What Raging Fires
The audience seated that auspicious night in the Opera Populaire was dazzled. The respected, tasteful theatre's stage was bedecked in a plush, glittering wave of blazing scarlet, as though seduction itself had turned into something you could hold in the palm of your hand. The golden effigies that surrounded the theatre's domed roof seemed to writhe with pleasure in their new home, and the soft candlelight from the spectacular chandelier danced wildly in the hushed, expectant atmosphere. Crimson curtains cascading down from the ceiling, translucent enough to allow the light to shine through and create twisting red reflections on every surface. However, the audience paid little heed to the breathtaking set, and locked their eyes on the rising star amidst it, Mademoiselle Christine Daaé.
The scandal of her recent disappearance and abrupt return had created an air of mystery around her, and her fabulous voice had captivated every man, woman, and child that heard it. Society's prying eyes wished only to delve deeper into her secrets and reveal her, disguising its thirst for gossip with sweet adoration.
Now, as the young woman was displayed on the stage, they were entranced. Her costume was a simple yet alluring peasant's dress, delicate white lace against a black bodice. Untamed dark tresses spilled down her back and over her shoulders, contrasting dramatically with her porcelain complexion. Wide brown eyes, full pink lips, and a blooming red rose in her hair completed the image of exotic beauty placed before them. And inside, her thoughts were just as crazed and chaotic as her surroundings.
God help me, God help me, God save me… Christine prayed to herself, amazed at her ability to recall her part when her mind was somewhere else entirely. She tried to avoid searching the theatre for the police, armed with muskets and discreetly placed around the stage. She knew when they caught sight of their prey they would fire. And Lord knows what would become of her then…
Why, You'll marry Raoul of course, she told herself firmly, it's all you want, to be his wife, his love, his lifetime. Then why was that future so unclear in her head? Her thoughts strayed once again to the rooftop the evening before, when he had offered her a sheltered, quiet life away from all she had come to know as home, her beloved Opera House. But it was also His Opera House, and that was what made her fear it.
Him. How she tried so hard to keep her thoughts from him, and how she failed. Her own Angel of Music, who was now revealed as the Opera Ghost, and utterly and wholly in love with her. How his dark, sensual voice had enchanted her, lured her to his hideaway underneath the Opera. It haunted her mind, her dreams, every breath she inhaled was He, and every move she made was because of Him. He possessed her, like no other ever had.
Not even Raoul's love, she confessed to herself, not even he can vanquish this magician from my head. But it would, she had to keep reassuring herself, it must. She could not live her life with so divided a soul. She tried to imagine herself, a year from now…With Raoul, who would inherit his title, Comte de Chagny, after their marriage…A life without danger, without darkness, without the music, both a blessing and a curse, that she was born with.
No, she realized with horror, I will never sing again. I must sacrifice my song for Raoul. She hardened her heart. Of course she would sacrifice it; it was only a silly whim that she had, to become a famous Opera singer. Love was much more important. Love, love… Her thoughts wandered back to the Phantom.
And as if her mind had summoned him forth, a hauntingly familiar voice floated out behind her.
"You have come here, in pursuit of your deepest urge, in pursuit of that wish, which till now has been silent, silent…"
A slick, tingling heat spread from the pit of Christine's stomach and flowed to the tips of her fingers. Her eyes barely registered the stir of the perplexed audience as this new figure emerged onto the stage. What on Earth had the new managers concocted? What was this startling yet fascinating performance, Don Juan Triumphant?
"I have brought you, that our passions may fuse and merge - in your mind you've already succumbed to me - dropped all defenses, completely succumbed to me…"
So he was here, this had been his plan all along: to play Don Juan himself, and fool them all in doing so. No one, Christine knew, had suspected this. She could see from the scandalized look on Raoul's face in his box seat above her, and the stunned rapture of the performers offstage, in the corner of her eye.
His voice, deep and overpowering, flooded her body and she shuddered. She had tried to deny the connection she felt with him, the unwavering knowledge in her brain that he was somehow always there; not haunting her, as she had foolishly led others to believe, but guiding her, like the Angel she had once knew him to be.
