Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 24 of 24

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Christine was so very tired when at last the baby was born, just as the clock chimed six o'clock. She collapsed back against the pillows, felt as though she could sleep for days, waited to hear the first cries of her child.

They came, pitiful wailings that grew louder with every passing moment.

"It's a girl," said the midwife, and she disappeared from view for a moment. "I'm just washing her, dearie," she called, and Christine nodded wearily. Madame Giry brought a basin of water, towels, washed her up and helped her into a clean nightgown, and Christine was too tired to protest, too tired to do anything but let her do it.

"She's healthy and whole," Madame Giry told her in a low voice. "No marks, no scarring anywhere."

"Thank you," Christine murmured. It didn't matter to her, truly it didn't, but she knew Erik would be relieved, even if he wouldn't say so. "I want to hold her."

"Right here, dearie," said Mrs Johnson. "Help her sit up, Madame – use those pillows. That's right." Madame Giry helped her into a more upright position, and Mrs Johnson handed her the baby, wrapped up in blankets.

She was so small, Christine thought wonderingly. Of course all babies were small to begin with, but she was smaller than Gustave had been – so small, so delicate, tiny fingers and toes, soft dark hairs like down on her head.

"Hello," she whispered. "Hello, my darling."

"I'll tidy up," said Mrs Johnson, "and then I'll let your husband in."

"No, please, he can come in now," said Christine, glancing up only briefly from the tiny baby in her arms. The room was stuffy, she felt covered in sweat despite Madame Giry's efforts to clean her, but she wanted Erik, wanted him to be with her, to see the child they had created.

She couldn't quite think how he'd managed to restrain himself from being in the room, how Madame Giry and Mrs Johnson had kept him out, but in a way she was glad of it. She knew how difficult it would have been for him to see her in such pain, how helpless he would have felt.

"Don't argue with her," said Madame Giry to Mrs Johnson. "She's too stubborn." She crossed to the window, threw it open, and Mrs Johnson went to the door.

"Come in," she said, "come in. You've got a beautiful baby girl."

Erik entered, paused a few feet from the bed, and Christine looked up at him, smiled wearily. He looked dishevelled, shirt sleeves rolled up and waistcoat open, and he stared at her, stared at the baby in her arms as if he was afraid to come closer.

"Erik," she said softly, and she rearranged the baby, reached out a hand for him. "Come and see her, Erik." He approached, cautious, sat on the edge of the bed and she tried to pull him closer, couldn't quite manage it but he nodded, came closer still.

"They're both doing well," said Mrs Johnson, pausing with an armful of soiled linen. "Just tired. Don't talk long, now." She left the room, and Madame Giry went as well, allowed them some time together.

"Do you want to hold her?" Christine asked, but Erik shook his head. He stretched out a hand, moved the blanket aside so he could see the baby properly, and his breath escaped him in a long sigh. Christine watched as he traced her features, forefinger moved across her forehead, down her nose, touching her tiny mouth.

"She's perfect," he murmured. "She's…she's beautiful." He smiled then, a slow smile, looked at Christine and pushed her sweaty hair away from her face. "Just like you."

Christine almost laughed, leaned her head back against the pillows. "Only you," she said, "could say that to me right now." She was flushed and sticky, exhausted from the birth, and her hair hung in tangles across her shoulders.

Erik leaned forwards, kissed her. "Beautiful," he insisted. "And she's – she's so…"

"She is," Christine agreed, knowing what he meant, knowing the words he couldn't find. They looked at her, at this tiny doll-like creature, their daughter. "Hold her, Erik," Christine urged. "Hold your daughter." And she passed the baby over to him, made sure he was holding her properly, relaxed back into the bed, watched as Erik slowly became more comfortable holding their daughter.

"She doesn't have a name," said Erik at last. "We didn't – we've never talked about names." He looked up at her; she wished the mask was gone, wished he'd remove it so she could see him properly, but knew he'd never agree to it while Mrs Johnson and Madame Giry were still here. "She needs a name," he said, when she didn't speak.

