HEAVEN RAINED DOWN!
A/N There is a note to my readers at the end of this one-shot
A quick note to my reviewers are at the end also.
Raoul de Chagny saw the officer out himself. After good-byes were exchanged, the young nobleman leapt like a deer. Yahoo! The Opera Ghost had been captured at last.
The help stopped their work, wondering what made their kindly employer run to his office as if the devil himself was chasing him. Shrugging, they returned to their chores; the master had become even more impulsive since his marriage.
Impromptu picnics, baths in the middle of the day, horseback riding by moonlight… enough to make the maids blush if they dwelled upon it.
The sky had turned dark, twinkling with a million stars. The shadows pouring in the window contrasting with the red-gold flames dwindling in the fireplace. The young noble sitting at the desk didn't notice the room growing colder. He was completely engrossed with his important correspondence.
A knock resounded firmly on the door, "Come in," the young man answered. He rubbed the back of his sore neck.
"Raoul," a soft voice queried.
Immediately standing up, Raoul hurried to his young bride. He hadn't realized he had worked so late. Count Raoul de Chagny wasn't in the habit of neglecting his beautiful wife.
"Countess, forgive me. I was working in a blind stupor until your bright light awakened me."
Giggling the young woman reached up to kiss his lips.
"Ah, work? What work? I'm yours to command my lady," the young husband made a sweeping gesture.
Holding out her hand, the woman haughtily commanded, "For your forgetfulness, I sentence you to having dinner in our quarters tonight."
"Such punishment, I don't know how I should bear it!"
Raoul dropped to his knees, laying his head on his wife's rounded stomach, "Is it your fault, little one? Have you been good for your Maman today," Raoul gently rubbed the growing belly that nurtured his child.
Countess de Chagny twisted her fingers in the young man's long hair, her voice becoming husky, "How can she act otherwise, she has you for a father."
The delicate noblewoman drew him to his feet, placing her head on his chest, "You spoil us, Raoul."
"I would snare the moon for you, if you wanted it Lotte." He held her hand, blowing out the candles and banking the fire.
"Your husband shows good sense, asking me to check with the head doctor in your stead." Madame Giry held tightly to the seat. The carriage swayed around a wagon parked in front of a business.
"Yes, it is so close to my time, I fear I would give my child a disease if I entered the hospital myself," Christine de Chagny grimaced, bracing her feet on the floor.
"You should not be riding in this contraption, either."
The Countess saw familiar signs of the retired, stern ballet instructor. Her stare resembling a Banty hen eyeing a hapless bug.
"Make sure they have enough bandages and meat for soup for the next week," she asked the woman across from her.
"Yes, and pick up the cleaning reports," Meg Giry said in a false monotone.
"Worry," Madame Giry and Meg said at the same time.
The carriage swerved again, "If they keep this up, the baby is going to come flying out." The carriage swerved again. "Poor babe is going to enter this world zipping across the city as if it was fired from a sling-shot," Madame Giry hit the top of the vehicle with her cane.
Christine was amused, the tirade was one continuous drone. Spectacular, even for Madame Giry.
"I'm sorry Madame, there seems to be trouble," The driver, Julian, spoke through the sliding glass. The women could immediately hear shouting. Christine rolled up the black curtains and gasped. They were driving through a menacing, dangerous acting crowd.
As far as she could see there was a teeming river of hate, each carrying sticks, pitchforks and hanging ropes.
"I can't back up, Madame, they closed in behind us."
Someone pulled on the harness stopping the horses. Unwashed bodies crowded the carriage, pulling Julian from his seat. The lead horse reared and Meg screamed, adding to the chaos.
Craning her neck, Christine could see that ahead another carriage had been stopped. Its occupants were lined up outside in front of the shouting crowd.
"Baron and Baroness LeFaive! I have to do something!"
"No, Christine, the Count would have my head if something happened to you," Madame Giry answered.
The door flew open, "Lookee, what do we have here," a rancid smelling man poked his head in the door.
He stepped outside to speak to his consorts and Christine took her chance.
Shrugging off Madame Giry's hand, she stood up and blocked the door, hand protectively covering her belly.
"Monsieur Benot? Is this the way you repay the Count and me?"
The straggly man stopped and turned, hurriedly taking off his cap, "Countess de Chagny? Begging your pardon, Madame."
