Symphony in the Twilight - new update- 1/12/17


Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 2/2/15

Postby Godzuki » Fri Feb 06, 2015 8:14 pm

AMused wrote:I love the lovemaking, it speaks to their trust, increasing intimacy and love.

And .... of course ..... You had to go there ..... back to the reality of what was going on in the opera house .......


I was gonna say this, we are twins! Honey it was hard to concentrate on the 2nd part of the chapter after reading that first part! :mrgreen:
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 2/2/15

Postby AMused » Fri Feb 06, 2015 9:06 pm

Well, you know the pattern,G. Lots of lovemaking and emotional intimacy followed by dark things ........... :ohno:
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 2/2/15

Postby honeyphan » Sat Feb 07, 2015 12:42 am

AMused wrote:Well, you know the pattern,G. Lots of lovemaking and emotional intimacy followed by dark things ........... :ohno:



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Yep, must have those dark things for the conflict, ya know. ;-)

Thanks for the reviews ladies! I'm glad you enjoyed that.

I would have just left it as is, after their togetherness and ended the chapter with that - but I got a nice complaint on ff from a reviewer (she said there was maybe too much MA in story and not enough plot) so I gave some plot this go round. ;-)

But it would have followed anyway, whether after the lovemaking or beginning of next chapter.
So, no biggie. ;-)
lol
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 2/2/15

Postby Godzuki » Sat Feb 07, 2015 9:23 am

AMused wrote:Well, you know the pattern,G. Lots of lovemaking and emotional intimacy followed by dark things ........... :ohno:


Well if Honey has a pattern of dark things being balanced with lots of lovemaking and emotional intimacy , then I can't wait for the payback to come in "Come to Me"!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm looking for a whole section on NOTHING but lovemaking/emotional inimacy!!!!!!!!!!!! :mrgreen:


honeyphan wrote:
I would have just left it as is, after their togetherness and ended the chapter with that - but I got a nice complaint on ff from a reviewer (she said there was maybe too much MA in story and not enough plot) so I gave some plot this go round. ;-)

But it would have followed anyway, whether after the lovemaking or beginning of next chapter.
So, no biggie. ;-)
lol
The complainant is wrong!!!!! :ahno: :hand: LOL

Can't have too much love, can't you hear Dionne Warwick singing? Listen: "What the world....needs now.....is love....sweet love......its the only thing that theres just too little of"......
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 2/2/15

Postby AMused » Sat Feb 07, 2015 1:41 pm

Well if Honey has a pattern of dark things being balanced with lots of lovemaking and emotional intimacy , then I can't wait for the payback to come in "Come to Me"!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm looking for a whole section on NOTHING but lovemaking/emotional inimacy!!!!!!!!!!!! :mrgreen:


I have gotten to CtM yet. But I know where it is ........ I just have to sit down long enough to read it. ;)
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 2/2/15

Postby honeyphan » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:54 pm

lol- thanks guys - and G- you'll soon get your wish on Come to Me. ;-)

and now, for more of Symphony...


The Angel Sees

LVII


.

Christine took the stone stairs that wound upward with a determination borne of disbelief and anger.

For the past three days and nights, all had been restored as it was meant to be between her and her Angel. They had expressed their passion for one another freely and often, had engaged in pleasant conversation and their love of music – even her practices had been a pleasure in which to partake. After a messy but delightful cooking lesson the previous evening, they again visited the heated springs together.

All of it, a taste of heaven revisited …

And now this.

How could he act with such high-handed arrogance and give no thought to her feelings? How could he treat her as no more than a child from whom the truth must be kept!

The darkness was a powerful and merciless force, barely separated by the enclosed flame of her lantern, allowing only a fragment of the path to be seen. A torch would have been exposed to a sudden draft, yes, but it was certainly a preferred means of providing adequate light! This new source wielded only enough of a glow to encourage her next step, surrendering to the thick blackness the remainder of what lay ahead to goad apprehension. But it was not dread of the concealed unknown that crept to the fringes of her strong will and caused her to slow her pace midway between the third and fourth cellar.

It was the choice she had made, which in retrospect had been both foolish and infantile.

How could she destroy months of careful deliberation to undertake this journey?

– and immediately the knowledge of what must be done came clear to her.

"Damn," she muttered beneath her breath in frustration then turned to look behind her.

He would learn. He would know. He always did.

Her justified act of rebellion would only stretch the hard won ease between them as taut as a frayed rope a moment away from snapping. It would rend apart any fragile gossamer of trust so doggedly earned. It would tear asunder the beauty of the past days and nights and the hope for their continuance. And not for anything would she suffer through the interminable distance again.

"Damn, damn, damn," she said with each step she retraced downward.

She scowled. Her language was becoming quite atrocious for a lady, a vicomtesse she thought with an acerbic twinge of humor, but at this point she could hardly rouse the effort to care. She framed in her mind what she would say, how she would approach this latest interference –

– when the light of her torch illuminated a motionless figure blocking the path two steps below.

She gasped, her immediate recoil one of nervous surprise as she barely kept her newly found lantern from crashing to the ground.

Her dark Phantom stared up at her in silence, the deficient flame from her lamp not failing to pick up the storm that brewed in his eyes behind the black mask.

"I was coming back," she hastened to say. "I didn't do it. Surely that must count for something…"

At her pathetic greeting and flustered return to unease, he crossed his arms over his chest.

"Didn't do …what exactly?"

She wasn't fooled by his seeming calm. "I didn't go above – though of course I could have done so, now that I know of the secret door that leads into Madame's office. And I knew how to disable that trap in the cellar below since I watched you many times before when we took this shortcut, so there was no danger…"

"There is always danger."

She bit back a contrary retort, justified anger swiftly reminding her of her reason for traveling alone in this dark and dank stairwell. Stiffening her spine, she took the step down that stood between them, coming to a level with those eyes that burned.

"You had no right."

Her voice simmered barely above a whisper.

"I had every right."

His softly growled words left no doubt that he understood her silent accusation.

"Need I remind you that paramount to all else in this godforsaken opera house I seek to ensure your protection?" he added.

Christine was not truly surprised that he had followed her upon his return to the lair. She had left Meg's letter where he was sure to see it, atop the bench of his pipe organ – her only concession to relating her present whereabouts to him.

"How is visiting Meg in secret a danger? You hid her letter from me, telling me nothing of it – reading it as I'm sure you must have done, since there was no seal, though it had my name written on the fold…"

He did not deny her searching words, which further provoked her irritation. If not for her third foray in tidying the lair, she might never have found the missive slipped between the pages of a book that sat near his mini theater.

"Why even keep her letter if you never planned to show it to me? I'm surprised you didn't toss it into the lake, along with the journals, if that's where they are…"

At her probing reference to the forbidden texts, he scowled. "Perhaps I should have. Then there would be no need for this present conversation."

She let out an incensed little cry of displeasure. "I don't understand! Why should you want to keep Meg from me? Why should a short visit matter so much? The corridor with Madame Giry's office will be abandoned this time of day. Everyone is at rehearsals and will be busy for the next few hours. No one would be in that area backstage to even see me slip that short distance to her room, and if any of the cast should see, I still don't see the problem…."

"Have you forgotten the little matter of the Revolution, my dear?" he asked dryly, taking the lantern from her.

"But – what has that to do with me?" She shook her head in confusion. "I was worried at first, yes, with my fear of the unknown and how it would affect us. But from Madame's notes to you, the only interest the leaders have shown is in my voice, for the opera. They think I have a private apartment nearby and prefer to keep my own company and have inquired no further than that. They know nothing else about either of us and rarely show their faces in the theater, doing whatever it is they do elsewhere…"

He gave no response, only stared at her with his obstinate unflappability.

She clenched her hands that hung by her sides into tight fists, giving them a frustrated little shake near her skirts.

"Erik – answer me! Why won't you allow me to see my friend? What harm is there in that? She almost died in that freezing passageway, and her recovery has been slow. Too slow. Had I known of Meg's condition and how she wanted to see me, how she begged it of me in that letter, I would have gone sooner – I would have asked you to take me, instead of almost going there alone – but you knew that, didn't you? That's why you kept her letter from me. You prefer to keep me concealed in this den of darkness, hidden away from everyone and everything, even when there's no need –"

Instant pain swept through his eyes which had borne more sorrow than they should ever hold. Christine inhaled sharply, realizing what she had just thoughtlessly spouted in her vexation.

"Erik – I'm sorry. I never meant it like that…"

"No, Christine, I think that is precisely what you meant."

