|Amongst the Living
Author: Quiet2885 PM
Vignettes that follow “When All is Lost.” Now that the battle is over, lives must slowly be reclaimed. Complete.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Erik & Christine - Chapters: 28 - Words: 121,249 - Reviews: 657 - Favs: 154 - Follows: 56 - Updated: 08-17-09 - Published: 01-15-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4013104
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Here are the vignettes for "When All is Lost." If you're looking for high action and a complex plot, this probably isn't the place to find it. These vignettes are for those readers who wanted to see a glimpse of the characters' lives afterward in a semi-normal setting. Some will be sweeter, and some will be more angsty. Of course, I will do my best to keep them interesting.
A couple of these scenes may be M-rated. I will change the rating and alert you at the top of the vignette when that is so. That way, those who want to avoid these scenes can still enjoy the other vignettes. That said, the scenes will never become smutty or distasteful.
I hope you enjoy them. Thank you as always for your continuing support. And a big thanks to MadLizzy for her continuing help with this saga.
Disclaimer: I sadly do not own the characters of The Phantom of the Opera. Everything belongs to Gaston Leroux. Phantom is owned by Susan Kay.
Read and Review!!!
Three knocks at the door startled Christine as she positioned a painting from her father's house on the apartment wall. Although they'd been safe ever since returning to the country, the paranoia of London still followed her, subconsciously preparing her for anything that might jump out of the shadows.
Fortunately, she was also engaged to someone who enjoyed leaping out of the shadows. Erik was at the window before she could move, peeling back the blinds and discreetly staring at the intruders. One hand was positioned near the pocket of his suit. Her heart gave a nervous little jump.
After a moment, he walked away with a dismissing wave of his hand. "It is a…boy," he muttered. "A smaller one." He silently vanished before she could reply, probably to the same place he hid when she'd called a repairman to come look at the air conditioner. Pushing her limp hair back, Christine glanced through the peephole and opened the door. Her old car was out front, and she didn't want to become the 'suspicious neighbor who never talked to anyone.'
A skinny boy with red curls, probably around thirteen years old, was standing there, holding a white cardboard box with both hands. He looked up, blinked, and spoke in a rehearsed tone, "Hi. Um…I'm selling chocolate for…uh…new football team uniforms." His cheeks turned a little red.
Maybe if she acted nice and normal, people would ignore her. Christine put on a bright smile. "I'd love to buy one!"
She must have been a bit too enthusiastic. The boy gave her an odd glance and then smiled and reached into the box. "All right. Thanks. They're one dollar each."
"Give me two," she said after a moment. "I'll save one for dessert."
"Okay, ma'am. Thanks!" They exchanged candy bars and money. Christine closed the door and exhaled with relief, continuing to wonder whether it was a good idea to move into a populated area. Erik appeared by her side seconds later, casting an irritated glance toward the closed door and muttering. She took his hand and looked around her.
One bedroom, a kitchenette, a living area, a bathroom, a half-bathroom, and a laundry room…all decorated with identical grey-blue carpet and perfectly square windows.
That was the apartment.
Still, despite its size, Christine felt rather possessive of it, as though the small home were a victory prize after a long battle. They'd decided to claim a place for themselves before they got married, a place to find privacy and call their own. They'd rented it soon after arriving in Boston and paid for two months ahead, still having enough money to buy necessities until she could find a job. The rooms were half-furnished with a bed, tables, chairs, and sofas, which saved them the trouble of having furniture delivered.
"I know it's small," she said, noticing that Erik was staring at their surroundings, too. "It's just temporary, though. And then we can--"
"It is fine," he softly interrupted. "It is ours."
"Well…we're renting it. But yes. It's kind of ours." She set the candy on the coffee table. "I got you some chocolate."
Erik glanced at it. "Will children always be intruding onto our property?"
She laughed. "Sometimes they might. For fundraisers. And Halloween." Erik's eyes were disturbed, and his fingers curled. "As long as we're nice to them, they won't get suspicious. It'll be okay." Noticing that the picture was still crooked, she walked over to adjust it. It was a small oil painting of a Victorian American city during the wintertime. She'd liked staring at it since she was a little girl and had kept it after leaving.
