkness, but her journey had reached its final stages. The music faded to a whisper as she grew closer, and Erik was little more than a hunched shape in the shadows, his back towards her, the candlelight just reflecting off the pure white of his mask.
She almost turned and fled when the gate lifted, but time in the mind of someone braver than she was had made Christine more determined to be strong. It didn’t actually make her strong, and she was not sure she could she could ever be the kind of woman who did not fear things and expect a man to rescue her from her nightmares, but she wanted to be, and that was different, new. It was that which kept her from turning, that and the song in her mind, the one that had gotten her through the worst of her father’s mourning, the one that had kept her from feeling alone around the other dancers that were not like her. Even Meg, who she cherished, did not understand her. Now, in her new glittering life, she felt even more alone than in the opera dormitories, dreaming of her father.
She stood there, immobile, and then she waded forward in the water, long skirts and all the appropriate layers to label her a Vicomte’s wife making each step harder as the water rose beyond her knees. Gone were the days of ballerina skirts and tights; she had to be a certain thing now, a certain kind of woman, beyond the doors of this place. Once she passed the gate, she stopped again. She could see him now, the expanse of his back, the reflection on the white mask that had shattered all of her dreams of angels. The music was gone now, and she assumed this to mean he knew she was there, silent in the murky dark. Even the candles could not reach her where she was, and the white of her dress glowed in the gloom beneath the blood red of the cloak, which was pulled forward over her long, brown hair, obscuring her features.
“Monsieur,” she said, her voice sounding too quiet to her own ears. “Play, s’il vous plait?” She asked, forcing herself to be louder. She did not move forward, even with the chill of the water, which was quickly dampening to fabric of her dress higher and higher. She knew that it was cruel, her presence there, and she would go no further without invitation.
Erik did not turn to watch, despite wanting nothing more than to feast his eyes upon her again, however briefly, since all he had left of her was a memory and a ring. The sound of rippling water alerted him to her presence, and the realization that she was coming forward instead of turning and running as she should have. He imagined she would look different, of course, since she was a Vicomte’s wife now. Or had they not yet married? He couldn’t be sure, yet it hardly mattered. Christine had chosen Raoul, and she would never go back on that choice.
Only when he heard her voice did he rise, a figure still garbed in shadow, but he looked more human now with a proper outline and less of a creature dwelling where few men dared tread. It was the first time he had heard her voice since she escaped the Opera House with Raoul. Then, then he turned, ever so slightly, revealing the masked side of his face as he regarded her with one burning eye, illuminated by candlelight. “Christine,” he whispered, more to himself than to her, and when she asked him to play he nodded. Music was the way he spoke, the true way; words were an obligation which often gave him headaches. He turned away once more, sat back down in his seat, his very own throne in the midst of a broken madman’s kingdom, and when his fingers found the keys the music began again. “You may come further, if you wish.” His voice blended with the music, the permission he granted just audible above it.
She held her breath when he stood, that old fear, the panic that he would lock her away forever with his voice in her mind, something she could not deny or refuse or shield herself from, spiking sharply. She should go, she knew. Return to the golden safety of Raoul and a life that anyone would envy. She should go, but she knew the moment he said her name, the moment the music began, that she would not flee and leave this darkness as she ought. She waited a few seconds after he granted the permission, and then she waded the remaining way, until her feet found the stone edge of his manse.
It was like a dream, as it always was when he played. She closed her eyes, trusting even though he was so near, and she let the music carry her to where she had not been in months. She knew the song, familiar, as so many songs he’d played throughout the years were, and she didn’t consciously think as she took her first step toward that musical throne and the man that sat upon it. Step, step, and first she hummed quietly, almost inaudible above the music, and then the humming became words, something from a lullaby, nothing as skilled as a words from a score. It was simplicity, something her father has recited to her as a child, something to soothe her to sleep, paired with his music.
She did not stop until she was at his shoulder, just behind him. When she reached out a hand, it was not for his mask, but for his shoulder, which she touched only briefly. There was no wedding band on her finger, only an engagement ring, a new one, and her hood slipped away from her hair as she drew back her hand. Her eyes drifted closed again, and she sighed and went silent as the song continued.
