Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Dream Descends

Part 12 of 16

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“Well, perhaps you would prefer that I stay in the town, tonight?”

Christine faltered, her combative pose sagging as she used the sense Erik’s bitter tone had suddenly induced. They were standing at opposite ends of the room, his study, both red-faced with fury and shaking with indignation. As was per usual, Christine couldn’t quite recall what had started this argument, but it had grown too heated for comfort.

She softened, immediately regretting her irrational anger, and opened her mouth to apologize. This was how all of their quarrels ended, with abrupt forgiveness and excessive sweetness for hours afterward. As Mrs. Attwater had told her before, the arguments were useful for relieving her feelings, especially since Erik was the only person who could ever get her in a temper and he had quickly reduced it to a fine art.

Unfortunately, before she could actually utter the words, a knock on the door startled them both.

“I’m terribly sorry to intrude,” Mrs. Attwater said, looking genuinely so. “But there’s a man at the door—”

Erik interrupted her with a curt expletive. “Who is he? Damn it, Edith, no one must know where we are!”

With an offended glare, the woman replied, “Isn’t that a little overly cautious, Monsieur? They could not have followed you here—and the man gave me his card. He said it was a matter of urgency.”

Christine was closest to the door, so she accepted the card with apprehensive curiosity.

Le Comte de Chagny.

* * *

Erik watched, seething, as Christine took the card before he could cross the room. The incensed anger slowly began to fade away, replaced with cold indifference. This was the first time they hadn’t made up immediately after an argument since they were engaged.

I will certainly not be the one to start the apologies, he thought resentfully.

His hardened countenance slipped for a moment, however, when she paled and leaned against the doorframe, her mouth dropping open in shock. He reached forward and took the card from her, using his free hand to steady her as he quickly read it over.

He swore again, this time at length.

Comte de Chagny.

Both dread and frustration rose in his throat, but his expression remained impassive. No doubt it was ‘a matter of urgency’. The man wouldn’t have come unless Christine was in danger.

“Erik, why is—” Christine started, anxiously reaching for his hand.

He brushed it off, maneuvering around Mrs. Attwater and out the door. “Something’s gone wrong,” he called back, and heard the rushed click of heels as both women followed him.

* * *

Raoul rubbed a hand across his eyes tiredly, not really taking anything in as he looked around the grand foyer. The address he had been given in case of emergency had been hard to locate, but now that he was here he knew there could be no mistake. The place practically reeked of its owner.

He felt the acute need to vomit across the flawlessly polished floors.

As the portly housekeeper reappeared, he swallowed the fast rising bile and attempted to look respectable. The bags under his eyes and the pathetic wear of his clothes rather defeated the effort.

He thought he had prepared himself, but his mind reeled when Christine came around the corner, her dress new and her hair done impeccably. Something had made her hold her chin higher, and brought the healthy glow back to her cheeks. She was beautiful, but it was no longer his beauty.

He caught her eye, and she looked away.

“Chagny.” Raoul transferred his gaze to the man whom he had unwillingly become entangled with, and couldn’t identify the emotion he provoked—something between jealousy and admiration, and then gratefulness.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” Raoul said, not one to evade the issue. “There’s someone after the Chagnys, but it isn’t the Commune. Please, I must speak with you—I’m supposed to be in Paris come morning.”

* * *

Christine hadn’t been able to meet Raoul’s inquisitive gaze, her shame was so overpowering. He looked half-dead, his face haggard and his attire shabby from usage; she was the very picture of vigor and wellbeing.

He had all but collapsed onto the couch, and Erik poured him a whiskey and soda without comment. Accepting with a thankful nod, he gulped the liquid down quickly. Christine could not help but observe the desperate and agitated manner that seemed to linger in his movements.

She realized only too late that she had begun to stare rudely, and she glanced away, blushing, as Erik’s eyes burned into her. She knew there was only affection for a friend within her where Raoul was concerned, but she also knew this would not stop Erik from interpreting her actions in a different light.

“I was not followed—I made sure the spy was rendered incapable of doing so before I left,” Raoul informed them, and Erik visibly relaxed.


“The butler.”

Christine cried out involuntarily, disgusted as she recalled the aquiline features of Rene Deniau. “He’s been in the Nice residence for years!” She exclaimed.

“The conspiracy was intricately planned,” Raoul said gravely, and Christine immediately felt uncomfortable. Speaking directly to him after so long was having an odd affect on her.