When Christine had fixed the painting and turned around, she saw that Erik had taken off his mask again. His expression was blank, as though he wasn't quite sure what to do or where to go. She had once mistaken that very expression for boredom during their travels.
Erik had recently existed in a world of constant action, moving from one place to the next without laws or boundaries--without conscience. Even if such a lifestyle were frightening, how could a domestic life with her compete with it? Her fears slipped out one night while they were in a hotel in Pennsylvania. He was staring at the wall with a blank expression, unmoving. "I guess this isn't very exciting for you, is it?" she'd murmured with a soft laugh.
"Exciting?" he'd asked, glancing at her. "Do you wish to go out? I will take you after dark."
"No. I'm fine." She cleared her throat. "I just know this all isn't as exciting as everything you've done…moving from place to place…."
"Everything I have done?" He sat up and stared at her intensely enough to make her squirm. "You truly believe that I enjoyed those five years?"
"No! Not enjoyed. Just…" She sighed, trying to put it into the right words.
"I spent each of those years planning the most efficient way to kill myself. The lasso? A rope? Or perhaps I should forget the noose; perhaps a bullet would give the highest rate of success? Which of those sounds most exciting to you, Christine?"
He hadn't been angry with her in some time. She'd grimaced. "Oh. No. I--"
"There has never been a moment—never!—when I wished to return to those days. There never will be. Never. Do not ever think otherwise. You do not know what…" He tapered off and looked away.
"I'm sorry," she replied. "I didn't mean anything by it. I just didn't want you to get tired of all this." Of me.
They'd sat in a somber silence for several minutes. Finally, he'd said, "Christine," and reached for her with both arms. "I will never grow tired of this." She'd embraced him without hesitation and never made the implication again.
Now, as Erik stood in the middle of the living room with the blank expression, she merely walked back to his side and took his icy hand. She guided him to the couch, and they sat down together. "Have you figured out all the forms?" she asked, still holding his hand. "For marriage?" He'd gone out two nights in a row to deal with them. She never asked as to exactly what took place, only trusted that it was nothing…too sinister.
"Yes!" His eyes brightened. "They are nearly finished. It was no trouble." Erik paused. "I do not know if it is a requirement to actually see the applicants."
"I will do whatever I must to wed you."
She smiled in gratitude, hoping their day of marriage would be kind to them. "How soon do you want to?"
"As soon as possible. Tomorrow. The next day. I want my wife."
"All right. I'll call." She rested her head against his shoulder. "Hmm. I wonder if they'll provide witnesses. I think they will."
She hesitated. "I don't want to bother Gavin for awhile." They'd only seen him once since their two weeks back in the city. He'd been friendly and in good spirits, but she also sensed that he was trying to repair things back home. They'd come to a silent agreement to keep a distance while they sorted out their own affairs--unless there was an emergency, of course.
Erik shrugged. "Ah. Well, surely someone will want to witness the marriage of a living corpse and a lovely young maiden. It is a fine attraction, nearly worth paying a fee to observe."
"Erik! Why do you have to say those things?" She poked him on the arm with her index finger and looked up at him. His mouth had its familiar half-smile.
Over the weeks, Christine had begun to learn more about his face, for example, the thinner side had more feeling when touched. He also preferred to chew his food on that side. Erik never objected to her resting a hand on his cheek, even when she brushed her fingers over irritated spots that surely caused him pain. To her delight, though, it appeared that the reddened patches were fading now that he didn't wear the mask as often.
"We'll get married somehow," she murmured. "Even if we have to drive to Vegas and find one of those strange theme weddings."
"A theme wedding?"
So Erik didn't know everything in the world…She suppressed a giggle. "Nothing. I'll go make some phone calls." Christine kissed his cheek and hopped up from the sofa.
She'd already bought a dress in Chicago, a white summer one with small frills at the end and embroidered daisies on the edges and straps. It was nowhere near as elaborate as her wedding gown of over a year ago—it wasn't even from a wedding boutique—but the dress was right for this occasion. The material was light and freeing.
Christine made several phone calls to make arrangements for a marriage license and solemnization within the next week. They'd decided to go to Rhode Island for both because there was no waiting period for the license. It all seemed so technical for such an emotional occasion. Then again, she'd abandoned the idea of a carefree fairy tale ending months ago and rarely expected anything to be easy. Still, she believed with all her heart that happily-ever-after was still within reach.