No one talked to Liam in Vegas besides his publisher, his agent, and the occasional conversation with the lady he had found who did PR in town. It was not the most ideal situation, but current projects left him with little time to spare, and as nice as a beer was poured over ones head, he didn’t have time for those sort of games. So Liam wrote, as that was what Liam did best when the going got tough.
At least until the persistent, pleading voice of Raoul begged him for a visit beyond the Door. Of course, there had been discussion of a ‘schedule’, of taking turns so that neither he, nor Erik, or Christine ventured beyond the door at the same time. Given the others lack of conversation with him, he had no idea when anyone went anywhere, and if they did not care to notify him of their goings beyond the Door, why should he worry? So he put his writing away and went.
There was no hesitation, no fear in crossing over the threshold and letting Raoul into the driver’s seat, and as Paris took the place of the shining lights of Las Vegas, Liam sat back and Raoul took in a deep breath of the Parisian air. There were things he ought to do, business he ought to see to at his estate, but that wasn’t what held his interest that day. No, it was the Opera House, looming and lurking at the edges of his perception, and the carriage that he hailed was only too happy to take the young Vicomte in that direction, though there were murmurs of confusion. “The Opera House is closed, monsieur. Are you sure you wish to go?” A smile and a nod of his head, reassurance that yes, that was what he wished, and there were no further questions during the carriage ride. Departing, Raoul stared up at the grand building, wrought with memories that ought to have him fleeing, but Raoul was anything but a coward. He did not run, he faced his fears, and he was not afraid of the ghosts that lurked within the Opera Populare. After all, ghosts could not harm flesh and blood. Not even an Opera Ghost.
The building was empty, but Raoul remembered the way shown to him by the Persian, by Mme Giry, though the pairs switched places in his thoughts in an alarming manner. Down the stone stairs, a burning lantern in hand to chase the shadows away, and when he heard the music, Raoul felt something deep in his stomach churn and roll. Ghosts, he reminded himself. Nothing more than ghosts.
The water did not scare Raoul, did not give him reason to turn away, and with every step the music grew louder until he could see shadows dancing from the candlelight that lit the cavern, and Raoul pressed himself against the wall, listening, dreading. Her sweet voice drifted to him, unmistakable to him at any point. Play, s’il vous plait? And Raoul felt anger at that. All of this time, all of the battles that had fought, that they had struggled through, and yet she returned to the darkness, to the ghost that could offer nothing more than pain. “Christine...” Raoul murmured, his jaw tight and his eyes squeezed shut.
Despite giving his permission, Erik could scarcely bring himself to hope that Christine might come closer, even if it was only a few steps, of her own free will. His music may have influenced her, but it was still her choice, and in this moment he would force her to do nothing. If she chose to leave, then she could easily do so. Once he’d taken her freedom with the intention of forcing her to stay with him for an eternity, but now he had no desire to repeat past mistakes, not yet, his anger having cooled to the ever-present ache of loneliness which left him subdued rather than dangerously on edge. He did not look back, and he focused on the music rather than straining to hear the sound of her wading through the water, or perhaps the lack of sound which would indicate she remained still.
Her voice, low as it was from somewhere over his shoulder, made him want to weep. It felt like an eternity since he’d heard her sing, and even a simple lullaby was enough for him now. The feel of human contact, however brief, was unexpected, and for a moment Erik’s fingers stilled and the note quivered before fading into the stone walls. It passed, however, and he began again, daring to turn his head enough to see her hand (and the engagement ring there) before lifting his gaze upward, emboldened by the fact that her eyes were closed. He looked at her now, though he didn’t linger, didn’t stare; he lowered his gaze soon afterward, in fact. Life as a Vicomte’s wife (or fiancée, more like) had treated her well.
He was, admittedly, disappointed when her voice stopped, and unfortunately his attention was so focused on Christine that he failed to become aware of the intruder in his midst. “Will you sing, Christine, if only for a few moments longer?” Erik spoke without realizing the Vicomte was so close; a foolish oversight on his part.
