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


Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 10/28/15

Postby AMused » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:28 pm

"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."


**sigh**

I have no idea of what's going to happen next ........ :hmm: I won't even venture a guess .......
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 10/28/15

Postby Godzuki » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:02 pm

So good to have this story back!! Thank you! What a treat! :clap:

I must confess - I need to go back a bit and remind myself of where we are in the story. Sometimes I confuse part of one story with another :time: :P
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 10/28/15

Postby honeyphan » Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:22 pm

Thank you guys for your reviews! :hearts:
I'll put another chapter up today. And G- since you're the only one reading Come to Me, I tell you what I'll do so as not to confuse - I'll wait to post more of that until I finish with this. Sound good? :)
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 10/28/15

Postby Godzuki » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:09 pm

honeyphan wrote:Thank you guys for your reviews! :hearts:
I'll put another chapter up today. And G- since you're the only one reading Come to Me, I tell you what I'll do so as not to confuse - I'll wait to post more of that until I finish with this. Sound good? :)


That will prevent me from asking questions that make you reply "Um, sweetie, that didn't happen in this story and I don't know what you're talking about here" :blush: :rofl:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your wonderful writing! My dd is finding out that there is fan fiction for just about any movie/musical/TV character out there and she told me recently, "Mom, a lot of its really bad!" , and "You really gotta hunt for the good ones". Your writing always pulls me in, enchants me, and never disappoints. Plus, you give happy endings and hope and the world sorely needs that right now :angel: Thank you for sharing your gift with us :hearts: :hearts: :hearts:
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 10/28/15

Postby honeyphan » Mon Dec 14, 2015 10:15 pm

Godzuki wrote:
honeyphan wrote:Thank you guys for your reviews! :hearts:
I'll put another chapter up today. And G- since you're the only one reading Come to Me, I tell you what I'll do so as not to confuse - I'll wait to post more of that until I finish with this. Sound good? :)


That will prevent me from asking questions that make you reply "Um, sweetie, that didn't happen in this story and I don't know what you're talking about here" :blush: :rofl:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your wonderful writing! My dd is finding out that there is fan fiction for just about any movie/musical/TV character out there and she told me recently, "Mom, a lot of its really bad!" , and "You really gotta hunt for the good ones". Your writing always pulls me in, enchants me, and never disappoints. Plus, you give happy endings and hope and the world sorely needs that right now :angel: Thank you for sharing your gift with us :hearts: :hearts: :hearts:


Image Now, would I say that? :angel2:

Thank you, G! Sometimes I question myself, especially lately - so it's nice to know my stories really do make a difference! And that they are enjoyed. :hearts:

I'll get that chapter up tonight yet. later.
I got sidetracked with stuff going on here, but it will be up by the morning. :)
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 12/15/15

Postby honeyphan » Tue Dec 15, 2015 1:32 am

To Win the Chance to Live

Chapter LVIX


.

"Christine…?"

"Meg needed refreshment," Christine set down the lantern and held up the ewer in answer to Madame's question. "I came to get wine."

She glanced down at the Persian rug on which she stood, guilt followed by uncertainty flitting across her face...

Determination just as suddenly hardened her jaw as she lifted her gaze to the powerful man whose presence dominated the small office.

Antoinette swiftly looked between the brooding Phantom, whose eyes were locked with those of his errant wife, then back again. She took the ewer from Christine's hands.

"I'll tend to Meg. You may use my office."

Hurriedly Madame left the room, the rasp of the key grating in the lock behind her.

The Phantom struggled to control his rage at the news he had just learned of the revolutionist's threats, though Christine's foolish announcement only antagonized his dark emotions, certainly doing nothing to soothe raw nerves. Crossing his arms over his chest, he took note of her stance, tall and serene, the betraying tremble of her chin the sole testimony that her bold display of confidence was a sham.

"What was the meaning of that?" he asked softly.

"I meant it, Erik. I must go back."

"No, Christine, you must not."

"What choice do I have?" she insisted gently, taking a step toward him, her hands held out in plea. "Meg is in danger, so is Madame. And it's my fault."

"You are not at fault." His words were vicious, though he kept them low. "The blame lies entirely with the scoundrels who ambushed this theater. But I will see to their just recompense. You need not concern yourself."

"Need not concern myself…" she parroted in disbelief. "Of course I'm concerned! What can you possibly do against them? Their number is too many and their power too great!"

"Do you doubt in my ability to protect you?"

At his clear tone of offense, she shook her head. "No, of course not. But what of Madame and Meg? Do you intend to take them with us to hide away and live below as well?"

"Not if I should wish to keep whatever sanity I still possess."

"Then how can you be sure they won't suffer at those fiends' hands?"

"I have yet to come up with a plan – I only just learned of this – but I will think of something."

Each time the Phantom made his rounds the past week, Antoinette was immersed in rehearsals and he did not disturb her. Only today had he recalled the boy's elusive words of threats and sought her out.

"Don't you see, Mon Ange – there is no other option except that I come back," Christine all but whispered, looking very fragile to him. "You cannot stay below the earth with me and remain above to safeguard them at the same time –"

Clenching his teeth, the Phantom closed the distance in two long strides, taking her by the arms and slightly shaking her. "No, Christine- no! I will not make you vulnerable as a sacrifice for anyone!"

"It's my voice they want, and that is my safeguard. They will not harm me, but…"

Her eyes widened, her face going chalk white. Her form suddenly seemed much too slight, her bones too narrow and easy to break.

"Dear God…"

"Christine?" He shook her with gentle concern. "What is it?"

"I…you…" She swallowed. "Meg told me of Lord Dubois. She tried to convince me it was you, but…"

Shocked to realize she knew of the ill-fated noble, Erik grimly led her to the chair behind the desk, easing her onto the seat. A bottle of wine sat nearby and he poured a glass, kneeling on one knee before her and setting it in her hands that trembled. They cupped around the globe, and she stared into the crimson liquid then took a sip.

"You thought I killed Lord Dubois," he said quietly.

"I did not want to think it. I refused to believe it and decided the noose around his neck must be a coincidence."

He nodded once. "I had nothing to do with the nobleman's demise."

A faint smile flickered at her lips, her eyes a little clearer as they lifted to his.

"That was the night of our wedding. I could scarcely conceive that you haunted the streets of Paris after you left the chapel, as was suggested. Besides, you would not kill a man in cold blood…"

A twinge of conscience made him avert his eyes from her trusting ones, the distant echo of cries belonging to the souls of Persians long dead mocking her steadfast claim.

"But Raoul – what he said, at the cemetery…" Her words sounded tight in her throat. "He thought you responsible, that you were a revolutionist. He said his family was threatened – and Lord Dubois was also a nobleman. Erik, I think…I think the men who've taken over the theater murdered Lord Dubois and they cast blame on you, hoping you'd be caught so as to rid themselves of the Phantom!"

He had long arrived to that conclusion, her words hardly a shock, but gravely he nodded.

"I think you are correct, my dear. It seems I have a wife who is not only endowed with beauty but also gifted with intelligence."

Her apprehension was far too great for his earnest praise to have effect.

"Erik – don't you see? Those men are cold blooded killers and will do anything to obtain their objective. Meg and her mother are in grave danger if they don't comply with their wishes!"

The Phantom took a deep, steadying breath, not liking the irksome turn of where she again took the conversation. "I told you, I will think of something –"

"And if you're too late?" Christine insisted.

"I will tell Madame an excuse to give, to stall them."

"They won't be stalled forever, we both know that."

"You are NOT going back to the theater," he said darkly.

She gave a halfhearted shrug. "I cannot see that I have a choice. Madame has been a mother to me, and Meg a sister. I must return to ensure their safety."

He shot to his feet, staring down at her. "And I REFUSE to send you as a lamb to be devoured among wolves!"

"Not a lamb. A golden goose." Her smile was sad and wise. "Only instead of golden eggs, it's my voice that is golden. My voice is my shield against harm from those men – and the treasure they covet, though it belongs to you alone."

The Phantom shook his head in denial. "NO, Christine…"

He began to pace, for the first time ruing the day he taught a small child to sing. Spinning on his heel, he stormed toward the door and stared hard at it, wishing fervently to charge to the other side with his sword swinging and cut them all down in their tracks, freeing them from the invasive threat once and for all…

Had he been wearing his weapon, he might have gone through with it, despite that he'd sworn never again to take a life. But war put a different spin on things, and this was most definitely a battle. The Punjab he carried would only take care of one usurper at a time...

Her hand, small and gentle against his back, pulled him from murderous contemplation. Wearily, he bowed his head.

"Take me home, Erik."

Heartened by what he hoped was her surrender, the Phantom wasted no time in whisking his wife away from the small office, the flimsily locked door making her no less vulnerable, and down to the safety of dark caverns scattered with his deadly traps.

If he thought she had relented, he was grievously mistaken.

Over the ensuing three days, she approached him each evening and asked if he'd found a solution for Antoinette and Meg's dilemma. Each time he replied in the negative, she reintroduced her need to return to the stage.

They disputed the matter – or rather he did all the shouting. She never once raised her voice, but neither did she break, even when he transferred his fear and frustration for Christine to the realignment of the furnishings – or the destruction of them. A strange calm had entered her haunted eyes as if she had resigned herself to her decision, and he had no idea how to fight such strength. Her quiet fortitude both maddened and astonished him, his growing admiration for his wife equaling his vexation with her for the danger into which she planned to immerse herself.

"I could tie you to a chair or better yet, the bed, and ensure you never step foot inside the theater," he said, his words hollow as he stood at the edge of the lake and stared at the white mist billowing above the pale green water.

They had quarreled for the past ten minutes, since the conclusion of their meal, and the meat felt as if it had congealed into a hard knot in his stomach. She came up beside him, laying her hand on the lean muscle of his arm.

