A Place In My Heart
Meg sighed loudly. Marie looked at her daughter in irritation.
"Meg, if you're just going to sit there sighing, you may as well find something to keep you occupied. Such as helping." She said sternly.
"I'm just worried about Christine and Erik."
"As we all are but you don't find me sitting around feeling sorry for myself." Marie said, washing dishes. Nadir couldn't help smiling to himself at the pair. Meg scowled at her mother before reaching for a towel.
"They've been gone for over a week." Meg murmured anxiously. "Surely they should have sent word by now."
None of them spoke. In truth, they were all thinking the same thing. What could have happened?
"I'm sure they are fine." Nadir said comfortingly to Meg. She smiled vaguely and placed the tomatoes in a pot on the stove before fetching the kettle to make tea. Marie caught Nadir's eye and he shrugged helplessly.
And then it seemed as if a miracle had occurred. Because the front door was heard to open and close and Christine's voice called,
"Hello? Are you home?"
Meg promptly dropped the kettleful of water and dashed to the stairs, her Mother and Nadir in hot pursuit. At the top of the stairs, in the entrance hall, Meg threw herself at Christine and Erik, hugging them both tightly.
"Where on earth have you been? What happened?"
"Nothing. It just took us a while to get back because someone wouldn't stop fussing." Christine said, eying Erik who looked haughty.
"Just because I happen to be concerned about the welfare of our child-"
"I'm concerned too but that doesn't mean you have to fuss constantly!"
They both huffed for a moment before Marie said, with a smile,
"Thank you, Marie. I would love a cup of tea." Christine said, stretching her aching muscles.
Sat in the kitchen, Nadir asked,
"Dare I ask how it went?" Christine grimaced at her tea and said quietly,
"It was… well, anyway, he's dead now."
"Were you with him?" Meg asked.
"Yes. I was sitting with him and he… just after the sun rose he passed away. It was so strange. For a moment he looked just as he used to. I expected him to jump up and go out to see his horses at any moment, just like he used to do. He adored horses." Christine said, almost fondly.
She sighed and Erik placed a hand over hers. She got to her feet, wrapping her hands around the teacup.
"In any case, we stayed for the funeral before returning. It was just us and the de Chagny family."
"How are they coping?"
"They're distraught, of course. The two of us were like children to them. Now they've lost two of their sons. If it weren't for Philippe, I don't think that they would cope at all." Christine said sadly. She considered the de Chagny family to be her own kin.
"They'll come to visit. They're desperate to see the baby." Erik reminded her gently. She smiled briefly and ran a hand over her stomach.
"Yes. I think I'll go to bed, I'm tired."
She left the room without another word. Meg looked puzzled and Nadir looked at Erik. He refused to meet his friend's eye. Instead he pushed his tea away and went out into the garden. Marie and Nadir exchanged a glance. He sighed.
"Go and talk to her. I'll deal with him."
"What do I do?" Meg asked eagerly. Marie looked at her daughter.
"You can wash the dishes, Marguerite."
Erik stood with his back to the castle, staring at the fountain where he and Christine had kissed that night. He noted idly at the statue needed cleaning. It was starting to grow mildew.
"Are you going to tell me what happened?" Nadir asked, standing beside him and looking at the fountain as well.
"Why do you think I would?"
"Because I know you, Erik. You're troubled and if you don't tell me what's wrong you'll go insane. And then it will be yourself or worse, Christine, who suffers."
Erik glanced at his companion and then looked back at the statue, fixing his jaw as though preparing for war.
"I don't know what to tell you, Nadir. Since she saw… since she saw him she has been distant. As if…" He fell silent.
"As if what, Erik?"
"As if she regrets coming with me." He finished quietly. Nadir sighed.
"Erik, that isn't true."
"She won't let me touch her anymore. You saw just now, when I put my hand on hers. She walked away." Erik said angrily. But there was a sadness in his voice, masquerading behind the fury.
Nadir watched his friend in silence. He had seen. But…
"Leave me." Erik said quietly. Nadir did so, leaving Erik to stand beside the fountain.
Christine was sat on the edge of her bed when Marie entered. She took one look at the girl and said,
"Well what, Marie?" Christine said tiredly, taking her shoes off and putting them away. Marie folded her arms as she returned to the bed and began to unfold her nightclothes.
"You know very well what. Something has happened between you and Erik."
Christine stood with her back to her, running her fingers over the nightdress in her hands. She didn't reply for a moment and then said quietly,
"It is nothing."