Her heart was beating too loudly, the sound an echo in her ears, and she did not hear the murmur or sense the anger beyond the gate. It was as it always was with the music, hypnotic, able to shut out everything in the world but the melody and the way it enveloped her entirely. His voice, Erik’s voice, broke the reverie and caused her to take just one step back, a reaction to the unexpected sound so close, somehow so different than it had been beyond the gate, when he beckoned. It could, perhaps, be perceived as fear, as could the shivering that was quickly worsening from the cold against her skin that was soaked into the heavy fabric. She recovered the step she had taken back, her eyes falling closed again as she stepped forward and nodded almost imperceptibly. Sing, that she could do. That she wanted to do. It was why she was here, wasn’t it? The music.
He was right to assume life as a Victomte’s fiancee had treated her well. As an orphan, a mere chorus girl, she had nothing to her name. The life of a dancer was scandalous at best, and even the most successful prima donna were frowned upon in the most polite society. She was garbed in the finest fabrics, and the most expensive jewels graced her wrist and neck. Yes, Raoul treated her well, and she wanted for nothing. There was no doubt that was true. But it did not keep her from raising her voice before he even touched his hands to the keys again. She knew the notes in her mind, and she knew the tempo, and she could hear the music even before he played it. Her voice rose in Hannibal’s aria, and it would be an easy thing to believe it a trance, this song that reverberated off the walls as if any audience was present to applaud it.
Hearing his fiancee sing for that monster made something deep within Raoul tremble in rage. Raoul prided himself as a person who could understand much, who could find reason in most actions, but this, what his beloved did, made no sense to him. There was no logic in her actions, in the way the monster’s poison still held her so fast, and the combination of rage and sorrow was almost overwhelming. Would they never be free of the ghosts of the past? Would they never be free to simply love one another without the shadows hanging over their heads? Without the lasso ready to snare, to harm and to kill?
The notes and chords of the aria swept over him, and with a sound that was barely held back rage, Raoul pressed tight against the wall, eyes closed as he tried to gather his wits about him. He should have brought a pistol, some way which to end the nightmare once and for all. Apparently, he could not be trusted to be left alive, and Christine could not be trusted to not be drawn to him like a moth to the flame. He did not want to see her burned, his delicate, sweet Christine. Too close to the fire, he knew. Too close for comfort.
Raoul moved then, making himself visible from where he had hidden, pressed against the wall, the lantern burning bright in his hand as he brought it up to eye-level, drawing attention to himself. He said nothing, but he made no effort to hide the fact that he bore witness to this secret interlude.
Erik’s music was his pride and joy, his reason to continue his existence when he otherwise would have ended it, but it was so much more with a voice to bring it to life. Christine had always been the only one capable of it; he had never once considered another. His need for her voice had grown and blossomed into something more, a twisted, obsessive sort of love that had brought nothing but heartache and suffering, yet all of that was erased when she began to sing. It was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard, and he had yet to hear another that could rival it. In that moment nothing else mattered but the two of them, his music and her voice, as he had always longed for it to be. He watched her for a few seconds longer, revelling in the way she looked as she sang, but then the music took him over, and his eyes closed as his fingers floated effortlessly over the keys.
While Raoul never spoke, it was the sound of foreign movement that cut through the music, jolting him unpleasantly out of his reverie. Erik rose and turned sharply, the piano keys pounding out a harsh tune as his hands were pulled back and brought to his sides. His previous calm was replaced by a deep, burning hatred as he recognized the man whose face was illuminated by the lantern he held, and the fact that he was here, trespassing upon the only home he’d ever known. Christine’s presence was welcome, but her foolish boy’s was not. “Monsieur Vicomte,” he said, his voice cold. “How kind of you to visit my Opera House. I only wish you would have informed me in advance, so I could have prepared accordingly.”
