Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 9 of 24

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"I think that's everything," said Christine, putting her hands on her hips and turning about to inspect the bedroom.

"Everything that you won't need tomorrow, my lady," said her lady's maid, Elise. "And I have your travelling case ready to pack in the morning."

"Good," Christine nodded. "And Gustave's things are packed?"

"Yes, my lady," said Elise, closing the trunk. "The trunks are to go before breakfast?"

"Yes, that's right. And then Mister Y will escort us to the ship afterwards." Christine went to sit at her dressing table, removed her earrings and put them into the jewellery box. Elise came to untie her necklace and unpin her hair, and Christine shook her head slightly, let her curls fall loose. "And then in ten days we shall be at home." She looked at Elise's reflection in the mirror, gentled her voice. "You must think very carefully about what I said to you, Elise. I will provide you with a good reference if you wish to leave me. I don't for a moment expect you to emigrate with us."

"Thank you, my lady," said Elise. "I – I shall let you know once I've decided." She reached for the hairbrush, but Christine shook her head, waved her away.

"It's alright, Elise," she said. "Please, go and enjoy your last evening in New York. I can manage."

"Very good, my lady," said Elise, curtseying. She left the room and Christine sighed, rested an elbow on the dressing table and propped her head up with her hand. She would be sorry to lose Elise, but her maid had family in Paris and would not wish to leave them.

A knock at the door startled her for a moment, and then she smiled. "Come in," she called, and watched as Erik entered. He came close, stood behind her, and she felt the brush of his fingers through her hair. "Is Gustave asleep?" she asked.

"Yes, sound asleep," he said, and rested a hand on her shoulder. The ring on his finger glinted in the mirror, and she realised that he'd been wearing it the whole time. The ring he'd wanted her to wear, the ring she would have worn – should have worn, perhaps – as his wife.

"He liked your gift," she said, pushing aside the thought. Erik had gifted Gustave with a beautiful book of manuscript paper and a fine ink pen, and their son's delight had been plain to see. He'd promised Erik to fill it by the time they returned, and Christine had been pleased that Gustave seemed to have accepted their return, accepted the new direction of their lives.

"He has a great deal of talent," said Erik. "I…hope you will allow me teach to him, when you return."

Christine turned her head and kissed the back of his hand. "Of course," she said quietly. "But it isn't a question of allowing you, Erik. You are his father." His fingers tightened on her shoulder for a moment, and then he reached for her hairbrush and began the task that she had stopped Elise from performing. His hands were gentle, smoothing her hair as he brushed the tangles from it, and she closed her eyes, luxuriated in the feeling, hummed a little.

"I am seeing you in a way I have never seen you before," Erik commented after a time. "You are at ease with me now."

Christine opened her eyes, met his gaze in the mirror. "There were so many complications, before," she said, a little vaguely. There were complications still, probably more than she had thought of, and yet she was at ease with Erik. At ease with the man who knew her so well, who loved her so dearly and excited her so much.

His fingers brushed against her neck and she shivered involuntarily.

"Are you cold?" he asked at once, always so solicitous of her health, and she shook her head.

"No," she said. "Not cold." She watched him in the mirror, saw him pause for just a moment before continuing to brush her hair. "Erik…" Words failed, and she looked down, at her hands folded together on the dressing table, at the wedding ring on her finger.

She hadn't taken it off; had worn it for ten years, would feel strange without its weight. And she had no desire to cause any more scandal in Paris, she would arrive there as a widow and would remain so until she returned to New York and to Erik's waiting arms.

Raoul's ring. Raoul's widow.

Christine had tried to reconcile her grief and her guilt, had spoken to Madame Giry about it several more times and her confession, after Raoul's funeral, had helped a little, but she knew it would take time for her feelings to settle. It would take time.

And yet she wanted.

Slowly, deliberately, she pulled the ring off her finger. Erik's movements behind her ceased altogether, and she put the ring down on the table, turned on the seat to look up at him.

"Christine," he said, almost a warning, and she moistened her lips, nervous. His gaze dropped briefly to her mouth.

"You offered me a ring once," she said softly; he nodded. "Offer it again, Erik."

"Christine," he said again, shook his head. "Do you know how you tempt me?" His fingers moved slightly, as if playing a piano, and Christine waited. "You can't wear it," he said, but it sounded as if he were trying to convince himself more than her. "Not yet."

She grasped his hand, stilled his fingers. "But I want to." She stood up, and their bodies were pressed close together. Almost closer than she could bear. "Erik…"

"You're playing with fire, Christine," he said, and his breath was warm on her face. "You told me yourself – not yet."

