Chapter 27: An Ending

A/N: Sweet, sweet glorious readers of my story, please look to my LJ for the latest excuses as to why this chapter is so late in arriving. This is not the last chapter, far from it. Do not be fooled by the ending.

Big thanks to my lovely Beta, Banana!

Oh, and don't forget to review ;).


She could not have been sure if she had heard correctly. In fact, she had spent three days convincing herself that she had heard nothing. Her home was by no means old, but even the most pristine of structures allowed for the occasional creak. Well, in all actuality she had heard what she perceived to be more of a grunt, but who could be sure that the noise was human and not imagined? Was the sound she heard the aghast exclamation of a man, or was it the howl of the wind against a window?

The two sounded quite similar.

Didn't they?

"No," she reasoned to herself, "they sound nothing alike at all."

Her trepidation turned to fear. It was not her constant state of mind, for the body cannot take heart-rending terror for hours and days on end at its most potent. Terror must peak before fading, but the fading never made the peaks less difficult, and during those times of absolute horror she would lay her head in her hands and shudder.

She had been seen. Someone had come upon her during a moment that was not only private, but also enormously damaging should it be revealed. She was with the man whom she had run from so many years ago , and his was the face that destroyed the glamorous world of art for a most ignorant public.

Or perhaps she was not seen. Perhaps it truly was nothing. Just a noise that was natural, harmless, and fleeting.

Christine often found herself straining her eyes when her home was at its quietest, and she would silently pray for that suspicious noise to present itself to her again. Many times she thought she heard it, but that peak of terror would manifest itself in her mind and convince her that her thinking was both wishful and naïve.

That fateful afternoonshe had heard footsteps as they charged down her hallway and into the street. She had seen nothing, but she had felt the presence of another.

She could no longer sleep. The peaks of fear would fade, and for a moment she would find herself comforted by her rationale: houses are noisy; wood makes noise; settling wood often imitates footsteps.

But most of all, fear and guilt create paranoia.

That was it. Her deception was simply confronting her. Her lies were staring her in the face, and they were hideous in appearance. They frightened her, and while she succumbed to fright she entertained morbid visions of discovery.

She had every reason to be deathly afraid. Should she and Erik be discovered, their lives would come to an end. Hers would close in upon itself figuratively; she could not promise herself that Erik's safety would be salvaged.

Fear was sinister, but it was as important as oxygen. Fear kept her alert just as it kept soldiers alive and leaders wary. It was strong, overpowering, omnipotent. It could determine one's fate, and of this fact she was most painfully aware. She had to be afraid, and yet the crippling dread that quickened her heartbeat and soaked her hands with icy sweat rendered her an emotional invalid.

If hell was real and souls destined to fill its red depths, it existed on earth; fear was hell. There was no rest to be found, no contentment to be sought, and no comfort to be achieved when fear drove one to distraction.

For weeks Christine walked about like a ghost. She ignored people when they spoke to her and her disjointed responses raised many an eyebrow. She had twice been told that she looked to be in need of sleep, and she found herself unable to argue with the advice. Her eyes were puffy and almost black from worry, she knew, but during those few fitful hours when her mind drifted off to sleep, she only dreamt of discovery. She could no longer even bear the thought of sleep.

But her fears, although potent, remained unrealized for five harrowing days of intense contemplation.

He had been overwhelmed for days. Philippe de Changy was not what one would call an emotional man, but he had spent the better part of a week falling victim to a great assault. Torturous feelings were his constant torment. At one moment he was gleeful, the joy in his blood leaping with excitement. He had discovered the largest diamond the world had ever seen, and he had done no more than stumble into the cavern that contained it.

Philippe - if he so chose - had the opportunity to become a rich man. His diamond, though blackened by scandal, was highly coveted. What respectable Parisian newspaper would not absolutely crumble at his feet should the glittering treasure be dangled before their eyes?

If the story sold, no one would challenge his assertions. The man had been there, shielded by glass and ensconced in the offending woman's very sitting room. He had been enjoying his brandy and looking out into the garden, an innocent action. It was while he was simply admiring the landscape that he discovered a secret far darker than any that the ravenously hungry Parisian aristocracy had seen in years. If the social upper crust wanted gossip, dear God they would have it!