His quiet words, laden with emotion, shattered her fledgling breath, causing the gasps of air she drew up through her lungs to tremble with remorse. The silence throbbed heavily all around them, while tears she felt unable to suppress rushed to wet her lashes.

"I truly didn't…" she said more softly, her words trailing away to be captured in the blind silence.

She could think of nothing to say to rectify her careless words – but no matter if she tried, he wouldn't believe her. And behind the mask, his glittering eyes warned her not to bother with the attempt.

His mouth tightened in a pale, grim line as he gripped her above the elbow, walking past her so that she had to turn. Moving upward, he resumed her earlier trek to the higher levels. Momentarily startled she could do nothing but blindly follow.

"Erik…?" she whispered when she again found her voice. Anything louder felt jarring, a physical blow to her vulnerable senses.

He gave no acknowledgement that he heard her, and she did not speak again, uncertain she knew what she would ask for if he did answer. Reassurance? Absolution? Did she deserve either?

She didn't ask where they were going, didn't care to know, only wished for the impossible – to erase the past minutes and continue as if they never occurred. As they ascended higher along the steep, difficult path, all traces of her remaining anger melted away into a sad sort of penitence.

They reached the narrow corridor where the secret entrance to Madame's office existed, but instead of stopping, he surged forward, his hand never releasing her arm. She glanced back at the hairline cracks in the wall as they moved past and deeper into the corridor. They made a gradual turn and walked further.

"Erik…?" she tried again.

He came to an abrupt stop and swung to face her, giving her face a cursory glance.

"Dry your tears, my dear, lest your little friend see them and question…"

At his low caustic words, she lifted the back of her fingers to swipe at her cheeks. He placed his hand flat to the wall, but she grasped his wrist before he could push the stone near what she now saw was a shallow crevice that outlined a doorway. At once, she understood where he had brought her.

"Erik – wait. I know what I said, now please, hear what I meant…I love you." She laid her other palm against his cheek. "My life is nothing without you in it. I covet the moments we spend together, the intimacy we share, but I cannot help wish that we could dwell in the daylight or at least go above more frequently – both of us, together. I know with the revolution going on, it makes that impossible. But can we not at least steal away what moments we can? Going to see Meg – was it really such an awful thing for me to do? I didn't carry through with it alone, though I was upset enough to do so at the time. Yet more important to me than asserting any rights I feel I should have is regaining your trust. Please tell me I haven't destroyed that."

He looked into her eyes a long moment before releasing a pent up breath, and with it the rest of his angst.

"You have destroyed nothing. You are a glorious creature of light chained to a phantom who lives in a world of darkness. How could I expect you not to long for such things? It is the very nature of who you are…"

His soft-spoken words were sincere and lacked any bitterness, as if he was reminding himself of what he presumed to be true, and she felt the blade of remorse thrust its hold even deeper into her soul.

"I told you before, I don't feel chained by you, mon Ange…"

He nodded, his smile gentle but not reaching his eyes. "Yes, I know. We will speak of this later. Go spend time with your friend. I shall return for you within the hour."

Before she could offer words of quiet gratitude or further reassurance, he brought her hand from his face to his lips, buried them in her palm in a hard kiss, then released her and pushed on the stone.

x

Making patterns of the dim flowers and vines on the paper with her weary gaze, Meg startled when the invisible star she traced grew lopsided as the wall slowly caved outward. Surely too much bed rest and continual ennui in a room lit by one candle was causing her to see things that weren't truly there….

"Mon Dieu," she breathed, repeating the exclamation more loudly when her dearest friend's face appeared in a door-like opening between rows of faded blue posies.

Christine smiled brightly at Meg, turning her head over her shoulder to whisper something to the tall shadowy form behind her. She then entered the room, immediately filling the dim silence with her light, bubbly laughter at the flabbergasted expression on Meg's face. Like a magician's trick, the wall closed in behind her.

"Do close your mouth, mon ami, before you draw flies," Christine teased. "You did invite me to come visit, remember?"

"Christine!" Meg exclaimed, holding her arms out, the bubble of the fantastic bursting into reality.

With a happy little giggle, Christine hurried forward and embraced her friend, holding her tightly a moment before letting go. She sat on the edge of the bed and studied Meg's pale features with concern.

"I would have come sooner but…" she hesitated, loathe to speak of Erik's interference, what seemed a betrayal to him, and instead shrugged. "Well, I'm here now. How are you feeling?"

"Bored beyond belief. Can you believe for entertainment I have resorted to counting flowers in the wallpaper and watching the dust motes dance – even being jealous that they can!" she admitted with a chuckle of self disgust. "How I wish I had learned some time-consuming craft like needlework to pass the hours!"

"I'm surprised you can see anything with so little light. Do you mind?"

Meg shook her head and Christine took the taper of the one candle to light three in a candelabrum nearby.

"So tell me, are there hidden entryways to the secret passages in all the rooms?" Meg asked in lingering amazement.

"I don't know, but I have seen several."

"Did he put them there?"

"No, only the mirror, I think – and the trapdoors. I heard that the rest was possibly due to smugglers in the past. The opera house has stood here since the late eighteenth century, I think, and with the lake hidden beneath, I guess that makes sense…"

"I heard the same when we were children, but to see the proof is impressive, and when you appeared, it was like magic…"

Christine turned from her task. With more light, she was better able to see the shadows beneath Meg's eyes. It frightened her to see her friend still appear so weak, but she masked her concern with a hesitant smile.

"Oh, don't look so worried," Meg assured with a grin, "I'm improving, and am much better now that you're here. Lying in bed, day after day does tend to make one exhausted, as strange as that sounds. But my mind is sharp as ever and the cough is thankfully gone."

"I expect to see you out of this bed in no time, then," Christine agreed, feeling a little better for Meg's words.

"So how is wedded life?" Meg began, her brow furrowing when Christine glanced away. "Christine…?"

"It's wonderful, for the most part, but …oh, Meg." She let out a little sigh, her shoulders drooping. "I am a terrible wife. I said something I shouldn't have, something I knew better than to speak – and I hurt him dreadfully." She again took a seat on the edge of the bed. "I don't want to lose him and am so afraid I might."

She didn't elaborate on her persistent terror, since the night she'd found him sitting in dismal reflection by the shore, that something or someone would separate them.

"Ha - no chance of that happening. He's so in love with you a blind man would take notice."

Christine gave a little quirk of her lips, but didn't feel convinced.

"Christine…" Meg laid her hand over hers. "Do you remember when we spoke in the chapel, on the night of the Yuletide celebration? You said much the same thing then, so afraid you would never see your Angel, and that he was lost to you forever. And look! Your fears held no ground. Not only did he return to you as your teacher, but you became his wife less than two months later."

Christine nodded. "I know he loves me; he shows me often and in so many different ways … I love him so much it hurts sometimes…"

Oh, how she wished to explain all that weighed heavy in her heart to her dearest friend, to speak of Erik's noble birth and his connection to Raoul as a de Chagny … to share her hope in finding a way to bridge all distance, with origins that led back to his tragic childhood, as the journals had revealed … to seek advice on how to live each day caught up in so many secrets, and fight back the fear that consistently overwhelmed…

But to do so would also be a betrayal to Erik. She could confide in no one, and must somehow figure out on her own when to rule with her heart and with her head and when to stay silent.

She shook her head with a dismissive smile. "Never mind. It was just a silly argument. You're right – I shouldn't carry on so. And what of you? Have you had other visitors, or am I the first?"

Meg blushed, and Christine giggled.

"A gentleman caller by the name of Raoul, perhaps…?"

"Tristan."

"Tristan?" Christine parroted in confusion. "Is he a new member of the cast?"

"Not exactly…" and suddenly Meg let out her breath in a trapped giggle. "Oh, I'm certain it's alright to tell you his secret, so you give nothing away when you return to the theater and see him, but, Christine – Tristan is Raoul," she said more softly, then explained of his masquerade as a worker there.

Christine recalled his ill-fitting wig and had wondered about the strange hairpiece at the time, but with Erik ready to strangle Raoul at a moment's notice, she'd had enough on her mind to bother to ask.

"I hope he knows what he's doing," she said pensively, "but I am glad he came to see you."

"You are?" Meg asked doubtfully. "As I recall, you weren't exactly in favor of the idea of us together…"

"I have since changed my mind. When he heard of your accident, he went as white as a ghost. I know now that he cares a great deal about you, Meg, and that was my only concern."

