This E/C story takes place after the end of the ALW musical and borrows elements from both Leroux and Kay. Be warned--I am aiming for a happy ending for all concerned here, and Raoul is treated kindly. After all, his only crime was in loving Christine!
The Usual Disclaimer--All characters belong either to Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber, or the RUG. I only wish it were mine—then I could have the ending I want…
In regard to the French language, Paris, certain songs, the Opera Charles Garnier, and Aida—all errors and liberties taken are mine. I am assuming for the purposes of this story, that Christine was Catholic, despite her Scandinavian origins. Perhaps her mother was Catholic….
A/N—this story was updated 4-26-03, with very minor revisions in grammar/spelling.
Holding hands like scared children, they ran up the rough rocky path toward the light. Christine cast a glance back over her shoulder at the sounds of the destruction and stumbled.
"Raoul, we can't just go and leave him there! They'll kill him!" Her blue eyes were wide with fear and she grabbed desperately at his arm.
He gripped her shoulders and helped her to her feet. "Christine, he'll be all right," Raoul said quietly. "You know no one ever sees the Opera Ghost unless he wants them to. He'll hide somewhere safe until this is over."
She fought loose from his hands. "You can't know that." She stared frantically down the stone corridor and he caught her hand, pulling her close.
"Christine, listen to me. He sent us, sent you away to ensure your safety. Don't ruin whatever plans he has by going back down there! Let me take you away from here, back to your flat." The concern in his loving eyes made her drop her head and blush, her hair hiding her expression.
"All right, Raoul," Christine said tiredly. "Take me home." He put a supportive arm around her waist and held her close. For a long minute they clung to each other in the darkness before turning once more toward their future.
Two days later, Raoul came to take her away from Paris.
Raoul sat across from her in his family's carriage, smiling. The woman across from him smiled back, delight clearly written on her lovely face. It was a crisp cold winter day, the kind Mother Nature occasionally found fit to bestow on her children. The sharp rhythm of the horses' hooves matched the slight sway in the carriage. Christine placed her feet carefully on the well-wrapped heated brick and relaxed against the thick crimson cushions. For now, the Républicque was at peace, and they would spend Christmas at the de Chagny country estate.
City streets, shops, and restaurants passed outside. Looking out of the small rectangular windows in the carriage, Christine could see people intent on their errands and the other mundane activities of their daily lives. The busy urban center gradually gave way to quiet neighborhoods and then the bleak, barren fields of winter as the carriage made its way north to Beauvais.
Raoul proudly held out a hand to help her down from the carriage and gave brisk orders for her baggage to be removed and sent upstairs. The driver led the horses on around the winding lane toward the stables and Christine looked about with amazement.
The estate was not large, but the well-maintained landscaped gardens and lovely old house of time-mellowed stone were breathtaking. Raoul placed a proprietary hand on her elbow as they walked up the worn stone stairs and through the front door.
She surrendered her cherry-colored coat with its soft collar of warm brown fur to the waiting hands of the servant that greeted their arrival. Behind them two other men were busily unloading their scant luggage in preparation to take it upstairs. Raoul smiled at her encouragingly and whispered in her ear, "Don't be nervous! Philippe's not here. It's just my aunt and the servants. You won't have to meet anyone else for a few days."
Raoul took her hand and escorted his fiancé down the large foyer and across to a set of double doors. "This was my mother's favorite room. I hope you'll like it."
He opened the doors and stepped through. Christine followed and looked about the room, with its softly glowing colors of deep green, gold, and wine red, and the immense fireplace that dominated the far left wall, its mantle lined with figurines, in awe. An empire-style sofa was set in the center of the room, with chairs to either side, all flanking a low, polished table of golden satiny wood. Tall windows partially covered by heavy corded draperies lined one wall. A graceful, gilded pianoforte stood as if awaiting a singer near the right wall. Christine clasped her hands together, delighted.
"Raoul, this is lovely!"
He smiled and lifted her hand, kissing her fingers. "I thought you might like it. Once we are married, this room will be yours; you may make it over however you wish," he said generously. "We only use it when visitors arrive, so consider it your own."