He saw that masked demon of man kissing the very soprano that he had pursued with violent abandon three years prior; saw her kissing him back with equal ardour.

She would never dare deny it, for no one would believe her. She was only a showgirl who used a daring Vicomte to escape a life of debauched obscurity.

Everyone saw her the night that the Populaire's chandelier came crashing down with hellish intent upon a horrified audience. It was powered by the greatest hostility, and the shattering of the crystal and explosion of the lights turned the once opulent theatre into a molten volcano.

Everyone had seen her on stage with that man. All who watched noticed the way that she allowed him to touch her. Those who sat close to the stage saw the look on her face, that look of naked female desire. One would have to be been blind not to be titillated – or offended – by the hungry look upon her young face.

She might as well have written an enormous sign that read: "Please take me Masked Murderer, no one shall be bothered by it."

Philippe chuckled to himself.

Then the laughter stopped.

The papers would sell, surely. The tongues would wag accordingly. The city would be thrown onto its back, (and no game of cards or meeting of ladies would ever again be the same). Some would call her a shameless whore, while others would insist that her insanity surpassed the masked villain's. Some would speak of their affair as one of legend and allude to fictional works dealing with the darkness of destructive love. Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine, or other such characters known for delving into erotic nonsense. The romantics would be elated, the gossips appeased, and the aristocrats, well…

They would be fragmented. Some would be smug about the fall of the de Changy's, and others would be made furious by it.

They would never again garner an invitation to a family gathering. The doors leading to rooms filled with boisterous noble gentlemen and their dignified ladies would lock at the sight of their carriage traveling up the street. Windows would be barred, establishments closed, and smiles frozen at the very thought of de Changy company. Raoul would forever be the man who was duped into marrying a harlot, and Philippe would join his rank as a fool.

Philippe sighed dejectedly. He would need to forsake his desire for money in order to keep his name – faded as it was – in high standing.

He would not, however, allow that sham of a romance to continue.

Christine had refused company again. Meg seemed concerned, but she brushed off her need for isolation with the feeble excuse of a headache. It seemed that women substituted headaches for any number of maladies. Boredom, loneliness, fear, pain, sadness. It was simply not prudent to say that you wished to be alone or that dinner was displeasing. A headache was the only suitable excuse for a lady to make when the rituals of life disagreed with her.

She had to appear troubled by illness and not by circumstance. It was easier to fall victim to one's traitorous body rather than one's morbid thoughts. She was a noble woman now, and thoughts were unnecessary, were they not?

And so when Philippe knocked on the door shortly after Meg's departure, she was prepared to greet him with the same excuse. Still, she found herself rather puzzled as she made her way down the stairs as to why he would appear at her house alone.

Her mind briefly entertained thoughts of Raoul in trouble. Was this one of those torrid greetings of legend where the feeble heroine succumbs to a faint after being informed that her beloved husband had fallen valiantly in battle? Or in Raoul's case, in a valiant carriage ride from London to France?

Her pace increased as she waved the butler away and pried the heavy oak door open herself, her face flushed and pink from the exertion of tearing down steps with images of an injured Raoul playing in front of her eyes.

"Philippe?"

"Christine." His tone was as cold as ice.

She shuddered inwardly. His eyes were empty, and if she dared to call upon religious rhetoric during her crisis of faith and morality, she would have said that they appeared soulless.

He had come to speak of something important. Dreadfully so.

Christine's heart fell into her bowels as she moved aside to allow him entrance. He looked at her as though she were dead. Non-existent. A spectre. An annoying one at that; one in need of immediate exorcism and eradication.

Christine could place the look on his face. It was disgust.

He stalked past her and stepped into the sitting room, the heels of his boots crashing against the tiles as he moved. He was walking like an enraged animal, one who wore expensive clothing and groomed himself impeccably.

She walked after him, her steps nearly as urgent as his. If he was going to charge into her home like a lumbering bear and stare at her like she was gutter-ridden filth, she would certainly find out why.

Then she felt it; that peak, that precipice of emotion that replaced logic with sensation. Her skin burned and her mind reeled with disbelief. She could feel her control over her limbs slipping away as she moved towards the sitting room, and her lungs ached terribly as she struggled to catch her breath.

'What if…'

'Did he?'

'No…'

'But he could have…' Her thoughts were disoriented and frantic, the connotations behind them severe. If she had ever possessed composure before, her ability to obtain it had been lost forever by then.