It took, perhaps, a moment longer than it should have for Christine to register Erik’s movement. Surely, as close as she was, she should have noticed it before the discordant pound of his fingers on the piano keys. But she did not notice, not until the jarring sound, which made her reaction one of shock and fear. She gasped, took a step back in her heavy skirts that almost caused her to stumble as they dripped heavily on the stone beneath her. Eyes wide, she looked at Erik first, before he even managed to speak, wondering what had taken his expression from wary acceptance of her presence (when her eyes had been open) to harsh hatred. His words, however, clarified it, and her eyes drifted shut for just a moment, before they opened again as she turned to look behind her. “Raoul.” It was a whisper, almost soundless, and her face showed her surprise at being caught there, her guilt at the rage that had overtaken his features at well.
She turned, caught between the two men as she always was, but it was a challenge with her red cloak tangling about her and making the movement unsteady. “Raoul and I will be going,” she said, one hand reaching back toward where she knew Erik was, even if her head was not turned toward him. “Pardon, Monsier. We should not have interrupted in this way,” she added, nodding toward Raoul, a quiet request for him to agree, to apologize, to soothe the hurt. They could argue once they were out of here, her gaze said, but not here. She trembled, and this time it was as much from the cold damp as it was from fear of what these two men could do to one another if left alone to do so.
“The Opera House does not belong to you,” Raoul said, his voice confident and never faltering as he spoke, the words bringing him closer to the pair, lantern light casting shadows that danced and spun over the walls. “I need no permission to visit as it belongs to the city, to the people of Paris, and it is far past time that they rid the rodents and vermin from the nests which they have made.” The corner of his mouth lifted in a smile that held no warmth, no kindness, his gaze meeting Christine’s for a long moment as she spoke, her quiet murmurs of apology that only served to stoke the fires of his temper.
“Do not leave on my account, Christine,” Raoul said. “You found your way down here on your own, it seems. I did not come to drag you back to the surface, to the light. If you feel that your time is better spent here, than with your fiance, that is your decision to make.” Raoul paused, the lantern shifting as he held it before him, fully lighting his features. There was hurt written there, something along the lines of betrayal finding home on his face. “I am not your keeper, not your jailer, Christine. So do not leave because of me.” Despite his words, Raoul made no move to leave, not yet, his gaze turning from Christine back to Erik, challenge in his eyes.
Erik met and held Raoul’s gaze with his own, refusing to back down before him. Whatever the fool boy might say, this Opera House was his, and the expanse of caverns and tunnels beneath were all but his creations, and he would not allow himself to be intimidated here. “Rodents and vermin,” he repeated, loathing audible in every syllable of each word. “How you flatter me, Vicomte. It is little wonder why Christine loves you as she does.” He had spent a lifetime being spoken to as Raoul spoke to him now, as though he was inferior, an inhuman monster, but he had long since passed the point when he was little more than a pitiful, cowering thing who withstood such abuse and submitted to those who delivered it. “I have every right to be here. My presence harms no one. I have not left this place,” he said sharply. “Christine came to me of her own free will. I did not ask her to come, nor will I force her to stay if she does not wish to.” Only then did he seem to recall that Christine was there, though when she reached for him it failed to calm him as she likely intended it do. The thought of her leaving made him ache, a deep, physical sort of pain, but he would not allow himself to play the role of monster again and keep her with him against her will.
The betrayal in Raoul’s face did not move him in the slightest. He did not care about the Vicomte’s feelings, no more than the man cared for his, and Erik instead turned his attention to Christine. He bristled at the way the other man spoke to her, despite how cruel he himself had been in the past. “If you wish to leave with him, Christine,” he said quietly, so only she would hear, “then go. I will not stop you.” From some distant place, Neil complained that the sooner the idiot Vicomte got the hell out of there, the better, because while Erik might not hurt Christine, his patience for Raoul would only last so long.
Christine felt that this part of the Opera House did belong to Erik, but she did not say as much. She kept the thought to herself, knowing it would be rebutted by Erik a moment later, even if she nothing at all. It was true that the Vicomte’s family sponsored the Opera Populaire, that in many ways the Opera did belong to them, but it had been Erik’s home long before. Therefore, it surprised her that Erik’s retort began with a hurtful jab about her love of Raoul, and the entire situation dragged her back to months earlier, to when everything had ended in death and flames and accidents that were not accidents at all. “I did not know he would be here,” she said, and it was not clear which of them she meant - if she did not know Erik would be there, or if she had no understanding of why Raoul was there at all. “I merely wanted to see,” she explained, but she did not expect her argument to do much good. Many were the times she had said she did not want to do something, only to have her desires brushed aside for the wants of others. This would be no different, she thought.