He was an obsessive murderer, she had heard endlessly from the others in the Opera House, but he had treated her with the utmost devotion and care that she thought of their Phantom and her Angel as two separate existences. The Angel had raised her and given her voice wings, had shown her his music deep underground that night that now seemed years ago. The Phantom had thrust her away, yelled at her when she removed his mask.
That was when the first flicker of apprehension had come forth within her, soon growing into a horrible dread of the man who was once her loving tutor.
"Now you are here with me: no second thoughts, you've decided, decided…"
But now, as she let the mesmerizing melody of his song wash over her, she could not help but think, if someone tore her only shield away, would she not react the same?
"Past the point of no return, no backward glances – our games of make-believe are at an end…"
The hairs on the back of her neck raised as she felt a pair of eyes on her, and she risked a glance at Him to find his gaze directed right at her, his dark eyes flashing. His movements were fluid and graceful as he moved across the stage towards her. She got to her feet, captivated.
"Past all thought of if or when, no use resisting - abandon thought, and let the dream descend…"
He moved closer, and closer still. With each step she felt that same strange heat grow warmer yet. His hand reached out, and she instinctively grasped it, drawing in a deep breath at the thrill of his touch. He drew out each note he sang to the extent that Christine felt restless.
"What raging fire shall flood the soul? What rich desire unlocks its door? What sweet seduction lies before us…?"
Suddenly, he pulled her to him, turning her so her back was against his broad chest. She gasped softly as he brought his hand up to her neck, and intertwined the other in her curls. Then, all too soon, he moved away, running his fingers down her arm, giving her goose bumps, then holding her hand in his.
"Past the point of no return, the final threshold - what warm, unspoken secrets will we learn?"
Christine's pulse raced madly as her time to sing approached.
"Beyond the point of no return…"
Erik breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet scent of Christine's hair, reveling in her closeness. His plan was moving without a hitch, he could now only pray, only hope that she would comply…
"You have brought me," her pure, unwavering voice reached his ears and he closed his eyes in silent triumph. "To that moment where words run dry, to that moment where speech disappears into silence, silence…"
See what beauty I have created, he thought defiantly at the audience's admiring faces. To replace the beauty I can never possess… To make up for the deformation that cursed his life. But Christine had brought a new magic to him, from the moment he heard her sing, he had a reason to continue, to go on. He raised her, perfected her gift, so that when her time came, she would astound all. And after her victory, she would come to him, stay with him forever.
Vicomte de Chagny was a complicated matter he had not been prepared for.
To see Christine in the arms of another man, returning his kisses, filled Erik with searing rage. Her love was meant for him, and him alone. How dare this man entered, representing all that Erik never had, a family, acceptance, a face…How dare he try to steal away Erik's one chance to redeem himself. But Erik would not let that happen. He could not let it happen.
"I have come here, hardly knowing the reason why… In my mind, I've already imagined our bodies entwining defenseless and silent - "
As Christine sang to him, in this duet he had written for her and only her, his heart overflowed. He had never felt such elation, just an indescribable thrill as being on stage with the woman he loved, finally performing his own masterpiece. He bent all his concentration on her, hoping somehow she would sense his thoughts, and respond…knowing she did not deny the peculiar bond between them.
"Now I am here with you - no second thoughts, I've decided, decided…"
Gently he released her hand, and they stepped away from each other, their eyes never separating. Slowly, painstakingly slowly, they mounted a pair of staircases, each flight of steps connecting with the opposite end of a suspended platform above. Christine's voice resounded throughout the theatre all the while, striking every note with fervent perfection.
"Past the point of no return, no going back now - our passion-play has now at last begun…"
Somewhere in the audience, Erik knew the Vicomte was watching it all…
"Past all thought of right or wrong - one final question: how long should we to wait, before we're one…?" They paused, half way up the stairs, Erik watching in awe as she sang for him, her eyes sparkling with desire and her entire body screaming of seduction. The raw power in her voice mounted as she continued, and he felt all his authority wash away. He had hidden his desperate need for her love with a blanket of commanding letters and harsh words. Now he knew he would care not in the least if she tied him on a leash and led him like an animal…as long as he had her love.
