Continuing Tales

Stay by My Side

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 27 of 37

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Stay By My Side

It was cold and bitter, and Christine was glad of her thick winter cloak as she reached her father's grave. Erik, who seemed sure of such things, said it would snow soon, perhaps even this evening, and had made her promise to keep her visit as brief as she could.

He was waiting for her at the graveyard gates, in a carriage he had hired, the driver paid well to keep eyes ahead and his mouth shut. Christine had reminded Erik she had visited the graveyard many times, usually alone, but he had been adamant in escorting her, and she knew it was a gesture of his protectiveness.

It had been a surprise, though, when he had led her from his home through strange tunnels, leading upwards until they had emerged through a small door at the side of the opera house on the Rue Scribe. She had realised of course that he must have other ways of entering and leaving his home under the opera house, that he must leave the opera house at times for necessities, but she must have passed the door a thousand times without really noticing it.

Christine knelt down, put down a small posy, looked up at the tomb. It had been erected by one of her father's patrons, far more expensive than Gustave Daaé would ever have been able to afford himself. It seemed wrong, somehow, that he should have something like this. But here he lay in eternal rest, and it was here that Christine came when she missed him most.

Tomorrow evening, she would be wed. She would marry the man who had guided her for so long, who had loved her from afar. The only man she could envisage marrying, a man who excited her, who challenged her – a man without whom she would not be who she was now.

She was, she knew, being melodramatic when she claimed she could not live without him. She could do so, if she had to. Her father had lived without her mother, after all, and she could remember her father speaking of his deceased wife with such love, such devotion. But she did not want to, and no matter what anyone else said of Erik, she would marry him tomorrow.

Christine clasped her hands together, bent her head in prayer. She prayed for many things: for Erik's soul, although she knew he would not thank her for it; for a happy wedding; for her father's blessing, for she knew he looked down on her from Heaven.

"I know you sent him to me, Father," she whispered at last. "He needs me so, and I need him too. He's not an angel, of course, but…I know you sent him to me."

She rose then, too cold to continue kneeling, stared for a moment longer at her father's grave. She felt almost as if she were saying goodbye to him – goodbye to what the memory of him represented. Her childhood, irrevocably gone now. She could not have it back, nor did she truly want it. She wished her father could be here to see her married, of course – but if he had not died, she would almost certainly not have met Erik. She could not wish the past back at the sacrifice of the future.


Startled, Christine turned, pulled her cloak tighter about herself and stared in consternation. Raoul was approaching, dressed for a night at the opera rather than the cold winter's night, and she frowned at him, glanced around as if she could see where he had come from.

"Raoul," she greeted. "What on earth are you doing here?" A suspicion dawned in her mind, and she stared at him. "Did you follow me, Raoul?"

"I saw you entering a carriage," he said, unapologetic, and came to a halt barely a few feet away from her – far too close for her comfort, and she tried to step back, almost stumbled on the uneven ground. "Careful," said Raoul, reaching out to steady her, but she flinched away from him.

"Why have you come?" she demanded. "What do you want?" Had he seen Erik? she wondered, and then shivered, cold in a way that had nothing to do with the wind that had picked up. Had Erik seen Raoul?

"I wanted to see you," Raoul said, falling back a step, giving her at least a little space. "Outside the opera house, where he can't hear us."

"So you followed me," Christine said, couldn't help the disgust that coloured her voice. "I came here to be alone, Raoul."

"I need to talk to you," Raoul insisted. "Christine, I know your teacher is the Opera Ghost." The words seemed to echo through the graveyard, and Christine looked around again, a little fearful.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she lied. "And this – this isn't appropriate, Raoul. I'm getting married tomorrow!" His shock was clear, and he reached a hand out for her, the shock quickly turning to concern.

"Christine, you must listen to me," he said. "Whatever he's forcing you to do, I can help you – I can protect you from him. You can come away with me now. I'll keep you safe, Christine." He stepped towards her, hand outstretched, and she shrank away, wondered if Erik would hear if she called for him. But the gates weren't close, and the wind was growing, would carry her voice away from him.

"Raoul, please," she said, and only hoped she could convince him. "He's not forcing me to do anything – I don't need protection!"

"He killed that stagehand, Christine," Raoul reminded her, frowning now. "I've heard the stories – and the notes, Christine! He warned me to stay away from you, and he threatens the managers!"

"Perhaps you should have listened, Monsieur le Vicomte."

Christine gasped, turned in relief to Erik. How he had appeared beside her father's grave she could not guess, but he was there, and she stumbled towards him, held her arms out and let him pull her to his side. He wrapped his cloak about her, his arm secure about her waist, and she wanted to hide her face but wouldn't allow herself to be that weak, to show to Raoul that she was scared.

