Disclaimer: We don't need to tell you this, but you know, it's just here. We don't own 'Phantom of the Opera', though we would like to. That belongs to Gaston Leroux and the rest of the wonderful (or not so wonderful… coughcoughFORSYTHEcoughcough…) geniuses who have brought this story to life. Don't bother suing us; we don't make a penny off this.
Summary: Raoul and Erik take their rivalry into their own hands.
I Fought So Hard To Free You: by Lady Death & L'Ange de Folie
With this phic finally complete, we regret to inform you Hell has frozen over and the End of Days is now upon us.
The shot went off with a deafening clap of thunder.
Although Raoul's aim was true, he wasn't exactly certain what happened next: he watched the monster's arm snap forward at the same time the lyre-shaped stonework behind Erik's head exploded in a shower of powdery chips. Amid the commotion, a woman's piercing shriek rattled across the roof.
Raoul looked instinctively towards the source of the scream while simultaneously becoming keenly aware of something unfriendly cutting into his skin of his neck.
"Impudent girl!" It was Erik's voice, suddenly and strangely distant.
The garrote wound tightly about Raoul's throat, interrupting his flow of air and blood completely. The pistol clattered against the ground. His heart had time scarce enough to beat once more before spots and pressure built rapidly in his eyes; a second more and his surroundings began to tilt, gray, and diminish. Instinctively his desperate fingers clawed at the strong fibers, but affected little.
"It seems I can hardly manage a thing these days without someone's insufferable interference! That is precisely the thing you promised me you would refrain from doing when I permitted your presence, against my better judgment! I should have thought it was a quick, painless passing you preferred for your precious boy and not agonizing death!"
In a spasmodic thought, he recalled the knife in his pocket. Raoul groped for the weapon concealed in his coat, but the particles seething across his vision overcame him before he could profit from the blade.
"Wretched, wretched Christine—if only you had let me do as I was accustomed! Did you think I would ever wish you harm or grief? I would have been so gentle—he would not have felt the slightest thing—but now, see! See what happens when you break your promises to me!"
The knife dropped from his numb hands to the ground. Raoul's body followed soon after.
"Erik! Erik, please!"
It was here our unfortunate hero, doomed to die for love, passed progressively unto oblivion, uncertain if he would wake and unwilling to, should the miracle transpire. In the interest of the reader and the integrity of the story, the narrative must leave and continue, apologetically, without him.
"Erik, stop! Please, stop!" Christine begged in a voice rough with desperation and horror. "You've won! Leave him be!"
Erik removed the garrote from the vicomte's throat, which left a thin red line in the boy's skin, then carefully wound up the cord and returned it to his pocket. He regarded his fallen opponent for only a moment. The cut bled a little.
"Is he dead?" Christine asked breathlessly, now at Erik's side.
"I don't see why it should matter one whit to you," Erik replied, shifting to stand before her and obscuring her view of the vicomte. "As you said, I am the victor and he will now leave our lives forever. Isn't this what we wanted?"
"Erik, please answer my question."
"I shall once you've told me why this little detail concerns you so much."
"If you've killed him, they will hang you!"
"No one can catch Erik if he does not wish to be caught."
"Erik, this is serious!"
"As is my question."
"Let me see him first and then I shall answer you."
"If you recall, Christine, I asked you last night whether you had feelings for this boy and as I recall, you denied me a straight answer. At the time, I was willing to let it pass, but now I rather think the answer important. Do you have feelings for this boy? Do you love him? A simple yes or no will do."
A maleficent wind began to whip through the air, as if it were the Opera Ghost's impatience made manifest. This was met by a long moment of apprehensive silence on Christine's part, pervaded only by the distant rattle of carriages below, driven by nameless souls whose simple lives she envied. How wonderful it would be to think only of ribbons and rehearsals and whether a trip to Perros would do Mama Valerius some good. Instead she stared into an endless, stagnant void contemplating a world without light, replete with death's-heads and a weeping corpse who loved her.
Raoul had risked his life to declare his love for her, to protect her as best he knew how. He above all others she had striven to protect and yet now he might be dead. So much deception she had practiced in fear for the ones she loved, and for what? How weary she was of all this.
