Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 22 of 24

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The marriage was a quiet affair, attended by only a few witnesses. Apart from Gustave, only Madame Giry and Squelch were present, and Christine reflected afterwards that even they had seemed almost unreal as she had said her vows, as Erik slid the wedding ring onto her finger and kissed her as if nobody were watching.

They went back to the house, just the three of them, found Laura in the midst of preparing a celebratory supper. Gustave had homework, went to his room to learn his spellings before the meal was ready, and Christine went to the bedroom to change her dress. She hadn't worn white – it hadn't seemed appropriate, given the child growing within her – but a neat, pretty blue dress that she thought flattered despite her size.

Erik had told her she looked beautiful, had looked at her just as he always had, as though she were the most beautiful thing in creation. In his eyes, she knew, she could have worn anything without changing that perception.

Still, she wanted to change into a more comfortable outfit, wanted to free her hair because the weight of it on her head, and the pins holding it in place, seemed to make her head and neck ache. The further she went into the pregnancy, she reflected, the less comfortable she became, and there were still another three months before the birth.

Erik followed her upstairs, took the pins from her hair and laid them on the dressing table, unbuttoned the dress and kissed her neck, her shoulder, smoothed his hands over the skin revealed as he pushed aside fabric aside.

"My wife," he murmured. "My wife." Christine looked up at him in the mirror, smiled a little. There was a hungriness in his expression, a hint of the obsession that had once scared her so much, the possessiveness that she had once fought against.

Erik had changed much in ten years, she knew, but not that much, not enough that today, their wedding day, would not bring those qualities out in him.

But she wasn't scared now, no longer fought. She knew who he was, loved every part of him; and his obsession had faded to a deeper love, his fierce possessiveness was no longer confining. And she had changed too – had grown wiser, older, had seen more of the world, knew that there was no-one she was more suited to being with than Erik. Nobody she loved more than Erik.

"My husband," she said, and she watched as his fingers stroked down her neck, slipped lower; her breath hitched, and she leaned back against him, half wished they had more time before supper. "I love you," she murmured, tilted her face up to receive his kiss. She raised her hand, touched his mask and waited for just a moment, long enough for him to stop her if he wished, and then gently pulled it from his face.

He flinched away from the mirror, retreated a few steps, and Christine put the mask on the dressing table and rose, turned and stepped into his arms.

"My husband," she said again, and stroked her fingers across his cheek. She wouldn't apologise for removing the mask – accepted the need for it, but not here, not in their bedroom. Here she wanted to see all of him, and he seemed to be trying to understand, trying to accept it. "Are you happy, Erik?" she asked softly, and he smiled, the left side of his mouth lifting.

"Do you need to ask?" he returned, and he kissed her again, tangled his hands in her hair as he loved to do. She smiled into it, closed her eyes, leaned against him.

And then she shivered; the fire wasn't lit in the bedroom until the evening, and her dress was half open, baring her skin to the air. Erik pulled away, frowned.

"You should change," he said, and he sat on the bed, watched as she quickly donned a comfortable skirt and blouse. "My wife," he muttered again, and Christine returned to him, kissed him again.

"Yes," she said. "All yours."

"I have a wedding gift for you," Erik said then. "It…isn't finished, but then…" He reached out, touched her stomach, shrugged a little. Christine waited, remembered what Madame Giry had said. "It has more popular appeal than DonJuan," he said, watching her, almost nervous now, as if she would deny it, deny him the chance to hear her sing his music once more. "But then I think I was half-mad when I composed DonJuan."

"An opera," she whispered. "You've written another opera?"

He nodded. "For you," he said, as if it needed clarifying – as if she didn't know that she had long been his muse, his inspiration. It was an honour, to be the object of Erik's genius, but she could admit that it was also a strain. She worried, at times, that she could never measure up to his expectations, his ideals – could remember, as a young girl learning from her Angel of Music, constantly trying to please him.

"What is it about?" she asked, pushing the worry away. But he shook his head, smiled suddenly.

"It's not finished," he said again. "When it's completed, you can have it." She pouted, tried to convince him to tell her, but he shook his head, refused. "Will you sing it?" he asked, and she looked at him, wondered if he really didn't know, couldn't see how much she wanted to sing his music again.

"Do you have to ask?" she said, echoing his earlier words, but he looked at her and she thought, guiltily, of how she had needed persuasion to sing in DonJuan, and then to sing his aria only six months before.

But DonJuan had been different, she told herself; her trepidation then had been about the plot to capture Erik, about the man himself, not about his music. The music had called to her, called to something deep inside her that she hadn't known existed until she had heard it.

"You know I would sing anything of yours," she said softly. "Anything." She meant more than she said, somehow, and he seemed to understand; he took her hands, pressed a kiss to her finger just below her new wedding ring.

Footsteps hurried down the landing, and the bedroom door was flung open without a knock. Erik flinched, turned so Gustave couldn't see his face, and Christine stilled him with a hand on his shoulder, tried to reassure him silently.

"Gustave, manners," she said, frowning at their son as he stood in the doorway.

"Sorry, Mother," said Gustave, unrepentant, and she shook her head, tried to hide the smile that wanted to emerge. "But supper's ready, Laura sent me to fetch you. And I'm so hungry!"

Christine nodded. "Alright, Gustave, we'll be there in a moment." Gustave nodded, glanced at Erik and then disappeared. Erik rose, crossed to the dressing table, put his mask back into place, and Christine bit her lip, for a moment hating that mask. "He doesn't care, you know," she said quietly. "No more than I do."

Erik said nothing, didn't look at her, and she went to him, clutched at his arm.

"You will believe me," she told him. "Not now, not soon, but one day you'll believe me."

"Oh, Christine," he said, sighing, and he pressed a kiss to her forehead; the leather mask brushed her skin. "I am trying, my dearest Christine," he murmured. "But I have suffered a lifetime of people turning from me."

"Even me," she whispered, and he didn't deny it, but his hands rested on her hips, a gentle reassurance that she had long been forgiven. "I'm sorry," she said again, couldn't stop the apology from leaving her mouth. "I'm so sorry for all the hurt I caused you."

"It's forgotten," said Erik at once, and he took her hand, lifted it to look once more at the ring on her finger. "It's the past. We're starting again now."

"Yes," she said, and she nodded, let his words reassure her. "But Erik…" She hesitated, long enough for him to become concerned, and then she tried to smile, hoped he would accept what she wanted. "Erik, when the baby is born…" He waited, silent, and she gathered her courage, hoped he would understand. "I want her to see you," she told him. "You, not just the mask. The mask…it might frighten her, a little. Babies want to see faces."

Erik sighed, let her hand fall. "I suppose she wouldn't know any different," he muttered. "I…I'll try, Christine."

She smiled properly then, nodded. It was enough. She knew it was hard for him, knew she couldn't expect more than this.

"We should go down before Gustave starves to death," Erik said then, and Christine laughed, nodded again.

"I'll just be a moment," she said, "I need to tie my hair back." She turned to the dressing table, picked up a ribbon, but Erik took it from her, slipped it under her mass of curls. His fingers brushed against her neck as he tied the ribbon.

"You're so beautiful," he said once again, and Christine smiled, leaned up for another kiss.


Erik laughed against her mouth, stepped away from her. "He gets it from you," he said, and fled the bedroom before she could respond.

The baby kicked; Christine touched her belly, looked at her ring again, marvelled at what her life had become.

At how happy she was.

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 22 of 24

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