Meg blushed prettily, averting her gaze, then swiftly looked up again. "That's right! He mentioned he spoke to you and your husband but … that it didn't go well…?"

Christine sighed at the memory and that she must again fence her way around the issue, without giving the truth away. "With those two, it never does."

"At least this time there was no swordplay involved."

Christine winced, recalling the violence that had erupted.

"No, at least there was none of that…But let's not speak of such dismal things." Her tone became secretive as she leaned closer. "I have something to show you…"

Meg caught onto her excitement, her eyes gleaming.

"Well, show me then!" she laughed in impatience when Christine said nothing more.

"You spoke of magic earlier. Erik taught me some…"

Meg's eyes grew wide and childlike. "Ohhh – show me, please do!"

Eagerly Christine performed for her impressed audience-of-one the trick with sleight of hand, using a small bobbin that sat on a nearby table. She had improved, she was pleased to note, the bobbin nestled inside her banded sleeve without evident trace of how it had gotten there. After much pleading and mild threatening on Meg's part to know how it was done, Christine finally relented amid shared laughter and showed her the secret involved.

"Please say you'll come visit again soon," Meg said while she practiced the trick with studied diligence. "Until Maman decides I'm again fit to dance, I suppose she intends to keep me here, cut off from everyone. And it does get terribly lonely…"

Christine hesitated with a reply, uncertain Erik would agree to guide her above a second time. But she sympathized with her friend; Christine also was cut off, but she had Erik. Without him for companionship, life would certainly be dreary.

"I shall try," she said. "Would you like me to bring you anything? A book perhaps? Erik has quite an extensive library."

"Does he?" Meg glanced down at the blanket covering her legs. "Actually, there is an author Charles once told me about. Marquis de Sade…" Her eyes lifted. "Have you heard of him?"

"Marquis de Sade…" Christine repeated pensively, thinking back to the titles she had glimpsed while dusting the shelves. "No, but I'll see if he has any of his works."

"I would like that," Meg said with a smile.

.

xXx

.

Once the Phantom left Christine to visit with her little friend, he went in search of Antoinette Giry. He found her deep in extensive training with the chorus, and decided the meeting could wait.

Christine's impulsive words haunted his soul, making it difficult to concentrate. But he forced them into a shadowed corner of his mind, having no desire to relive their harsh disclosure.

A cursory inspection of the theater revealed that everything appeared as normal as it had before the revolutionaries took over. Indeed, he saw little change – the crewmen still worked in their mediocre capacity, what little work they accomplished. The dancers still danced their programs, often making mistakes that Antoinette sternly corrected…

A blur of movement in the flies ahead made him turn his attention toward a stagehand in a blue flannel shirt. He concentrated his brooding stare on the incompetent young man and watched as he suddenly grabbed the scaffolding for balance.

The Phantom scowled.

Idiot! Did he actually think he could get away with this farce?

With silent and purposeful strides he approached his unwary prey on the catwalk.

"A workman you are not," he clipped quietly. "Abandon this ploy and leave the theater at once."

The imbecile turned swiftly in surprise – a fool's act when suspended on a narrow beam in mid-air. The Phantom cursed beneath his breath and grabbed the boy's upper arm to prevent him from toppling headfirst to the stage, while grasping hold of the ropes above with his other gloved hand so the imbecile would not take them both to an early grave. Once the boy stood steady, Erik released his arm with a little shove of disgust.

"Leave this place," he said again, intending to walk away. "You don't belong here."

"We must talk," the Vicomte insisted. "There is something I need to tell you that I didn't get the chance to that night in Giry's office…"

Impatient to be gone but with nowhere to go until Christine's visit with Meg was concluded, the Phantom released a terse breath. There appeared to be no one else in the vicinity, though Buquet likely skulked somewhere nearby. The acoustics of the theater were exemplary; their conversation could easily be overheard once the music ended, especially with voices raised, as was sure to happen…

"Not here. On the roof in five minutes. I assume you remember how to get there…" the Phantom ended sardonically, the night of the Bal Masque a plague to his thoughts.

Not waiting for a reply, he spun on his heel and retraced his steps. A swift glance over his shoulder assured him the Vicomte had not followed, and the Phantom slipped unnoticed through a secret entrance.

x

No more than five minutes later, the Phantom stepped from behind the Pegasus statue where he had first hidden when his one-time rival attempted to steal Christine's heart with his sickening advances of ardor. Drawing his cloak around himself, he stood tall and waited for the boy's approach.

"Well," the Phantom insisted. "What did you neglect to tell me?"

"They're looking for you."

The Phantom chuckled derisively. "That hardly comes as a surprise. You led them in the campaign and stirred their dormant interest."

"No – not the managers. The leaders of the Commune. When their goons were interrogating me, they asked about you. They wanted to know if I knew the Phantom or had met you, and where you lived."

"And did you tell them the pathetic truth of my heritage?" the Phantom asked, his voice rising in pitch though its tone remained deadly silent.

The boy's steady blue eyes under the dark brown wig did not waver. "I didn't know of it then, so no. It fails to matter – you have no clear ties to the de Chagny wealth so are of no interest to them in that respect. Only my father is, and I am, as a potential hostage to gain his attention…"

Erik waved a careless hand, having no desire to hear the pathetic trials of the de Chagnys.

"I fail to see the problem then."

"I have been spying this past week while working in the theater – they know you are the one to have rescued me and that has made you their enemy. They plan to entrap you."

The Phantom snorted a laugh. "Not bloody likely."

"And they want Christine to sing for their opera."

"Over my dead body – or theirs."

"Listen to me!" The Vicomte stepped forward in his impatience to make the Phantom understand. "They know the secret passageways behind the walls exist, but not the locations of their entries. They are looking for the building's plans. Once they have them, they won't hesitate to search – and if they find Christine. What then?"

"You forget, I have traps…"

Raoul shook his head in exasperation.

"That won't stop them. They have made threats."

The Phantom narrowed his eyes. "What kind of threats?"

"Speak to Madame Giry about that – she knows the details. I only know that they want Christine to sing – I eavesdropped on a few of their private conversations, and not once did the leaders speak of her except to praise her voice. They appear to mean her no harm…"

The Phantom turned away. "I have heard enough."

The Vicomte grabbed his arm to stop him, rendering Erik momentarily stunned, both by his gall to try to intimidate the Opera Ghost, and his apparent unconcern to touch the beast that repulsed him.

"Would you risk Christine's safety by keeping her hidden? What if they infiltrate the passageways and come looking for you with guns? What if she is shot or otherwise injured in the process? One trap can disable one man, but don't you think when that happens the others will skirt around it? Do you truly think one trap will stop all of them?"

The Phantom shook loose from his tight clutch. "I can take care of my wife – in whom I recall you have a decidedly unhealthy interest…"

At the thinly veiled threat in his voice, the Vicomte narrowed his eyes.

"I did care for Christine, I won't deny that. Had matters been different, I would have pursued, hoping to win her affection. But I'm not such a cad as to try to steal another man's wife, especially if that man is my own brother."

Shocked by his claim of the Phantom as blood, Erik could find no words.

"You are powerful, a mysterious and deadly force to be reckoned with," the boy continued, "a challenging foe. I know that only too well. But you are one man – you cannot stand up against the entire Commune and hope to succeed!"

"Watch me."

The words came silken, his smile wry, and the Phantom strode away with finality, disinclined to continue the tiresome exchange when he felt at a loss to understand the boy's bizarre shift in attitude toward him. No longer calling him a thing or a monster, no longer lashing out with violence, but giving the appearance of accepting him for what he was and treating him as human.

Was this a test? A trick?

"At least consider all I have said," the boy called after him.

The Phantom gave no reply, briskly continuing his pace to the rooftop door.

For the remainder of the hour, the Vicomte's pathetic warning tangled with Christine's hasty words of being kept hidden away in darkness, causing no end to his discontent. He recalled Madame Giry warn him of such an occurrence, of Christine one day feeling trapped without a world in which the sun and moon and stars guided her steps. And he was in complete agreement – an earthly angel should not be denied all the lights in the heavens, he wanted her complete happiness, damn it –

But did none of them realize his chief purpose was to ensure her continued safety? It was maddening how such matters of dominant significance were forgotten in the present lull of circumstances. Even Christine seemed no longer concerned with the revolutionists…

Small wonder the fiends who now ran his theater demanded that she sing, the pure perfection of her voice would make the heavenly hosts weep with envy.