"I know," she said. "It was easy with Gustave." He was, of course, named for her father – she'd insisted on it – and Erik nodded, frowned a little as he thought. "We don't have to decide right away," she told him. "There's no hurry, Erik."

"No," he murmured, "no, I suppose not." He turned back to the child in his arms; she was starting to cry, one arm emerged from the blankets and waved about. "What – what do I do?" he asked, a little frantic, and Christine smiled, reached out to take her back.

"She's hungry," she said, and unbuttoned her nightgown, felt Erik watching her as she guided the baby's mouth to her breast. "There, now," she cooed, as her daughter latched on, began to suck. "That's better."

"Your mother's name was Sylvia, wasn't it?" Erik asked then, abrupt, and Christine glanced up at him, nodded. She could barely remember her mother, had more memories of her father speaking, reverently, of Sylvia Daaé. "What about calling her that?"

Christine looked down at her daughter, the tiny child feeding from her. "Sylvia," she murmured. "Yes. Yes, I like that."

Mrs Johnson came back in then, looked at them and nodded approvingly. "That's right," she said. "A feed and then she can sleep. Your young lad wants to see her, but that can wait, I think. You need a nice hot bath and an early night, dearie."

"I'll fetch the cot," said Erik, and Christine watched as he left, returned her gaze to Sylvia. She would need to sleep close for at least the first few weeks, but the cot had been set up in one of the other bedrooms, the room that would be the nursery, not needed – or so they'd thought – for another three weeks.

"I'll run you a bath, dearie, and then I'd better go," said Mrs Johnson then. "I've got another one due any day, I need to check on her. I'll be back in a few days."

"Thank you, Mrs Johnson," said Christine, and the midwife nodded, went through to the bathroom and a moment later Christine could hear the water running.

Erik returned, carrying the cot easily, and he set it by the dressing table, returned to her side. Sylvia had finished, her eyes were closing, and he took her gently, carefully – so carefully, as if he were afraid he would drop her – and placed her in the cot.

"Alright, then, that's me done," Mrs Johnson said, bustling back into the room. "Stay in bed after your bath, then up and about tomorrow, that's the best thing." She turned to Erik, nodded at him. "Call for me if she needs anything, but she should be fine," she said, and disappeared from the room.

"Madame Giry will see her out," said Christine, didn't wait for Erik to agree, sat up and shook her hair back. "Let Gustave in before I bathe," she requested. "I don't want him to be stuck out there waiting."

Erik's mouth twitched into a smile, and she couldn't help smiling back. "Mrs Johnson said to wait," he pointed out, but he went to the door, opened it again. "Gustave," he called, and checked him when Gustave would have run into the room. "Quietly," Erik instructed him. "She's sleeping."

Christine watched, entranced, as Gustave tried to mimic Erik's silent footsteps, followed his father to the cot and peered in at the sleeping baby.

"Her name is Sylvia," she said, and Gustave looked up at her, his smile bright and brilliant. "Do you like her, Gustave?"

"I think so," Gustave answered, and Christine smothered a laugh in her hand, glanced at Erik and found him similarly afflicted. "Are you very tired, Mother?" Gustave asked then. "Laura's made you a soup, shall I bring some up?"

"Not yet, darling," she said. She would feel better after a bath, more able to eat, although she felt almost as though she might fall asleep in the bath. Erik wouldn't let her, she knew, and looked at him, found him watching her tenderly.

"Time to go now, Gustave," Erik murmured. "Your mother needs to rest."

But Gustave came over to the bed, kissed her cheek. "May I come back before bedtime, Mother?" he asked. "To say goodnight."

"Of course," said Christine, ignoring Erik's disapproval, and she watched as Gustave left, as Erik shut the door after him. "Help me to the bath?" she asked, swung her legs from the bed and winced as sore muscles protested. "Oh Erik," she said, and looked up at him, blinked away sudden tears. "Erik, could you ever have imagined?"

"No," he said slowly, thoughtfully, "I never imagined this. But I dreamed, Christine."

And he kissed her, took her to the bathroom, helped her into the warm water and stayed with her to make sure she didn't fall asleep.

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 24 of 24

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