"You could," she agreed quietly and moved to stand before him, her hands lifting and clasping his nape, her fingers trickling into the strands of his hair. "And for a time, you would make me forget everything else, but that you and I inhabit this universe…" She raised herself on her toes and kissed him, keeping her lips pressed to his for a breathless moment before slowly pulling away. "…but then, eventually I would remember. And I cannot feel content, safe in our home, or enjoy any kind of existence knowing that Meg and Madame are in danger –and I alone have the power to stop it."

He closed his eyes, to shut her and her soft words out. It was a futile gesture.

Had it been any other man or woman in the theater, he would have gladly consigned them to whatever hell fate believed was owed to them, feeling no hesitation to dispatch their circumstances to forgetfulness, and continue in his desired existence with Christine.

But Antoinette once put her life at risk to save his wretched carcass from a rabid mob - he could not turn his back on her or her daughter when they needed protection. If it was a matter that required his sole contribution, he would not hesitate to act, but Christine was everything to him and the situation at the opera house was a powder keg with a lurking match ready to strike. He had no idea what to expect with this new regime and continually had to think several steps ahead, unaccustomed to dealing with actual leaders – the managers, past and present, all blithering idiots, and the boy too callow in his role of acting patron.

He told Antoinette two days ago that if the revolutionist scum again confronted her she was to relay the news that Christine was ill, having been struck with Meg's invented malady, but that excuse would not last forever. Worse, they might insist on visiting the diva at the non-existent apartment he invented, to check on Madame's story.

His grip on the situation was slippery at best. As much as he tried to ignore or deny Christine's solemn words, he could not forever evade their existence. Being helpless to manipulate events to his satisfaction was not a position to which the Phantom of the Opera was accustomed, the frustration he experienced a burden he did not know how to handle. And though he, too, arrived at the conclusion that no alternative existed, it was another week before he told Christine his decision.

She took the news quietly, her hands seeking and clasping his tightly across the table where they sat, having just finished luncheon, both their plates barely touched.

"I think, perhaps, tonight we should have a lesson," she said at last, breaking the silence.

His lips twisted at the irony, that she should be the one to propose a session, but he could find no satisfaction in the once coveted change.

.

xXx

.

The lesson did not go well.

In part it could have been because her Maestro had not initiated a session in over a week. But the days of respite after they were married did not present the same problem, and her voice, though lacking in spirit, was not entirely at fault.

The true blame resided with her Maestro, who was far removed from all of it, playing the notes mechanically, his mind in all likelihood dwelling within horrid visions of possible calamities that could befall her – if the anguish darkening his eyes was anything to go by.

"I think it safe to say I won," Christine tried to inject lightness into the heavy atmosphere. "And your loss is my gain."

"Oh?" His smile was as weak as his voice. "And what would my lady have for a prize?"

"You…"

At the jaunty cock of his brow, she took the velvet cord from the top of the organ.

"…at my mercy."

His eyes held hers a long moment.

"Then, Madame, I am yours to do with as you will."

His smooth, low words made her senses tingle. She took his hand in hers in a motion to rise from the bench. He stood as she wished, and she led him by the hand, as he so often led her, taking him to the throne that stood in the entrance of their bedchamber.

Once, when he kept her bound and helpless to his sensual attack atop the organ, she had sworn a similar revenge. Yet this moment had become much more than that.

She had no true desire to go above and sing, to become a puppet to the revolutionists in charge, but could see no recourse. He called her strong, but she felt weak, so damnably helpless, as though she had lost every ounce of control over her life…

And she yearned to reclaim the loss of some of that power.

She directed him to sit and put his hands behind him. He looked at her a long, hesitant moment, his eyes narrowed in suspicious doubt, an inner battle going on behind their jade orbs, but at last gracefully folded his long body on the seat of the throne. She moved toward the high back and brought his wrists together, tying them with the velvet cord.

"You call that tight?" he scoffed then grunted when she responded by jerking the rope harder.

She had no wish to hurt him, but by the flicker of his smile he was unharmed.

"Better?" she asked dryly.

"It will do," he said with a short nod.

"Stay there," she said needlessly, "I'll be back."

"You're leaving me here?" His voice held a thread of alarm, and he turned his head to the side, in an attempt to see her.

She bent to kiss the crown of his head. "I'll be just a moment."

Years of quick changes at the opera were to her benefit, and within minutes she was ready.

The song that left her lips had little to do with opera, a sensual number overheard from a chorus girl backstage, its sole purpose to entice. With the flowing blue gown of diaphanous silk, under which Christine wore nothing but skin, it served its purpose, the fire that lit his eyes when he caught sight of her its own reward.

Like a harem girl, she floated around him in a dance to captivate, sweeping her hand against him at intervals, brushing her body against his. She did not command his silence, as he had done with her, relishing every gasp and soft groan her touch inflicted. She glided behind him and bent to smooth her hands along his collarbone, inside his shirt, down the hard planes of his chest. Smiling to see the swell at his trousers she pressed her lips to his neck, sliding her tongue to taste the salt of his skin, then biting and pulling away. She felt his body jerk beneath her touch and pulled back, her smile growing.

"Vixen," he muttered hoarsely as she danced away from him.

But she was not finished, her enjoyment to have her Phantom helpless and at her mercy as potent as a drug, her curls damp and breasts heavy with desire. The feel of being in control was intoxicating, and she began to understand his obsession with it.

Her lips brushed the slope of his jaw, her teeth the tendon of his neck, her nails the expanse of his chest, her hands flitting over his lean body in heated treks of mutual pleasure. She dropped to her knees beside the throne and undid the top buttons to the flap of his trousers, enough for her to slip her hand inside and stroke him, her thumb spreading the drop pearled at the tip. At his strong shudder and groan, she licked the curve of his ear and bit the lobe, again dancing away, around the back, toward the front, spinning slowly to give him a full view...

She gasped to feel his hands suddenly clamp onto her hips and yank her toward him.

Stunned, she offered no resistance, crawling onto his lap and straddling him as he pulled her closer. Giving way to his control, she melted in submission.

"B-but how…?" she whispered.

His eyes burned into hers, setting her afire. "And if one of those curs should come upon you and take you by surprise, what would you do?" His voice was low and fierce, and oddly gentle.

"I would have you watching from the shadows to guard me," she whispered.

He did not contradict what they both knew was true.

His large hands slid beneath her gown and up her thighs bringing her closer. His eyes looked deeply into hers, and she experienced the familiar surge of hunger.

Breathless with lust, she tore wide his shirt, stroking her palms down his bare chest, then ripped into his trousers. Taking hold of his thickness, she lifted herself above him, never looking away from his smoky, darkened eyes as she placed him where he belonged. She made a gradual slide down the solid column of him, her lashes fluttering as his shaft throbbed deep inside her body.

Continuing her dance of seduction, she moved against him while his hands blazed in flame against her hips and buttocks, one palm stroking up her spine. His lips found her nipple through the silk, suckling hard, and she whimpered, holding his head against her. He teased until she could take no more and tore the gown from her shoulders, his hand assisting her in her struggle to rid herself of the silk. Cupping both globes, he brought his mouth back and tasted of her flesh while she writhed with pleasure.

She moved in hunger and he brought her down hard. Tremors deepened inside her belly and exploded in tingling fragments throughout her blood. He watched her face as she climaxed, running his fingertips down her parted lips to her chin and throat.

He struggled to lift her and stood, fully shedding loose trousers then wrapping her around him again as he carried her to their bed. Falling with her to her back he thrust into her so hard and deep she felt him high to her belly and let out a little cry, of pain, of pleasure.

The powerful extent of their charged emotions of past weeks rose to the surface, demanding expression. He impaled her tender flesh without mercy, as she whimpered and cried out and grabbed him to her fitfully, wishing to absorb him into her soul and be absorbed by him...

He poured himself into her then collapsed, the weight of him burying her into the mattress.

Panting, they both struggled to breathe. She pushed at his shoulders for air, then grabbed him back to her when he moved too far, not yet ready to let him go. His lips brushed hers several times before he again shifted, this time to pull his shirt over his head and help her divest herself of the torn gown.

Blissfully naked, he gathered her close. She laid her head on his arm, clasping his hand in hers. They lay atop the coverlet, but the lingering glow from their spent passion and the natural heat of his body warmed her like standing near a hearth, the benefits much more pleasurable. Indeed, it was difficult to ever imagine him once being cold, and she snuggled in deep as exhaustion overtook her.

"This isn't the end," she whispered as much for her benefit as his. "It will be alright. You'll see. Everything will be alright…"

He said nothing, only held her more tightly.

.

xXx

.

The next morning, Erik approached Christine where she stood before the mirror in their bedchamber. He took the chain from her fingers that shook, and draped it around her neck, fastening the clasp.

"It would be better if you left them behind," he said, but did not insist, his eyes behind the mask not meeting hers.

She shook her head and pressed her hand over her rings. "I'd prefer not to."

He moved before her and took that hand, bending to kiss it, then straightened. She studied him warily.

"Erik, what is it? What's wrong?"

"We must talk."

She drew her brows together. "Have you changed your mind?"

His expression was grim. "No, I will allow it. I do not like it, am certainly not in favor of it, but I'll not stop you." He took her other hand in his and squeezed both, at last looking at her. "I have long learned that you're a woman who follows her heart. To deny that would be to deny who you are."

Her lips trembled into a smile. Looking into his eyes, she again grew worried.

"Then what is it?"

"Come..."

He led her to the bed and they sat down, side by side.

"As you know, those above who deem themselves leaders call me their enemy. Targeting you, along with their ridiculous demands for my opera, have made them into mine. I once thought it possible to play by their rules. Perhaps, before this revolution, I would have succeeded. But neither can I change who and what I am."

She stood suddenly and faced him. "What are you saying, Erik?" Dread laced her words.

"The Opera Ghost is making a comeback, and I will not allow you to suffer the consequences."

"I don't understand." Her expression was taut and wary, as if she knew exactly what he would say and feared to hear it.

"I told Madame Giry to spread the word that I am no longer your teacher," he said quietly. "That we have reached an impasse that cannot be rectified and have gone our separate ways."

"What…?" she said incredulously when her numb lips could form the word.