"When will the blood begin to race, the sleeping bud burst into bloom; when will the flames at last, consume us…?"
Reaching the tops of the stairs, they stood across from each other, Erik filled with a fiery ardor as he faced Christine. Her petite chest expanded slowly, and they moved towards each other, raising their voices in a flowing molten wave of song, each word burning with fierce desire. There was not a sigh from the audience, as the enthralling rhythm flooded the Opera House and drowned out all other sounds.
"Past the point of no return… the final threshold - the bridge is crossed, so stand and watch it burn!" They were now close enough that Christine could see the white fire burning somewhere behind her Angel's eyes, and Erik could see the battle between fear and excitement in Christine's. They reached forward, Erik's hands enclosing around her tiny waist, and then twirling her around so he was again behind her, pressing her against him. He guided her hands across her stomach, over her heaving bosom, again to rest on her neck.
"We've passed the point of no return…"
Then a pause, as the theatre caught its breath. Christine's eyes were closed, her head against the phantom's shoulder as he held her from behind. She could feel his hot breath on her neck, and her whole body trembled with anticipation.
Tenderly, she felt him turn her, so she was facing him. His eyes were now soft, filled with a gentler emotion than the ardent craving before. He held both her hands in his own.
"Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime…Lead me, save me from my solitude…"
Christine's voice caught in her throat. Her ears roared at Raoul's words were transformed from the delicate proposal on the rooftop to a passionate plea before the world, each word branding itself on her heart. She gasped softly, reaching up to caress his cheek, but he stopped her, grasping it again and sliding a diamond ring onto her finger. The same ring he had taken from her the evening before, now offering her another man.
"Say you want me with you, here beside you…" Then his voice rose to a vibrated crescendo.
"Any way you go let me go too…Christine," She could see tears sparkling in his eyes; hear emotion unrefined as he sang. Her surroundings faded away to a golden light, and all she could see was his adoring face, his shining eyes, and his perfect lips…
Forgive me, she thought idly, as she felt her heart swell and burst with unexpected love. Forgive me for loving a murderer and a madman. Forgive him…forgive us both.
As he sang the last words, she saw all his defenses drop, all the walls he had built up to keep out the cruel world collapse as he revealed himself before her, showing her all that he was, offering himself to her and begging that she accept.
Hate and malice were all Erik had received from the world, and it was all he had given back, excepting she. He let his life's work rest on the weak hope that she would see beyond the monster he was, to the man he wished to be. Beyond his horrible face to what lay dormant beneath the surface, a demon longing for righteousness.
"That's all I ask of you!"
Christine ignored the tears falling freely from her eyes as she now held his face in both her hands. The ring glittered on her finger.
"I've passed the point…of no…return…" She drew his head closer to hers, and brushed her lips against his. He was still for a split second, then in one swift motion, wrapped his arms around her and crushed her mouth in a kiss of the ages. Reality was blasted away and replaced with swirling colour, and Christine felt as though she was burning from the inside out. She pressed herself as close as she could to his body, somehow knowing she would die if she couldn't touch him, feel him, be with him. In that one kiss, she found belonging, understanding, and an odd sense of forever.
Erik found a savior, forgiveness, someone who would free him of the cage that he had never really left that night at the circus lifetimes ago. His hatred for the world melted away into pity that they could not hold what he did, that they would never understand the true meaning of love. Now, in the end, he had won against all his fears, his fury, and his shame, and found love, glory, and a chance at last for life.
Author's Note: I was absolutely astonished at the amount of feedback I received on my first phanphic! You guys are quite simply, the very best. I love you all with a passion, but unfortunately I have a socials project, so I don't have to time to reply to you all. I can only say thank you, and promise I'll answer everyone in my next phic! I can only hope for a response half as good as the one I got for Light.