"If it were nothing, Erik would not be pacing the garden like a lunatic." Marie said sharply. Christine turned to her angrily.
"And what if something did happen, Marie? What business is it of yours?"
"None at all. I just don't care to have my friends feeling unhappy."
Christine stared at her and then sank onto the bed, clutching her head in her hands.
"I… Marie, he hates me."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"If you saw the way he looked at me after… after I left Thomas. I didn't let him come in with me, you see. And he admitted that he never even wanted me to go. I told him that I loved him and… and he said nothing."
"He is hurt, Christine. He was worried about your health and your baby." Marie said gently. Christine crossed slowly to the window and looked down into the garden at the man by the fountain.
"I should be making him happy, Marie. Isn't that what a wife is supposed to do? But since I have met him I have brought him nothing but misery. We're supposed to be having a family, but he can't even look at me." She said, her voice on the verge of breaking.
Marie rolled her eyes.
"Oh, don't be so ridiculous! Erik is in love with you, you silly girl! You're both being ridiculous. I came to see if something was terribly wrong, but all that is wrong is that you're both too stubborn to talk to each other. You're the only ones who can sort this out, so I suggest you do so, and quickly."
She left the room, muttering some rather unsavoury things. But Christine was still watching her husband.
Night fell and Erik stayed by the fountain, thinking about everything and nothing and Christine. Things had been so good, so perfect. How had they gone so wrong?
He sighed, resting his face in his hands. This was a nightmare…
"Funny how we always end up out here, isn't it?" said a quiet voice. He looked up sharply and stood when he saw her standing some way off, a small smile playing about her lips.
She walked slowly to the fountain and sat on the edge, trailing her fingertips through the cool water. Erik watched the ripples in silence. For some time neither of them spoke. And then Christine said quietly,
"Are you angry with me? Because if you-"
"Of course I'm not." Erik interrupted.
Christine looked at him, without a smile.
"Really? You're not at all angry about what happened?"
"I can't say that I'm happy about it. But I know why you did it."
"No, you don't." She said flatly.
Erik looked at her in surprise and a little apprehension. Her eyes were fixed on the water, watching the ripples spread out and fade away.
"Then why don't you explain it to me, Christine." Erik said in a voice that was just as emotionless. She dipped her fingers into the water again.
"Everyone thinks that I went because Thomas wanted me to, that I'm being such a saint, to go to him on his deathbed after everything he did."
Christine shook her head, eyes fixed on the water.
"No… no, I didn't. I went to…" she swallowed hard. "Erik, when I went into that room I had every intention of making Thomas miserable. Of telling how much he'd hurt me and leaving him to die alone. I wanted to hurt him, to make him leave this world in pain and anguish."
Erik didn't speak. He didn't know what to say. This was a side of Christine he had never known existed. It was almost cruelty and it didn't suit her at all.
"But you didn't."
"No. I couldn't. Not when I saw him there, lying on that bed. It was too hard. All I could think about was that he was Thomas, he was my friend, he was Raoul's friend. I still wanted to… but I couldn't. Anything he asked of me, I gave it to him. Well… almost anything."
She fell into contemplative silence. After a moment Erik asked,
"What did he ask of you?"
"Just three things."
"What were they?"
"He asked me to sing. So I did." Christine said, rising to her feet and wandering to a rose bush and plucking a petal from one of the flowers, rubbing the velvety plant between her fingers. Erik waited for the next request.
"He asked me to kiss him. And I did." She said quietly.
Erik couldn't feel anger. He couldn't feel anything. He was totally numb.
"And… and he asked me to love him." She said, almost inaudible at this point. Nothing further. Erik swallowed hard.
"I didn't say anything. I just told him to watch the sunrise. I couldn't… I couldn't bring myself to say no. I couldn't…"
Her voice broke. She turned to him, her eyes filled with tears.
"That's why I couldn't look at you. Why I couldn't bear it when you touched me, Erik. But I wanted to, believe me, I wanted you to! But I couldn't because of him. He's dead but he's still stopping me from being with you! I hate him, Erik, I hate him!"
She cried the last words in a mixture of fury and sorrow as the tears spilled over. Erik stared at her. Who was this girl? What had happened to the sweet, innocent Christine he had fallen in love with? She had changed, had been filled with anger and sorrow. It wasn't right; she had done nothing wrong in her life. He had many things to be ashamed of but she had always been so good and right.