“We will go,” she said, when Raoul did not apologize as she had silently attempted for him to do. If she found any fault in Raoul’s tone, there was no indication of it. And, truthfully, Erik had been far worse in the past when he lost his temper, worse than Raoul ever was. “It is fine if Erik remains, oui?” she asked, taking a step toward Raoul, then another, if they left this place, then no one would be harmed. Peace, that was what she sought right then, even if the music still rang in her ears and regret shown in her eyes as she moved forward once more. Her life away from this place, there was no music in it, and she knew these men would not leave it at this. “Oui, Raoul?”
Raoul said nothing for the longest time, and it felt that this meeting, this moment, was one step closer to an edge he had no view of. “We can leave, yes, Christine, but I’ve a question for you first.” He waded forward in the water, slow steps, until he was closer to both of them, Christine the only buffer between himself and Erik. The question, when asked, was spoken to Christine, but it was Erik that Raoul’s attention was on.
“How long until you come here again? Truthfully, please, for I am quite tired of chasing to the sewers to retrieve my fiancee.” He spoke as though it was a common thing, this journey, this chase, though it was only the second time that Raoul had retreated to the depths of the caverns beneath the Opera House.
Erik remained silent as Christine spoke, her half-hearted attempts at explanations and soothing the Victomte’s wounded temper meaning very little to him. Of course she’d come here without knowing he would be present. Neil told him as much, and he wondered if she would have come had she known, yet even when she’d become aware of his presence, she had chosen to stay. That had not been forced upon her. He wondered what, if anything, that signified, but now was not the time to dwell upon it. Perhaps he might have maintained his silence until the pair left, but then Christine asked if it was alright that he remain, as though requesting the Vicomte’s permission, which rekindled his ire. “I do not require his permission,” he snapped. “I will stay regardless of whether he thinks it is fine for me to do so.” He inhaled sharply, attempting without much success to reign in his anger, and instead turned away, towards the abandoned piano keys, half-consumed by the gloom cast by shadows.
Despite giving no outward reaction, he too awaited Christine’s response to Raoul’s question. He wondered if she would respond honestly, or tell him only what he wished to hear; then again, it might not be so easy to tell the difference between the two.
Christine dreaded the question, even before it was asked. It was evident in the way her shoulders tightened, as if she expected a blow in the query itself, and she looked down at the water that her feet had just then found, as if the answer would be found there. She was saved from answering by Erik’s anger, the snap making her look up in fear. This situation, being caught like this with Raoul’s silent displeasure and Erik’s rising anger was like something out of her nightmares, and it did not take much to make that evident. She said nothing until Erik turned away, and she lifted her gaze to Raoul a moment later. “This was my home, Raoul. I wanted to see it.” Which explained the Opera House, but not her foray into the underground maze that led here. “I was curious,” she added, the chastised child looking for forgiveness for stepping out of line. “I will not return,” she added, though her voice was not precisely strong, not precisely convinced. It was a promise made in the moment, and in the moment (where she was worried about the fight that might erupt), she meant it.
She took two steps forward, then two more, until her hands came into contact with Raoul’s chest. “Let him stay,” she said, and it was a request. Regardless of what Erik thought, Raoul could have him burnt out of this place, she knew. He was titled, monied, and respected in Paris. It was not, even, that she thought Erik could not find somewhere else to survive, but the idea bothered her in ways she could not think on. “I will not return, but allow him to remain, oui?”
Raoul had started to say something in response, perhaps to Erik, perhaps to Christine’s request that he be allowed to stay, but nothing came out as her hands settled against his chest. His attention was upon her once more, his focus, his light, and he brought his hands up to grip hers, meeting her gaze. “You promise me, Christine?” Raoul asked, leaning down, forehead pressed to hers, his words dropped to a tone that was meant only for her, though he did not care if Erik heard.