"Stop this nonsense right now," Madame Giry ordered from behind her.
"I'm sorry ladies, but one voice can't be heard above this noise," the man looked down and shuffled his feet. Suddenly standing tall, he walked up to the carriage and vowed, "I will go down fighting for you, my lady."
Christine bit her lip; maybe a low male voice couldn't be heard. Taking a deep breath, she started a Swedish lullaby her father had taught her.
As if hypnotized those nearest stopped rioting to listen. Resembling one big ocean wave, one by one hats were taken off and mouths shut in order to hear.
Her crystal voice floated high into the air, soothing careworn hearts. The young woman didn't see M. Benot help Julian back up on the driver's seat.
She hadn't finished the song yet but a rumble had started from the back of the teeming multitude. Tears formed in Christine's eyes as she heard the growing shout of, 'Countess. Countess. Countess!
A small woman in peasant's garb climbed on top of a barrel. "No harm to the Countess! If it weren't for her patronage at the hospitals, my man would be dead!"
She stepped down, and a man in a long green cloak, shouted, "She isn't like the rest. She is one of us. God Bless the Countess!"
As Christine sang another song, the mood changed drastically. M Benot looked up grinning showing what few teeth he had left.
The Baron and Baroness were once again ensconced in their carriage. The man in the green cape stood by the lead gelding, ready to lead the team. M Benot grasped the de Chagny harness and turned the horses toward home.
Madame Giry allowed herself to cry that night. She had witnessed a tiny bit of what it must have looked like when Moses had parted the Red Sea.
Father Austen watched the young parishioner as he made his way to the altar. Lighting a candle, the nobleman crossed himself, bowing his head to pray. He had done this three times a week for the past three months.
The priest knew for a fact the young, sincere, Count asked for his wife's health and that of his unborn child before. But now? He had baptized the infant two weeks ago. There was something else that worried the young man. The priest shook his head sadly. Whatever it was, Count de Chagny hadn't revealed it in confession.
Raoul rode his white stallion behind the family carriage. He didn't consider himself a spiteful man. He had to do this. The Phantom had to make amends to society. His reign of terror had ended with his capture, but he could not stay a continuous threat.
These last five months had been a drain on his resources. Guards willing to chance their lives had been few and far between. The Phantom had not made their jobs easy.
A day's ride out of town stood an older de Chagny residence. The carriage stopped and several guards stepped down, one taking his horse's reins.
"If you hear anything, see anything, smell anything suspicious, one of you ride back and warn the Countess, the rest of you join me.
Christine had not been happy when she found out he had kept the Phantom's imprisonment from her. But she had calmed down at his reasoning. He didn't want her to lose the child or Heaven forbid, die from complications herself.
She had held him and asked, "How can one argue with such great love."
She still was not aware the Phantom's fate relied on the man's reaction to her.
Briskly walking up the brick walk, Count de Chagny checked for a missive in his pants pocket. He made sure his hand gun was in the other. He absently ran his hand along his saber handle.
Raoul checked his watch. Right on time. Nadir Kahn had almost died with him in that horrible chamber of mirrors. Such genius the Opera Ghost possesed to waste it in such a way! The Middle Eastern police chief was as anxious as Raoul himself to put an end to the Phantom's reign.
Nadir Kahn's respect had grown by leaps and bounds for the young Count. He had insisted that the police chief along with Darius, live in his guest cottage. He had placed Madame Giry and her daughter, Meg in the house, making them companions for the Countess.
Nadir shook his head as he waited to join Raoul. 'Ah, Erik I see how you fell so deeply in love with Christine Daae. You should be proud. Along with Madame Giry, you raised a woman to astound the world,' Grimacing, his thoughts continued, 'I see no other way out of this, for you my friend.'
Raoul had not visited his prisoner since his capture. Hanging back, he allowed Nadir to go in the hall. Nadir immediately noticed the hall window was open and fresh air flowed freely.
Hesitantly, he strode to the barred door. There were three locks on it. The young Count said they were changed every day. He had drolly stated it kept him busy finding new models.
On the floor was a rubber mat. Erik was lying on it with his arm across his eyes. He had on a clean white shirt and black pants, a pair of shoes were lined up at the foot of the mattress.