"Yes, Erik, I do," she cried, her answer suddenly bursting forth in an almighty sob. Her delicate hands flew to her mouth to smother the ugly sound."Oh, God help me, I'm so sorry! Yes, I love him." And she wept with grief and fear, unable to turn her eyes away from the cadaverous man in spite of the tears rolling over her fingers.
To this, the monster stood deathly still, so still he did not draw breath. Such an admission would surely rouse his infernal temper, particularly one which she'd held in such secret that she dared not even contemplate should Erik be able to divine it. For that, she was braced. But the explosion Christine expected did not coalesce. Instead something far worse emerged in its place: a wet tear trickled from the black sockets of his eyes to soak into the black silk of his mask. She could have struck him and the look of betrayal would have looked no different.
He turned away from her, brushing at his face, stifling a muffled, low moan. "I feared as much," he murmured quietly, "though I'd not permitted myself to believe because you had assured me that to not be the case."
"You know that was not a fair question, Erik! The love I have for him is different than the love I have for you—"
Before she had chance to finish, he whirled upon her, every lean muscle taut and trembling, ready to forgive her prior confession in an instant if only he heard the right words or devour her if he did not.
"But you do love me? You do love your Erik."
She stepped back.
"I… Erik, please."
Something snapped almost audibly in his demeanor and he roared: "Again, you do not answer! I warn you, Christine, my patience wears thin; so very, very thin."
Were it dark out, Christine knew she'd see his eyes blazing like a furnace as he he advanced upon her, forcing her to tread backwards lest his wrath consume them both.
"I really cannot understand this prevarication over a few simple words unless the answer is no and has always been so. Why else would you behave this way? If you nurtured even the slightest scrap of affection, wouldn't you have said so straightaway? When were you going to make me privy to this precious detail? Or am I not permitted the same decency afforded to all other human beings? Does my ugliness preclude me from knowing the substance of another's soul, or should I be expected to already conclude they hold me in no regard? Well then, that if that be so, then I can only wonder what other little facts you have withheld. Perhaps these wretched features—for I dare not call them a face—still horrify you, in spite of what you promised! Oh, you women are so deceitful! You never loved me! I daresay perhaps you even hoped the vicomte would win this duel and you would be rid of me forever! How simple it must have all seemed! But silly girl, you cannot kill something made up of death! You cannot kill something that is already dead!"
Christine's back now touched the wall of the cupola's base, preventing her from retreating further. Erik stopped mere feet away from her, still panting with rage, while she sobbed silently into her hands. His fingers curved into claws at his sides as though desperate to wring something between them. Though much of the anger in his voice lay spent, a peculiar and enticing pleading had replaced it instead that frightened Christine all the more.
"I am so very tired of living alone in a grave, so tired of loving and never being loved in return. I loathe to mention this, but is a terrible truth that while your friend may yet live... what Erik has spared once Erik can still destroy…"
How could it have come to this? She would not—could not—lie to him any longer, yet she knew of only one other thing that could appease him; the final resort. The end had come and these words would be her last.
"I will marry you, Erik," Christine whispered in defeat. "I will marry you, if that is what you want. Only, please, let me say my goodbyes to monsieur le vicomte. Then let us take him to his home or anywhere else you choose but please do not leave him here alone where he'll never be found. You know my soul belongs to you, I will not run from you anymore."
"Oh, Christine…" Her name fell tearfully from his mouth in a reverent whisper as he knelt at her feet to press his lips to the hem of her dress. "You have made Erik the happiest of men…"
She indulged him his worship a moment, yet never taking her eyes off Raoul. After a moment, she asked in a toneless voice: "Now may I see him?"
At first, Erik seemed prepared to deny her even now in the face of such courage and self-sacrifice; but little by little and with great reluctance, he accepted her proposal and gestured towards to the fallen vicomte.
Immediately she rushed to her childhood friend and fell to her knees at his side. Erik followed shortly after and all the while the loomed over them both with barely-contained jealousy, his arms crossed over his narrow chest as he watched her every move. When Christine set her hand upon Raoul's heart, all the sudden her weeping began anew. With gasping sobs, she turned away and rose weakly to her feet.