Thomas had tainted her. Stolen her innocence and turned her into someone older, harsher. And all Erik wanted to do was keep her safe. Something he wasn't sure that he could do anymore.
The petal from her fingers to the floor, bruised and torn, where it had been screwed up in her hand, shredded between her nails. She stared down at her hands, unable to meet his eyes. Erik swallowed the lump in his throat.
"Christine…" He whispered hoarsely. "Don't… don't do this to yourself. You have done nothing wrong. Even when you wanted to hurt Thomas, you didn't. Because that's who you are. You're... you're Christine."
"Erik, I can't do this anymore. I don't want to be like this." She said, her voice constricted with emotion.
"Then don't be." Erik said, stepping towards her, not close enough to touch her though, not yet. "Christine, be what you want to be. A singer, a mother, whatever it is that you want, you shall have it. Just tell me what it is."
Christine stared at him, not bothering to wipe the pearly tears from her cheeks. She took a step towards him, and then another, closing the distance between them.
"I want… I just want to be happy. I want to live here with you and never have anyone take that away from me ever again. Can you give me that, Erik?"
He looked down at her. They were mere inches apart now, so close that if he moved his head just a little he could kiss her. But instead he said,
"Yes. I will give you that."
She gazed at him and then a smile broke across her face, small at first but growing bigger. Erik cupped her face with one hand and she lifted her own hand to his face, pressing it to the unmasked side.
"Ask me for something." She said suddenly. He blinked.
"Ask me for something, anything. I want to give you something to make you happy. It's only fair." She explained.
"Just you, Christine. Just don't leave me."
He kissed her and pulled her into a tight embrace. She buried her face in his shoulder. Neither of them spoke. Neither of them needed to.
No one mentioned anything the next day at breakfast. It seemed that Marie and Nadir were satisfied that they had talked and Marie had probably warned Meg to stay out of it, as she appeared to be desperate for details, trying to signal to Christine to tell her later. Christine simply pretended not to understand to the point that Meg gave up and glared sulkily at her teacup.
Erik went to the music room to practise after breakfast. Marie forced Meg downstairs to wash the dishes and Nadir joined Christine in the garden with Chima.
"The roses are starting to die." He commented.
"It's getting too close to winter." She agreed, brushing a rose with her fingers. "At least the winter garden will look nice."
"It will indeed. Your first Christmas at the castle, I expect it will be most enjoyable."
"I think it will." She said, sitting on a bench, placing her hands over her stomach. Nadir smiled.
"No… I suppose it frightens me a little to know that there's a person in there. A human being." Christine smiled.
"Not for another six months."
"I know, but still! I'm going to be a mother, just like Marie. Lord, that's a terrifying thought."
"Being a mother or being like Marie?" Nadir grinned. Christine gave him a mischievous grin.
They laughed. Nadir stretched his arms and looked around the garden.
"I've been thinking about my next journey."
"You're leaving?" Christine said, looking at him in dismay. He held up his hands in defence.
"It's what I do, Christine. I've always been a traveller."
"But we only got back from England four months ago."
"Far longer than I usually stay in one place, let me assure you. No, I've a mind to see some new lands. Japan holds a great deal of appeal and I have yet to see Australia. Perhaps I shall visit both. A years travelling would do me good, I feel."
"But you'll miss the birth of the baby." Christine pointed out.
"I know. But I can't stay here much longer, Christine. Much as I enjoy the company and the castle, I need to travel." Nadir said.
Christine didn't reply, feeling thoroughly miserable.
"When will you leave?"
"Soon. There's still two months until Christmas, I don't believe I shall stay that long. Perhaps in a month's time."
"Does Erik know?"
"Oh, he expects me to come and go."
"She does too. We've known each other for a long time, you know."
"But she won't want you to go! Neither will Meg and I certainly don't!" Christine said, feeling tears threatening. Nadir hugged her.
"I will be in contact. I'll write whenever I get a chance."
"It won't be the same." She mumbled.
"Things don't stay the same way forever, Christine."
"I know. I just wish that they could sometimes." Christine said sadly, getting to her feet and wandering towards the house.
Nadir sighed and looked down at Chima who was watching him.
"Oh, don't give me that look." He snapped at the animal.
"Nadir's leaving!" Christine said, bursting into the music room. Erik didn't look up from the music he was writing.
"He does that."
"Erik, he's leaving! For Japan, or Australia or somewhere that's very far away from here!"