"I don't care," she said, lifted her hands to rest on his chest. "Six months, Erik." She lowered her gaze, felt her cheeks flush. "I don't want to wait six months." He didn't answer, but his hands settled on her waist, warm even through her clothing. Her breathing quickened; she looked back up at him, saw the warmth in his eyes.

"You have no idea what you do to me," he told her, and she smiled, lifted a hand to brush her fingers against his cheek.

"I love you," she said. "I want to be with you." He turned his face into her hand, kissed her palm, and then he bent his head and kissed her, his mouth pressed to hers, his hands on her waist pulling her impossibly closer.

It felt like coming home.

He pushed her dressing robe from her shoulders, revealed her chemise and corset and made an impatient sound in his throat. Christine laughed, let him spin her around to tug at the corset laces. In moments it was gone, and she turned back to him, unbuttoned his waistcoat. He skimmed his hands down her bare arms, clasped her about the waist again, and then lifted her up. She made a startled sound, clung to him as he carried her to the bed and laid her down.

"You are so beautiful," he said reverently. She looked up at him, reached for him to join her, needing him close to her again. "My Christine," he murmured, and trailed his fingers down her throat, across the skin bared above the neck of her chemise.

"Erik," she said. "My Erik." He sat on the side of the bed, bent down to remove his shoes and then discarded his waistcoat. His mask faced her, and she wanted to ask him to take it off, wanted to prove to him at last that she had changed, that she wasn't the shallow, naïve girl of so many years before. But he distracted her then, stretched out on the bed beside her and kissed her, rested his hand possessively on her stomach.

She was afraid he would find her changed; her body had altered, both through childbirth and the passage of time. She knew she was still slender and graceful, but she was not the woman Erik had seen before. And yet his touch was reverent, his gaze adoring. He made her feel like she was the most precious thing in the world.

"It was dark, before," he murmured, and his nimble fingers undid the small buttons at the front of her chemise. Her breath caught in her throat as he drew the sleeves off her shoulders, pulled the garment from her body and left her bare. Her cheeks heated but she let him look his fill, then pulled him back to her and kissed him again.

At last she had to speak; at last she had to ask.

"Erik," she said softly, "will you take your mask off?"

He stilled, stared down at her, and then he lifted a hand to touch his white mask. "Why?" he asked her. "You can't want to…to see."

"I love you, Erik," she said, and willed him to believe it. "All of you." It was dark before, he'd reminded her – so she'd felt him, his body and his face, but hadn't seen him. Darkness had covered his features as surely as his mask did now. She wanted to face their future together, and she had to make him understand that.

"Please," she said. "Please trust me."

A moment passed, and another, and at last Erik gave a slow nod. He sat up, turned away from her and removed the mask. The wig followed. He didn't turn back to her and Christine knew she couldn't understand the depths of his pain, the shyness and fear and shame he was probably feeling.

But she could try to heal him, at least a little.

She sat up, reached out and turned his face towards her, looked straight at him. The fear was clear on his face, but she would not reject him.

"I love you," she said again. "Please believe me." And then she stroked her fingers gently down his paper-thin skin, leaned closer and kissed him again. It took a moment, but finally he responded, finally he kissed her back.

He touched her as if afraid she was a dream; as if he couldn't believe she was real and was scared that at any moment she might disappear. Every touch conveyed his love, every look showed his adoration, and he wrung exquisite pleasure from her with ease.

They lay together afterwards, Erik's arms around her and Christine's head resting on his chest. His hand stroked through her hair and she sighed contentedly, closed her eyes. She felt at peace, the guilt she felt over Raoul fading a little, fading enough for her to enjoy being with Erik and being in love with him. It would return, she knew that, but it was enough that she had this, had the memory of this to take with her on those lonely six months that lay ahead.

"Six months is long," Erik murmured then, and Christine lifted her head to look at him.

"Not so long," she said. "And I'll write often, Erik." He smiled a little, the thought clearly pleasing to him – and when she thought of writing to him, of receiving his letters, it made her heart swell. "Gustave will miss you," she added, and rested her head on his chest again.

"I'll miss him."

"And when we come back, we'll be a family," Christine said softly. "You and me, and our son."

"Family," Erik repeated. "I've dreamed of being with you so many times, but I never thought of family." His hand on her hair stilled. "Can it possibly be true?" Christine didn't answer; she'd dreamed the same, and woken to the reality of her choices.

At last Erik's fingers resumed stroking her hair. "You should sleep, Christine," he said. "You're still so tired."

"You'll stay with me?" she asked, and winced a little at revealing her fear. The last time – the only time – they had done this, she had woken up alone, the bed cold beside her. She felt rather than heard Erik's sigh, and he pulled her closer, made sure the blanket covered her sufficiently.

"Yes, Christine," he said quietly, "I will be here."

Comforted, contented, Christine closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 9 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>