Christine thanked him again shyly. "Do you entertain often? I'm not sure I'm ready to host salons!"
He took her arm, laughing. "Not often. People get together to hunt, or for dinner. Quite often we'll go on holiday to the coast, or down to one the larger cities. Surely you are not worried about meeting strangers after all your time in Paris!"
The next few days passed quickly. Raoul took her out in the carriage for a tour of the surrounding countryside, proudly pointing out features and telling funny stories from his childhood. At one point he looked up to find her watching him with a pensive expression.
"What is the matter, my darling?' he asked tenderly.
Christine smiled wistfully. "I was just thinking about how different our childhoods were. You had everything you could want—lessons, holidays, toys, schooling, but only the company of your brother. How lonely you must have been," she said softly. "I had Papa, but we had no real home for many years. Papa and I loved each other very much. I did not mind poverty when we had each other and our music. You must have thought me a very naïve child when first we met." Christine made a self-deprecating little grimace.
Raoul fell silent, looking into her gentle face. "No," he said simply, "I never thought you odd. I was jealous you had your father. I remember so little of my parents, and Philippe is so much older than I. The times we played together as children were wonderful for me." He reached out and caressed her cheek. "I'm so glad to have found you again, Christine."
She smiled deeply into his blue eyes and Raoul felt his heart catch. She was so lovely. Truly, God had been watching out for him that night he agreed to accompany Philippe to the Opera.
Rather to his surprise, Christine rarely sang around the chateau. She did appear to enjoy the salon, often curling up there with a book. He teased her about it, saying he had not known she was such a reader, and Christine had smiled faintly. She had not been much of a reader before meeting her dark angel of music. Many evenings, they had spent time together in a large, open room lined with bookshelves and literally hundreds of bound leather volumes. Erik had been knowledgeable about nearly every field of science, literature, and history. She had felt shamed by her own ignorance and had confessed so, in the face of his much greater understanding.
Gleaming black eyes studied her from behind the mask. "Why should this worry you? You have spent your life training your body for the stage, and now your voice for the opera. I have had very little to do with my time, all these years, and reading has helped to fill my days. I do not think any less of you, Christine," he had said quietly.
Unhappy that she had once again reminded him of his solitary existence, she had flushed and dropped her gaze. Wisely, Erik had said nothing else on the topic. In the days to follow, she discovered new books on the shelves in her room; light romances, vivid travelogues of foreign lands, comic novellas, poetry, and several classics. He would gently ask her what she had read and liked. It became habit for him to discuss his own researches and pursuits with her, often reading aloud from the volumes he consumed in such great quantities. Some evenings they would read plays, each taking different characters, until they roared with laughter at the effort to portray so many roles. In his own deft way, Erik had understood her dissatisfaction at her own formal education and had sought a way to help. Though he never spoke of his desire to help her widen her mind, Christine knew and deeply appreciated his efforts on her behalf.
Several events had disturbed Christine's pleasure in this, her first visit to the de Chagny estate. Philippe had arrived a few days after later, and though he greeted Christine with stiff politeness, it was clear he was displeased with his younger brother's actions. They had retreated to Philippe's masculine study to "discuss matters of the family business", but Christine had heard her name mentioned in the heated exchange that followed. Raoul had emerged white-lipped with fury and had refused to discuss the conversation.
Evenings were the most difficult periods of the day. Dining at the de Chagny estate was a formal affair. Used to the rigorous life of the theatre and of ballet, Christine found the rich, heavily seasoned food each night almost more than she could eat. The stilted conversation made the meal even more awkward. She knew very little from the haute monde of Parisian society and was reluctant to gossip about the people she had known in the Opera. Christine had also flatly refused to discuss with anyone the events of the previous autumn.
Perhaps the most painful single example had been the dinner party given in her honor. Christine had worn the best dress she had, a charming lavender-blue that made her eyes appear even more intense. Hortense, the little maid of Raoul's aunt, had come and helped to dress her hair for the evening, commenting on its luxuriance and length. Christine fastened her Papa's crucifix around her neck, thinking she was prepared for the evening.