"They have declared war, and I will not surrender. But I'll be damned if you become a casualty of this battle."

"So that means the pranks will resume?"

His smile was tight. "What it means, when asked, is that you must speak of your utter disgust for me. You must leave them with no doubt that you can no longer endure my tutelage, and I can no longer tolerate the diva in you."

"You cannot be serious." Taking a step back, she huffed a little laugh of disbelief, her heart racing in anxiety.

He swiftly stood, any pretense of good humor vanished as he grabbed her beneath the shoulders.

"This IS serious, Christine. If you are determined to return to the theater you will concede to my wishes."

"But – how can you expect me to say such cruel things that simply aren't true?"

He hardened his heart to the tears that sparkled in her eyes.

"They must believe that you are on their side and no longer have any association with me. Even taking it a step further would be wise. They must believe that you support their agenda to rid the theater of my presence."

"I don't think I can do that," she whispered.

"You're an actress," he insisted. "You can and will rise above any insecurity and contrariness you feel to give a convincing performance. They must believe you've had a complete change of heart and that I feel the same. Otherwise, I cannot let you go."

Christine took a few steps away in deep thought, her head lowered. With a frown, she turned and looked at him.

"And what does this mean for us?"

The Phantom walked toward her. "Here, in our home, you are my student and I am your teacher." He took her hand, his voice softer. "I shall be to you a doting husband. But above, in their world, I will treat you as I do everyone else."

"With insults and sarcasm," she filled in dismally. "And hatred…?"

"Never that." He lifted his hand to her cheek. "For this plan to work, they must think I care nothing for you."

The words, even empty, wounded more than Christine could have thought possible, but she nodded in agreement, knowing he would have it no other way.

The kiss he later gave in parting seemed final. Before he could leave her at the mirror door, she put her hand to his sleeve. He smiled tenderly, which lightened her heart, the warmth lasting as she walked into her dressing room.

A knock rapped at her door. Nervously, she answered.

x

"Meg!" Christine laughed in joyful greeting, embracing her friend. She pulled out of their hug to observe her appearance, noting she wore her practice costume. "I'm so happy to see you out of that bed."

"No happier than I," Meg laughed. "It really was quite strange. Maman came to my room last night – well her room – and told me my recovery was over. Just like that."

"Is that all she told you?" Christine asked carefully.

"Yes. What more should she tell me…?"

Feeling Meg had a right to know what was going on, Christine was prevented from sharing the harsh truth by a pair of curious blue eyes peeking from beyond the curtain that concealed the cupboard.

"Tina…"

She had not exactly forgotten the child's presence, but spent so much time away she'd lost sight of the fact that the girl currently lived in her dressing room.

"Hello." She smiled and walked toward the tiny girl nestled in huge pillows.

Tina smiled and handed her a piece of fine parchment on which she'd drawn an angel looking into a mirror. A small box of colored clay sticks sat next to her, and Christine noted the parchment came from a thick stack bound with black satin ribbon, not unlike items she had seen while tidying the lair.

"Where did you get those?"

"The Monsieur Angel-Ghost gave them to me."

"Did he?" Christine could not help the smile that swept across her face. Say what he wished to the contrary, but it was clear Erik had an affinity toward the child.

"Mm-hm. I was quiet as a mouse as you said, though mouses make lots of squeaks – but I didn't squeak. Not even when the men worked on the door. They made lots of noise," she said in supercilious disgust.

Christine grinned in amusement, glad to know the door again locked.

"Christine, I'm sorry," Meg said. "But we must go. Maman said if we're late our first day back, she'll make us stay after rehearsal. And while I'm thrilled to finally return to the stage, I don't want to endure her grueling punishments of intensive practice that belong in a medieval torture chamber – she'll likely have us doing fouetté rond de jambe en tournants until we become so lightheaded from the turns we pass out from dizziness or sheer exhaustion and will then prod us with her stick until we get up to do it all over again. I'm hopeful after such a long absence I won't need extra practice, but come to think of it, I expect I will..."

Her confident, if overstated portrayal of assumed punishment trailed off into uncertainty, making Christine laugh. "I'll visit later," she told Tina and gently ruffled her hair, then joined Meg. "It's good to have you back to your old self."

Meg fluffed her tutu. "It's good to be back to myself. I feared I'd somehow gotten lost in the doldrums..."

Christine tried to regain her earlier ease as an unwelcome and familiar face appeared at the edge of dancers after less than five minutes on stage. Madame Giry clapped her hands for the chorus to stand en face and give their full attention to the two men who strode into view.

"Messieurs, you wish to speak to us...?"

Christine edged behind Meg, hoping to fade into the backdrop, but any wish for invisibility disintegrated as the men walked past Meg and stopped near Christine's elbow.

"Mademoiselle Daae," the husky, bearded leader with the brittle, dark eyes addressed her. "At last you have returned. Indeed, we were not aware you were leaving. Word around the theater suggested that your teacher, the Opera Ghost, had something to do with your unexpected absence…?"

Christine inhaled deeply, mustering the fortitude to say what Erik coached her to tell these men. She had hoped she would not have to promote this bizarre, hateful reality, but of course, her desire for the world to know she and her Phantom were forever bound in union had only been the vain aspiration of a dream.

"Yes, he can be quite overbearing, or rather, he was."

"Was?"

They must believe that you have washed your hands of all interaction with me…

"We have gone our separate ways."

"Indeed?" His dark eyes narrowed in suspicion.

They must think you have come to despise me…

"I did not agree with his unorthodox methods and his insistence that I remain absent from the theater, due to your changing his opera…" At the leader's frown, she quickly interjected, "Anything that would support the revolution should be embraced, not ignored. He has become impossible to work for, and I grew weary of being his pawn."

She could feel his eyes on her, from high above, and struggled not to fidget, reminding herself that this froth of lies was what he wanted.

"After what I've heard, and the little I've seen during my visits to this theater, I find it difficult to believe he would let you go so freely."

Likewise, they must believe I want nothing more to do with you…

"He has no further interest in training me. He says I'm too much a diva for his taste and has found 'worthier pursuits' to occupy his time."

She managed to keep the tremor from her voice, however much the truth was absent from her words, then glanced at Meg. Her friend stood, mouth agape and eyes seeming as if they might pop from their sockets. Christine swiftly looked away. It had been a mistake not to inform her friend before this, though she'd had every intention of doing so, with no idea how soon this confrontation would arrive.

"Really…?"

If possible, the leader's skepticism doubled.

"LISTEN WELL, FOOLS…"

Every pair of eyes turned up toward the chandelier and the narrow balcony that enclosed the upper dome – and the cloaked figure who stared down on them from the shadows more than two stories above. The dark resonance of his voice was both terrifying and enticing, and Christine gave a little shiver of nervous pleasure, struggling not to show any emotion on her face. A difficult feat, since he had told her nothing of this…

"YOU WILL DISPENSE WITH UNDERTAKING THIS FARCE OF AN OPERA – WHICH BELONGS SOLELY TO ME. THIS IS THE ONE COMMAND I GIVE. CHOOSE WISELY, GENTLEMEN. SHOULD YOU REFUSE, YOU WILL REGRET THE DAY YOU CROSSED THE OPERA GHOST."

With a flourish the Phantom of the Opera swiftly brought his cape up to swirl around his body and disappeared in a cloud of blood red smoke.

Amid the murmurs of shock and awe, the rapt attention of cast and crew drifted from the topmost balcony to settle on Christine. Their expressions of curiosity were mingled with awareness edged in taunting.

One of the dancers amid the throng put her expression to words in a loud stage whisper –

"So the little prima donna no longer interests the Phantom. That's the first time he said nothing of her since his demands that she sing."

"I hear he no longer wants her to sing."

"I think perhaps he no longer cares one way or the other. Maybe others just as talented will have a chance now," another said much more loudly.

Christine recognized the voice of the last girl, Josette, her understudy, but did not look to see who else had spoken. Their words wounded, but were necessary to make these uncouth men believe the lie, so did her a favor.

"The Phantom," the leader said loudly, so that all would hear, "Is no longer in charge of this opera house." He turned as he said the last, encompassing all dancers in one frozen stare that dared to defy his profession. "I and my associates now run things, as he will soon learn, and Monsieur LeStrange has requested the voice of Miss Daae as a lead in our opera, a better opera."

Josette's somber eyes fell to the stage. The man turned and addressed Christine.

"If you will permit, mademoiselle, I never had the pleasure to make your acquaintance. Both times we were…interrupted. I am Monsieur Bouchard." He gave a bow that came as sharp as his words, which sounded like an accusation. "My commander wishes me to inform you of his desire for your company after this evening's rehearsal."

"Oh, but…" She searched her mind for an excuse that seemed feasible. "After a long day's practice, I'm not fit for company. I prefer my solitude, to rest my voice."

"It is true, monsieur," Meg piped up. "Christine often declines partaking of social functions after a long day's work."

He gave Meg a stony look that made clear her input was unwelcome. "Have you not something to do, Miss Giry?"

Meg hesitated, her face flushing red, then glanced at Christine in sympathetic apology and hurried away.

"You misunderstood," he said to Christine. "That was not an invitation. Monsieur LeStrange will meet with you after the final rehearsal. And now, I leave you to your practice."

With a curt nod, he strode away, also leaving Christine in a mild state of panic.

She dared not spend even a minute with one of the topmost leaders of this abhorrent revolution! Nor could she stew in her prickly state of affairs when over eight hours of work stretched before her. Surely she would think of some excuse before the appointed time…

The day progressed in the usual haphazard but structured fashion, and Christine wondered why she was even there. Forbidden to use Erik's opera until the mandatory changes were made, they worked on an old opera absent of positive references to the nobility. Christine assumed the choice was made to keep the company fit and trained, but she failed to understand the need for her presence. There was no need to learn blocking, since they did not intend to perform this opera before an audience. Any singing she did off to the side, away from the struggling dancers, and could have just as easily practiced beneath the earth with her Maestro. Of course, the men in charge could not know that.