Her body burned with panic as her intellect was buried under an avalanche of crushing realization.

He knew.

She breathed in deeply. Once. Twice. She tried to look normal, if not slightly austere. The panic was slowly beginning to fade, but still her heart hammered in violent terror.

"Please sit." Philippe's voice was cold. So icy and direct, so vicious in its delivery.

Christine forced herself not to tremble as she sat upon the settee. The torn one that Raoul had offered to have replaced.

Raoul…

Christine felt her control slip away once again at the thought of her husband. She had been so clever, never distancing herself from him or shying away from his touch. He believed her to be of a delicate disposition, and she allowed him to think of her as a wilted rose, for it made her dreamy airs seem commonplace rather than suspicious. She spoke to him as she always did, never turning cold or untouchable. He did not deserve her resentment or disdain, nor did his inoffensive presence call forth her ire. She loved another, but she cared for the man to whom she was bound in the eyes of the law and God.

She wanted to live forever in two worlds, and she had for three years. Three long years of passion, three long years of pain.

How could she be so careless? So naïve? So confident in her own ability to deceive? Her life was really no life at all, yet it was the only life she had and she often found herself deeply in love with it, even as she had spent countless hours mourning it.

Now where was she?

"I will make this brief and direct." Philippe cleared his throat and laid his palms flat out in the table in front of him. They were white with tension.

Christine met his gaze.

"Oh?" She inquired.

"I saw you."

She thought that she had prepared herself for the incoming panic while in the hallway, but her chest seemed to cave in at the sharpness of his words. His telling, damning, fatal words.

"Saw me what?" She cleared her throat in turn and focused on steadying her voice.

'Look calm, controlled, and unperturbed…' she spoke to herself.

He scoffed loudly.

The paleness of her face and the naked fear in her eyes revealed her more absolutely than any confession. He had her cornered like a beaten animal, and he would have her on the end of his knife before they were through. He would skewer her so deeply that she would beg, positively beg to comply with his demands.

She shook like a leaf. She was caught, that she knew. As he watched her paling face he could envision the pieces of the puzzle connecting in her mind's eye. He had taken the time to clean to the broken glass, but he made no effort to conceal his thunderous steps as he fled from the house with an oxymoronic mix of gleeful agony.

She had heard him, and had probably spent the last few days doubting her comforting assertions that her imagination had tricked her.

Tricked her it had not.

"Does he beat you?" Philippe questioned.

Christine's glance shot upward, her eyes wide and mouth agape.

"What?"

Philippe remained stoic and still. He glanced down at his fingernails while lifting one leg to rest his ankle casually atop his knee.

"My brother," he continued, "does he beat you?"

"Excuse me?" Her voice was hoarse, she knew.

"You heard me!" The sudden sharpness in his tone gave her a sudden start.

"I don't think that you under-"

"No Christine, it is you who does not understand me. I will ask one more time. Does Raoul beat you? Mistreat you? Raise his hand to you during quarrels?"

"Of course he doesn't!" She responded with equal sharpness.

Philippe uncrossed his legs and leaned in towards her, his visage severe and unyielding. She could see the anger seep into his face, the reddening of his skin and the light sheen of sweat across his forehead made him appear more a formidable foe than a pampered aristocrat with an elite axe to grind against her lineage.

She stayed still, not daring to move towards him, but refusing to back away. It was best to face accusations – even if they were true – with an air of confidence. Madame Giry would do such a thing. She had probably done it often.

Philippe's voice was silently menacing when he spoke again.

"How do you live with yourself?"

Christine sighed, attempting to buy herself a few second with which to regain some measure of composure. The accusation ran deep, much deeper than she had imagined it would.

'At least,' she thought to herself, 'at least Philippe loves his brother enough to take this route with me.'

The thought failed to relieve her more selfish anxieties, however.

"How!" He barked out harshly.

She jumped backwards and nearly shrieked when he gripped her shoulders. He had moved so swiftly that she had barely seen him forsake his seat.

"He does not beat you, harm you, or frighten you in any way!" Philippe spat as he shook her body violently. Her hands gripped his own in a feeble attempt to remove them, but his hold on her was too strong.

"Have you never looked at what you have betrayed him for?"