Yet the Phantom issued demands. He did not receive them.

The boy had returned to his post, he grimly noted, and Giry was now immersed in trying to make dancers out of oxen, two male performers who stumbled about in their new choreography. A pair of fools with little talent. Was this truly a professional troupe? Oh, how he wished to resume his notes to the managers!

Without his Angel's presence on stage, the chords rang hollow, the atmosphere lacked vibrancy, the songs, even when carried well, seemed flat. He was intoxicated and besotted by her brilliance, and nothing could compare. Even on a bad day, her performance outshone all the others.

Approaching the secret entrance that led to his bride, he thought of all she daily sacrificed to be with him, how she endeavored so diligently to win his approval and trust, the tremendous expressions of her love she frequently showered on him…

Each week that passed he saw more of the strong, spirited woman emerge, and less of the shy, frightened child she once was. Though even in her boldness, she still retained a childlike sweetness and trust that took his breath away.

And she asked for his trust in return, a trust still so difficult to give. But for her, he wished to sever all fears of the past and shadows of the future to do just that, at least what he could give ….

Pushing aside the stone, he entered the room and stood silently at its threshold.

Both women turned and saw him. Christine's face became illumined as if a candle instantly had been lit within. Her smile was wide and her dark eyes shone with happiness.

And in that moment, he decided.

.

xXx

.

"Darling…"

Christine breathed the endearment, rising from the bed and hastening to embrace her husband, as if they had been parted for days and not minutes. Foolish, perhaps, but she needed to feel his strong arms around her again, to reassure, and by the tender expression of his eyes that shone a clear emerald, he understood and felt the same way.

After a moment, she stepped back, but did not leave his side.

"Monsieur…" Meg gave a little nod of greeting.

"Mademoiselle Giry, I trust you are feeling better?"

"Yes, thank you, it was kind of you to allow Christine to visit. And thank you also for finding me that night. I don't remember much, but I do remember that."

Erik smiled and gave a tense nod of acknowledgement.

Beneath his calm, Christine could sense his disquiet, knowing he was never comfortable in genteel situations with others and still unaccustomed to gratitude. He had never been given the gift to understand what was ordinary in common conversation or social convention, which made him all the more unique, and she loved him for the difference, even as she hoped one day he would feel at ease in a room with more than the two of them inside it.

And suddenly in that moment, she understood him more clearly than before. His actions to safeguard her were not the standard and often extreme, intrusive, and far past the point of being eccentric – but he did those things in the manner he alone understood, and all out of love for her.

He turned to her. "Are you ready to go?"

Christine nodded and looked at Meg. "Take care of yourself."

"I will – and do please come again, Christine…"

She hesitated, glancing at Erik whose expression gave nothing away as he took her hand. Again she looked at Meg and fluttered her fingers in a light, little wave of farewell as she followed her husband into the corridor and waited for him to close the entrance.

"I trust you had a good time, my dear," he said and turned –

… stunned when Christine's warm lips crushed his, her arms flying around his neck with abandon.

Thrown off balance against the stone door he just closed, he grabbed her around the waist and fully reciprocated her fervent affection.

"Thank you, Erik," she said softly once she pulled back. "It was such a relief to see Meg and know things aren't as bad as they sounded in the letter. I was more worried than I let on, and well… after the horrid things I said to you, I certainly didn't deserve such kindness…"

He sighed. "You deserve the world, Christine, and more…" Tilting her chin up with his finger crooked beneath, he gently touched his lips to hers then released her, again taking her hand.

"I really am trying to earn back your trust," she said as she followed him down the narrow corridor. "It's important to me, which is the sole reason I decided not to go through with the journey alone, since it upset you so, the last time I struck out on my own, and I did long ago promise…" She hesitated and looked at the path dimly lit by the candelabrum ahead, realizing that perhaps she was turned around, but she didn't think so… "Erik, is this the way home?"

Home. She said it like she meant it, and it both cheered and distressed him that she thought of the dark, dank caverns as her home.

"Of course, you know these tunnels better than I," she concluded, "but I could have sworn we should have gone the other way…"

"We are going in the right direction," he reassured, hoping that his words would prove authentic in all of what he planned.

Minutes later, he led her through the rooftop door, and turned, satisfied to see her expression of surprised delight as she inhaled a deep breath of the fresh, cool air. What caused him concern, however, was the manner in which she abruptly shielded her eyes with one hand, narrowing them as if stunned by the glare. The early evening sun was behind a cloud covering to the side of them, the sky brighter than when they had gone on their outing weeks ago, but not so bright that it should cause discomfort.

"Christine, are you alright…?"

"It's just, the light – it hurts." She ducked her head against his chest and laughed lightly in self disdain. "I'll be alright in a moment, once my eyes adjust…"

Had living this last month in a world of darkness caused Christine harm and damaged her sight? The thought shook him. Even her momentary discomfort displeased him. He tried to recall how he reacted when faced with sunlight after endless days beneath the earth. When making his runs of the theater, he was often temporarily exposed to daylight, so had not been entirely without it…

Only his Angel had been deprived.

He sighed and rested his cheek against the top of her head, cradling the back of it with his hand and smoothing his fingers along her wild curls that also clung to him. She nestled into his warmth, slipping her arms into his cloak and locking them around his back. They held one another close for some time before he spoke.

"Christine…"

He hesitated and swallowed hard, in disbelief that he was about to do what he swore he never would. Was this weakness a crippling madness … or the strength to trust? Surely, to speak would be to tempt fate as to the probable outcome…

He briefly closed his eyes. "I don't distrust you."

She lifted her head to look at him, her smile feeble at best. "How I wish that were true … but I've seen it in your eyes, mon Ange. Maybe you don't even know it, but at times, you look at me as if certain that I'll hurt you, as if you don't trust me not to…and though it grieves my heart, I know you're justified to feel that way after what happened on the morning after we first met without walls, when I so thoughtlessly removed your mask…"

Her tone of self ridicule wounded him. That she accurately pinpointed the cause of his disturbance was no surprise since the mistrust flared up when their discussion involved his mask.

"I forgave you for that a long time ago."

Her brows gathered in confusion. "Then why…?"

"The night of the spirits," he began quietly, answering her unspoken question, deciding to forge ahead and damn all consequences. "In the future shadows on the opening night of the Don Juan, we performed together…"

She nodded in stunned acknowledgement – to again hear that he had joined her on stage, to understand he was sharing what had long troubled him – and waited breathlessly to hear the rest.

"Christine," he let out a heavy sigh at the treacherous memory, "you ripped away my mask in front of all who watched in the audience, before I could finish my proposal …"

xXx
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 3/4/15

Postby Godzuki » Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:30 pm

This is challenging, reading this and "Come to Me" at the same time! I had to keep reminding myself of the different plots , hmmmm shoulda kept notes to keep everything straight! But am very much enjoying it and they say challenging the mind keeps it sharp!

I love seeing how concerned they are about each other :hearts:
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 3/4/15

Postby honeyphan » Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:33 pm

Godzuki wrote:This is challenging, reading this and "Come to Me" at the same time! I had to keep reminding myself of the different plots , hmmmm shoulda kept notes to keep everything straight! But am very much enjoying it and they say challenging the mind keeps it sharp!

I love seeing how concerned they are about each other :hearts:


Thank you, G! :hearts:

If I'm going too fast for you, I can easily slow up a bit...

:angel2: :angel2: :angel2:

Oh, and I also posted the next chapter of Come to Me today.
In case you missed it.
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 3/4/15

Postby AMused » Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:12 pm

WHY HAVE YOU NOT POSTED ANYTHING SINCE MARCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 10/28/15

Postby honeyphan » Wed Oct 28, 2015 8:50 pm

*slips inside secretly, secretly...
Here's more.
*whisks away...


This Mask of Death

Chapter LVIII


.

You ripped away my mask…

Christine's breath stalled in her lungs.

In front of all who watched in the audience…


Strangely dizzy, she reached behind to grip the solid base of the statue.

Before I could finish my proposal ...

Once, months ago, the harsh revelation of the truth kept hidden behind a mask for decades nearly destroyed her dear Angel. She had watched as he literally crumbled before her eyes in the chapel, his composure an utter loss.

Now, on the rooftop, the displacement of a mask again caused despair and she understood some of what he'd felt. Her emotions were heightened, sharp and rigid, making a slow spiral through her bosom and cutting into her soul. She clutched to denial to remain balanced, as desperately as her hands clutched the stone.