Raoul had invited four other couples, relatives and friends of the family. She was anxious to make a good first impression, knowing these people would be her intimate circle from now on, and she was prepared to be a gracious hostess for the night. In the end, it had taken all her skills learned in the theatre to maintain the façade of her composure that evening.
Raoul had been genuinely glad to introduce Christine to his cousins and friends as "my dear fiancé" and like most men, was blind to the sharp looks of examination and evaluation by which a woman takes the measure of another. She felt her face flame, uncertain why she was dismissed so coolly by these well-bred people of society, and yet determined they should not see her hurt. The months spent under Carlotta came to her aid that evening as she ignored the sly comments and cutting questions about her family, her past, and the dubious reputation they seemed to feel anyone who appeared on the stage should have. Christine somehow lasted through the evening, but had lain awake in mingled fury and tears for hours that night.
She could not dismiss a growing awareness that they had some how made a mistake. Raoul held her close, and was generous in his affections. His hands were always gentle, respectful when he touched her, yet she could feel the veiled passion in his kiss. That Raoul felt ardor, felt desire was obvious, but what did she, Christine feel? Only one time had she kissed a man and felt anything stir inside her. That one kiss had haunted her dreams. Up in her darkened bedroom, Christine leaned back against the wall of the window seat, gazing out across the moonlit courtyard.
She approached him, pity in her heart. This poor man, having never known love or human compassion. Even now, in his eyes she saw the endless depths of sorrow and fear through which he viewed life. Facing him, she thought of the times he had helped her, listened to her problems, how he had risked so much, and she had given so little. Thinking perhaps to bribe him with a promise to return, Christine stepped closer, seeing his eyes widen. She placed her hands on his shoulders and gently touched her lips to his.
He gasped, the exquisite pressure of her lips and closeness of her body too much for his senses to bear. For a moment, his hands which had never before made an abrupt or inelegant gesture flailed wildly in the air. Confused by his unreasoning panic, Christine broke the brief contact and looked up into his dilated black eyes.
A lifetime's yearning stared back at her, then Erik bent his face to her own, kissing her with a desperate intensity. For several minutes Christine stood with her arms tightly around him, feeling his warm, soft mouth upon hers. Her flesh came alive with a need to absorb him into her very core, to perpetuate this incredible rush of sensation.
His tall, slim muscular form shaking uncontrollably, Erik pushed her away violently, and she stepped back, still feeling the heat from his body, unable to meet his grief stricken expression, stunned at what they had shared.
Erik turned to Raoul, watching with surprise and horror. "Take her and go! Go now!" he had shouted.
Flushing, Christine put her hands to her face. With Raoul, there was no uncertainty, no terror. She loved the handsome young Vicomte de Chagny; she wore his ring. Why then did his kisses not arouse the same need within her?
Twisting the gold ring on her finger, Christine let her head rest against the cool glass window. Their engagement was universally envied at the Opera Populaire, and she would be safe, cherished at his side. And it would be at his side, for Raoul had told her simply that she would not appear on the stage again, once they were married. His brother had been most insistent. The family's reputation must be considered, and for a wife to work at any job was demeaning to the husband. Raoul had seemed honestly bewildered at her less than enthusiastic reaction to this news.
Explanation had only made it worse.
"But I love the music for its own sake, Raoul! It's not the applause or the fame! Performing is harder work than you think it is!" she stormed angrily.
"It is no longer an issue; you will never work again," he snapped, goaded at this unusual defiance.
"I've worked and studied, I've practiced for this for years!"
"You may sing here in our house, you may sing for our guests if you want an audience! But you will not appear on the stage of the Opera, or on any other stage while you are my wife!"
Raoul felt the silence fall between them. He looked across the table at Christine toying with the delicate stem of her wineglass, turning it slowly in her fingers, staring down into the pale liquid. She had sent away both her soup and fish courses almost untouched and now sat white with suppressed fury.
He reached across the table to her, appalled they were having such an argument. "Christine, I am so sorry. Perhaps we can arrange for you to sing in the Cathedral choir sometime." It was a generous offer of conciliation, and they both knew it. Christine blinked back tears and smiled tremulously at her fiancé.
