Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 31 of 64

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Time stopped. Christine's eyes grew wide and her cheeks -predictably- reddened. She watched Erik nervously, unsure of how he would take her spontaneous declaration. He loved her -he'd said so - but he didn't know she knew. She'd meant to tell him tonight, but not like this. She had been envisioning something romantic, involving music and long, meaningful looks. So much for best-laid plans.

For his part, Erik was having trouble remembering how to chew and swallow. He was sure he'd heard her say she loved him. Of course, that was ridiculous...but was it? Images of all the little things she'd said and done recently flashed through his head. It certainly wasn't because he had pursued her that they were sitting together at dinner tonight. At every turn, Christine had been there asking for dates, suggesting duets, touching him, smiling at him; in short, loving him. He'd been so caught up in his own unlovability that he'd missed the significance of all those little actions. You fool, he upbraided himself, why do you never listen to the Khan? He remembered telling Nadir how Christine couldn't love him, when she'd been there all along. He forcibly swallowed his half-chewed mouthful of spaghetti and looked up at her.

"May I ask you to say that again? I'm not sure I heard you correctly." His gaze held hers, his tone was even. Only the sudden formality of his speech gave away his surprise.

Christine raised her eyebrows in an expression that was almost apologetic. "I love you?" It came out as a question.

"I love you, too, Christine. I have for a long time, now."

"Why didn't you tell me?" It wasn't an accusation. Christine honestly wanted to know why he had held back for so long.

"Because I'm a foolish man. A lucky man...but foolish." He laughed softly. "I never thought I'd call myself a 'lucky man'."

Christine twirled another forkful of spaghetti for herself. "Honestly, I thought I'd have to work a lot harder to convince you that I really loved you."

"And you were prepared to do that?"

She nodded.


"It's you." She put the large bite in her mouth, rendering herself incapable of further explanation. She'd said the same thing the day before. "It's you." He just shook his head.

"I don't see it, Christine, but I'm glad that you do."

They finished their dinner in a comfortable, thoughtful quiet. Christine finished first and waited for him to sit back. The moment he did, she took his plate and her own to the sink. She did not want him fussing over dishes; not this night. As she rinsed the dishes, she heard him come up behind her. His strong musician's fingers came to rest on her shoulders before sliding sensuously over her upper arms. He's finally taking some initiative, she thought with relief.

"Put those down, Christine, please." He pitched his voice low enough that it rumbled in her ears. She'd grown used to the masculine perfection of his voice over the last few weeks. He was using it consciously now, using its warm power to draw her away from the mundane and into a musical dreamland. Willingly enough, set the half-rinsed dished in the bottom of the sink and turned to him. He'd replaced the mask -she'd have to correct that soon.

"I've never loved before. I don't know how it's done. But..." on this word, he scooped her up into his arms and carried her into the living room, "I am going to do my best for you." He set her gently on her feet beside the cello.

Christine giggled like a school-girl when he first picked her up, but by the time he set her back down, she was concentrating fully on his eyes. There were no giggles left. Her breathing had slowed and deepened. "I've never loved before either. I've dated, but never loved." She reached up and carefully tugged the ties on his mask. "But what I know of love does not permit disguises." She lifted the mask away gingerly, knowing that a slip of the fingers would cause him pain.

He took the black leather from her and dropped it onto the chair. "I intend to kiss you, Christine. Not a little peck on the lips. Can you stand that without the mask? You don't have to pretend it doesn't bother you."

She laughed again, this time it was the throaty laugh of a woman deep in the throes of love. "I intend to kiss you as well. Of course, you're too tall for me to kiss without jumping." Erik was sitting before she could breathe to speak the next sentence. "Your face... it still bothers me to look, but the longer I look, the less it bothers me." She leaned down and kissed him chastely, then settled onto his lap with her arms around his neck. "Besides, I won't be looking at you. I will have my eyes closed, thusly." She closed her eyes and turned her face towards his.

Erik might not have had experience in love, but he knew an open invitation when he saw one. Feeling brave and reckless, he leaned in and kissed her - not lightly and hesitantly as she expected, but passionately and lingeringly. She responded in kind and they melted together, deliriously happy. Minutes later they resurfaced for air.

"You know what that makes me want to do?" asked Christine, huskily.

Erik just stared at her with wide eyes. He dared not venture a comment - he certainly did not trust his voice at this point.

Christine slid off his lap and leaned her cello against her shoulder. She drew the bow slowly across the strings, fingers lightly skimming the fingerboard. She looked up at him, waiting.

"Go ahead, Christine. Play."

Two marks of genius are freedom from the constraints of tradition and the ability to improvise. Christine demonstrated the fullness of her virtuosity then, playing her passion and taking Erik along with her in the tidal wave. Once the pattern of her melody became evident, he joined in wordlessly, vocalizing freely in a voice fit to make angels weep. They both knew that their relationship was still too young for lovemaking of a franker sort...but in the musicians' minds, there was little separation between a joining of their music and a joining of their bodies. This unrestrained outpouring was as intimate as naked flesh, as cathartic as any climax between lovers.

Christine left near midnight, the warm tingle of his kisses on her lips and the hot echoes of his music in her ears. She felt clean, hollow. Before she left, she'd seen him stretched out on the floor in absolute ecstasy. His last words as she left were, "I love you, Christine" but this time he spoke them loud enough for her and every neighbor on his hall to hear.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 31 of 64

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