A clean army blanket was folded to the side. Two cells had been opened together. Plenty of exercise room. A covered chamber pot was in one corner. In another corner books were neatly stacked. In another corner a stack of papers rustled in the breeze.
Before Nadir could say anything, Erik sniffed then took a great breath. He sprang from the floor. Standing tall he looked wide-eyed at his old friend. (The one he had tried to kill.) He had developed a small conscience during his imprisonment.
Nadir skimmed his face, and then noticed that the man had gained weight. He also was not as pale as usual.
"Daroga! How did you find me?"
Nadir looked down, "I have known where you were for the past five months or more, doomstam."
Erik rose to his full height, "You…have known and not released Erik," anger washed over the Phantom.
"No, my friend you did not deserve to be released. It is time for you to pay your debt to society."
"So. You have become like the rest of the world who shuns Erik. You deliberately let the boy…"
"The boy is right here," Raoul interrupted the tirade.
"Have you been treated poorly, Erik," Nadir asked.
The Phantom looked down from his great height, crossing his arms. Meeting Raoul's eyes he glanced away, "No, as far as prisons go, I have not been treated poorly. Raising a bony finger he made stabbing motions at Raoul," his guards threatened me with force feeding and enemas if I did not eat!"
"They also threatened Erik with a whole platoon of soldiers to hold me down, if I didn't," he hissed.
Nadir counted himself blessed when he contained the smile begging to twitch at his lips. He shot a glance out of the corner of his eye. The Count only crossed his hands behind his back and nodded.
"I would not have you die while on my watch, Phantom. Dr. Weir's massage regime is the foremost treatment now days. Along with good food, fresh air, and exercise. Seems the doctors were right."
Not waiting for an answer, Raoul reached in his pocket. Raising his head, years of de Chagny pride shone from his blue eyes, "You were not there for Christine to deliver our wedding invitation to. It hurt her. I do not like to see Christine hurt."
"Here is a missive for you."
Erik stepped forward and snatched the envelope from the young man's hand. Looking down he released the breath he was holding. Thin shoulders sagged. It wasn't from Christine.
'Mademoiselle Antoinette E. de Chagny requests the honor of your presence at dinner tonight.' The Phantom turned from his tormentor, to calm his racing heart. Turning back around he spat, "So a family matriarch wants to see the monster before Erik meets his fate."
"No, that's not it at all," Nadir stated as he picked up a box, "Here is a dinner outfit and I do believe the Count has something of yours."
Raoul reached once again into his coat and brought out a white object. Erik's eyes narrowed. His mask!
"Mademoiselle Giry found this, and gave it to Christine. She has kept it locked up safely ever since."
"Dress Phantom. Darius, Madame Giry, Meg, Antoinette and Christine are awaiting your arrival. Raphael! Please bring the other guards and escort this man to the carriage when he is dressed."
The Phantom blew through thin lips. Darn the Daroga, he was going to watch as he dressed. No way to make a weapon with his eagle eyes on guard.
Darius opened the door to three anxious men. The master of the house led the way, followed by Erik and Nadir, "Good to see you Master Erik," Darius bowed.
"Darius," The Phantom acknowledged the greeting while studying the easiest route to escape. To his chagrin the guards followed, taking up posts.
A thump sounded on the carpeted floor. Erik couldn't believe his eyes. There stood Madame Giry and her daughter. He started to bow but was startled by a pair of arms flying around his neck.
Raoul and Nadir exchanged glances. Yes, the massage treatment seemed to work, Erik wasn't afraid of being touched anymore. The Count could rest easier knowing an accidental touch wouldn't set the dark man off.
Madame Giry coughed, embarrassed at her behavior, "You remember my daughter, Marguerite."
Meg curtsied offering her hand which the Phantom kissed.
Backing away the group looked at each other awkwardly, "The cook said dinner would be ready in an hour," Madame Giry informed Raoul.
Swallowing, head held high, Raoul stated, "Come this way," He opened the library door and gestured for the Phantom to go inside. Gently he closed it behind him.
Confused the Phantom looked around, and then gasped. Standing by the window was Christine! She was as pretty as ever, maybe more so. Her figure had matured into luscious curves and her face had filled out.
He could see no more, tears flooded his eyes when she cried, "Angel," running into his arms. She kissed him over and over on the skin exposed on his neck. When his legs gave out from under him, she kissed his bald head.