“I suggest you explain, Monsieur le Comte, before you are too late to catch the steamer back.” Erik had observed the exchange with icy calm.

“Of course,” Raoul muttered. “My apologies—the journey has tired me.” He set down his empty glass, and leaned forward, his eyes focusing on a spot just above both Erik’s and Christine’s heads.

“It was not long after you left that the Commune was dissolved, and I was almost laughing with the irony of it all. So soon after sending you to England, all that we had been afraid of was defeated. I was so relieved…” He trailed off, staring dreamily at the wall. Then, with a shake, he resumed.

“Then, another letter arrived. It said simply, ‘You cannot keep a secret.’ My first thought was that some leftover rebels of the group meant to continue their work. I brushed it aside, though I was still nervous. But I thought that their numbers were too few to take action. When the second letter came, it bore a seal.” He withdrew a crumpled envelope from his pocket and handed it to Erik.

“It was the first time any of the letters had any symbol of identification. I knew then that I had been horribly wrong. This is the seal of—”

“Duke Muriel Bonheur,” Erik interjected, frowning. “The man’s dead.”

“Duke Bonheur?” Christine asked, confused. She did not recognize the name.

Raoul shot her a glance, then returned to staring above their heads. “Let me explain.

“I respected my father when I was a child. He was affectionate, and high-spirited—rather too high-spirited, as his frivolousness took him far away from our home, and pushed Philippe into the role of parental guidance for me long before my father died.

“The man had always had a taste for chance, and was not one to turn down a challenge of any sort. It was because of these traits he became involved in an underground gambling circle, run by Duke Bonheur, who had a certain reputation for luck of that sort—his name was quite ironic, really, but it became a sort of signature for the group, which would later be known as the Good Luck Scandal.

“The Duke was confident, cunning, and, most importantly, was in possession of nearly unlimited funds. The men who joined his circle were quite in awe of him—save my father. The Comte had never been a man to let another’s shadow eclipse him. He rose in the gambling field, just as he had the social ladder. His ego and that of the Duke’s were both far too large to be compatible, and clashed quickly.

“The Duke bet my father on a trivial matter, something that seemed too foolish to actually put money on. In fact, that was exactly what the Duke needed. He fixed the bet, but my father was too blinded by his conceit to reject Bonheur.

“My brother and I were never quite aware of what went wrong, but the Duke’s informant made a mistake, and my father won. The Duke had bet more money than he could afford to lose, and he was enraged. He had wanted my father’s money, and he knew there wouldn’t be another chance after the loss. His reputation in the circle would be crippled.

“But Bonheur at least would still have his money, for he had been handing out counterfeit bills for years. He paid my father with false money, and was satisfied that at least he had not entirely lost. But my father, as proud as he was, had the money examined.

“He threatened the Duke with exposure, if the man didn’t pay him what was his due. The Duke responded in kind, threatening my father with his very life if he did not drop the issue immediately.

“My father was irrational, but he knew when the situation called for outside reinforcement. He bought out the authorities, and in exchange for his anonymity, he revealed the identity of the infamous circle’s founder. The Duke was stripped of his title and wealth, shunned by society, and eventually forgotten altogether, except when recent gossip began to bore people and they brought up the old rumors.

“He died embittered and disgraced. But before his last breath, his son, Nicolas Bonheur swore to the dying man that he would punish the Chagny family for what they had done.”

Raoul sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration. “My brother warned me of Nicolas when I was very young, the only family enemy and possible threat to our title. I believe that Bonheur has chosen his time to strike, but he has gone beyond simply humiliating the family.” Raoul hesitated.

“He means to destroy it,” Erik finished, his eyes narrowed.

“Not without a good deal of suffering and agony first,” Raoul added with a cheerless laugh. “He meant to obtain part of the fortune by posing as the Commune and asking for money—quite clever, really, as the police wouldn’t be able to do anything if it were the Commune. He must have some funds to afford the spies he has planted. Are you sure your household is secure?”

“Yes,” Erik replied with confidence. “You believe he will use Christine as another way of tormenting you, then.”

“And a lure, yes. But he doesn’t know where she is. He won’t give up, though, which is why you must be certain. I’ve met the man—he’s mad, damn it, there’s no telling what he might do.”

Erik stiffened, and said between his teeth, “I suppose I would be the expert on the actions of madmen.”

“Don’t be so damned sensitive, Erik. There are more important things to worry about now.”