Christine pondered briefly as to the identity of the "what" that he referred to. Was the "what" the affair or Erik? Perhaps it was both.

"Philippe, stop!" She wrenched his hands off of her and backed away, gasping for breath as though he had wrapped his hands around her neck and not her shoulders. Every part of her was trembling violently, but she deserved this, she knew as much. She had neglected to truly entertain the possibility of discovery, refused to use her foresight to predict it. She had approached her involvement with Erik containing an air of naivety and a dangerous albeit subconscious feeling of invincibility.Like a young man in a carriage careening down a wooded path in the dark of night, she knew that the possibility of fatality was high, if not inevitable. Yet like that very boy, she had held fast to the belief that it was not yet her time. It was taking a tremendous chance, but the feelings she derived from it were so pure despite their dark undertones. Perhaps she had assumed that fate would protect them, as it had beaten both mercilessly in the past with its cruelties. Perhaps the thought of this present confrontation was simply too horrifying to bear during those moments of immense, hedonistic pleasure.

"Philippe," Christine began silently, "what do you intend to do?"

He was silent for what felt like hours. She could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall, and each almost silent click seemed to signify the coming culmination of her fate. She had never much liked Raoul's haughty brother, but her life was in his hands. As was Erik's.

"I intend for you to end it."

"End it?" She questioned cautiously.

"Yes," his voice seemed to drift as he spoke, even his body turned away from her, "you will end your little…" he paused to search for a word "endeavour."

'No,' Christine thought to herself, 'no, it could not be so easy, so direct…'

"You will tell your lover that your relations must cease. You do not need to give a reason other than your understandable and warranted guilt. You are a wife, and not his either. Even he should understand that."

"That cannot be all…" Christine mused quietly, more to herself than to him.

"It is all, actually." Philippe's voice was flippant once more.

"Your affair compromises the safety of this household and the integrity of this family. If you continue it, you will ruin all of us, has that never occurred to you?"

"It has," she began carefully, "but I swear to you that no harm shall befall Raoul-"

"You do not know that!" Philippe's voice sharpened again, the dulled razor regaining its lethal edge.

"End it, Christine." He spoke with an air of finality. "End it now, or so help me God, I shall have you thrown in prison for being an accomplice to a murderer and I will have that very same murderer hanged. Do not doubt my influence, if I so desire, I can destroy you both. Do not think that you can soften or reason with me. Good day to you."

Christine listened as his boot heels clicked against the tiles as he made his way towards the door.

"Oh!" He called out. "If I find out – and I will – that you have dared to see him again over the course of the next few weeks, I will kill you both myself. Is that understood? I will have people watching your every move; I would not attempt to see him again. Except, of course, for when you wish to tell him that you no longer want to remain in his company. You'll do that tonight."

Christine moved towards the voice that seethed with such dangerous self-assurance, but she was met with the slamming of the door and its echo in the vast foyer.

Philippe had never regarded her as an equal, of that she was well aware. But now he saw her as a creature, one whom he had no qualms about threatening with imprisonment and death – not necessarily in that order. She had always felt mildly disliked by him, but now she watched as that socially provoked disdain turned to hatred. He cared for her just as much as he did a beggar. He could hardly bear to even look at her.

She was torn. She wanted to rage with indignation, weep with despair, flee from the house that had become her unintended prison forever. Surely a life as a traveling, wayward woman would be better than living through this nightmare of her own making. She could not, would not dismiss Erik. If she did, she would die. If she did not, death would still come to greet her, just as promised by Raoul's vengeful sibling. She was set to live her life with a pistol shoved against her temple no matter which destiny she chose.

She ached, terribly so. Her chest was caving in on itself, her heart crushed by the weight of her anguish. She was caught, and she was given an ultimatum. She was to tell Erik that she no longer loved him, for if she told him of Philippe's visit, he would surely kill him. She hated Philippe, but she would not spend the rest of her life attempting to wash his blood off of her hands at night.

Her and Erik had created something deadly long ago. It had killed the innocent before, but she would see herself gutted and maimed before allowing it to happen again. They had come so far, he and she. From anguish to ecstasy. From grief to happiness. From fear to love. She had wounded him just as he had her, and together they had healed each other. They had turned a tragedy into something beautiful, and she would not stand to see that beauty destroyed.