"I expect he is." Erik looked at her and sighed. "Christine, Nadir is a-"
"Traveller, yes, I know. But I don't want him to go."
"He's stayed much longer than usual. Two months is his normal amount of time spent here before he disappears for a year or so."
"But… but…" Christine began. Erik rose and took her hand.
"Christine, he travels because he enjoys it. He's spent most of his life doing it and he won't stop now. But he'll come back. Mostly because he enjoys mocking me." He said, rather dryly. Christine smiled faintly and Erik slipped his arms around her, resting his chin on her head.
"He'll be back before you know it. And in a few years you'll be wondering why on earth he keeps coming and back and you'll be wanting him to leave again."
"Not likely." She mumbled.
"Just you wait." He smiled.
Christine looked up and him and sighed.
"Fine. But if this child is born and Nadir doesn't come back to see him, he'll have hell to pay."
"Just make sure he knows that." Erik said, returning to the piano.
Nadir left a month later. To Christine's surprise, Marie didn't seem that upset about it. She kissed Nadir fondly and smiled.
"Be sure to write."
"Of course I will." He told her warmly. Christine didn't see the desolate look in Marie's eyes as she stepped back to let Meg say goodbye.
Christine kissed his cheek.
"Just make sure that you come and see the baby."
"I wouldn't dream of not doing it." Nadir assured her. He turned to Erik and shook his hand.
"My thanks for the accommodation and an extremely interesting visit."
"Enjoy your travels." Erik said, almost warmly. But not quite. Still, a hint of a smile crossed his lips as Nadir pulled on his coat and went to the carriage, climbing onto the drivers' seat, Chima by his side. Marie hung back as they waved goodbye and when Christine turned to look she had vanished as Nadir's carriage disappeared from view. Christine touched Erik's hand briefly as Meg sighed and went inside.
"I'll just go and see if Marie is alright."
She was in the kitchen, at the sink, calmly peeling potatoes. Christine lingered in the doorway, unsure for a moment. And then Marie said,
"If you're just going to stand there, you may as well help." Christine moved over, picked up a knife and began to peel a potato.
"Are you alright?" She asked tentatively. Marie didn't look up, efficiently slicing the vegetable.
"Of course. This isn't the first time he's left, you know and it won't be the last. It is hard at first, but it will be easier. Fetch the large pan."
Christine opened a cupboard and pulled down the pan. Marie dumped some potatoes inside and reached for the next one. Christine glanced at her sideways.
"How do you do it?"
"Cope with him leaving."
"I'm not entirely sure I do. I just get on with things. Be careful!"
Too late, Christine's blade slipped, slicing into her finger. She gasped, dropping vegetable and knife. Marie sighed and put her hand under running water, rinsing the blood away.
"You're a nightmare, Christine. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. I think the morning sickness is just about over." Christine said.
"Good. Well, you may as well make tea."
"Christine, the tea please." Marie said shortly, signalling that the conversation was over.
Several months passed peacefully. Well, not completely. The occasional drama took place but nothing more terrible than Christine and Meg arguing over whose turn it was to do the dishes.
Erik grew increasingly more worried about Christine's pregnancy. Or, more precisely, about the child. What if it was… was like him? To be fair, Christine did not seem to be that concerned. But he was. He also knew the dangers of childbirth and the fact that they were far away from the town, if the worst came to the worst and a doctor or midwife was needed. Yes, Marie had knowledge of these things and he himself was able to cope. But it did not prevent him worrying.
One morning he lay awake. It was just past dawn, sunlight spilling into the room. Christine lay beside him and he placed his hand on her swollen stomach. The child was due at anytime. It could arrive today, for all he knew. Christine's hand slipped over his and he looked at her. She was awake, watching him with a slight smile.
"You're worrying aren't you?"
"A little. How do you feel?"
"Tired. I rather wish the baby would hurry up and get out of me." She admitted, sitting up and rubbing her belly. "My turn to make breakfast."
"You know Marie said that you shouldn't."
"I can't just sit around all day, Erik." Christine said, climbing out of bed and going to the washroom.
Marie was already preparing breakfast when they got downstairs, Meg in the garden gathering flowers. Christine pouted, folding her arms.
"Marie! You know it's my turn!"
"And you're in no condition. Have some tea."
"I'm pregnant, not incapable."
"Tea." Marie said, gesturing at the pot. Christine sighed, sitting down and pouring some. Erik sipped his and smiled as the baby kicked. Christine laughed.