Raoul was staring at Erik, horror painted across his face, and Erik glowered, the Opera Ghost at his fiercest.

"I warned you to stay away from her," Erik said at last. "And now you approach my fiancée and once more try to take her from me." Christine shivered at his tone, at the anger there, but Erik didn't spare her a glance.

"She's only your fiancée because you've tricked her!" Raoul accused. "Christine, whatever he's told you, it's not true!"

"Once again you suggest Christine is so easily mislead," said Erik, and Christine could see the dawning realisation on Raoul's face as he understood that Erik had heard their conversation on the roof, over a month ago now. "I warned you to stay away, Monsieur," said Erik, his voice silky smooth, so dangerous, and Christine bit her lip, pressed against him, hoped her nearness could balance his anger.

"I won't let you have her," Raoul said vehemently, and Christine shook her head, stared at him.

"Raoul, I'm happy," she told him. "I'm happy with Erik. Why can't you see that?" But there was an obstinate look in his eyes, in the tilt of his chin, and she recognised it, recognised the source of his attentions over the last few months. "I'm not yours, Raoul," she exclaimed. "He hasn't tricked me or deceived me – not in the way you mean." Erik's arm pulled her even closer to him, his fingers almost digging in through layers of cloth. "Please, just leave us alone," she begged.

"I can't do that," Raoul said, and he didn't look at her, kept his gaze on Erik. Christine wondered what he saw, whether he was afraid, and then reprimanded herself: of course he was afraid. Even she was afraid of Erik, when he was like this.

"Sir," sneered Erik, "I had assumed you had some remnants of breeding, and yet you ignore a lady's word?" He glanced at Christine then, gave her the briefest of nods. It was enough for her fear to be assuaged, at least a little – he remembered his promise, she saw in that moment. He would keep to it, no matter how Raoul provoked him.

"I – I cannot believe she understands what she is doing," Raoul maintained, and Christine choked back a sob, couldn't understand why Raoul wouldn't believe her. She had never given him any reason to suppose she felt more than friendship for him, and could only hope Erik trusted her at least a little now.

"Have a care, Monsieur," Erik snapped. "I have been merciful so far, but my patience is limited." It was a threat, clear and obvious, and Raoul fell back a pace before becoming resolute once more. But threats were not all Erik had; he raised his hand, and there was something in it, Christine could see, something small – a moment later a fireball seemed to erupt from his hand, forcing Raoul to leap back to avoid being burned.

"I shall carry you," Erik murmured to her, and the wind helped to ensure Raoul couldn't hear him. "Be ready." She nodded, but his attention was on Raoul once more, and he repeated whatever he had done to cause the first fireball, producing a second and then a third, and Raoul backed away, tripped over something and fell over with a cry.

Erik acted at once, scooping Christine into his arms and setting off through the graveyard. Christine clung to him, her arms around his neck, until they reached the gates and the waiting carriage. He helped her in, joined her and shut the door firmly, rapped on the roof. A moment later the carriage departed and Christine, shivering, looked at Erik and found only the Opera Ghost looking back at her.

"I didn't know he would be there," she whispered. "Please, Erik, you must believe me."

"He has no right to see you," Erik said curtly. "He should learn his place." Christine shook her head, felt helpless. She'd said as much herself, had told Raoul it was inappropriate for him to seek her out like that. But if Erik did not believe her…

She shivered, lowered her head. Now Raoul had seen Erik, and all his suspicions were confirmed. She could not think of what Raoul might do with the information, what he might do to jeopardise her happiness. If he went to the managers – or, God forbid, the police – with testimony that the Opera Ghost was in fact a man…and Raoul would claim that Erik was coercing her, she was sure he would never admit she could love Erik without persuasion or lies as a foundation.

She raised her hands to cover her face, hiding herself away, hiding her thoughts from Erik's cool gaze. Her cheeks were damp; she was crying, she realised dazedly.

"You must believe me," she said at last. "You must, Erik."

He reached out to her, gently brought her hands away from her face, rubbed at her cold fingers to bring warmth back to them.

"I believe you," he said, and his tone was softening, his expression warmer now. "And I heard what you said. You…you are happy with me." He seemed to question it, and her heart ached that he was still so unsure. She nodded at him, and he tilted her hand so he could see her ring. "By this time tomorrow you shall be mine," he murmured, barely audible over the rumbling of the carriage wheels. "And then nobody can take you from me."

She nodded again, thought of Raoul's determination, his obstinate insistence that she was being fooled, and her shiver had little to do with the cold.

Stay by My Side

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 27 of 37

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