Author's Note: The not-so-long-awaited sequel. This one's even longer, and probably more depressing. Hope it meets everyone's expectations!
Title: From Paradise
Phantom Version: a combination of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical/film, more elements of Susan Kay's Phantom, and last but most certainly not least, all characters belong to Gaston Leroux.
Rating: R, for some dark material, and sexuality.
The guests have finally departed.
For months Raoul has been surrounded by his family, his distant relatives, friends he never knew he had, all urging him to recover, holding his hands and inch by inch attempting to guide him back into the step of living everyday. It is easier said than done, but half a year has passed since he first crawled up from the sewers of Paris' underground, and in these long months he has started to emerge from the shell built around his person. Perhaps it is the fact that his parents and brother have decided he is well enough to be on his own now. Time itself may be the only element to thank for his recovery, but in any case, Raoul has survived.
What the blind cannot see is that Raoul is alive, but he is not living. He spends endless hours in bed, beneath thick blankets with his arms up above his head, staring blankly out a gray window as winter prepares to settle on Paris once more. Beneath the sheets is a body almost entirely replenished with healthy muscle, and color has returned to his skin. He is never alone anymore, no matter how he wishes he was, and when he is alone he cannot stand the silence. Raoul dwells between the best and worst of two worlds, and he cannot find peace.
He has not turned to drink or substances for relief, though it might be better if he does, as his thoughts are no more healthy than downing glasses of poison, one right after the other. He does not think so much as he lingers in memories, distant at times, even more vague at others, and Raoul does not know where to draw the line. He only knows that the moment he chose to take the long stairway into the blackest of Hells he had changed his entire composition as a human being, and would never realign himself to the young man he used to be.
She visits him now and again, to cry for him. She knows, and understands why he cannot bring himself back to her or the world, why he spends long hours with the curtains drawn and only a glow of candle light to keep him out of the darkness. Remorse is the reflection he sees in her eyes when he can make himself look at her, dreadful remorse and regret.
Raoul has not had the courage to ask her why she left him there to die, and when he does she can only shake her head and blot at large, glistening tears that seem to consume the entirety of her thin white face. He remembers her being so much more beautiful than this, a sobbing wreck. He remembers loving her, and that is why he still aches.
"I searched for you," Christine whispers, dryly. "I did. Weeks passed, everyone gave up, I still sat before that mirror and I begged him to let you go. I told him that I would give him anything to just hear your voice again, to hear you were safe, and alive. He told me you were dead."
Raoul knows she spoke to him, this is no new information. He knows that in the beginning Erik only ever tormented her for his release. What he did not know was that Erik eventually stopped coming to her all together. Erik's heart had turned into ashes, and he stopped wanting her. Not even her tears, blood, body were enough for Erik to bestow mercy on the Vicomte. Raoul inhales, deeply, and he shifts uncomfortably in his chair. The sitting room is silent and empty, save for the chorus girl and her patron.
Christine's fingers trail over the dry calluses of his knuckles, and Raoul realizes for perhaps the first time how his hands have lost their softness. How delicate they once were, fine, and now they are worn, and sanded over with suffering. It is one of his only visible remaining scars; the only one Christine can truly see.
"Is he dead?" she asks him. "Does he live?"
Raoul glances at her, blankly. He does not know if the Angel in Hell died that day, if he lived. He knows nothing, and when he blinks, and focus returns to his gaze, he sees how Christine stares at him. She studies him. Perhaps she is searching as well, for answers. Secrets he cannot keep, wounds that refuse to heal.