The suit was new; he'd 'purchased' it while organizing the forged marriage records. Still, he was nothing more than a walking cadaver in elegant clothing. The semi-expensive black material hung loosely over him, contrasting with his pale skin. He tied the mask on to see if that helped. It made him look slightly less repulsive and more imposing, which was the most he could have hoped for.
He prepared for anything when they went to retrieve the license and wed, knowing that parts of the evening would make him irate. They were going at the latest hour that the offices were open, which ideally meant that fewer people would be near.
Christine emerged in her dress. At one glance, he nearly fell to his knees at her feet, only restraining himself because she ran past him and said, "I can't find my purse."
His lip twitched in amusement. "It is on the sofa."
She walked to the cushion and scooped it up. After taking a plastic brush from inside and running it through her hair, she finally looked over at him. He nearly wanted to crawl into the laundry room closet, where he had taken to hiding whenever visitors came. Christine smiled. "That's a new suit, isn't it? It looks wonderful."
He gave a clipped laugh. "I fear that it does little good for me. But you..." His gaze fell from her face to her sandaled feet. "I shall spend the rest of my existence fighting dim-witted boys away from you. You are divine."
With her purse slung over her right shoulder, she approached him, face aglow. He allowed his hand to rest on her left shoulder as they walked outside, her warm skin smooth beneath his icy palm. After she'd developed a sickly pallor in London, her coloring had improved over the past month.
The ride there was quiet, and he checked once to make sure he had the proper documentation for the license. The forgery and social security number falsification had been simple, easier than many things he'd done in the past.
Truthfully, there had been no death at his hands since the crazed confrontation with Ms. Neumanns. It wasn't that he was incapable of covering up such an act and ensuring that Christine never knew. His love didn't even watch the news every night. And it wasn't that he had any new respect or liking for the rest of the human race.
It was simply that…well…What was it? Perhaps it was because he wanted to be able to look her in the eye whenever she showed him affection and said, "I love you." Of course, if anyone tried to lay a hand on her or ruin their bliss, he would have no qualms about bringing out the lasso.
He watched her as she drove, his death's skin tingling at the thought that she would soon be his living bride. Christine turned to him after she had parked, her eyes glistening. "Ready?"
God, yes. "Yes."
Thankfully, the lights in the complex weren't too bright, and the entryway wasn't very busy. No one paid them notice when they first walked inside. The faint smell of polished wood and perfume greeted her, and the building was a comfortable temperature.
She could feel Erik's tension as he kept toward the wooden wall. Entering a building through the front door was a rare experience for him. She held his hand tightly, walking forward to the county clerk's office with determination. "Oh!" Christine paused and turned to him. "Do you want to hold my ring now? And I'll keep yours."
"But you must wear your ring." He kept his voice barely audible.
"I will. But you have to give it to me when we're married. And we'll exchange them."
He paused. "We will exchange them now?"
"Within an hour or so."
"Fine." Erik almost appeared forlorn as she slipped the gold band off her finger and handed it to him. She felt the need for a little bit of ceremony, though. He stood to the side as they approached the window, and she could feel her heart hammering.
The older female clerk yawned as Christine presented the application and birth certificates. After a minute, she seemed to notice that only Christine was visible. "Ma'am, both of you need to be present for this."
"We are," she replied, stepping aside. Please, please, please let this work.
As Erik took a slow step into view, the older woman looked over her glasses and up at him, her hazel eyes slowly widening as she arrived at the mask. She cleared her throat and swallowed. "Sir," she began, glancing down at the forms. "May I see your face?"
Christine could feel waves of anger radiating off her silent fiancé. She took a deep breath and spoke. "He was in an accident recently. His face was injured."
The woman pursed her lips. "This is highly unusual. I really need to see you both." Likely noticing Christine's widening frown, she softened her voice. "I'm sure it's not that bad."
"Your night will be all the more pleasant if you do not see," Erik whispered. "All the more pleasant."
The woman blinked and rubbed her ear. "I…Do you…do you have a photo?"
Christine was about to say, "no," but Erik suddenly took out a small laminated card and placed it on the counter. She glanced down to see a picture of an unfamiliar middle-aged man on it. "That was before the accident," Christine blurted out, not wanting to get caught in her lie.