"No…" She shook her head, falling back a step in retreat and allowing the statue's base to fully support her trembling body. "No," she stated more firmly. "I would never do anything so dreadful, not after the first time – and certainly never in front of others…"

The steady look in his eyes contradicted her claim.

"No, Erik."

On shaky legs, she hugged her arms tightly beneath her breasts and walked to the stone balustrade that overlooked the eastern part of the city. The ache in her eyes from the dazzling light of evening had dulled but was nothing compared to the anguish that lanced her heart at his softspoken words. She whirled around to face him.

"Why would I even do such a thing? It makes no sense and goes against everything I believe…"

"I never knew why," he admitted quietly.

"There has to be a reason!" she insisted. The rest of what he said suddenly clicked into place inside her mind. "You said – your proposal…?!"

He nodded. "I asked you to share in my life at the end of our aria. You responded by pulling away my mask and revealing my defect and identity for the gendarmes' benefit. Their guns were raised to shoot, and that is when I cut down the chandelier."

She blinked rapidly, trying to dispel the rush of hot tears at the horror of his words.

"I would never…"

"You did."

He slowly closed the distance, his manner calm.

"Well, I don't believe it. That just isn't something I would do. Ever." She lifted her hands at her sides, in a plea to understand. A thought occurred and she grasped it like a lifeline, her fingers closing in reflex against her palms, as if to hold onto the idea. "That shadow of the future was a lie. It must have been a lie, don't you see...?" She gave a tight little laugh in relief.

"Christine…"

"It was a trick, fashioned by the ghosts to put fear into your soul. A twisted ploy that obviously did as it was intended…"

"There is something more I have not told you of that night."

"More…?" Weakly she lowered her hands, dread causing her to fist them at her sides. "What more could there possibly be other than the cut chandelier, the fire that destroyed the opera house, and your threat to murder Raoul…?"

He inhaled a harsh breath. His black leather clad hands were now a mirror to her own, curled into fists of anguish at his sides.

"I told you I killed Buquet, that it was the start of your fear of me and why you ran to the boy and made a life with him –"

"Yes, I know that," she nodded swiftly, nervously, then shook her head, "but you didn't kill him –"

"What I failed to tell you about that night of the opening," he interrupted, unclenching his hands, then clenching them again, "was that I killed again. I murdered Piangi."

"Oh…"

He watched her wilt against the column near the low balustrade and grasped her arm, pulling her carefully away from the edge and back to the statue. Her anxious expression attested to the confusion in her mind as she worked to make sense of all he told her.

"You killed Piangi," she repeated softly. "But why?"

He shook his head in disgust with the entire situation. "I cannot reason what I cannot possibly know. I assume it was so I could take the stage to sing with you, though I fail to understand why I would take his life and not simply render him unconscious, but I did. I watched my future shadow strangle him without mercy. Perhaps you learned of it and that is why you betrayed me to the gendarmes and tore away my mask –"

"No," she insisted staunchly, her face a shade paler than before. "It did not happen, nor will it. But – even if somehow it did, I refuse to believe I would put you in danger and turn you over to them. My God, Erik, how could I…?"

Her words made convoluted sense as she searched for a viable explanation.

"The future shadows must be the antithesis of the life we now live. That bizarre realm was composed of darkness from beginning to end, and this life, our true life, while not lived in daylight, certainly cannot be considered so dark, except for the current regime and the need to hide – but that has nothing to do with your decision…"

"Christine…"

"No, Erik!" Her words were angry, and she stepped back from his outstretched hand. "Don't say what isn't true." Tears spangled her lashes and she gave another disturbed shake of her head in comprehension. "This is why you won't trust me? Because of something that never even happened except in a world of shadows and nightmares?!"

His mouth twitched in frustration, but he remained still. She moved close, glaring up into his face.

"It is highly unfair of you to treat me as the enemy when I have done nothing to warrant it!"

"I hardly treat you as the enemy, but you cannot discount those events that have occurred," he countered grimly. "Not exactly as foretold, but they have happened."

"Well this one won't," she said just as harshly, "I vow to you, here and now, that I will never remove your mask when we're not alone." She peered at him more closely, her manner and tone beseeching. "Will you believe me – and not some wretched figment of shadowy mist?"

"It's not that simple, Christine."

"It's exactly that, Erik!" She dashed the tears from her eyes. "Granted, I removed your mask when we first met face to face – I was wretchedly curious, and have apologized for that repeatedly - I am truly sorry I did such a childish and cruel thing. I have since removed your mask only when we're alone together, especially when we're intimate – and only then – and I make no apology for that, as I thought I had your permission."

He gave a short, concise nod, drawing his closed lips against his teeth.

Her eyes clouded with hurt. "And still you don't believe me…" she whispered.

"Bear in mind that horrendous moment on the rooftop between you and that blasted boy when he kissed you and took you away from me. The fight with swords that left me floundering on my back and at his mercy. The damned opera resurrecting like some bloody phoenix and going into production. All of it happened, Christine, as it did in the world of shadows."

Uneasy at the reminder, she turned from him and walked a short distance, as if being in motion would help clear her mind to find an answer.

"Perhaps there are some moments of the future that cannot be altered – that there is a reason for them – and they must exist in our present world for a deeper purpose we might never understand." She turned to look at him. "But my removal of your mask is not one of them! Besides, for that to happen you would have to perform with me, something you've sworn never to do –"

"And now you have your reason why!"

She flinched as if he'd struck her, causing him instant remorse for his barbed words.

"Christine, forgive me. I did not mean to speak so harshly –"

Again he closed the distance and reached for her.

"Take me home, Erik."

She shrugged away from him, evading his grasp a second time, his fingers barely brushing her sleeve as she walked past. She kept her head held high, the tremor of her chin the only evidence of her distress.

The Phantom watched her retreat from what remained of the day. Grimly wishing he had never told her, never having believed she would react as if she'd been the one betrayed, he moved to take her back through hidden passageways and to the darkness of their home.

.

xXx.

Meg finished weaving her hair and tied the single braid with a short blue ribbon. The key ground in the door to what had become her bedchamber, and she turned her head to see.

Her mother strode in with supper. "For what reason did you arrange your hair?" she asked in suspicion, setting the tray down on the bedside table. "Certainly you're not expecting someone…?"

Her company had come and gone, but the visit cheered Meg enough to do more than languish in bed without purpose. Aware of the deception Maman told the cast of her supposed contagion, to keep secret the night Meg almost perished, she wondered if she should speak, then decided the order of "no visitors" would not include her dearest friend.

"With so much idle time on my hands I have to do something." She watched her mother separate the dishes that had slid together in transport. "Christine came by earlier…"

Her mother straightened in surprise. "Does he know of this?"

"If by 'he' you mean the Phantom, he was with her, though he didn't stay."

"Really…" her mother mused, clearly stunned. "She has returned to the theater and he allowed it? How was I not told of this?"

"I don't think she has returned – not to sing. They came through the secret door."

For the second time, bewilderment slackened her mother's features.

"You didn't know of it either?" Meg motioned to the wall. "The door is there."

Her mother moved toward the wall and carefully peered at the flowered paper, lifting her fingertips to run them along the faint demarcation she found.

"Have you any idea why there are so many secret entrances?" Meg asked.

"Besides the ones he put there…?" Her mother reluctantly stepped back when her efforts to open the door went unrewarded. "No. There was some small speculation, when I was a child training here, of their existence. It was a secret, even then. I found the one in the chapel quite by accident, and later was able to help the Phantom escape the mob through it, when he was a boy, as I have told you. Since those days, little is said, many have come and gone, and very few remember the rumors of their hidden existence. We who know the truth - you, I, the Phantom, Christine - do not speak of it..."

She studied the wall, deep in thought. "I recall a man who worked here over two decades ago, the eldest worker in the opera house, a doorman with a gift as a storyteller, saying the builders were smugglers who designed a network of inner passages so as not to be forced to relive a siege. Another time he said one of the builders was a disgruntled magician with nefarious plans." She huffed a disparaging chuckle. "That is all the passageways are to the few who remember - stories of pretense."

Meg regarded her in amazement. "Are there smugglers in our time who use the opera house?"

Her mother looked at her sharply. "It was only a story, Meg. And the passageways are a secret that must be kept well guarded. Prudent silence is always wise."

Meg sighed, certain Maman knew more than she was saying. How many times had her mother thrown cold water over an intriguing discovery with those dampening words?

Her interest in the origin of hidden tunnels waned with the weight of her own personal trials.