Hesitantly, the monster closed the expanse between them by laying a long, uncertain hand upon her shoulder as if to comfort her, a gesture that impossibly prompted the young woman to curl her arms around his thin form and rest her head upon his shoulder. Together the two of them trembled, she from her weeping and he from an emotion he could not yet name.
For the unfortunate pair, the moment must have lasted a strange eternity; but in reality, it endured only a few seconds before, quite unexpectedly, another piercing crack rang through the air.
From the open northern door emerged the Persian and Philippe, the Comte de Chagny, the latter's hard eyes blazing as fiercely as the destroying angel of Ezekiel. Arm extended, the comte was gripping a pistol from which smoke emanated from its long barrel.
While the reader must surely understand what has transpired, a few words on the subject may still be enlightening. According to the Persian's narrative, given later to the police, he first encountered the comte sometime around seven-o'clock in the midst of an argument with a stagehand, who refused to furnish this most respected member of the opera community with directions to the roof on the grounds that the Opera would soon be closing for the evening. The comte, normally so restrained and possessed of sang-froid, had a wild look in his eye and spoke heatedly of a duel to the death at sunset scheduled to occur that night for the honor of Christine Daaé. The stagehand insisted he knew nothing about it and prudently escaped before the patron could lose his temper.
The Persian's attention was of course immediately piqued, so he approached the comte and introduced himself. (There was, of course, no need, for Tout-Paris knew of this eccentric man in the astrakhan hat.)
'You spoke of a duel,' said the Persian.
'Yes,' replied the comte. 'My fool brother has gotten it into his head that he must kill a man called Erik to defend Christine Daaé.'
'For all our sakes, I hope that is not the case. Listen, we may not have much time for he might have killed him already. Come with me, monsieur, I know a way to the roof, I only pray we are not too late.'
Through the abandoned corridors of the opera house they raced, up and up and up the many flights of stairs, all the while the Persian expounding upon his relationship with Erik and the many aptitudes of his old adversary, not the least of which was his talent for hand-to-hand combat. This served only to increase the comte's despair over the whole situation and his self-reproach for allowing his brother to engage upon this fool's errand. They could not reach their goal quickly enough, a pistol in one hand and the other at the level of their eyes to ward against any possible attack of Erik's, who may have dispatched the vicomte already and might forget his promises made to the Persian.
When they reached the final door, Philippe flung it open only to see in the distance his unfortunate brother collapsed and lifeless at the feet of an embracing couple. As with the rest of Paris, he could recognize the blonde hair as that of Christine Daaé, but the masked man in her arms he could not identify. It required little effort to comprehend what had happened and who the stranger was.
They were too late. In despair, the comte discharged his weapon before the Persian could stop him.
The comte clicked back the hammer, preparing to fire again, but this time the Persian placed a peremptory hand upon the aristocrat's forearm. Eyes flashing, Philippe looked as though he might turn his weapon on his companion; however, upon catching sight of his brother's crumpled form, he ran posthaste to his side, both rage and pistol disarmed.
Philippe pulled the younger man into his arms. "Oh, my poor, dear brother," he cried. He smoothed Raoul's damp forehead with a trembling hand, then pressed his fingers beneath the jaw. "Thank God, he still lives, though only just! But what is this..." Gingerly he touched the welt upon Raoul's neck, only to flinch away as if the pain were all his.
The vicomte revived a little at his brother's voice and touch, stirring weakly with a hoarse wheeze. His eyes fluttered beneath his lids.
"It is the monster's touch, monsieur. The Punjab lasso," the Persian intoned quietly, towering over the two brothers. "The garrote I mentioned, for which he was famous in my country. It is truly remarkable your brother did not perish for I have never seen a man live after its application."
"Stupid boy, I should have stopped him..."
Crouching down, the Persian gently peeled back one of the vicomte's eyelids, exposing the curiously bloodshot sclera of the strangulation victim. "He will live, but we must get him to a doctor quickly."
Now the Daroga's attention turned towards Christine, who, up until this moment, knelt whey-faced and witless in stunned silence off to the side, heedless of the dirt collecting on her dress.