All three of them wheeled around to face the door, where Edith Attwater stood, calmly observing the exchange. Raoul stood, his face darkening.

“I thought you said your house was secure,” he growled at Erik, moving towards the woman. Erik got to his feet and grabbed the Comte by his arm, flinging him back into the chair.

“She’s no danger to you, Chagny. The woman’s my aunt.”

* * *

Christine gaped, first at Erik, then at Mrs. Attwater. The woman’s mouth was curved in the barest of smug grins. “Your…the aunt…?” She asked weakly.

“Yes, the aunt, if I am correctly interpreting your dramatic intonations,” Erik replied cynically. “Perhaps you had better accompany the aunt outside while I discuss some matters of importance with our guest.”

“I am just as much a part of this as either of you,” Christine replied stubbornly, not moving.

With a growl, Erik took her by the shoulders and pulled her up from her seat. She shrieked in indignation and struggled to push him away, but his grip was hard as rock. He half dragged, half carried her across the room, shoved her out the door, and slammed it in his aunt’s face.

* * *

When the two men emerged later, Christine was sitting on the bench in the hall, her head resting limp against the back of it. She had fallen asleep waiting for them.

Raoul admired her with a reluctant fascination. He longed to talk with her, like they used to, even for just a moment. Amazingly, it was Erik who granted his wish.

“I’ve got to speak with Mrs. Attwater, if you’ll watch her for a moment,” he gestured absently to Christine, already walking away down the hall.

Raoul bristled at the indifference with which the man treated her. He had brutally manhandled her earlier, and Raoul had been too shocked to even interfere. He could already see bruises forming where Erik’s fingers had been.

Could there be any more…?

“Raoul?” A soft, tired voice broke into his thoughts.

“You’re awake,” he said, startled. She blinked several times, trying to focus. Her awareness returned with a start when she realized he was holding her hand, and she immediately tried to pull it away. “Please, Christine,” he protested gently, and she subsided, looking ashamed.

“I’m sorry…how are you?” He was touched by the worry that clouded her eyes.

“Exhausted,” he admitted, with a feeble smile. “But, you…you’re alright?”

“I’m fine,” she said, confused at the sudden agitation in his voice.

“You’re happy? He’s not…Christine, if you’re being mistreated, you only have to say…we could arrange for someone else to foster you—”

“I’m fine,” she repeated, this time firmly. “Erik was only aggravated by your arrival, Raoul. It is his way of caring for me, if a bit…unusual.”

“If you’re sure,” he murmured, though his tone implied he hoped she wasn’t. “Otherwise, though? You’re completely healthy?”

Her hand drifted to her middle, and she nodded, eyes shining oddly. “Quite healthy. Perhaps you should let go now, Raoul; Erik will be here any moment, and he…” She drifted off, but he didn’t need her to finish the sentence to catch her meaning. Releasing her hand, he got to his feet.

The significance of her hand’s movement suddenly struck him, and he froze up instantly. The diamond ring she wore glittered malevolently. Staring at it where it rested just below her abdomen, he asked in an eerily bland voice, “You are both healthy?”

Her eyes widened, then she flushed. “It is not for certain,” she replied quietly. “I have not mentioned anything yet.”

“I am happy for you,” he said, and Christine could actually hear the attempt to be happy in Raoul’s voice. His eyes gave him away—his face had always been an open book to her.

“Thank you,” she said warmly, grasping his hand and squeezing it.

“You should be leaving, Monsieur le Comte.”

Christine quickly dropped Raoul’s hand at the sound of Erik’s voice, the low purr that was worse than his yelling.

“Yes,” Raoul agreed. “I must reach Paris before morning.” He gave Christine a short bow. “Farewell, Christine.” With an inclination of his head to Erik, he strolled purposefully down the hall. Christine and Erik waiting in silence for a moment, until the sound of the front door closing echoed off the walls.

Erik marched off without a word.

* * *

“I don’t understand why he didn’t tell me,” Christine murmured, inattentively watching her reflection in the mirror. Edith worked on the laces of her gown, clucking with displeasure.

“He’s kept to himself his entire life, Christine,” she said reproachfully. “You can’t expect him to open up right away. I imagine letting you in this far has been the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.”

“I can recall a few other instances,” Christine whispered to herself, so her companion wouldn’t hear. She stepped obediently out of the gown, and Edith started on her corset.