"When can I dance again?"

"You are not ready."

"But I feel fine – much improved," Meg insisted. "And I've certainly had more than enough rest!"

"Nonetheless, I do not wish for you to have a relapse."

"I hardly think that's possible, given my state of constant inactivity," Meg could have screamed when her rush of words ended in a tiny helpless cough. She clutched her hand around her throat to trap even a gasp from escaping.

Her mother regarded her with a supercilious little nod.

"As you see, you're not ready. I will return presently for your tray."

"It's only because my throat is parched. You'd cough too if you had nothing to drink all day. I'm fine!"

"Eat your supper, Meg."

Before Meg could further plead her case, her mother swept from the room. In her evident agitation, she forgot to close and lock the door. Yet even that snippet of unexpected freedom did not dispel the pervasive sense of being entombed.

Slapping her hands on the mattress beside her in frustration, she ignored her supper, ready to exit the bed and find her wrapper – when a tap sounded on the open door.

Her mouth dropped open to see who stood there.

"Raoul," she whispered.

He shook his head in correction. "Tristan."

"Oh. Right." She barely nodded, stunned to see him. "You shouldn't be here. My mother is only a few doors down the hall."

"I'll stay only a moment – that is, if I'm welcome."

"Alright…I suppose…"

At her hesitant invitation, he walked into the room. "I waited until after she delivered your supper so we could have a few minutes to talk."

Pulling the coverlet higher over her shift, Meg could not prevent a smile. "You waited for her to leave to see me?"

It was rather absurd when she thought about their situation. Most mothers would be ecstatic to know a Vicomte showed interest in their daughter. Of course, marriage was out of the question due to the divergence of their social classes. She was no naive little fool to presume otherwise, despite what, if any, changes the revolution brought about. And she would never put herself in a position such as poor Marie and allow him to bed her and get her with child. But she saw nothing wrong with simple companionship…

… if that's what this was.

Her cheeks heated at the whirlwind that had become her mind, and she silently reprimanded herself for letting her thoughts scatter so foolishly out of control. Too much bed rest did allow the imagination to run rampant.

He walked up beside the bed and pulled his arm from behind his back where he'd held it. She gasped at the small nosegay of violet and gold wildflowers clutched in his hand.

Or was it so foolish?

"For me?" She flicked her eyes up from the simple posy to the everlasting blue of his eyes. "Why…?"

Under the serviceable brown wig, his brows knitted together at her suspicious query.

"Why?" He shook his head as if the word made no sense and he could find no logical cause for it. "This is the first sign of spring I've seen. They were growing in a patch by the stable wall. Since you cannot enjoy the outdoors, I brought them to you."

Her heart melted at his explanation. She continued to stare at the flowers.

"I promise there are no nettles hidden within," he said with a hint of curious amusement.

She smiled faintly at his absurd words and took the simple bouquet, lowering her eyes to the bright petals.

"Thank you. That was kind. They're lovely."

"Not as lovely as their bearer."

The praise was bizarre, given her disheveled condition. Feeling awkward with the intimacy of his words and the sincerity in his eyes, she changed the topic.

"Since you're still here, I assume your disguise remains intact. The change of hairpiece is much more believable for your coloring."

He inclined his head in a grateful nod. "For which I have you to thank."

"Well, I couldn't let you roam the building topped with a shaggy mop that was three shades darker than your eyebrows. Actually, I owe you thanks for your intervention as well. Christine came to visit this morning."

"Ah…" He nodded pensively, as if in answer to an inner question, and she wondered what was going through his mind. "Is she back to the theater then?"

"No, but I'm hoping it won't be her last visit. Maman just informed me that I won't be dancing any time in the near future." She let out a sigh of frustration. "I would give anything if I could disguise myself and roam the theater as you do. I feel so useless."

"Be grateful for small mercies. Despite the seeming calm and the usual rehearsals that have resumed, there is still danger."

She huffed in impatience. "I would welcome a little drama as opposed to hours of sheer boredom. I am not unaccustomed to balancing on a wire."

"And I am not willing that you should put yourself in a position to do so."

His taut words of concern provoked her irritation. She leaned back against the pillows, scowling at him in sudden insight.

"It was you! You told Maman to keep me here, trapped in this bed and away from the theater."

At her tart accusation, he narrowed his eyes.

"I assure you, mademoiselle, I have said nothing to your mother. I have not initiated any conversation about you."

Embarrassed by her outburst, she looked away and gave a sheepish nod.

"But I won't lie and tell you that your safety is of no concern to me."

The blood rushed warmly through her face. "Of course. Despite the current politics, you are still patron and must feel responsible for the cast and crew."

He touched the back of her hand. "This has nothing to do with me being a patron."

There was no way to misconstrue that.

"You…you shouldn't speak so…Tristan." Slowly she withdrew her hand from his.

"We never had that talk…"

Meg held her breath, in a quandary. Half of her wanted to hear what he wished to share while the other half, the more sensible side, felt it wise to escape such knowledge.

He shook his head in resignation. "But this is not the time for personal disclosures. I must return backstage before I'm missed, and your mother will soon be back for that tray. While I'm not averse to confronting her, I do not wish to cause further discomfort, so I'll go. There will be occasion for discussions later."

"As you wish," she said, not knowing what else to say.

He bent low and lifted her fingers to his lips, his eyes meeting hers.

"I do. And now, I'll leave you to your supper."

.

xXx

.

Curled up on the sofa, with her cheek resting on her hands that lay prayer-like against a pillow, Christine morosely stared into the fire. The low flames crackled in mellow tones of reassurance, now and then a spark shooting upward with a snap as fire found resin in the tinder.

Yet she felt far from reassured.

As was his trait, he moved without sound and she suddenly found herself staring at his black-trousered legs that moved into her field of vision and remained there. She studied the fine raven black threads woven so closely together that they shimmered with a dull sheen; he always wore the finest and outfitted her with the same…

"Do you intend to lie there and sulk all night?"

His words came as soft as silk and stung like barbs.

She compressed her mouth in an offended line, her eyes snapping up to his calm ones.

"I am not sulking."

He offered her a cup of tea. When she made no move to take it, he set the saucer on the table nearby.

"What would you call it?" he asked quietly. "Since our exit from the rooftop, you have refused to speak to me, refused supper, and have been glaring into the fire for the past quarter hour."

She planted her palm on the sofa and lifted herself to a sitting position. "I'm surprised you would even welcome the company of someone you are so sure will betray you."

His full lips tightened, his eyes snapping dark green, and he gave a curt nod.

"Sulking."

He turned on his heel and moved away. She grabbed the pillow and hurled it with as much force as she could at his arrogant head. It bounced off his scalp and hit the table, upsetting the teacup, which spilled to the floor.

Before she could think to react, he was on one knee before her, the mess ignored. His hands gripped her upper arms and he gave her a little shake.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"Be glad it wasn't the cup!"

Her scowl let him know just how close she had come to the porcelain as first choice.

His jaw clenched, his eyes blazing into hers.

"You want honesty in this marriage – I gave it. I cannot help the way I feel any more than you can control the workings of your heart. I cannot help what I saw or how that moment in time affected me. You think I want to acknowledge what felt like a blade thrust through my ribs?" he asked in angry disbelief. "I was not given the choice to turn away. But never once did I consider you my enemy, and if you knew how I dealt with those who oppose me you would realize that!"

"You judge our lives – judge me – by what has not even happened, paying little heed to what is directly before your eyes in this present world," she argued. "How can I fight a wisp of shadow, a future that doesn't even exist, when it has become the rule of thumb by which you live?"

To offer encouragement and understanding when it was his fear and loathing against the cruelty of the world was one thing, but how could she offer support when she was the one that he believed could be so cruel? She could deny any wrongdoing until she was absent of all breath, but that did not change what he had already seen. The knowledge smarted. She could not challenge a vision, since it did occur in its twisted, morbid way, and she hated that, hated that she had no proof to the contrary.

"Christine – I cannot change what I have seen!"

"And I cannot change how I feel..."

She stared intensely at him with sorrow, at the covering that still shielded his face though they were alone and had been for hours. But not for anything would she ask him to remove his mask.

His eyes narrowed as he observed her studying him.

"Is this the problem?" he insisted, and pulled the black leather away with a snap as if he'd read her mind.