“If you promise me, then I will make no move against him. But if you return? I make no guarantees of my own behaviour.” His words were firm, soft and even, his gaze just as much so. It was an ultimatum he gave her, and he recognized that, but now was the time where deals had to be struck, promises made. “You realise that I will fight for you. That I will not allow him to take you from me again. This might have been your home once, but it is no longer. And as soon as you are my wife,” Raoul raised his gaze at this, momentarily, in Erik’s direction. It lasted for only a moment before he again looked back to Christine, his gaze softening several degrees. “As soon as you are my wife, we will leave this place. This city. And this will be but a nightmare that you can put behind you.”
Each word, though they were meant for the Vicomte and not him, stung like individual blows against him. Erik thought with no shortage of bitterness that he should have turned Christine away as soon as he’d become aware of her presence, if only to spare himself the pain of watching her leave with Raoul all over again. He believed her when she said she would not return; she’d come without knowing he was there, after all. Perhaps his presence would be enough to deter her in the future. His jaw clenched when she asked the Vicomte to allow him to stay a second time, and now hurt rose to join the anger, a dangerous combination, which was only aggravated by the sight of the two of them so close, like the lovers they were, representing all that he would never have. Christine, he thought, and he wanted to beg her to stay, to plead that she visit him again, but he would never allow himself to do so and show such weakness.
Despite Raoul’s lowered voice, Erik heard most of what he said to her, the ultimatum, the promise that as soon as they were married they would leave Paris behind. Then, truly, he would never see her again. “Get out,” he snarled suddenly, all that pain and anger and despair lashing out like a coiled whip. “Go, both of you, and leave. Never return, do you understand?” His voice rose as he took a step forward, so very similar to the way he’d ordered them to leave on that fateful night, yet so different at the same time. “I never wish to lay eyes upon either of you for the remainder of my years, however many I may have left,” he told them, eyes flashing, lips twisted into an ugly scowl. Christine could have her foolish Vicomte and all the riches that came with him, and he would have his solitude, and his music.
Christine was not expecting the ultimatum. Part of her realized the irony, the fact that it was the same choice from before, yet in reverse this time. If she chose Raoul, then Raoul would not harm Erik, would not pursue him. It was the same as Erik’s ultimatum that Raoul would go free if she remained with him. The threat to fight, to not let her remain, it only made it more like before and she closed her eyes when she felt the press of forehead to her own. Raoul only meant to keep her safe, she knew, as he had always done in his own way. He did not understand the beauty that lurked in in the music beneath the Opera House. Erik was distorted in so many ways, but there was so much beauty there as well, in his music, and Raoul would never see that. He would destroy what he did not understand and, as before, she did not fear Erik in this regard. She almost faltered in her reserve when Raoul said they would go away from Paris, but she held her argument. She would not go, but she could convince him of that when he was not angry, betrayed as he was now.
The snarl was not unexpected, when it came, but it drew every bit of Christine’s attention all the same. The pain in his voice, the fact that she had put it there again, it was almost too much to bear, too much like when she had returned the ring after kissing him. When Erik stepped forward, it was instinct to back away, to pull at Raoul’s sleeve, to try to coax him into the darker depths of the water, away from Erik lest anger get the best of both of them without her between them. She knew that anger on Erik’s face, however, knew he would not pacified by her mere presence, not then. There was no excuse for a farewell this time, no chance for one last look. Instead, she pulled on Raoul’s sleeve once more. “I promise,” she said, a belated agreement to Raoul’s ultimatum, a desperate one since she was unsure that the anger in Erik’s voice wouldn’t rouse Raoul’s own anger. “Come, Raoul.”
The tug at his sleeve went ignored for the moment, too fixed was he on Erik’s reaction, sudden and violent, and Raoul made no effort to hide the cold smile that found its way to his handsome features. “Then tear out your eyes if you wish to never lay them upon us again,” Raoul said cooly, his chin lifted slightly so that he stared down at the other man over the line of his straight, aristocratic nose. Pulling away from Christine, he put his hand upon her shoulder, giving her a look that said ‘stay here, please,’ before he stepped away from her and another step closer towards Erik, the water sloshing around his calves.