She wondered if he had overheard the leader's demands, if he was even in the vicinity. He would not stray far from her presence, of that she was certain, but where was he? Several stealthy glances directed above never once revealed the outline of his shadow. Her eyes did meet Raoul's, in his Tristan disguise, and she wondered if Erik had actually left her to his care.

The strain of her circumstances gave the excuse needed in the form of an ache that throbbed in her skull. Once Madame dismissed them, she hastened to her dressing room – thankful that locking out the world was again an option.

Her way was blocked before she could make it to her sanctuary.

Monsieur Bouchard walked beside a portly man who looked in his fifties and was outfitted more elegantly than his associate who dressed like one of the crew. He smiled at Christine, but his expression seemed as hard and brittle as Monsieur Bouchard's eyes.

"Mademoiselle," he said, taking her hand and kissing it. "It is an honor finally to meet you. I have long admired your voice and your beauty..."

Christine smiled nervously, just managing not to snatch her hand from his large paw.

"I should like you to join me for supper," he continued. "Would you do me the honor?"

Everything inside her froze, but she took comfort that his sounded like an invitation, not an order.

"I thank you, monsieur, but I'm feeling rather poorly. After a long day of rehearsals, I must rest."

She hoped he had no knowledge of how little work she had done.

He compressed his lips tightly, then relaxed and gave a slight nod as he watched her massage her forehead with her fingertips. "Of course," he said more softly. "We were told you've been ill. If I may escort you to your carriage?"

She looked at him in surprise. "My carriage?"

"I assume your driver is waiting…? To take you to your apartment? I was told you have one."

"Oh, yes…my apartment…"

Sending a furtive glance above, she hoped to see her Phantom's shadow.

But he would not come, not when their relationship was a closely guarded secret and she was to be considered his newfound enemy. Taking a breath for courage, she looked directly into Monsieur LeStrange's eyes. He seemed opposed to the idea of such a luxury…

And interested.

"I don't live alone," she quickly said, deciding if she must lie she might as well embellish the deception to discourage him. "I share the apartment with a friend, a dancer."

"Christine…"

Madame Giry's voice coming to her was like an answer to prayer.

Her former guardian moved into view, putting a hand to her shoulder. "Monsieur," she said in acknowledged greeting. "I must speak with you," she said more softly to Christine, pulling her aside.

"Madame…" At his authoritative tone, she and Christine both turned to look. "I believe you have more important matters to attend in your office?"

Taken aback, Madame Giry blinked. "I wish for only a few minutes to speak with Christine."

"It will have to wait. Mademoiselle Daae is unwell and returning home."

Christine looked between the two, upset that this stranger spoke for her, as if she had no mind of her own, but rational enough to keep silent and not unduly anger him. Madame remained as calm as ever, and Christine searched for a way to attain a few minutes alone with her.

"My cloak," she said. "I left it in my dressing room."

Monsieur LeStrange nodded. "Madame, if you would," he ordered.

"Oh, that's not necessary…" Christine began.

"Madame."

His directive came no louder but practically vibrated in command. It was not difficult to understand why he was a leader.

"I'll see to it," she replied and hurried away.

"Do you fear me?" Monsieur LeStrange asked when Christine took a nervous step back. "There's no need. We share a common goal…"

At her confusion, he elaborated. "We both uphold the cause of this sacred revolution and seek victory over those who would oppose our desired goals. You, to sing, and myself, to rally this city to stand against those who would again try to shackle us in the chains of the monarchy…"

His attitude toward her remained pleasant, even as he continued to rail against the former regime, but she did not dare trust this man. The illicit book of de Sade's notwithstanding – that warned against foolish gullibility to always believe in the supposed kindness of strangers – (and how quickly those tables could turn!) – this man despised everything Erik stood for. That made him her enemy, if the revolution never had existed.

He assured her of a place in the theater, stating as their lead she would enjoy special benefits, within reason, including the continued use of her apartment. She did not argue that he had no right to refuse, (however invented the abode), recalling conversations she'd overheard with regard to socialistic ideals. She never lingered, having no interest in politics, but now wished she had, so as to better equip herself against the opposition.

Madame returned and pressed Christine's cloak into her hands.

"I…" Christine shook her head, uncertain what to do next.

"I shall not need you until afternoon rehearsals," Madame reassured. "I wish to go over some choreography with the new dancers. Sleep in. You look rather peaked."

Peaked? Christine wanted to laugh hysterically but only shook her head. She felt as if she'd been given a blank script to a dangerous play with characters whose motives she failed to understand -

And with no idea what would unfold next.

Monsieur LeStrange touched her arm above the elbow. "I will escort you to your carriage."

Sending a bewildered glance to Madame, Christine had no choice but to go with him.

"Madame?" she asked, hoping for some sort of intervention.

"It's alright," her ballet mistress said, looking at the leader then back to Christine. "That is what I wanted to speak with you about. I'll see you tomorrow, at noon."

Christine could hardly drag her feet to slow the imminent revelation of her duplicity, when she'd been so eager to leave. Her mind whirled in a chaotic spin with what to do before they reached the stable and the absence of a waiting carriage. Should she confess she had no personal driver? Say that he would be tardy and Monsieur LeStrange need not wait? Invent another excuse to return to the theater?

Their footsteps echoed down the final corridor, empty of cast and crew. Her palms were clammy and his light touch on her sleeve felt like a shackle waiting to clamp around her arm and keep her his prisoner...

They arrived at the stables. Before she could speak he took the initiative.

"Mademoiselle Daae's carriage?"

A look of confusion entered the stable master's bleary eyes. Christine struggled inwardly not to break free and bolt from the area. The man's expression cleared and he nodded.

"This way."

Momentarily stunned, Christine moved with Monsieur LeStrange through the doors leading outside and to a waiting closed carriage. She cast a glance to the driver's seat, where a man with long straggly gray hair and a battered hat sat hunched over, the collar of his overcoat high around his neck.

Christine blinked rapidly as her unwelcome escort opened the carriage door. She glanced inside, uncertain, before stepping up with his aid and taking a seat. The revolutionist leader nodded once and closed the door. The carriage took off with a sudden lurch.

It took a moment for Christine to deduce that Madame must have arranged for the carriage while retrieving her cloak. That was why she'd been so reassuring.

Christine waited until she was certain Monsieur LeStrange would have left the stables then pounded on the roof with her fist, as a sign the driver should stop so she could instruct him to turn around. The motion disturbed her cloak she held, folded in a roll as Madame had given it to her. The dull clunk of something falling at her feet startled her and she looked down.

A thin piece of metal glistened near her shoe. She nudged it with her toe, unsure of what she saw, then picked it up. A key of brass lay cold in her palm.

She looked at it a long moment, trying to gather her wildly careening thoughts. A key to a door…an apartment?

She pounded on the carriage ceiling a second time, to no avail. The elderly driver was either deaf or chose to ignore her demand. Other than throwing herself out of a moving carriage, she could do nothing until it stopped. Since Madame must be behind this ruse, she sensed no danger and settled back grudgingly against her seat. The window was small and filmed with dirt to see well, so she stared ahead at the empty carriage seat before her. She wished Erik was here now and filled that seat. Though relieved to have escaped LeStrange, conversely she wished to be back at the theater, away from all eyes and reunited with her husband.

After a small eternity, with no idea of what was taking place or what she should do when they got there, the carriage stopped. Nervously pulling at her lip with her teeth, she pushed open the carriage door. In the nearby lamplight a rise of stairs led to a door of a brown brick tenement, similar stairs leading to doors on either side. Casting a glance to the key in her hand, she stepped down from the carriage before the driver could come around to assist.

She blew out her breath in determination, blowing a straggled curl from her eyes, then marched up the dozen or so stairs to the shadowed stoop. Fingering the strange key, she stared at the door then sharply rapped on it, not wishing to alarm anyone who might be in residence. When no one answered, she briefly looked at the key before sliding it into the lock. It glided in and obeyed the turn of her wrist.

She sensed more than saw a large hand press to the wood above her head. Her heart hammered in panic as a man's hard body forced her forward from behind once the door swung inward –

... and cast her into utter darkness.

.

xXx
Image E/C manip made by me
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 12/15/15

Postby Godzuki » Tue Dec 15, 2015 8:44 pm

I was floating at first, cuz even though E/C argue from time to time, there is a sweet delicacy to them; they are so afraid of losing one another (mostly E). And I get completely lost in their passionate moments, they love each other with such abandon *sigh* and then you go and do this at the end!!!!!! I don't even know if E knows where she is!!

:nono: Get back in here now, young lady, with the next chapter or I will go get AM!!!!!! How am I supposed to go to sleep now!!!!!! :foot:
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 12/15/15

Postby honeyphan » Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:16 am

Hope you got some good sleep, G! :angel2: :angel2:
Well, here I am, so you don't need to resort to threats (jeez, and during the Christmas season too... ;-))


Let Daylight Dry Your Tears

Chapter LX


Christine's breath froze, her mind numb with terror. Her body felt separate from her, offering no resistance as a large hand clapped over her mouth and she was whisked into darkness. Her stunned senses took note of the overpowering smell of horseflesh and hay of her attacker and the mustiness of the room as the door closed. His tall, lean form pressed hard against her back, while his other hand splayed tight against her middle –

A man, definitely, but…

The familiarity of his touch suddenly struck her mind like a whip's lash. Shock evaporated and Christine struggled in his hold. She twisted her mouth from his hand, enough to speak, but he did not release her, pressing her more tightly against him.

"Let me go, Erik," she bit out softly, vainly attempting to push his arm from her waist.

A derisive chuckle brushed her ear. "You allow yourself to be pushed into a dark building, absent of all reaction when you think you are with a stranger, but when you learn the truth you fight to get away?"

"I cannot know the responses of a stranger to be sure how to act – but you, I know – and I cannot understand why you would give me such a fright."