The anger between them abruptly ebbed as though a great drain existed in the stone floor, sucking away the tension. A smile tempted the corners of her mouth to know that perhaps things were not as dire as she thought. This was the first occasion he removed the mask, ever since that dreadful night in the chapel. Even more encouraging, he did not flinch once with the revelation of his scars, his eyes steady and solemn as they held hers.

His thumb brushed the edge of her lips to see her faint smile.

"It's a start," she confirmed, earning her the flicker of his smile in return.

Almost immediately it vanished.

"Christine, I told you the morning after we were wed that trust is a difficult issue for me. I wasn't sure it was even possible. I told you also that if I were to place my absolute faith in anyone, it would be you, but that you must be patient with me. I gave you the truth and made no promises…"

"I remember," she said quietly, lowering her lashes.

He cupped her chin between forefinger and thumb, lifting her gaze back to his.

"Daily I fight that ghostly vision of the future, to be shredded by the teeth of rejection and forgetfulness, because it is my desire to believe in you. I have now told you the entirety of what happened that deadly night in the shadows, but it is all I can give you at this time. Let it be enough…"

A tear splashed onto his thumb, but she nodded in acceptance.

"It is. For now."

He lowered his large, slender hands to press them against the side of her legs at her skirts. Christine cupped his jaw, smoothing her thumbs against his cheeks.

"I'm sorry –"

"No," he softly interrupted her apology with a little shake of his head and wiped away her tear. "Shhh…" He grabbed one of her hands and kissed the palm, his lips brushing to her wrist.

She gave a little shiver that reverberated down her spine.

"You are cold." His eyes, no longer stormy, gleamed like rich jade. "Shall I build up the fire?"

She shook her head. "Sit by me."

Moving her legs, she made room for him then cuddled up beside him. He wrapped his arm around her back, his hand clasping her shoulder.

For a time, nothing but the muted crackle of fire filled the silence.

"You have come so far since I brought you here, the night of your debut. Continually you surprise me with your courage and strength…"

"And boldness," she filled in mechanically, having heard it so often.

"Yes, there is that," he intoned dryly, and for a moment the crackle of flames again took dominance. "I've made a decision. When I go above on my rounds, you may accompany me to visit Meg."

She turned in his arms, excitement brightening her eyes. "Oh, Erik – really? That's three times a week, isn't it?"

"I suppose," he said somewhat bemused, "if you should wish to go that often."

"Oh, yes – when you're not here, the hours drag endlessly." She directed a swift happy kiss to the corner of his mouth then pulled back in question. "Do you mind if I bring her a book from your library?"

"I have told you, Christine, what is mine is yours."

The second kiss came with more deliberation, as did the third and fourth. His skilled hands played along the curves and recesses of her body, her own hands far from idle, and soon there was no need for a fire to warm them.

.

xXx

.

Two mornings later, Christine was intent at the bookshelves, running her finger along the spines above her head while reading the titles. Their library was immense, containing a plethora of fictional and non fictional works…

"Are you looking for a particular book?" her Phantom asked, coming from behind her as silent as a ghost.

She jumped, startled by his sudden presence, then grinned.

"As a matter of fact, I am. Have you anything by Marquis de Sade?"

His eyes marginally widened behind the black mask though he remained immobile, his expression giving nothing away.

"Pray tell, my love, how in the hell you have heard of Marquis de Sade?"

His low velvet drawl of curious amusement warned her that perhaps the request was not as innocent as she thought. Her suspicions were confirmed when, not receiving an answer, he walked alongside the shelf and reached toward a high one, pulling down a plain black volume.

"Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, otherwise known as Marquis de Sade…" He held up the book for her appraisal. "An 18th century libertine who made a lifetime occupation of being imprisoned for his scandalous debaucheries. He wrote decadent and dramatic works of literature with an emphasis on pornography of an extremely violent nature and committed blasphemies against the church as well. The term 'sadist' derives from his name."

Good God.

Throughout Erik's straightforward recounting, Christine's face and neck grew increasingly hot until she was sure she bloomed like a poppy. He retraced his steps, holding the book out to her, and she glanced down at the title:

Les infortunes de la vertu….

The Misfortunes of Virtue.

"It's for Meg," Christine said hastily. "I never heard of the author until she brought him up the other day."

"I cannot think her mother would approve," he mused. "That particular title was destroyed by the Cour Royale de Paris. Napoleon called it, if I remember correctly – 'the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination.' Subsequently the king ordered de Sade's incarceration and he remained at the Bastille for years, before he was sent to a lunatic asylum."

To cover her embarrassment to ask for such an illicit book, she pointed out the obvious.

"And yet, for all that, you have a copy."

His lips twisted in a mocking grin. "The multitude of society considers me depraved and immoral – and my tendency toward violence is legendary. Is it truly a surprise that the Phantom of the Opera would own such a novel?"

She frowned at his low assessment of his character, even if spoken in sardonic jest. Their lovemaking often grew passionate and wild, at times he brought pain bound up with the pleasure, both sensations in that moment desired – yet he was no sadist.

She shook her head in confusion. "But how did you come by the book?"

"Not all the remaining books were found, to be burned."

Positive Madame had not been the one to deliver it, she was greatly surprised when he placed the volume in her hand.

"Perhaps your friend might benefit from learning the trials of the misfortunate Justine…"

Looking askance at the misbegotten book, Christine had quite a few things she planned on saying to her friend.

"I'm ready when you are," she said, deciding a swift change of topic was needful.

"Ready…?"

At his quizzical look, she curbed a groan. "Erik – have you forgotten? You said you would take me above when you make your rounds."

"Ah, that. No, I had not forgotten. I already made the trip."

"You went without me?"

"You were sleeping and looked like an angel, lying there with your abundance of curls tossed across the pillow. I had no wish to disturb you." He noted her disappointment. "There will be other days."

"Or, I could go by myself."

"Absolutely not."

His swift refusal made her frown, her first instinct to insist or plead for the opportunity. A week ago, she might have tried. But after their last argument, she had no wish to incite another or strike back with hurtful words. She hated when they were at odds with each other.

"Alright then. Another day."

She did not miss the curious shock that lit his eyes at her soft rejoinder. Silently she walked past him and to the sofa in the far corner of the lair. She laid the book on the table with a lingering glance then stared fixedly into the hearth, not yet lit.

Her damnable curiosity soon won out, of course. A second time he found her absorbed in a book that bizarrely compelled the turn of its pages even as it appalled all sense of moral decency.

"Ah, I see you have reached the periphery of Justine's woes, when her ruination truly begins…"

She slammed the accursed book shut and stared straight ahead.

"I thought only to get a glimpse and decide if I should take it to Meg after all." She cursed the heat that flashed through her forehead and cheeks as he came around the back of the sofa and stood before her.

His lips twitched. She knew he was not fooled.

"And what have you decided?"

"Meg is a woman with her own mind." She let out a pensive breath. "I'm her friend, not her guardian. Perhaps this tale she seeks will be an example not to place her trust unwisely…"

As she said the words, she spoke of much more than the illicit book. But she had no wish to break a confidence, though surely Erik must know Raoul was now working at the opera house and had formed a close alliance with Meg.

"Bring the book then and come."

"What?" Startled, she noted for the first time that her cloak lay draped over his arm. "Where are we going?"

"Was it not your wish to go above?"

"I…" She blinked and stood. "Well, yes, but I thought you had made your rounds."

He inclined his head in a grave nod. "I can take you if you wish it."

"But you said…"

"Damn it, Christine, do you want to go or not?"

His impatience and reluctance yet mild, with no desire for either to mount, she nodded.

"I enjoy having you by my side, and I love when we visit the rooftop together. But please bear in mind, I am able to make the trip alone. You needn't feel obligated."

He stared at her a moment, his expression a blank, then draped the heavy cloak around her shoulders.

"I will take you."

A short time later, Christine followed his tall cloaked form through the passage of the shortcut, trying to determine what exactly had happened and how they had arrived to this point, not at first aware that he had stopped ahead of her. He turned and she looked at him in question. His expression was intent and expectant.

"Show me," he ordered softly.

At first his words made no sense, then she noted where they were and thought she understood. She tilted her head at him in curiosity but walked to the part of the wall where an iron wheel was hidden by a protrusion of rock. The mechanism was small but difficult to turn, and she was grateful for muscles formed through years of dancing. Her arms and back were strong, and with no little effort she turned the valve counter-clockwise a full rotation. The grinding of metal pierced the cavern as beneath the rock floor columns of steel moved into position preventing the water trap from springing open and swallowing its unwary victim.

