(A/N: I'm back. Finally. First, I want to make a HUGE apology to all of you, even if you guys never get to read it. True, life has been hectic lately, but I probably should have been able to update a little bit more than I did. Anyway, now that my summer job is over and my grandmother isn't in the hospital anymore and my relatives aren't visiting, I should be able to update! Yay! I don't even remember what's going on. I'm going to have to reread it. Again. -- Oh well…)
Chapter Thirty: Destruction
Christine had barely taken a step towards the stage to see what was going on when she heard her name being called by a familiar voice. She spun around just as the Vicomte reached her, looking pale and shaken.
"What's going on?" she demanded immediately, trying to keep her voice steady. It wouldn't do her any good if she panicked now. After all, just because someone had screamed didn't mean that anything bad had actually happened… maybe one of the ballerinas had seen a mouse…
Christine had barely begun to hope that this was the case when her hopes were shattered. Other people were screaming now, too. They sounded terrified, and suddenly Christine didn't want to know what had happened.
Raoul gathered her up in his arms and held her close. "The Phantom killed Joseph Buquet." he murmured quietly, trying not to frighten her any more than she already was.
"What?" Christine pulled away abruptly, startled. "No… I… It can't be true. E—The Phantom wouldn't do something like that!" Yes, he would. Christine swallowed and tried to ignore her inner voice. She wouldn't allow it to be right. It couldn't be.
Raoul gave her an odd look. "The Phantom is a madman, Christine. This proves it. Buquet is hanging from the rafters with some kind of weird rope around his neck, and—"
He was broken off by Christine's ragged gasp. When he looked at her, her eyes were distant, as if she were remembering something.
"Raoul… Raoul, we have to get out of here. We have to find somewhere safe."
Christine dragged Raoul up the many staircases that led to the roof, her heart in her throat. Any minute, Erik could find them. And he'd want Raoul dead, she was sure of it. After all, wasn't he the one that Erik was angry at in the first place?
Christine trembled as she recalled the night Carlotta had come back. Erik had stood in the passageway, and in his hands, he held some kind of noose... She remembered that at the time she had completely dismissed it. She had convinced herself that she was seeing things. Now, she knew she had been right.
He killed someone. He killed Buquet…Oh, God, he's a murderer…
Not that she hadn't guessed. With a room like the one she had accidentally stumbled into in his house, she had known that it was probable that he had killed people in the past. But that didn't change the fact that he had killed someone now.
Christine choked back a sob as they reached the roof. She had to calm down… she had to calm herself and think. After all, maybe… maybe it had all been an accident. Maybe she was wrong, and Buquet had tripped and gotten tangled in the ropes. She wouldn't condemn Erik yet… she couldn't. And yet… the chances of it being purely an accident were slim. Christine's head was pounding and she realized for the first time that there were tears running down her cheeks. She took a few deep breaths, hoping that she wasn't overreacting. Overreacting to someone being killed Killed by the man that you thought you loved? Christine managed a wry smile. She doubted she could overreact to something like that.
Her throat hurt, and there was a pain in her chest where her heart was. She didn't know what to think… she needed to talk to someone. Anyone. And it certainly couldn't be Erik…
Christine noticed for the first time that Raoul was holding her arms and gently stroking her hair, trying to comfort her. He was obviously confused over her terror, and wanted to help. She bit her lip. He was her friend, and he was here for her. She had to tell him…
"Raoul…" her voice came out in a strangled croak, and she felt as if she were betraying the man who had helped her come so far. Still, she continued, "Raoul… do you remember Erik?..."
Not ten yards away from where Christine stood with Raoul, a dark figure hid in the shadows of a nearby statue. In one gloved hand it held a delicate rose. The thorns dug through the glove and into flesh as the figure listened to the young woman betray everything to the Vicomte. Finally, it turned away, unable to listen anymore.
Unknown to any of the other three, another figure hid in the shadows of the opera house. Nadir watched as Christine confessed everything that had happened to her to Raoul, and as Erik listened to every word she said. He wanted to do something… to stop the inevitable storm that was to come. Instead, he stood helplessly and watched as each person destroyed the other.
There was a moment of silence as Christine finished telling her story. Raoul just stared down at her for a second, not sure what to say. Finally, he managed, "Christine… why didn't you tell me before?"
Christine looked up at him and said quietly, "I was scared. Scared of what Erik would do to you if he knew… and scared of what you would do to him, if you knew. I do love him, Raoul." She hesitated. "At least, I did once. Very much. Now… I'm not sure. I'm so confused… I want to talk to him, but I … I can't. Not after…" Christine bit off the rest of her sentence.
"I'll tell you the truth, Christine. I'm not sure what to think. I know that I don't like the fact that you're in love with a murderer and, to be quite frank, I think you should leave the opera house and get as far away from him as possible. Still…" he took a deep breath, "That's…not my choice. It's yours." Raoul sighed and stroked her hair, "I wish it was me you loved, Christine…"
Christine smiled slightly. "I do love you, Raoul… just not in that way. You're like my older brother, my best friend." The smile faded. "I'm sorry I don't love you in the way you want me to, though.
Raoul tried to grin, "You can't help it if you don't love me. Here, I want to give you something." Raoul dug a hand in one of his coat pockets and pulled out a box. Christine looked at him suspiciously. "Yes… it's what you think it is. But not like that… not anymore. I originally was going to ask you to marry me." Raoul winced, "But I know better now. Still, Christine, I want you to have this ring… if just as a reminder of our friendship, and that I'm here for you if you need someone to turn to."
Christine smiled softly, and reached out and took the ring.
When Erik finally turned back to the two young people standing nearby, he saw Raoul holding out and engagement ring.
And then he saw Christine accept it.
Erik froze, shock numbing his entire body. No… she couldn't! Not after everything she had told him… not after she had promised she loved him!
Lies. All lies. Erik backed into the statue, his earlier rage slowly returning. It burned away the surprise and hurt, warming his blood and allowing him to move again. He watched, seething, as the Vicomte took Christine's hand and led her back inside.
Erik looked down at the rose he had selected to give Christine that evening. That was before everything had gone wrong… Slowly, he crushed the blossom, uncontrollable rage flooding through him.
The Vicomte would pay.
They would both pay.
Erik's black cape whirled around him as he turned and glared up at the night sky, the rose still smothered by his fist. Then, slowly, he let it drop.
What was left of the rose fell to the ground...
Destroyed, like everything else.
(A/N: WHOO HOO! An update:D Not a very good update… I'm a little rusty, so I'm sorry if it's not up to par. ((winces)) I'll try to fix it later, but the content will be about the same. Oh well. It wasn't a particularly fun update, either.
Okay, well, no promises on when the next update will be. I'm getting sick of saying, "Don't worry! I'll update tomorrow!" and then never getting to it. I have to update a lot of other stories, too… some I'm going to update tonight. When I'm finished the other ones that I want to update, I'll update this again. I think it will be pretty soon. Probably this week. I'm free until Friday….
However, that's the very thing I wanted to warn you guys about. Unfortunately, I'm going to Pittsburgh for about a week on Friday. So, hopefully, I'll be able to update once or twice again before then. I'll certainly try.
If not, I'll work on updates while I'm bored at Pittsburgh
I'm sorry again, guys, and if you don't want to continue reading this… well, I deserve it.)