Even as she said the words, she recognized how foolish they were. No matter that the Phantom of the Opera had been born out of his need to hide, Erik enjoyed his role of Ghost, to roam the shadows and take others unaware…

"And how would you react if I had been a stranger and you found yourself in danger?" He did not loosen his hold, instead bringing his other arm around and entrapping potential movement. "If a stranger held you like this, what would you do, Christine?"

"Scream most certainly."

He huffed a dry laugh at her vexed response. "And if there was no one near to save you, what then?"

"Another test, Maestro?"

She had not forgotten the first one, when with stealth he broke free of the bonds and grabbed her wrists during her seductive dance, asking a similar question before ravishing her. Memory prodded desire – held against his hard body, she felt its searing flame liquefy her bones. But angry with him for these frightening tactics he chose in this cruel little lesson of his, she would not surrender to its pull.

"Humor me," he drawled, and she was reminded of her rhetorical question.

"And how do you propose I do that?"

"You are intelligent, Christine. Show me what you would do, if it was LeStrange with his arms imprisoning you and holding you so tightly…show me…"

Bitterness put a bite to soft words slightly roughened with desire, and she realized he had overheard her encounter with the revolutionist manager. After more than a month of marriage she felt she knew her husband well enough to understand. Erik despised feelings of helplessness and sought for methods, even those bizarre, to regain control. Always wishing to appear strong, he feared losing that power almost as much as he feared losing her.

"I don't wish to pretend," she refused quietly.

"I assure you this is not a game, my love." The pressure of his arms around hers did not relent. "There is no make believe in this decision you have made to return to the theater. The reality you've chosen daily to face is cruel and cold and disinclined to grant mercy. You must conform to cope with the wretched new standard enacted by those fools at the opera…"

"I know it's not a game, Erik."

"Do you? I wonder…"

She struggled, this time in earnest – again to no avail.

"Is that all the fight you have within you to give?" he scoffed lightly.

"This is hardly fair, Erik. You're much stronger."

"And you think these men play fair, Christine?" He laughed shortly and without humor. "You must learn to counter an attack. There are ways, even with your slight build, that can give you the advantage to evade and flee. "

She grew absolutely still as her mind worked to comprehend. "But - you'll be there…"

He let out a heavy sigh, regret lacing his words. "When I am able, yes, I will watch over you, as I have always watched over you. But there are urgent matters to which I must attend while you are at practice, and I cannot always be within the vicinity to know if you're in danger."

"Matters…? You mean the Opera Ghost. More tricks and traps, Erik?"

At the mild accusation of her tone, his muscles clenched against her and his hold marginally tightened, near the edge of pain.

"I told you how things must be, Christine. I did not choose this war – it was thrust upon me. But I'll be damned if I sit idle and let those fiends triumph."

She closed her eyes, reconciled to his plan. She could not fault him for fighting to protect their home and what belonged to them, to protect what happiness they shared. It was not in Erik's makeup to willingly concede to defeat and she loved him for that, but neither did she want bloodshed. Once, as a young boy, he killed to survive. By his admission on the rooftop, in the plot he once mastered to abduct her, he killed again. Even if it was all a preposterous dream conjured by desperate spirits, the prospect of such mass destruction of both life and property frightened her more than she'd let on at the time – that her Angel could even do such a thing – and she earnestly prayed he would never be driven to that point.

"With your arms trapped, you must utilize the strength of your lower body," he continued in his persistence to train her. "Lift your leg against mine and bring your foot down hard on my instep…"

She was horrified by the idea. "You want me to hurt you?"

"If it means to teach you how to protect yourself … do it, Christine," he added harshly.

Further protestations were useless against her stubborn husband, and she made a halfhearted attempt to follow through. By his low growl he was less than pleased with the result.

"I know you have more fire in you than that. Again, Christine…" He shook his head at her second failed attempt. "Harder, damn it!"

She brought her slippered foot down as hard as she could, but her rising vexation with his domineering attitude died a quick death with the grunting hiss of his pain.

"Stop it," she begged softly, the words catching in her throat with her tears. "Stop trying to make me hurt you…"

Taken aback to hear her sudden distress and feeling like an obtuse fool for bringing his Angel to tears, he dropped his arms from around her, intending to lift his hands to her shoulders and draw her gently back to him. Before he could follow through, she whirled around and threw her arms around his torso, hugging him as if she might never have the chance again.

"Christine," he kept his voice low and soothing, "I have built up a high tolerance for pain. I'm not made of glass. You did not hurt me."

She shivered in his arms. "But you wanted me to. That was the whole point of this wretched little exercise – to cause you enough pain to release me." She shook her head against his chest. "I won't be like those horrid people from your past who hurt you. I won't add to your scars – even if they are only bruises that will fade. Please never ask it of me again."

Stunned, he said nothing. No one had ever cared so strongly about his pain. Antoinette had cared, to a degree, but nothing like this, and he still felt at a loss with how to respond to such compassion from his bride.

She pulled away to look at him, her glistening eyes going wide, her mouth falling open.

"Erik, what on earth …" Her lips tilted up slightly at the corners with the discovery. "You were my driver!"

He chuckled at her astonishment, relieved to see her smile again.

"Did you think I flew here?"

"With your ability to move so quickly around the opera house, sometimes I wonder…" She lifted her hand to touch the long hanks of limp gray hair that fell from beneath the battered hat.

"Shortcuts, my dear. There are others in addition to the one I've shown you."

She pulled the hat and wig off, wrinkling her nose, clearly not in favor of his disguise. The brown leather mask that completed his costume followed the first items to the floor. Her hands clasped his head, her fingers trickling into his natural hair as she stood on tiptoe and kissed him tenderly before embracing him again.

Evidently he was forgiven for his blunder, however well meaning, and decided to leave the subject of her safety alone for the present.

"You smell like a stable," she said, sounding content.

He wasn't sure how that was a good thing, always associating such places with hay and manure.

"I absconded with the stable master's coat to complete my disguise, most of which I filched from the costume room."

Christine pulled away, keeping her hands clutched at his waist. By the dim rectangle of light high to her left, revealing itself as a window, she could make out his shabby coat and trousers. Another glance around the dim room revealed a narrow bed, a hearth, and little else.

"Where exactly are we?"

He moved away, toward the hearth. In the next moment, a lantern blazed to life casting the room in a gentle golden glow. "Due to their infernal snooping into your affairs, I found it advisable to procure a flat and give credence to the story that you own one."

"This is my flat…?" she said in surprise. "You did all this in the few minutes Monsieur LeStrange waylaid me?"

He chuckled, though his expression was grim at her mention of the new manager. "I had Antoinette secure the room and its provisions the same day I yielded to your plan to return to the theater."

"Oh." She took one of his hands in both of hers, her expression hopeful. "May we stay the night?"

He looked doubtful. "What – here?" His critical gaze swept the small room, remaining fixed on the area near the window. "When we have a bed that is so much larger and does not lack in creature comforts?"

Christine stifled a giggle at his woebegone manner and walked to the cot, sinking to it. She gave a few short bounces to the mattress. "It's not so bad. There are even sheets and a blanket…" She looked up, tilting her head in question. "Why would there be sheets and a blanket if they're not meant to be used?"

"I told Antoinette to make it look as if the place was inhabited. I want nothing to arouse suspicion of the landlord and find its way back to those fools' ears at the opera house."

He did not miss her small shiver. "Well, then I think we should inhabit it – just this one night," she wheedled softly. "One night hidden away from all the drama and danger at the opera house. Does that not sound divine?"

"The bed is rather small, Christine."

"And the nights are still cold. All the more reason to cuddle close and share our warmth."

By his tolerant smile, she had offered the perfect argument to win him over. "This would truly please you? To stay here?" He walked to the bed and took a seat beside her.

"Oh, yes – immensely." She grinned with her small triumph. "That and some supper. With all the intrigues of the past hour, I find I am quite famished."

His gloved fingers curled lightly beneath her chin. "If that is what my diva desires…"

She nodded. "Yes."

"Then that is what her Maestro shall give her." He leaned in, his lips briefly touching hers, then stood to his feet and retrieved wig, mask, and hat, swiftly fitting them back into place.

"Bar the door behind me."

Recollection of the dangers outside its protective barrier brought her to her feet.

"Erik, be careful."

He looked over his shoulder with a reassuring smirk and pulled the wide brim of the floppy hat low over his brow then pulled up the collar of the long coat so that it brushed his ears.

"Dressed as I am, no one would suspect me of being anything but one of the poor wretches who line the city streets."

He strode out the door, the long borrowed coat whisking about his legs. Even without his elegant black cloak and dressed as a pauper, he cut a dashing figure, his stance noble, his movements graceful – and as she dropped the bar into place, securing the door, she prayed such disguises would always be enough to keep her Phantom safe from discovery.

xXx

Christine slowly blinked to consciousness at the unfamiliar sensation of light behind her eyelids.

She lay naked, entwined with her lover, whose body gave off heat like a furnace and warmed her pleasantly in the chill room. Smiling softly, she remembered the night and wished never to leave this bed…

Though Erik might disagree.

Her smile widened at the memory of his muffled complaints that the bed had been made for the stature of a child – his tall frame dwarfed the mattress, his feet hung off the end – but she had only smiled tolerantly and rolled her body onto his, kissing him into silence.

It had been a lovely respite. He had returned with a sack of golden apples, a wheel of cheese, a loaf of bread and a bottle of red wine. They had dined on the floor in front of the hearth's fire – (the sparse furnishings included no table or chairs) – and shared in pleasant conversation of music and literature, with no mention of the revolution and its dangers. Later, they made love, first on a blanket before the fire, and again in this bed, beneath the blanket, though with Erik confined in movement and continually grumbling about the probability of shifting position and rolling them both onto the ground. Christine had giggled and taken the initiative, climbing on top of him, much as she was still sprawled...

She lifted her head from the warm, fuzzy pillow of his chest and looked at his face.