She returned to his side. He said nothing, only motioned for her to proceed him. They crossed the doomed area, and again he stopped. This time she went directly to the opposite wheel, turning this one clockwise and setting the trap back in position. Once more at his side, he looked at her, his eyes making a cursory sweep from head to toe, then back again before he gave an abrupt nod and took her by the elbow, resuming their trek.

Her Phantom said little the entire trip, giving brief acknowledgement at the secret door that he would return in an hour. Christine quietly thanked him with a kiss, reserving the force of her words for Meg…

Minutes later, Meg looked somewhat abashed by Christine's scolding about the negligence to inform her of the perverse nature of de Sade's book. Any meek show of penitence abruptly disappeared, however, replaced by Meg's overt enthusiasm to see her friend pull the requested item from her cloak. Christine rolled her eyes heavenward, but could not refrain from helpless laughter as she handed over the profane novel.

"Your mother will skin me alive if she knows, so keep it well hidden."

"As if I'd ever bring it up!" Meg looked horrified by the idea. "It's only that I'm curious…"

"Yes, a fault we equally share," Christine said dryly. "God help us both."

.

xXx

.

Twice more, Erik took Christine above. Afterward, they went to the rooftop, timing their visit during the last rehearsal, before the sun set, and staying until the moon was clear and pearl bright in an evening sky. The air was crisp and cold as they often stood silent, Christine wrapped in Erik's cloak and held in his arms with her back against his chest, while they stared out over the twinkling city, the golden glow of lanterns and flames from candles dotting the inky darkness.

On the next occasion of their planned visit, Christine was surprised to find her husband seated at the dining table with a large paper spread out like a map before him. Inked boxlike drawings with rectangles and strange scribblings filled the parchment. Intently he studied a section, dragging his index finger along one narrow line, sparing her only a brief glance.

"Christine…" He sounded distracted. "Did you need something?"

She stepped closer. "I thought, that is…" She drew in a startled breath, noting the words atop the page. "Are those the blueprints of the opera house? The missing blueprints that the leaders above are searching for…?"

A wry smile twisted his lips. "They are."

"You took them?" Her answering smile was curious.

He gave a careless wave of his fingers. "I've had them in my possession for years."

She studied the map of the opera house chambers, some labeled, and the thin row of two parallel lines behind many of the boxes. She pointed to one set of them.

"Are those the hidden passageways?"

"Yes. I'm acquainting myself with those areas of which I know little or nothing."

She looked at him in astonishment. "I am frankly shocked that a place exists in the entire opera house of which the great and mighty Phantom is unaware."

He chuckled. "The opera house and its secrets, I do know them well. It's beyond that, where this wall separates the two that interests me…" He ran his finger along one line that waved like a snake. The chamber on that side was huge, compared to the blocks of rooms depicted for the opera house. Two separate lines swerved right, opening onto a smaller chamber. She pointed to a pattern of peaked wavy lines that reminded her of birds in flight.

"What's that?"

"Water."

"Water?! Then…" She peered at the diagram more closely. "That area is beneath the earth?"

"It would appear so."

"But not here?" She looked around the cavern walls in alarm, fervently hoping the layout of their home remained hidden.

"No, our home is on the other side of the wall." He drew one slender finger against the blocks of the opera house rooms. "You need not be concerned, Mon Ange. These are the only blueprints in existence and the men who built this musical edifice are long dead, taking their secrets to the grave. This chamber with water is the area the smugglers used. Completely set off from where you and I live, on this side of the wall..."

"And they put that in the blueprints?" she asked in disbelief.

"They chose this spot above the lake to build, since water enhances sound, which is why the acoustics of the theater are impeccable," he explained patiently. "It is not so uncommon that they would include the lake and its surrounding chambers in their drawings when determining where to lay the foundation."

She looked at him in surprise. "You sound as if you know a great deal about the construction of buildings."

"I have had to learn many things, structural design one of them. Once, I thought I might want to create such buildings. I even penned blueprints, much more detailed in design."

She smiled. "I would love to see them some day…"

With his genius and artistry, she felt he could succeed in anything he chose.

His eyes dropped to her cloak, as if seeing it for the first time, and he drew his brows slightly together.

"I understood this was the day you made your rounds," she said.

He briefly closed his eyes, clearly having forgotten. "Perhaps we could postpone the trip above until tomorrow…"

"Or I could go by myself," she said halfheartedly, losing track of the occasions she had responded with those words, already knowing his answer.

He studied her a moment, his eyes still pools of jade, a hint of uncertainty in their depths.

"Stay away from the roof."

"What…?" She shook her head in confusion, his quiet words so far removed from his customary refusal she could only stare.

"I don't want you up there alone."

She blinked, trying to assimilate these new pieces that did not fit.

"You're allowing me to go above? Alone?"

His nod of agreement was solemn. "Take care with the traps –"

With a little squeal of glee Christine threw herself at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. "Thank you, Erik." She kissed his mouth soundly. "Thank you…"

"And don't stay past the final rehearsal," he added once she moved away.

"Oh, I'll be back much earlier than that!"

With a grateful smile, she hastened away, to collect what she would need. The lantern, small but compact and easier to carry than a torch. A small bundle of long wooden matchsticks tucked inside her pocket; she would never be unprepared again.

Her heart was light all through the journey, her visit with Meg delightful. Though she feared she would not remember a word said, so ecstatic was she that Erik had given her his trust at last. Perhaps not yet absolute, but a huge step toward that goal.

Toward the end of the visit, Meg reached for her glass. Finding it empty, she scowled into its bottom.

Christine smiled and grabbed the ewer, also empty. "I'll get you more water."

Meg sat up straighter in surprise. "I thought you told the Phant- your husband that you would be careful not to be seen?"

"Don't worry, I have no intention of breaking that vow." She winked and moved toward the wall.

"Christine?"

She looked over her shoulder and Meg shrugged. "Perhaps a small glass of wine instead?"

Christine laughed. "I'll see what I can find."

With both hands, she pressed hard against the crevice in the papered wall, pushing the secret door of stone outward. She slipped through the narrow gap she'd allowed, again closing the wall behind her. The lantern glowed dimly where she'd left it, and she picked it up, turning the flame higher. She walked to Madame Giry's office, certain to find wine there, and Madame busy at rehearsal.

Turning the bend, she slowed her steps, shocked to see a thin line of yellow light slice through the darkness on the ground ahead. She heard a low murmur of voices and noticed the secret door to Madame's office stood slightly ajar. Christine's astonishment doubled and she almost dropped the ewer to hear Erik's dark velvet timbre, the softness of his words doing little to hide the sharpness of steel within.

She drew closer.

"And it is because of this threat that you have kept Meg bedridden long past the need, and away from the cast and crew?" he asked quietly.

There was a moment's hesitation. "Oui," Madame's voice was soft but clear. "What else could I do?"

"Tell me – what exactly did this cur say to you?"

"He told me that since I was responsible for Christine, I must know her whereabouts," her usually calm voice wavered. "That if she was not returned forthwith, to rehearsals, he would hate to see things go badly for me and my daughter. That they well could with their star attraction missing, and we might find ourselves without work, living on the streets, or missing as well …"

Christine inhaled a sharp, horrified breath and edged closer to the door as Madame's words grew faint with the retelling.

"He said that?" Erik's voice was angry, and Christine heard the dull thud of what sounded like a leather fist hitting wood. "Rest assured, Antoinette, you will not lose your place at the theater and no harm shall come to you or your daughter."

"What guarantee can you give for our safety?" she insisted. "These men have power to do as they say. Like it or not, they are presently the governing authority in Paris. Their words are not empty…"

"And what would you ask of me?" he queried in suspicion, as though he already knew.

"Let Christine come back."

"No."

"But monsieur –"

"Just as you seek to protect Meg, I do the same for Christine."

"I doubt they intend to harm her," Madame said quickly. "She's too important to them. They want their opera to succeed –"

"'Their opera'?! To the devil with their opera! May its design burn in the fiery depths of hell..."

"Then you still refuse to make the changes?"

"To my opera?" He asked in incredulous disgust. "That goes without saying."

"And Christine?"

"I have told you my decision."

"But what shall I tell him, when he asks…?"

Christine was not entirely aware she had pushed the door wide and stepped into the room – until she noted the contrasting looks of surprised relief and chill anger directed her way.

"Tell him you have received word from me and I shall return to the theater at once," she answered her former ballet headmistress softly, not daring to look into her husband's stormy eyes.

.

xXx
Image E/C manip made by me
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