"All right," the woman mumbled after looking over the information on it. The clerk cast a last nervous glance toward Erik and then looked to her computer. "You can…That's fine. I'll get you your license if you'll wait several minutes."
Christine exhaled. Erik was silent as he stepped back to the side. They signed their names when the clerk was finished. Christine Daae. Erik Ackart. It was the first time Christine had seen them written together, and she couldn't help but smile.
As they walked away to find the justice who would marry them in a private room, people did catch sight of them. Some often stared for longer than necessary or whispered to their companions, but no one screamed or ran in the other direction. Christine merely held onto Erik's hand and kept her gaze forward.
They were six minutes early for their appointment. The justice was middle-aged with glasses and trimmed brown hair. Two city workers that would serve as witnesses, both older women, were also seated inside, quietly chatting and drinking water from paper cups. All three looked up when they entered. Christine paused in mid-step and then said, "Hi."
They jerked their gaze away from Erik to look at her. "Good evening," the justice replied, looking her in the eye and giving her a small close-lipped smile. "Are you ready?"
"Yes. I think so." She showed him the license. One of the women continued to stare at Erik. Christine spoke to her. "I like your earrings." If there was anything she had learned from Leonie, it was the advantage that came from being nice to someone's face.
The lady glanced up at her, squirming and turning slightly red. "Oh. Thank you. They were an anniversary present."
"That's nice." Christine turned away. Erik was taking deep, steady breaths beside her, and she squeezed his hand.
"Do you have your own vows?" asked the justice. He was much shorter than Erik and had to sharply turn his head during the few times that he glanced up at her fiancé. "Some people do."
"No," she replied. "Just…"
"The standard vows?"
"Yes." She was grateful for his calmness and maturity. "But we do have rings."
"All right, then. Let's begin."
The justice's words came in a nonsensical whirl. He repeated the vows in a low voice, not once taking his eyes off Christine. It was safest if he could convince himself that she was the only one in the room, and her voice was also soothing as she repeated the words. Toward the end, they exchanged rings, and he was consoled to see the gold band resume its place on her finger. And he had one, too!
At the proper time, he uttered a very soft, slightly musical, "I do." A tear ran down her cheek as Christine repeated the same words moments later. She then leaned forward and kissed the visible portion of his jaw, careful not to disturb the mask.
When all was finished, Christine murmured a thank you to the justice. The man nodded back and wished her well. As they were leaving, one of the women murmured something about 'the tragic, misguided girl.' Seeing a flash of red, he started to whirl around and face the wench. Christine clutched his hand. 'Just ignore her," she whispered. "They don't matter. We'll never see them again."
The red faded; it wouldn't do to kill anyone on their wedding day. He walked forward, his eyes darting over the other people, particularly the males. She is mine now! Mine to touch and love and keep. And none of you undeserving fools will ever have her. He kept her close, proudly holding onto her arm, and only relaxed again when they stepped outside. His face felt sticky and sore beneath the mask, and he was aching to be alone with her.
As soon as they climbed into the car, she removed the porcelain and shook her head. "We've got to find you something more comfortable."
"What are you doing?" He reached for the mask.
"We didn't get to kiss," she replied and then leaned forward to do so. For a spark of a moment, he forgot everything but her. She put her hand on the back of his head and pulled him closer. He allowed a hand to rest in her hair, his fingers threading through the soft strands as their lips touched. They remained like that until breath was required.
"Your wedding day was not ideal, I suppose," he murmured, reluctantly releasing her.
She shrugged. "It was fine. We're married now. That was all I wanted."
"Yes. We are wed. Forever." He still hadn't quite wrapped his mind around it.
After giving him a last quick kiss, Christine pulled out of the parking lot and stared blankly at the road. "Left," he said. Her sense of direction was sometimes poor. He would have to ensure that she never got lost. Or hurt. Or kidnapped….
"Thanks." She turned and became comfortable on the main street. "Do you want anything to eat? We could pick something up at one of the nicer restaurants on the way."
"I am not hungry. But you may."
"No. I'm ready to get home. Maybe tomorrow we can have a nice dinner." Despite the awkwardness of the evening, her eyes held happiness. Every so often, she glanced at him with a small smile. He kept his mask off throughout the drive.
As they neared their home, he stared down at his ring. His ring. His wife. His apartment.