Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 19 of 24

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Christine leaned against the doorframe of her new bedroom – the room she would share with Erik – and watched as Erik closed Gustave's bedroom door quietly. He paused there for a moment, a hand flat on the wooden door, and she wondered what he was thinking. The white of his mask was turned to her, forbidding her a clue to his thoughts.

Then he turned, saw her in the doorway and smiled at her.

"He is asleep," he said, and his footsteps were silent as he came towards her, held out his hand for hers. His thumb rubbed across her knuckle, and she almost shivered at the slight touch. He seemed to drink her in, from head to bare feet, and she felt her cheeks warm at his frank admiration.

"I – I thought he wouldn't be awake long," she said, her words a little rushed. "He's been wearing himself out."

Erik shook his head slightly, stepped closer to her. "So have you," he said quietly. "I can see how tired you are, Christine."

"I haven't slept well," she murmured, lowering her gaze, lifting her free hand to rest on his chest. "These last few weeks have been trying. The closer we came to returning, the harder it became to sleep without you."

He kissed her then, pressed her against the doorframe, released her hand only to thread his fingers through her hair. Her skin tingled, she moaned into his mouth, his other hand traced a line down her throat, across her collarbone, slipped under the sleeve of her camisole and it was almost more than she could bear.

They parted before she became too breathless; he looked down at her, and she reached up, gently removed his mask. He almost flinched away, but she tilted her head up, kissed his exposed cheek.

"I don't have words to tell you how I've missed you," she said quietly. "Or how much I love you."

"You don't need to," he said, just as quiet. "I already know. My dearest Christine." He frowned suddenly, rested his hands on her shoulders and skimmed his hands down her arms. "You must be cold," he said, reproving. "And you should be resting. Gustave said –"

"Gustave has taken his responsibilities very seriously," Christine interrupted him with a shake of her head. "The doctor was being over-cautious, truly. And I would have put on my dressing robe, but it seems to have disappeared somewhere in the bottom of the trunk." She gave an awkward shrug. "I can't bend low enough to find it." His mouth quirked, a half-hearted smile, but he ushered her into the bedroom, made her get into bed and wrapped a shawl around her shoulders.

"I wasn't sure," he said then, sitting on the edge of the bed, "if – I can stay in another room, if you'd like, until we're married."

But Christine shook her head. She had spent enough nights without him, and she would not continue to be without him – could not bear to sleep along any longer, even for the few more weeks it would take for them to be married.

"No, please don't," she said. "I need you with me, Erik." She leaned back against the pillows, slowly relaxed. Her back had been aching for most of the day, something which was becoming increasingly common as her pregnancy progressed, and the bed was soft and comfortable. "Do you forgive me for not telling you?" she had to ask. She would have known if he was angry – had only seen shock and pleasure in his reactions earlier – but she had fought with herself about telling him, about writing to him with the news, and she had to know.

But Erik's gentle smile told her that he understood, at least a little.

"You were probably right," he said. "You said you lost two children?"

"Yes." She had to close her eyes for a moment at the memories; the first had been two years into her marriage with Raoul, a year and a half after Gustave's birth, and the second had been three years later. It had certainly helped to sour the marriage, and after the second loss Raoul had turned to drink and gambling more and more.

"I was told I would probably never have another child," she said at last, opening her eyes. Erik was watching her, his mismatched eyes moving from her face to her swollen belly. "But I think now it was only…Raoul's children that I could not have." There was a flash of something in his expression, and she thought perhaps it was triumph, but it passed quickly. She reached out; he took her hand. "The most dangerous time is the first three months," she told him. "I couldn't tell you before then, just in case…" He was silent, but she thought he understood. "Gustave is right," she went on, "the doctor said I should rest more, but he was also increasingly confident that I can carry this child."

"And the danger to you?" he asked her, leaning towards her a little. "What of that?"

"Very little now," she said. He seemed relieved, nodded slowly, and she smiled, tugged at his hand to bring him closer. He came willingly, paused to shed his shoes and then stretched out alongside her on the bed, his hand resting automatically on her belly, rubbing gentle circles. He had barely been able to resist touching her since they had met on the dock earlier, but she didn't mind – relished it, in fact. She had spent so long aching to touch him that any contact now was only to be welcomed.

"You are so beautiful, my Christine," he murmured, leaned close and kissed her again, soft and gentle, and she hummed into his mouth, lifted a hand to undo the buttons of his waistcoat. He stopped her, entwined their fingers as he pulled away enough to look at her, still close enough that his breath was warm on her face. "Is it – can we?" he asked hesitantly, and she nodded at once.