Yes, ending their love would destroy it, but she would not watch it turn to something destructive. There was a difference, a grand one at that.


The journey toErik's home was the longest she had ever taken. Everything that she saw reminded her of something they had done together, something they had shared that no one else could ever know about.

A rock, a tree, a flattened patch of grass. She and Erik had been there once, at a time when both were happier.

She would never be happy again. She had decided, and she knew that she was right.

After her father died, she had sworn to herself that same oath. Without the one person who had brought her such comfort and love, she was very much alone. The lonely can never be happy, for their fears, doubts, and saddened lamentations feast upon their souls. They have no one with whom to share their thoughts, and they turn those thoughts upon themselves.

She was alone without her father, but in his absence she had found an angel. When her angel revealed himself to be nothing but a man, she could not mourn his deception. She had friends and a newfound love to ground her, and she saw in her supposed angel something beautiful. It was a hard beauty to seek out, as it was shrouded in danger and deceit, but it was there nonetheless.

When she lost the man behind the voice, she had been alone once more. She hated herself for feeling alone, but her distaste faded away when she found him again. She resisted for so long. So long.

Then there came a time where she could resist no longer, and in relenting to her desires she found peace. Such a rare, beautiful thing it was. But now it was shattered, and she would never know peace again.

"This is a noble sacrifice," she reminded herself as she drew closer to Erik's home.

He was not expecting her, and surely his reaction would be one of elation. He would open the door slightly, his masked face peering out the room and into the darkness enveloping her, the white porcelain illuminated by the glow of the moonlight. The inside of his abode would be dark, and he would pull her into it swiftly upon taking in her form.

He would lean in to kiss her, stealing the breath from her body. He would touch her, his hands frantic and possessive as he silently celebrated his hold over her, that hold that had her returning to him time and time again.

"I love you," he would say. He said it frequently, at any available interval. Over breakfast, over arguments, over companionable silences, over top of her body at night.

"I know Erik," he would expect her to moan out breathlessly, "I know." She would tell him that she loved him too. At least, that is what he would expect.

Tonight, no such thing would happen.

It could never happen again.

Christine wondered if anyone else had ever felt their soul sucked out as slowly as hers was being. She was dying. Her body was young and healthy, but her blood ran cold as she came closer to the most harrowing moment of her life thus far.

"I have died tonight." She whispered to herself.

She knocked on his door, her hand feeling dead as it banged against the dew-moistened wood.

She heard his heavy footsteps, just as she expected.

He opened the door just a crack, that familiar mask greeting her. His eyes were – as she had imagined – suspicious at being disturbed at such an hour. Then they lit up with surprise. He was most pleased to see her; she could tell by the way his stern expression had broken into a wide smile.

He looked beautiful when he was like that. Just like that.

He opened the door fully and wound one arm around her waist, pulling her into his chest as he dragged her into the room. His body was so warm, so strong and protective against the deadened shell that was her own.

He leaned into her, just as she had anticipated. His hand swept into her hair and loosened the tightly bound strands just before his fingers drifted downwards to stroke her cheek as he pressed his lips against her forehead, the rough stubble of his face grazing her skin as he moved down towards her lips.

She remained still and unmoving as his lips pressed against her own. She did not remember moving her hands, but suddenly her fingers were between his mouth and her own. She held it there firmly, intent to keep him from kissing her.

She sighed loudly, her body trembling with a suppressed sob. Now was not the time for tears.

He pulled back and eyed her carefully.

"Is something the matter?" He questioned gruffly, her silent rebuff wounding him. He was easily discouraged. He always had been.

"No." She answered quickly.

He raised a sceptical eyebrow.

"Yes." She said. "Something has happened."

He looked alarmed, his body immediately stiffened and his height seemed to increase by miles. He was formidable when affronted, and this situation was no different.

"Care to enlighten me?" He questioned impatiently.

"We…" She cleared her throat, "Erik, I'm so sorry." Her voice broke, the words escaping her throat like a torrent of rain.

"What has happened?" He reached out to touch her, his hands attempting to gently grip her shoulders, but she shrugged him off violently. Throwing herself into a nearby chair she rested her head in her hands and mumbled incoherently. This was too much, it simply could not be. Not now, not after all of this time.

"Christine!" He stalked over to her and attempted to pry her face from her hands.