"Your husband would allow…," Erik asked confused, noticing they were in private.
"He trusts me," she smiled through her tears.
Standing up she offered her hand. Once he was on his feet, Erik found another chair, feeling dizzy.
Twenty minutes later, after many tears and promises of forgiveness, he became brave enough to ask the question foremost on his mind, "So, you love the boy?"
Christine had been dreading this question, "Yes, Angel, I love him with all my heart."
She grasped his face as he turned from her, "But that doesn't mean I don't love you. You are my Angel. For ten years you were the only father I ever had. For ten years I adored you. I want you to know, I still do.
"Would you please stay with us and be my father?"
Erik sat back and clutched at his chest. Did she say she loved Erik and wanted him to be her father?
A knock sounded on the door. Christine opened it. In a turmoil, Erik watched, she seemed to be retrieving something from someone.
Turning around, looking much as she did ten years ago, she asked, "Would you be my father and Antoinette's grandfather?"
Christine held a handful of wiggling lace in her arms. Sitting beside Erik she looked up at him. Before he realized what she was doing, he had a soft fuzzy head nuzzling his chin.
"This is Antoinette E. de Chagny? What does the E stand for?"
Erik sobbed like a baby, burying his face in her neck, when Christine grasped his hand and said, "Erika."
When it was all said and done, Erik couldn't leave. He would take Christine's love any way she was willing to give it.
Thanks to de Chagny connections, his music was published. He worked at home as a contract architect, proud to contribute to his new family in a legal manner.
Christine, Meg and Madame Giry never tired in their effort as matchmakers. He would always smile and decline gracefully. Who could compare to an angel?
During the oncoming war, Raoul, Nadir and the Phantom worked hard at closing off tunnels under the Opera House and making a safe place for their family, if needed.
Throughout the years, Erik was proud to hear crowds cheer, Countess, as Christine rode through the streets. Her quick thinking was touted by the Baron and Baroness and opened the aristocracy's doors to her also.
Erik had to pinch himself often. He was loved! Christine treated him like a beloved father. Antoinette, then Michael, Caleb, Marcus, Faith, Hope and Charity treated him as a loving grandfather.
Christine had insisted he not wear the mask around the children, the adults soon paid little attention also.
He even came to respect the boy. Young de Chagny was a good husband, father, son, friend, administrator and yes, son-in-law.
He had Nadir to beat at chess and Madame Giry to match wits with. Young Giry had married a Baron and her children called him grandfather, also.
The rooms were crowded with family; children were talking in subdued tones. Behind a familiar bedroom door, Grand-Pere Raoul was sitting in his wheel chair. Meg and Antoinette Erika were inside also.
At Erika's sniff, Erik held out a shaking hand. "Hush child. I won't be alone. I will see Aunt Giry, Uncle Nadir and your Maman.
"Though be warned, once I find her, I will give her a piece of my mind for working so long with the wounded and contracting that disease…" Erik hesitated as his weakened lungs gasped for air.
Turning to the man in the wheel chair, he rasped, "I don't know if I ever properly thanked you for everything. For being a better man than I, in sharing your family with me. I don't know if I could have done the same."
"Sure you would have, never forget, you are a good man. You just needed someone to give you a chance," Raoul held out a shaking hand and covered Erik's.
"It didn't come easily," The Count reminisced, "I was contemplating exposing the most precious beings in my world to the enemy.
"I once heard Father Austen give a sermon on forgiveness. The bible said a person must forgive seventy times seven in one day. I may have been remiss also, I forgot to say...I Forgive you."
Squeezing the Count's hand, closing his eyes, Erik smiled. Thanks to a blond boy and a curly haired girl, an old monster could compare his life to heaven. Never taking them for granted: the kisses he had received throughout the years he compared to rain drops after a lifetime of drought.
Drifting away, he thanked God that on him, Heaven had indeed rained down.
A/N I realize that some of you may be put off by the mention of force feeding and enemas. Through research I found this was a common practice for at least forty more years. Especially for the upcoming suffragettes in their quest for the vote. Raoul wanted the best medical care available. The massage treatment was also up and coming medicine. Months of being exposed to touch and finally realizing the benefit would have helped The Phantom's Health.
Thanks for the reviews, and as for being smothered in fluff, it won't hurt you, it absorbs into your system.