“I’ll finish that.” Erik had come in silently, a talent that unnerved Christine a great deal. “You may leave, Edith.”

With a stern look at Christine, and a shake of the head for Erik, she left, closing the door behind her. Erik stepped forward, his nimble fingers making quick work of the ties.

“Please don’t be angry,” Christine said meekly. “I didn’t mean what I said earlier.”

The corset slipped away. “I am sure the Comte was a great comfort to you.”

“You know he is a dear friend to me, and nothing more,” she replied in a hurt tone, turning around to face him. “I do care about him, and I worry about him. But I do not love him as I used to.”

Erik’s eyes were burning. “You certainly do not love his as a brother.”

“Do not presume to tell me whom I do or do not love!” She stepped away from him, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “How can you still envy him, after all this time?” She held out her hand and waved the ring so it glittered in the lamplight. “After this?”

Erik watched her coldly. “It is merely a ring, Christine.”

Her face fell, all irritation and resentment vanishing. “If that is all it means to you, perhaps this was a mistake.” She held her chin high, furious at herself for the moisture in her eyes. “I am going to bed.” She turned on her heel, and climbed onto the mattress in silence.

“Christine,” Erik said, brokenly. She did not reply. Turning on her side, she closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep.

* * *

At first, Erik thought he was dreaming. The form in front of the mirror was so glowingly pale, and seemed to float just above the ground. A filmy white skirt quivered around long, slender legs, and graceful arms were wrapped around the figure’s middle.

Some unknown sound had awoken him, and he had instinctively reached out to find the other side of the bed empty. He sat up, his eyes still blurred by sleep. Slowly, they began to clear, and he realized the silhouette was Christine.

She had pulled the fabric of her chemise tight around her stomach, and was examining the effect in the mirror. The abnormal shine of her cheeks revealed that she had been, or still was, crying, the tears leaving gleaming trails on her skin. She was so preoccupied in whatever she was looking at that she didn’t notice he had gotten up and was standing just out of the mirror’s view, watching her.

She brought up a hand and held it on her abdomen.

Christ,” Erik cried in a strangled tone, and she whirled around, the chemise falling loosely to her sides. Shadows played across her face as it went through a series of expressions; shock, anger, confusion.

Erik moved forward tentatively. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “Goddamn it, Christine, you could have said something.”

She opened her mouth as if to do just that, but instead let out a heart wrenching sob and covered her face with her hands. Erik reached out and pulled her to him, kissing the top of her head and groaning into her hair. “I’ve made a complete ass of myself,” he said remorsefully.

However, her clinging hands were very reassuring. He bent down to kiss her head again, but she turned her face up so he kissed her lips instead. The kiss went on for some time, until he pulled away and asked, “How long have you known?”

“I don’t,” she said, with a hiccupping laugh. “But I’m making an educated guess…” She smiled ruefully.

Hesitantly, Erik placed a hand over her front, his brow furrowing as he held it there. “A child,” he whispered, pronouncing the word with a careful tongue, as though it would set off a hidden alarm. He felt a strange tingling build up in his stomach as the enormity of the situation sunk in—not a bad tingling, though it gave him the distinct impression that he was about to explode. He looked at Christine.

It was as though something had melted away, the change in his eyes was so great. The wonder of the unknown summoned almost a childish fear to his features, dulling the sharpness of his gaze and exposing the tenderness his set lips always tried to hide. “This does not improve the current state of affairs,” he murmured. “Christine, you are in serious danger already; the duty you have—we have—to this child can only make things more difficult.”

“You could say you’re happy for us, at least,” Christine demurred.

With a bark of laughter, he gathered her in his arms and kissed her soundly. “I am very happy for us, Christine,” he said against her lips. She smiled, and reached up to caress his right cheek—his deformed cheek.

“What is it?” She asked worriedly, as his countenance darkened.

“Christine—the baby’s face, could it be…” He stared at her, horror spreading through him like wildfire. “My face,” he said hoarsely.

“Erik, I will love our child for being our child, not for having perfect skin or delicate hands, or dainty feet. Love is all a child needs.” She wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head against his chest. Then, in a much more forceful tone, she added, “And if anyone does not love it, they will answer to me.”

Erik stared at her in astonishment, but the foreign aggressiveness soon subsided, and she relaxed again. “Our child,” she sighed, smiling up at him.

He carried her to bed.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Dream Descends

Part 12 of 16

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