“I am not afraid of you, Ghost. Fear comes from the unknown, and when you were simply a force that threatened, demanded, manipulated and coerced, you were feared. But no longer. You are nothing more than a man. Flesh, bones, and blood like the rest of us, and that does not scare me.” He took another step towards him, his entire being reeking of anger, of a cold fury that had no bottom. “You are weak, Opera Ghost. Scared. And alone.” Slowly, a smile pulled at his lips and he glanced back towards Christine for a brief moment, and then returned his gaze towards Erik. “And you will die alone, like the monster that you are.” He pretended to tip a hat towards him. “And with that. Adieu.”
Raoul turned from him, moving back to Christine’s side as he offered her his elbow. “Let us be away from this place, my love. Back to the light where you belong.”
Erik attempted to hide his pain beneath a wall of anger and contempt, but it was a poor farce, yet perhaps he could have been content to retreat amongst the shadows to lick his wounds had Christine and Raoul left on his command. At least then he might have clung to some remaining shred of his pride, but he should have known better than to believe even for a moment that the Vicomte was capable of retreat without being the last to draw blood whether it was in a literal sense or not. He stood his ground as Raoul approached, his mouth tightening into a firm line at the other man’s cool tone. The way he regarded him, all arrogance looking down at that which was inferior, was not surprising, and he was certain that he had never hated anyone as much as he hated the Vicomte.
The man’s cruel words stung more than he would have cared to admit, but Erik never broke his cold, loathing stare and refused to show even a hint of weakness before the two of them. He was silent as Raoul flung his insults, so unfitting of a man who pretended to be noble and honorable, and he may as well have been carved from stone for all the reaction he gave. Only when Raoul turned to rejoin Christine did he move forward, three strides, before coming to a halt. “If you dare step one foot within my Opera House again, Vicomte,” he said, his voice full of bottled fury, “I will kill you and hang your body for all to see and tremble before.” It was no idle threat. Not even Christine could sway him now, and his cold gaze passed over her before he moved back into the shadows, becoming one with them, to watch as the trespassers departed. God help either of them if they chose to return.
Christine tried to reach out and drag Raoul back when he moved forward, even after the unspoken command to remain where she was, but she was too late, and her hand missed his sleeve as he strode forward. Even so, she took two steps forward in the murky water, knowing that whatever cruel thing Raoul said would only make things worse. She winced inwardly at the words she just could just make out from where she was, but she knew better than to argue, not there, not then. There was no way it all would not end in disaster if she involved herself, not after ultimatums had been issued, not after that cold look of hatred in Erik’s eyes. When Raoul returned and held out his arm, she took it quickly, tugging with her movements, knowing that for this to end they had to leave this place immediately.
Still, she was not surprised when Erik strode forward, their hatred for each other making her little more than a pawn in that moment. The threat made her blood run cold, because she knew Erik meant it. He had killed before, and for less, and that fury in his voice was familiar to her. It had driven her away in fear before, and she knew enough to fear it now. His gaze, as it passed over her was ice, and it chilled her as only ice could. She watched him disappear into the shadows, and she tugged insistently on Raoul’s arm. There was desperation in the pull of her fingers, fear in her features. She did not want Raoul to pursue Erik into the shadows. She wanted to be gone from there. “Please, Raoul,” she begged. “Please, no.”
If Raoul was affected by the threat, it did not reflect upon his features as Christine took his offered arm and he reached over to cover her hand with his own. “I have already said my piece, Christine. We will leave this place, as promised.” He was not ignorant as to what Erik was capable of, but he refused to cower, to show weakness in the face of the threat. If that was what the ghost wished for, to flaunt his abilities as a murderer, then that was his decision. He would not stoop so low to threaten death upon the man, though oh how he wished for it.
He said nothing else as he led the way through the water, each step taking them further and further from the Phantom’s lair before again daylight touched their faces and the nightmare was left behind.
At least for the moment.