"Perhaps so, Raoul. You must excuse me; I must be more tired than I had thought." She walked around the table, offering her face to be kissed. "I am going upstairs to bed. We'll talk about it in the morning."
When morning came, neither of them mentioned their previous night's discussion.
Raoul folded the paper soberly and laid it aside. Christine would have to be told, and he did not think she would take the news well. He had been so certain the clever, tormented man who inhabited the lower levels of the Opera would never be found, much less caught. Frowning, he walked to the window of Philippe's study and stared out across the gardens, beautiful even in winter. Christine had not been as happy here as he had hoped. She had grown quiet, preferring to spend her time in the salon by the fire with a book. The gilded piano, which at first he had thought would have given her much pleasure remained instead closed and silent. She had sung for him only once, and had gently but firmly refused to sing in front of his friends. At the time he had passed it off to shyness or embarrassment, but now he wondered.
Though he believed she had told him honestly of the events that had transpired during the time she spent underground with the Opera Ghost, Raoul had often wondered if Christine had ever truly examined her feelings for the lonely, tortured genius who had made her the center of his world. As repulsive as the man looked, there was no denying his brilliance and his unswerving devotion to the young opera singer.
The Vicomte de Chagny sighed and stiffly dropped the curtain across the window again. His was an old and distinguished family, and he had been taught from birth to believe that duty, however unpleasant, must be faced. Raoul collected the paper from the little table and headed toward the salon.
Christine rose to her feet with a genuine smile of welcome that quickly faded at his grim expression. "Raoul," she said worriedly, "what's wrong?"
"Philippe sent me the paper from Paris," he said quietly. "I'm afraid the news is…not good."
Christine's dark blue eyes widened in her pale face and she took the paper from him with shaking hands. Raoul turned the pages, pointing silently to the article in the lower left-hand corner.
He was prepared for a hysterical reaction, but Christine grew so white he thought she would faint. She dropped the paper to the floor and stepped backwards, instinctively running away from the overwhelming pain. "Oh, Erik, no!" she cried. Raoul stepped toward her, intending to offer sympathy and comfort but Christine whirled, her face contorted in grief. "Please don't. Please just leave me alone," she sobbed, jerking free of his grasp to run toward the doors.
He caught her again in only two steps, pulling her slender body to his and wrapping an arm around her heaving shoulders. Christine beat her fists against his broad chest in a frenzy of hysteria, while a torrent of tears soaked his starched white shirt front. Raoul murmured words of comfort into her soft dark hair, holding her carefully.
Eventually, her sobs ceased and she leaned against him exhaustedly. He guided her over to the plush velvet sofa and gently seated her there. Raoul released Christine's fingers with a quick squeeze and went to the door, calling for some refreshment to be brought to the salon at once.
When the maid had departed, Christine sat up, automatically reaching for the heavy, ornate silver teapot, lifting it from the tray. She poured two cups of the fragrant beverage into fragile porcelain cups, adding milk and sugar as needed. Raoul took the proffered cup and saucer from her, catching her eye.
"Christine, we must talk," he said gently, seeing the apprehension on her face. "I'm truly sorry about your friend. And I'm not angry with you, please don't think I am. But this," he gestured around the airy room. "You've not been happy here. I can tell." His fingers carefully brushed away a new tear that trickled down her pale cheek. "Was it me?"
Christine gasped and scrambled to her knees, catching his sleeve as he tried to walk away from her. "Oh, no, Raoul! Never think that! You've been kindness itself to me! It's just—this is not the life I'm used to," she said, struggling to find the words. "I've never had much money, never had servants. Papa and I were so poor, you know. When I was at the Conservatoire, I was only a student, and even at the Opera, the fame was still so new to me. This is all a bit…overwhelming," she said honestly.
Raoul sat slowly and leaned back against the arm of the couch. "Yes, I can see how it would be," he said dryly. "But Christine, we don't have to live here. We can always take a set of rooms in Paris, if you would rather live there."