His eyes were closed, his countenance peaceful in slumber, and she drew in a wondering breath as golden rays of the dawn slipped through the woefully thin curtain at the window and highlighted his features. She had never awakened to see him in daylight, the only light in their bedchamber as they slept a distant candle. Except for their day trip into the city, when the skies had been gray and overcast, and their visits to the rooftop, at the end of sunset and beginning of twilight – she had never seen him in daylight at all. The one occasion he'd taken her before the sun set, she had been too upset with his revelation of her supposed betrayal to take note of his appearance. And on the rooftop, she had never seen him unmasked.

Now she looked freely, taking in the scruff of dark shadow along his jaw, the smooth, well defined side of his face and its divergent rough side. In this lighting the damaged flesh gleamed a pale coral, the texture even resembling it in places, the deep crevasses within the folds of wax-like skin a dark violet where shadows lingered. His flesh was no longer the angry vibrant red it was when he continually wore the mask, no longer raw, and she smiled with the knowledge. His lashes were long, flickering softly in sleep, his brown hair glinting with muted streaks of dark gold. A mist of light from the morning sun gilded his entire face and his lean, muscled arms and torso.

He took her breath … and then his eyes opened and she forgot how to breathe.

Golden flecks swam in his irises that in the morning light shimmered a striking blue-green. She had never seen them that color, and fascinated, could not look away.

"At least you're not screaming," he said, breaking the silence. "Though why you should want to stare upon this grotesque visage at the start of the day boggles the mind."

She ignored his self-derisive words and wary expression, both common responses when he was unmasked, as if he awaited hurtful words and the disgusted reactions that littered his life before she'd known him. It wounded that he would think so ill of her, even now, but he had warned of his struggle to trust and asked for patience, which she agreed to give. He had suffered from those who were supposed to love him, since he was a small babe forced to wear a mask to hide his face, and her heart turned over at the memory of what she'd read in his mother's journal. She could hardly blame his hesitance to believe that she truly accepted all of who he was.

"Your eyes are so beautiful," she whispered, catching him off guard.

His lips parted softly in surprise – had she never told him so before?

Awareness dawned that he rarely ever looked at his reflection, to know all of what she saw. The tapestries that covered the mirrors in his possession told her that.

"They are," she insisted. "They are like the sky and the wind and the sea - ever changing. Your moods and your surroundings bring out different colors in them. Sometimes they're a deep and mysterious jade. When you're cross, they turn a smoky gray-green like an oncoming storm. Other times they gleam as brilliant as emeralds. In this morning light they remind me of aquamarines, more green than blue, and shimmering with threads of gold…I could lose myself in the depths of your eyes – they fascinate me."

He only stared, clearly at a loss with how to respond, and she grinned, noting the pale side of his face had achieved a faint red hue to match its divergent side.

Her poor mighty Phantom – struck without words and bewildered by a compliment.

She really must speak her thoughts aloud more often.

"When we lie together and I touch you like this," she whispered, brushing her fingertips along his scarred cheek, "and this," she brought her hand to his lightly furred chest. Her fingers drifted through the soft hairs, her short nails brushing across a flat brown nipple. He sucked in a breath. "And this…" She extended her touch down the planes of his stomach to the juncture between his legs, stroking the column of silken flesh that had hardened, this time eliciting his groan…

"Your eyes lose most of the green, except for a small rim, and glow as black and mysterious as the night…"

During her short litany of praise, his hands had found their way to her hips and he now clasped them firmly. Adoration shimmered in the darkened beauty of his eyes.

"Christine…how I wish I could roll you over and make violent love to you. But I fear the attempt in this child's bed will land us both bruised and broken on the hard, unforgiving floor."

Her smile widened at the exaggeration of his familiar complaint. "Then I shall make love to my husband, as I did last night."

"You will hear no opposition from me."

He hissed when her mouth found his neck and sucked in the skin there, even as her hand continued its delectable torture.

"Oh, Christine…"

Her name was stolen from his lips with her mouth, and she kissed him deeply, matching the slow strokes of her tongue against his with the rhythm of her hand, when suddenly his fingers wrapped around her wrist, stopping her.

"If you continue, this will be over before it begins," he warned on a raspy breath.

She did not want that, eager to feel him inside her. But neither did she want to cease with giving her beloved Phantom pleasure. She relented, moving her hand up against his side while lowering her mouth to kiss a random trail over his chest. Her tongue flicked over his flat nipple, her teeth lightly biting it.

"Christ," he whispered, his hand tightening in her hair.

He could feel his enchanting seductress smile against his skin, clearly pleased with the effect she was having on him.

For a man who'd never known a gentle touch in over three decades, to receive such a wealth of passionate affection from the woman he loved above all else, even life itself, overwhelmed all patience and lucid thought, moving him fast near the brink of losing control. It was often like this when she sought to know him. One deliberate touch of her hand, one seductive brush of her lips against his scarred, disfigured carcass, and he struggled to remember to savor each sensation and not pounce on her and take her like the wild beast he was. Gratitude that she would even want to learn this body, disbelief that she did, and a love that made him tremble to see that for her it was no sacrificial task but a pleasure, daily made this a test to practice a restraint he did not feel and lengthen all intimacy to the full extent nature would allow. To his regret, he was not always successful. But in time, once he grew accustomed to being touched with desire by his bride, surely he would master these overwhelming emotions…

This morning, however, it seemed she was determined to test his every limit.

Tingles of pleasurable fire coursed beneath his skin everywhere her mouth blessed it, her long curls trickling in delicate paths over his body and creating their own tiny sparks as she moved her head lower. His shaft throbbed with painful need, desperate to find its velvet sheath, and he gasped to suddenly feel her soft lips trickle along the hard flesh. The gentle slide of her tongue was almost his undoing, and his grip tightened when her full lips slipped over him and took his solid length into the wet, heated cavern of her mouth. She sucked him like he was the most delectable candy, her tongue twirling its own wicked path, her fingers making gentle patterns on the taut flesh beneath. Bare seconds of this sweet torture and the Phantom could take no more.

His hands clasped her head of curls, tugging her upward. "Stop. Now."

Given no choice, she pouted as he pulled her beneath the arms and insistently toward him.

"You said you would offer no opposition."

"You will be the end of me," he hoarsely proclaimed, his hand moving between her thighs and finding her ready and wanting. Her groan matched his. "God, Christine, take me inside you," he whispered but her hand was already guiding him into her delicious heat. She brought her hips down softly against his, burying him deep, and they both released a thunderous breath.

All the operas in the world, all the music in the universe could not compare to the sweet intoxication of becoming one flesh with his bride. Holding her so close, her creamy soft walls embracing him so tightly - these were the only moments in his entire miserable existence the Phantom felt truly whole. This, the only passion to surpass any lyrics composed; the beauty of her cries rivaling any arias to be sung. Their union was its own symphony, unparalleled, singing through his blood, of beauty and fire and passion combined…

"I love you so much," she whispered before seizing his willing mouth as hers again, her hips grinding against his in the sensual dance she had learned so well.

He was already close to the edge and would not last long. By the drenched feel of her, the rich sounds and her aroused scent told him he was not alone in that experience, and grabbing her hips he drew them hard against his.

"Accelerando…" he breathed against her ear.

At the musical instruction from her teacher, his voice a deep silken rasp, Christine shuddered and obeyed. Sitting up she increased tempo, rocking harder against him, clasping his thighs behind her for balance. The proud uptilt of her breasts begged for his touch and he strained up on one arm, his palm cupping over a firm swell. Golden motes of the morning light bathed her in a surreal glow, catching fiery red glints in her cascades of tousled curls and shimmering in gold along the ripe curves of her porcelain body…

She was breathtaking – a glorious creature of daylight – and a flash of guilt struck his soul that he had been so selfish to force her to live within the darkness of his bleak world.

Remorse subsided as passion grew fierce and demanded swift outlet. Not wanting to reach that plateau without her, he rubbed his thumb against the swollen nub of pink flesh where they were joined, delighting in her little gasping cries of pleasure. Her muscles clenched around him moments before he exploded within her, and they clung together in the aftermath they created, shaken and at peace.

Christine exhaled a contented breath when she could again breathe. "I wish I never had to leave this bed…and you…"

"You…yes," he smoothed his hand down her back, his words a seductive rumble. "This bed, no…"

She giggled. "Perhaps next time we should put the mattress on the floor before the fire."

Next time?

Erik sobered, not truly surprised by her flight into fancy. When something appealed to her sense of enjoyment, she often sought to prolong its course. Not wishing to upset her, he did not respond.

"I would assume Madame had no time to find a bed large enough to suit your needs, but surely we can devise something…"

When he remained silent, she looked at him. "Erik?"

"We should dress and return to the theater."

"Oh – I forgot to tell you – Madame said I don't have to appear until afternoon rehearsals. That gives us more time together." She nestled into him.

"I assume you would first wish to return home and change clothing?"

Christine suppressed a groan, having momentarily forgotten her situation. She had left the opera house in her costume for the second act, never having been given an opportunity to change.

"Next time I shall bring a valise of clothing to have on hand for these situations. When may we come again?"

At her bright question, effervescent with expectancy, he let out a heavy sigh.

"We will not be coming here again, Christine."

"But - why?"

"Need I remind you there is a revolution going on outside these doors? It is too dangerous."

"I should think any place in Paris qualifies for that. You have your disguise, and they know I have let an apartment…"

"Our home is safer," he insisted. His hand stilled its slow strokes down her spine and he angled his head on the pillow to see her better. "Are you unhappy there?" He voiced the question that gave him constant dread.

"Oh no," She raised herself up to look at him. "No, Mon Ange, never think that. I love our home of candlelight and water and music. It shall always be special to me for all we've shared there, and you've made it comfortable with the warm air and cozy hearth and so much more." She kissed his chin. "You know how I love the beautiful bed you made and our secret spring. And I'm the only member of the cast to have an area to dance all to myself."

He relaxed. "If we leave now, we might have time for a short visit to the springs before you must attend rehearsal."

She smiled softly. "I would like that."

He had learned every nuance of her every expression and recognized the slight hesitance in her manner, shown by the pensive, sideways tilt of her head.