"It's safe," she said. "And – and I've missed you, Erik." She took his hand, daring suddenly, and brought it to her sensitive breast. He inhaled sharply, curved his hand to fit the swell of it, and she couldn't help moaning. He began unbuttoning her chemise slowly, so slowly, pausing between each button to kiss the bared skin, and then he pulled the chemise off her, brought his mouth to her breast and everything else fell away.

Christine left him in the bed afterwards, went to the bathroom at the baby's insistence, and when she returned Erik was waiting for her, welcomed her back into the bed and into his arms. It was, she found, easier to lie comfortably when he was with her, and wasn't surprised by it. She turned onto her side and he lay behind her, draped his arm over her almost possessively, his hand resting over her womb.

She hummed a little, covered his hand with hers and watched the play of the light on her ring, too lazy and too sated to do anything more.

"Can this possibly be real?" he murmured at last, and he was pressed so close to her that she could feel the movement of his mouth against her neck. "I'm dreaming again, I must be."

"Did you dream this?" she asked, rubbing his hand gently over her stomach. "Another child?" She thought not; she knew Erik, knew he'd been overwhelmed at finding out he was Gustave's father. He'd embraced it wholeheartedly, but she couldn't imagine that he'd thought of more children.

"No," he said slowly, "never. But you, in my arms…a home together…I dreamed of that, often."

Christine closed her eyes, focused on the feel of him, of his hand resting on her belly, the warmth of him against her back. "I dreamed of you too," she said. "So many times in the last few months I've woken up expecting to see you." He kissed the back of her neck, and it almost tickled.

"The first time I felt her," she said then, "was when Gustave and I went to the Opera House."

He made a pleased sound, almost a purr, and she continued, encouraged. She'd thought he would want to hear these things, to know the things he'd missed during their separation. Things she had kept back from him, terrified that the child would be lost. "We'd gone across the lake," she said. "He'd called you Father, for the first time. And I felt her moving inside me." She smiled again, remembering it.

"You're so sure it's a girl," he said, and she nodded, a tiny movement of her head. "I think…I think I'd like that," he said, and his words came slowly, almost hesitantly. "A girl as beautiful as her mother. Dark hair, dark eyes…"

"Gustave only grows more like you," Christine said then. "The way he looks at me sometimes, that thoroughly stubborn look…"

"The way he smiles is just like you," Erik said, almost arguing but not quite. His arm tightened around her then, a slight squeeze, and she hummed, pressed back against him, and then she twisted around in his arms so she was facing him, lifted a hand, stroked her fingers across his right cheek. He didn't flinch, but the instinct was there, she could see.

"Erik," she said softly. "Erik, I will make you believe me, in time. And whatever this child looks like, I will love her completely." He didn't look at her, stared at something unseen across the room, and she kissed him, kissed his bloated lip, his papery skin. "I love you," she whispered. "And I'm going to marry you, Erik." He smiled then, met her gaze with his own, kissed her and stroked a hand through her hair.

"My wife," he said, "my Christine. I…I will try to believe you."

"That's all I could ask," she said. She wasn't foolish enough to expect his instincts to change overnight, not after so many years of rejection, of hatred, from those around him.

She yawned then, covered her mouth with her hand, and Erik's eyes danced in amusement.

"Sleep, my Christine," he urged her. "You must be exhausted. We have all the days there are to talk." He pulled the blankets up, waited for her to turn around again and then tucked them around her securely. A moment later he turned out the gas lamp, lay down behind her and wrapped his arms around her again.

He was so warm, his bare skin against hers, and despite her fatigue she revelled in it, pressed close to him.

"Erik," she murmured, "I really can't quite believe we're finally here. I feel as though I'll wake up in the morning and find this is just a dream again." She'd dreamed this so often, woken so many times without him, and she couldn't quite seem to trust it.

But he kissed her neck, kept his arms tight around her.

"If I'm not dreaming, you're not," he said. "And I'll be here in the morning. I promise. Now sleep, Christine."

She couldn't resist the instruction, gave a happy sigh and drifted into sleep far quicker than she had been able to for weeks. She had slept in Erik's arms only twice, both times on the nights she had conceived, but now there was no uncertainty, now there was no threat of separation hanging over her. He was warm, and safe, and he held her through the night.

The baby, too, seemed more at ease now. For several weeks now she had been restless at nights, much more active than during the day, and she'd been waking several times a night – or simply not sleeping at all.

It was as though the growing child could sense her father, could sense Christine's happiness and was responding accordingly, was relaxing now that her parents had been reunited.

Christine slept, and she dreamed. She dreamed of a baby daughter, a beautiful girl with dark curls and blue eyes, and in her sleep she smiled.

And when she awoke, in the cold, grey pre-dawn, Erik was still there, still sleeping beside her, his arm thrown across her as if he couldn't bear not to touch her.

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 19 of 24

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