Long dark curls fell across her face as Christine bent forward to replace her cup on the low polished table. "Raoul," she said in a low voice, "I can't keep letting you think about a future with me. I love you, but I don't love you enough." She twisted the ring on her finger nervously. "You deserve so much more, a wife who can be the mistress of this chateau, who can make you proud. I'm afraid I will always be an embarrassment to you, and to your family."
He touched her face gently. "I would never be ashamed of you."
She blinked back tears and looked away, tracing her finger along the carved wooden back of the sofa. "I am not the kind of woman you should marry, Raoul. You are…too much like a brother to me," she said quietly.
For a long moment, neither spoke. "I suppose I deserved that," Raoul said, releasing her hand. "I've known for a while you didn't…desire me, but I thought I could change your mind, that you would grow to love me as I love you."
"You don't really, you know," Christine said tiredly. "We've each made the error of mistaking friendship for love."
In a sudden blinding moment of clarity, Raoul stiffened. "Christine, don't let your sorrow for Erik destroy what we have."
Her artistic temperament boiled to the surface. "Don't speak to me about Erik! You're the one who insisted we leave him behind to face the mob alone!"
Raoul took a deep breath, refusing to be provoked. "Christine," he said earnestly, leaning forward, "the man was a murderer. He was hardly sane at times."
"What he did he did for love of me," she replied sadly, her eyes filling with tears once more.
She rose, turning away, and he followed her across the polished floor, cupping her cheek gently with his fingers. "Christine," he said softly, knowing the answer, "do you love him?"
Her blue eyes looked bruised, and haunted with the past. "I don't know," she whispered, covering his warm hand with her own and pressing her face into it.
Raoul smiled sadly down at her. "Christine, don't tell me stories. We've known each other too long. Do you care for this man?"
She drew a long shuddering breath and shut her eyes. "Yes," she whispered. "But it's too late now."
He pulled her back into his comforting embrace while she cried again, stroking her soft hair. After a long interval in which she clung to him and he stared out across the room, seeing the death of his dreams, Raoul gave thought to how to form the next words he knew he must say.
"Do you want to break our engagement?" he asked softly, lifting her tear-stained face.
Unable to speak, Christine shut her eyes and nodded. Raoul shut his eyes in pain. "Then I release you, with no hold on you or your property, with only love in my heart."
Christine slowly pulled off the delicate shining ring from her slender finger and offered it to him. Raoul took it blindly and merely dropped the golden band into his waistcoat pocket, buttoning it closed.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I never meant to cause you pain."
Raoul clasped her hands together and raised them up to kiss her fingers lightly. "Christine," he said quietly, "I will always love you. If you ever need anything, please know I would move Heaven and Earth to help you."
She smiled tremulously up at him. "Thank you, Raoul," she said shakily. "That means a lot to me. I would have hated to have lost your friendship or your respect over this."
He gave her hands a gentle squeeze and released them. "Come, then. Let me take you home in the carriage."
Once back in Paris, Christine grew pensive and silent. "What will you do now?" Raoul asked worriedly.
She shrugged. "Return to the Opera. I've had two letters from M. Firmin asking if I wouldn't reconsider coming back to them. With both Piangi and Carlotta gone, and the several others who resigned as well, they are rather desperate for known singers."
Raoul walked Christine up the flight of stairs into her old set of rooms, carrying her luggage and carefully inspecting the flat, looking for evidence of disturbances during her two months absence. Satisfied all was well, he turned to go.
Shyly, Christine put a hand on his arm. "Thank you, Raoul, for everything," she smiled, and he forced himself to smile back.
Outside her flat, Raoul kissed Christine one last time. For an eternity, he stared down into her midnight blue eyes, memorizing every line of her face, caressing her silky curls.
"Remember how dear you are to me," he said seriously. "If you ever need a friend, I am always here for you." She nodded, unable to speak past the lump in her throat, and hugged him tightly. As the glossy horses pulled the carriage away, Christine knew another chapter in her life had closed.
Reach out to me
Call out my name
And I would bring you back again today.
Josh Groban, "Home To Stay"