"Mademoiselle Daaé, you are bleeding," exclaimed the Persian, pointing to a red spatter staining the bust of her pale gown. He moved immediately to assist her, but she suddenly snapped to life and pulled away from him in surprise. She brushed at the stain, which left barely a sticky smear on her fingers. There was no wound and yet she could not deny it was blood on her dress. She stared at it in stunned confusion.
"No… It isn't mine…" she quietly replied. Her overwhelmed senses grappled with recent events. If the blood was not hers… All at once she recalled the deafening noise still ringing in her ears, and noticed the abandoned pistol near her feet. "Where is Erik?"
Where was Erik, indeed. It seemed impossible that anyone or anything—even an Opera Ghost—could disappear so quickly on this rooftop: there are so few hiding places and even the deftest of acrobats would be heard on the metal sheeting or seen struggling with the precarious slates serving as footpaths across the roof's length and breadth towards the various distant entrances. From where they stood, there were few possibilities.
"Dispersed into the ether, I daresay. He's a ghost, isn't he?" sneered Philippe, not raising his eyes. "Monsieur le persan, if I could request your assistance, my brother must see a doctor..."
"One moment, if you please," the Persian murmured, turning his back on the comte. "He may have fled down below…"
"No." Of this, Christine was confident. "Erik would not abandon me like that, not after tonight."
"I see blood on the tiles, just there." He gestured to a few dark spots congealing on the stone.
Christine cast her gaze across the roof with foreboding. Should she not feel relief that Erik had disappeared? Had Erik not been correct that there had been the smallest part of her—for all her resistance to the duel—that hoped in desperation that Raoul would succeed in slaying Erik? But no matter where she fled now, no matter where she tried to hide, he would find her, she knew it. She could not run from him, especially not now when she had promised herself to him the way she had. Now that she had agreed to become the living bride to a living corpse, she felt nothing could frighten her again.
The red, sinking sunset had long since lost its brilliance, tarnished by gray and fading quickly. Dark shadows steadily lengthened across the lofty edifice and were it not for that, they never would have found Erik, for the trail began and ended with those flecks.
His golden eyes betrayed him huddled in the shadows of the golden statue of the Allégorie de la musique, to which he had taken like a frightened animal. At her approach, he flattened his palm against his breast in a vain attempt to obscure an alarming amount of crimson wetting through his white shirt front.
"You left the door unlocked, didn't you? The door to the roof…I locked it against visitors and you unlocked it when you came up..." he whispered, bemused.
"I'm so terribly sorry, Erik, I did not even think—" she began, but he hushed her with a soft, soothing sound.
"I so should have liked to have been married to you, Christine," he whispered regretfully. "You are such a good, beautiful girl to your poor, unfortunate Erik. I have been like a dog… and after the vicomte was done away with, I should have been as gentle as a lamb…We could have had an ordinary house in the Faubourg Saint-Germaine without…" Here the monster's breath grew short and he turned urgently away. "Don't look!" he choked, coughing horribly into the bony hand thrust under the mask against his mouth.
He pressed urgently on, his voice growing weaker with every moment. "But you do still love me? Even though… the vicomte was very nearly killed…do you still love me? I would find it very difficult to die if I knew Christine was upset with me…Yes, my dear, I am dying…The bullet must have touched my lungs, which is why the blood is so… bright." The yellow eyes flickered closed.
"Yes, Erik, I still love you."
The Persian, not watching far off at the time, reported that Christine Daaé then removed the mask from the monster's face and, and with all the dutiful gentleness in the world, she pressed the most tender of kisses to his naked, hideous forehead. She then took him carefully in her arms and held him as she would have held an upset child, her tears mingling with his as they wept. The Persian's narrative regrettably fails at this point as he said he felt compelled to glance away out of respect for his old adversary; but when he looked back, the monster's eyes were out forever and Christine was sliding a plain, gold ring upon his terrible, bony finger.
To anyone who actually reads this, who has actually been looking forward to the ending, we shower you with kudos for our unworthiness and hope it was worth the wait. We intend to clean up the first couple chapters so they match the style of the later ones; so expect that to occur within the next twenty years or so.