"Tell me," he urged quietly.

She sighed, having no need to ask what he meant, reading him just as well.

"It's only that, ever since you first came to the mirror in my dressing room and brought me below, I have connected our home in the lair to the opera house. The two are one in my mind, and with all that's been happening, I covet these moments when we can find reprieve away from there. I would like us to revisit this place and spend the occasional night."

"It is not possible, Christine." He moved to sit up, his manner impatient. "As I said, it's too dangerous."

"Then why did you bring me here last night? Why did you not simply turn around and take me back when it was safe?"

She spoke not in rebellion, but out of a need to understand.

Erik shook his head, now questioning the logic of his choice. After seeing her encounter with LeStrange, he had only wanted to get her as far away from the fiend as possible.

"Perhaps this was a mistake…"

"No," she said softly, sitting up behind him and resting her hand against his shoulder. "Don't say that. I shouldn't have spoken. I was being selfish. I must learn to be content with what I have and not always seek more."

Her self condemning words only sharpened his guilt, heaped upon his earlier flash of blame to keep her sequestered below the earth. He preferred her optimistic bright innocence in blithely expecting more to this somber maturity of a need to accept less. Why should she be forced to do without when he wished to give her everything? He could give her the moon and the stars, but never the sun…

At the core of every decision made was Christine – his need to keep her safe, his desire to make her happy. At times, unable to present one and retain hold of the other. If he could give his Angel the daylight and the ability to dwell in the world with which she was familiar, if it was within his grasp, by God he would do so. But one who understood only darkness had no right to make promises in offering light.

"Never lose focus of your dreams, Christine," he said gruffly, shaking his head. "That is not what I wish for you…"

"Yet you and others have told me I must cease to dwell inside fantasies and accept what is real," she countered, her statement posed more as a question.

He looked into her beautiful dark eyes, his heart wrenching a little to see that grave wisdom had replaced some of the sweet naiveté there. It was as it should be – she was now a woman, his wife – but he could not help feel a poignant loss for the enthralled child who once perceived the world through a fantastical cloud of chimera …

God, he was becoming maudlin in this new role of domesticity.

"Yes, Christine – and what is real is that we must return before that lush of a stable master wakens from his drunken slumber and staggers to his post.

"You are upset with me?"

The sadness lacing her voice drove another stab of guilt through the chink in his armor to remain impervious to what could not be changed. Again, he was taking his frustrations out on his bride, who had shown him nothing but love and understanding.

"No, Christine, no…" He drew her into his arms and she happily snuggled against him. The press of her naked flesh against his spurred the strong desire to keep her in this flat the remainder of the day. He pulled away from the temptation and from her warmth, kissing her temple. "But we must be even more careful than before, and should return before we can be spotted."

"I know." Barely she nodded, her hands cradling his face. She released a soft wondering breath as she again looked so intently at him.

He shook his head in confusion. "What…?"

"I cannot decide if your eyes remind me more of the sky or the sea…In the morning light, they glow a color I've never seen before," she explained, "more blue to them and different than the golden green of our evenings on the rooftop in the sunset … but always so beautiful…"

His breath caught at the return of her initial words, the warmth of embarrassment tingeing his skin. Before Christine came into his world, he never once received a compliment with regard to his appearance and was uncertain how to respond to such sweet sincerity, but he also knew remorse.

He could not give her the world above, but she found the beauty of what it contained in his eyes – what tragic irony was that! To forever be reminded of what she could not have.

She kissed him softly, briefly, then moved to collect her garments scattered about the room. As he donned his own costume, he made a silent vow that he would make up for all she missed in whatever way possible.

"Would you like to visit the rooftop this evening after rehearsal?" he asked once they left the flat.

"Yes, Mon Ange, I would like that very much." Her expression glowed with excitement but he did not miss the way her eyes looked up toward the east, her gaze a little wistful, before she entered the carriage.

The Phantom took the driver's seat, his own brief glance toward the morning sun resentful. Daylight, with her brilliant golden beauty, had become his rival, intent on stealing Christine's heart completely away from him - the monster fated to dwell in darkness...

As he hunched down within the upturned collar of the borrowed overcoat, his stance that of a man advanced in years, and drove his bride back to the opera house, the answer came clear:

A battle of compromise and one easily conquered, though perhaps not so effortless to carry out, and he chuckled to imagine its inception.

xXx

"Christine, my love, wake up…Christine…."

His sleepy wife groaned and cracked one eyelid open, instantly shutting it.

"It can't be morning already."

"Ah, but it is…"

"It feels like I only just went to bed," she complained. "A little longer…" The last was delivered into the pillow as she buried her face in it, hugging it closer.

Erik leaned in to press his lips to her bare hip and up the inward curve to her waist, almost all that was revealed of her delectable flesh by the sheet twisted against her legs and wrapped along her upper body.

"Mmm…" Without otherwise moving, she stretched a limp hand toward him. "Come lie back down," she murmured into the casing of feathers.

How he wished to tarry in their bed and greet the day in a manner that left them both satisfied! He faltered, wondering if he should abandon this plan, when memory of the wistful look in her eyes three days ago made his decision for him.

"Come along, Christine…" He lightly nipped her flesh with his teeth, awarding him a slight moan. "Now who's being a 'slugabed'?"

He sat up and slapped her perfectly rounded derriere – not so lightly.

"Owmph!" She turned fully from the pillow, blinking up at him with baleful, sleepy eyes. "Why'd you do that? I don't have to be there till second rehearsal..."

The Phantom barely heard, his attention having been diverted by the sumptuous mounds of her snow white breasts now freed of the sheet. His mouth descended to a pale pink crest, his lips suckling in gentle homage before he tore himself away. God – she was temptation personified, and it had become as difficult for him to leave their bed as it was to pull her from its confines.

"Erik…?"

The haze of slumber had left her curious voice, and a glance upward showed her eyes wide awake and open. Well, at least he had accomplished that much.

He stood and grabbed her chemise from atop a nearby trunk where he had carelessly tossed it the night before.

"But – you're already dressed," she whimpered, clearly not happy with the discovery.

"As you should be," he gently pulled her up to sit and pulled the chemise over her head.

"But why?" She frowned as she allowed him to pull her arms through the capped sleeves and dress her like a child. "Can we not just go back to bed? It must be the middle of the night…"

He laid a finger to her lips. "No more questions."

Swiftly he moved aside the tapestry concealing her wardrobe and grabbed a skirt that needed only three buttons to fasten. He tossed it into her lap. "Put that on." While she slowly pulled her legs from twined sheets, mumbling to herself all the while, he grabbed her slippers and cloak.

At last they were on their way. He only hoped they were not too late…

Still sluggish from lack of slumber, Christine walked with Erik's arm draped around her, her arm likewise holding him, her head reclining against his shoulder. She allowed him to lead her down the endless tunnels as she let her eyes droop closed every now and then, confident he would not let her misstep and come to harm…

Though what was so wretchedly important that he would force her from the confines of their very soft, very warm bed and the delicious heat of his body, she could not begin to guess.

A blast of cold air had her open her eyes to see that Erik had brought them to the rooftop, and she gasped, the sight before her scattering all weariness from her mind.

Rose and violet colored the sky in soft muted ribbons, lacing billowy clouds of silver gray and painting them with trace hints of shimmering gold. Beyond a far distant forest, a brilliant rose-tinged sun just began to peek over the treetops.

"I give you the sunrise," Erik breathed against her ear.

Speechless, Christine could not take her eyes off the magnificent heavens as he drew her against his body while he leaned his backside against the platform of a marble Pegasus. He brought his cloak around her from throat to hem, keeping her warm within its folds.

In all her years at the opera house, since she was seven, she had been privy to a sky dressed in such splendid hues from the circular lattice window above her dormitory bed. But her window faced north, not east, and there had never been time for more than a hasty glance upon awakening, the need to hurry and dress and rush to partake of a morning meal before lessons always paramount.

She told Meg when prodded for a response on this rooftop that if she missed anything, it was the sunrise, and in a sense that was true - the pretty colors that temporarily painted the sky such a pleasant herald to the day.

She barely remembered her life at the seaside, with her dear Papa, but did recall that though they always woke before dawn, they left their tiny cottage to play and sing for the crowds after the morning sun had fully risen in the sky.

In all her seventeen years on the earth, Christine could not remember seeing the sun actually rise – had not known it could be anything but white or gold – and she watched in bewildered awe the glorious rose-pink orb slowly ascend, soaking colors from nearby clouds and glowing brighter and more golden as it did.

When she could tear her eyes away from the breathtaking panorama, she turned her head to look at the face of her beloved Angel who had opened her eyes to so much. Faint rose from the morning light colored his pale skin and dark mask, his eyes reflecting the colorful glory of the heavens. He looked at her in concern, at the tear that slid down her cheek.

"Christine…?"

"Thank you for giving me the daylight," she said simply and pulling his head down, she pressed her lips tenderly to his.

xXx

The hours drifted by in a melodious haze, the beautiful morning sunrise with Erik a sweet precursor to the day.

Once they returned to the comfort of their bed and the warmth of each other's arms, he had offered to make such treks above tradition when Madame did not need her at morning rehearsal. As glorious as the rooftop experience was, she had quietly refused his thoughtful proposal, preferring instead the occasional visit – with the true morning ritual being the luxury of additional slumber while held in her lover's embrace…and any sensual frolicking that might also occur.

Her cheeks warmed when she recalled all of what followed on their return to the lair…

Perfection indeed.

She giggled at the lesson well learned and enacted, for as her Maestro often said, one must always practice to excel.

Alert to his presence, Christine felt a trace of mischief, and decided to reorder her steps from seeking out Meg.

"I know you're there," she announced little above a breath, the smile wide on her face. "Meet me in my dressing room. I want a kiss."

With a soft giggle, she changed direction and took off running through the empty corridor backstage, eager to see him in the scant quarter hour they had before she must resume practice.