"Look at me!" He demanded, but she kept her head low.

"I can't!" She stood just as suddenly as she had sat and tore towards one of the windows, staring at her tear-stained reflection in the pristine glass.

"What is wrong?" He sounded as though he were beginning to panic. She had never heard his voice take on a tone as desperate as the one he was using. She had seen him rage with anger and seethe with indignation. She had heard him weep with anguish. Never had she seen him speak as though he was overwhelmed and…frightened.

"Speak to me!" He pressed her into the window, his body caging hers effectively, forcing her to remain immobile.

She turned to him, her breath still catching in her throat as she forced by the tears that wanted nothing more than to spill forward.

"I…" she began, "we cannot do this. We cannot do this anymore."

He looked at her, his expression oddly vacant. He hadn't heard her, or if he had, he was unwilling to acknowledge her words.

"What?" His voice seemed cold, cold and far away.

"I have been feeling…guilty. We need to stop."

His expression was harder than stone.

"You love me."

His simple exclamation made her break into another fit of tears.

"Christine, Christine please…" He reached for her again, but she shrugged him off. She could not bear to turn and face him. He would see the truth if he looked at her, for she knew her face was transparent, an open book that he could easily read.

He was in disbelief. This…this could not happen. They had been together for so long, through many years of happiness. Their moments were moments stolen in secret, but not even that could rob them of their poignancy. Even she, she who sacrificed a marriage to be with him, was fulfilled by their time together.

Had he frightened her in some way? Did she come to him under threat of death? Was she obligated to be with him out of duty to her own life? He had never forced her to return, nor did he hold her freedom of life over her head should she refuse him.

She came because she wanted him.

Had she not?

"Erik, I'm sorry." She sobbed.

"Why?" He questioned frantically, the horror in his voice asserting itself. "Why are you saying this? What the fuck are you sorry about!" He was shouting now, his booming voice nearly shaking the panes of glass in the windowsill.

His shouts only made her withdraw further into herself.

"This is wrong, Erik." She said, her voice slowly calming itself by tiny degrees.

"Guilt, is it?" He asked, his throat stretched taught over the venomous poison that threatened to spill out at any moment.

She did not answer.

"You have decided that you no longer want to commit a mortal sin, is that it?" His voice was dangerously low.

"You're a liar!" He barked out viciously.

"No…"

"I don't want to hear it!" He interrupted.

"Erik…"

"NO!" With one sweeping motion he sent a wine glass and a pewter candlestick crashing to the floor. The glass shattered magnificently and littered the room with tiny, glittering fragments.

"You are pregnant, aren't you?" He turned on her swiftly, like an enraged lion confronted with a sinister attacker.

"No-"

"Oh, you see nothing wrong with whoring yourself to some strange, deadly creature who excites you. But heaven forbid that you carry his bastard child. No, it must have blue blood and a recognizable father. You wouldn't want to embarrass yourself and shame the unborn creature."

Christine looked at him as though he had slapped her. Indeed, she had felt like he did.

Whore? Bastard child?

She would have almost preferred to be the shattered glass strewn across the floor.

"How dare you-" She began

"Stop speaking!" He bellowed.

"I will not!" She interjected frantically. "You must listen, I-"

"I gave you everything once, and you took it all away from me. I am not surprised that you have chosen to do so again. In fact, I am pleased to know that I was a fool. I've always been a fool. Take your bastard child and leave." His words were like bullets pumping her body full of lead. He was killing her slowly, elongating the pain as much as possible.

"If that is all you can think to say, I now know that you are just as blind as you were three years ago."

"Indeed."

"Still, I must reassure you that I am not pregnant."

"You lie." His reserve was solid.

"If you choose to believe that, you may. Good bye Erik, I never wanted it to end like this." She tried to sound as valiant as she could, there was nothing more for tears to accomplish. He thought her a harlot and a liar. She could have told him then about Philippe, but he would not have listened. He did not want to listen. At that moment, she hated him. How easily he dismissed her. How easily he accused her of deceit. Once a beast, always a beast.

"Get out."

She turned and walked out, too lost in her own anguish to hear the splintering wood of his door as it was slammed shut with inhuman force.

It was over, he and she. The love of great literature faded into the night along with the echo of the slamming door. Another chapter written, another story ended.

A/N: Have faith guys, it's not over yet!