At last she darted through the door of the quiet, dim room, noting the mirror still in place, and whirled to turn the key in the lock. Spinning around a second time, she gasped to see Erik standing there, only feet away.

"How…" She shook her head in awed confusion, "…did you get here so fast?"

He closed the distance in three long strides, his hands going to her hips and bringing her close. Her palms she pressed low against the paneled door, her stunned mind still grasping his presence there.

"A lifetime as the Phantom, and an invitation so delectable – how could I not?"

He caught the beginning of her quiet giggle in the longed for kiss which abruptly shifted from playful to passionate. Tender fire surged through her veins, and she lifted her hands to cradle his head, slipping her fingers through his hair. Tongue danced with tongue as she pressed herself flush against his body…

A giggle served as a reminder, and she broke their kiss, lowering her head a little in awkward embarrassment when he would continue.

"Erik," she whispered. "We're not alone."

This time he heard the giggle and pressed his forehead to hers in mild frustration.

"How could I forget…?"

More importantly, how could she? The desire to be in his arms in that moment had crowded out all else, including the memory of the tiny occupant currently dwelling within her dressing room.

They both turned their heads to look. A pair of bright blue eyes regarded them from beyond the curtain, then rapidly ducked out of sight. Erik cast his gaze heavenward and shook his head. Christine grinned at his longsuffering reaction, then again looked at the tapestry covering the cupboard.

"Tina…it's alright."

The curtain stirred and the curly copper head peeked around the corner.

"Bon Jour Monsieur and Madame Opera Ghost-Angel!"

"Bon Jour," Christine said, "and have you been a good girl?"

"Oui - much quieter than a mouse."

Erik sighed heavily. "I must go speak with Madame Giry before rehearsal resumes."

Christine smiled at him in shared disappointment. "I just want to talk to Tina a moment."

He kissed her temple, his hand squeezing her hip. "I'll see you after rehearsal."

"I'll be counting the minutes until we're alone," she said playfully under her breath brushing her fingers down his sleeve and giving him a saucy smile.

His eyes flared, their message clear, that he wished to grab her close and kiss her breathless, but he only nodded and left through the mirror, his faint, parting whisper of "seducing siren," causing her to stifle a giggle. Now that was a title she did not mind him calling her...

Christine walked over to the child, her brow lifting in surprise to see the carved wooden doll in her hand, a replica of those on Erik's mini stage. Oddly the doll was glaringly bald and outfitted in an elaborate pink gown, a duplicate of one Carlotta had worn in Il Muto.

"Did Monsieur Erik give that to you?" Christine asked, bemused.

Tina nodded. "He said he has no use for it any longer."

"And did he tell you why she has no hair?" Christine's curiosity ached to be satisfied, recalling other dolls on his stage, including the one of herself, all had a glorious mane of it.

"Oui, I asked, and he said 'it's just recom, recom…'"

"Recompense?" Christine offered helpfully.

Tina nodded. "Oui- recombense for the many times she's made him pull out his own hair."

"Oh, my." Christine could not help it – she laughed…and laughed, until she could not stop laughing and tears glazed her eyes.

Oh, Erik.

Tina regarded her strangely, but never ceased smiling. Christine supposed she should be grateful that the mischief of the Opera Ghost had not displayed itself in shearing the real Carlotta's head of auburn hair. Though she remembered the dismantling of the diva's tall powdered wig a year ago, the hideous thing coming off curl by long curl, shedding onstage during a rehearsal – and knew Erik must have designed that little prank.

Christine had no explanation for her bizarre laughter, except that, despite the situation in Paris, (which she chose not to dwell on until she must), she was exquisitely happy. Monsieur LeStrange and his brooding sidekick had remained blissfully absent these past few days, since her night with Erik at the flat, and things at the opera house went on much as they had before their unwanted arrival.

"You don't mind having a bald doll?" Christine asked once her laughter subsided.

"No, Madame, it's much better than having hair like carrots." She scrunched her tiny freckled nose in distaste.

"You have pretty hair," Christine argued.

As if reminded of something, Tina perked up. "A man with hair like mine came last night. He woke me with the noise he made, but I was very quiet."

The girl's proud words acted like a dousing of icy water. "A man with red hair came into my dressing room?"

"Oui." Tina nodded. "He was at your pretty table with the mirrors. I heard him moving things around."

Christine cast a sharp glance toward her dressing table, noticing the cracked mirror had been replaced. Perhaps a worker…?

It was likely of no account, the mirror fixed at a time when the room would be thought empty, but Christine still felt a niggling unease. She should tell Erik of this, recalling previous failures to inform him of her sensation of being watched and his displeasure with her when he found out.

Once she said goodbye to Tina and left the dressing room she was surprised to run – almost literally – into Josette.

"Madame Giry is looking for you," her understudy explained and moved a little to the side, craning her chin to look beyond Christine's shoulder in curiosity.

Christine firmly shut the door behind her, blocking the nosy girl's effort to see into the room.

Erik should be with Madame and that gave her the perfect opportunity to speak to both.

"I'll go at once."

"She's not in her office," Josette said when Christine turned in that direction. "She's in the costume area."

Christine nodded her stiff thanks and hurriedly set off down the empty corridor in the opposite direction. Once there, she swept into the large chamber of the costume room, where rack upon wooden rack of attire in a wide rainbow of hues and designs stood ready for use.

Each rack stood approximately ten feet long and end to end, with no space between so that clothing quite literally filled the room. Beneath many of these, huge boxes of coordinating footwear sat on the floor. The musty-sweet scent of lavender filled the room from the bunches of dried herbs ground to powder and tied in sachets that hung by each rack, to repel insects and their damage caused to costly materials that must endure numerous seasons of wear. A dim lantern mounted high on the wall across the room produced a subtle glow – open flames no longer allowed after the debacle of the negligent fire that resulted in the loss of two full racks of costumes.

"Madame Giry…?"

The room appeared empty, and Christine reasoned that her ballet headmistress must be within one of the rows of clothing that hung on long wooden dowels above her head. She walked to the end and turned the corner, peering down each row, until the lamp's flame no longer produced a safe glow to guide her steps. She wondered why the other lamps were not lit. Madame surely would not be standing in darkness in the unlit portion of the room, though Erik might, but he would also call out to her or approach, at the knowledge she was there.

Had she missed them both?

Christine retraced her steps, but before she could turn the corner, Chantel walked around it.

Disgusted to see the former dancer of the chorus, and curious why she was even there, Christine decided to ignore her and walk around the obstacle she made. Chantel grabbed her arm hard before she could make an escape.

"Not so fast. You have something we want."

"Why are you here, Chantel?" Christine asked grimly.

"I told you –" She lifted her other hand and grabbed Christine's chain, visible above her bodice, giving it a harsh yank. The chain broke, stinging painfully at the tender skin of her nape. "You have something we want."

Christine reached for her rings. "Give them back!"

Avarice gleamed in the foul woman's eyes. "So, I was right, little diva, you were hiding something. The Vicomte plied you with trinkets for your services, did he? Costly ones at that – they'll surely help support the cause of our glorious revolution. Victor will be pleased."

Desperation compelled Christine to make a few hasty grabs for her precious wedding rings, relieved the stupid harlot did not recognize their significance, but Chantel dangled them just out of reach each time.

With an impatient growl of rage, Christine lunged, knocking Chantel to the ground. The two women fell against one of the racks, jarring gowns loose from hangers as satin and lace spilled onto them where they rolled on the floorboards. Christine had never learned how to fight but gave her best, pulling handfuls of hair, as if to make her nemesis as bald as Tina's doll. Chantel struggled, also grabbing Christine's curls and yanking viciously, when suddenly two strong pairs of hands grasped Christine by the arms and hauled her back and upward.

"It's about time you two showed," Chantel said snidely to Christine's captors as she struggled to stand then looked at Christine with hatred brimming in her eyes. "Bitch."

Chantel closed her fist tight and punched Christine in the jaw. Before Christine could recover from the fiery pain that seized the entire right side of her face, Chantel brought her fist hard to her stomach. Christine cried out, doubling over from the blow. Chantel pushed her down then kicked her in the side.

"Chantel – stop! We have what we came for – we need to get back before we're missed and someone comes looking!"

Through a haze of throbbing pain, Christine heard Josette speak up nervously and saw her understudy pull at Chantel's arm, Lysette, Chantel's crony, on the other side.

"Fine." Chantel looked up and beyond where Christine lay, to the shadowed part of the room. "She's all yours. Give it to the little whore good."

"What's he doing here?" Josette asked, a hint of uncertainty in her voice.

"Never you mind. Let's go."

Three sets of slippered feet hurried away, the door closing with finality. Behind her, Christine heard a fourth set of heavier, more methodical footsteps. Grabbing her tender side and bracing her other hand on the floor, she painfully pushed herself up to sit and worriedly looked over her shoulder.

Joseph Buquet leered at her as he slowly approached.

xXx

(The next chapter, and the few that follow it are dark- that said, I"m going to wait til after Christmas to post in this again...)
Image E/C manip made by me
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 12/16/15

Postby Godzuki » Wed Dec 16, 2015 11:14 am

Spoiler:
Oh it was Erik!!!!!!!!!! :nono: You made me worry for nothing!!!!! I adore how she can't hurt him :love:
:hmm: I'm surprised he didn't make a Raoul dummy for her to practice self defense on :mrgreen:


Spoiler:
I loved C's joy at seeing his uncovered face in the morning light, and his surprise at how happy it made her :love: -endearing and unexpected


Aww, you are sweet with your A/N warning at the end. This chapter had such a warm, loving heart to it that I forgive you for how you ended it :P :mrgreen:
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Re: Symphony in the Twilight - updated- 12/16/15

Postby WynterVivaldi » Sun Dec 27, 2015 11:24 am

Merry 4th day of Christmas from Singapore guys :D
I've been unduly absent but nice to be reading these stories again.
In other news, I'm in uni and just came back to these stories for the holidays, ahhhhhh~~~
How I missed them ; w ; I feel old too--
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