"Oh, it's taking forever! I wish it would just hurry up."
Marie smiled, putting toast in front of her.
"Here. Eat." Christine buttered the bread and drank her tea as Erik and Marie discussed what would be done that day.
After breakfast Meg went to sweep the entrance hall whilst Marie cleaned the kitchen. Erik disappeared into the music room and Christine went to the library. She sat comfortably in an armchair, reading through various novels.
Erik was playing the piano when Meg burst in. He played a screeching note as his hands slipped and glared at her.
"It's Christine." Meg began. Erik was on his feet and pushing past her before she had a chance to say anything further. He heard noises coming from the library and burst in. Christine was on her knees whimpering, Marie kneeling beside her, rubbing her back. Erik fell beside her.
"Christine, what's the matter?"
"It hurts." She whispered, her face creased in pain. Marie looked at him.
"It's started. Come; help me get her up to your bedroom. Meg, fetch some hot water."
Erik lifted Christine, carrying her to the door, Marie by his side. He carried her swiftly upstairs, setting her down on the bed. She smiled faintly at his concerned expression.
"Don't worry so much. I'm fine."
"Help me to change her clothes." Marie said, pulling a loose gown from the wardrobe. They swiftly changed her clothes and she settled into the pillows. Erik sat beside the bed as Meg arrived with a steaming bowl of water.
"It may be some time yet." Marie warned. Christine sighed.
"Relax for a while. Meg, make some tea. I suspect we'll need it." Marie said as Erik began to arrange Christine's pillows for her.
A piercing cry rang through the room. Christine heaved, tears streaming from her eyes and sweat on her brow as another contraction seemed to tear her body apart. She felt Erik take her hand and squeezed it tightly.
"Erik…" She whimpered. He kissed her forehead.
"You're doing well, my love."
"I can't… I can't…" She wept. The pain was too much. It ripped through her body agonizingly, threatening to kill her.
"You can." He said, pushing her hair back. Marie looked up.
"Christine, it's time. You need to push."
Christine took a deep breath. Well, as deep as she could. Suddenly her lungs didn't seem to be working to full capacity. She strained to push, gritting her teeth. She could taste blood, where she had pierced her lip with her teeth.
The pain was too much. She couldn't see, could barely hear. All she could feel was the agonizing sensation of tearing flesh.
"Christine, look at me!" Erik's voice broke through the haze. Her eyes snapped open and she saw his face directly in front of hers. Her hands were on his shoulders but she didn't remember putting them there.
"Push!" Marie's voice reached her ears. Christine swallowed hard and strained again, her fingers digging into Erik's shoulders. He pressed his forehead to hers.
"You can do this." He whispered. She shook her head. She was exhausted and the pain was just too unbearable for her.
"One more time, Christine. Just one more." Erik said urgently.
Suddenly shuddering pain swept over her. Christine screamed, pushing with all her might, sobbing. And then nothing…
Erik shouted as Christine slumped back onto the pillows, cradling her. For a moment she looked at him weakly before closing her eyes.
"Meg, cold water and smelling salts!" Marie snapped. Meg took a wet cloth, wiping Christine's face and opening the small bottle with one hand. She held it below Christine's nose and she began to splutter. She stared up at them.
"I…" Her eyes slid closed again. Marie shook her head.
"Let her sleep."
Erik looked at her quickly. He had almost forgotten. He got to his feet and went to her. She was holding a small bundle. Erik met Marie's eyes, concernedly. She smiled slightly.
"A…" She handed the baby to him. Erik took it awkwardly and stared down at the child. He was stained with blood and whimpering softly. Erik examined the face, his fears rising to the surface.
He glanced at Marie and she sighed.
"His right ear." Erik pushed back the blankets and winced. The skin of the ear and the skull beside it was mangled and ridged.
"She will not care. So neither must you." Marie warned. "When his hair grows, it will not be noticeable."
Erik nodded mutely before handing the baby back to her.
"Clean him. I want to wait with her."
She felt like she was floating through a black sea. It was calming and soothing. She could hear sweet music playing. It must be Erik playing. He had been worried when she had seen him last. When she was…
The baby! Where was her baby? Suddenly the blackness was no longer soothing but suffocating, thick and hard, she couldn't breathe, could hardly move at all…
Christine's eyes snapped open. She stared at the ceiling above her. So much pain. Not sharp anymore, but dull and thudding. Christine rubbed her eyes. How long had she been sleeping for? The curtains were drawn so she couldn't see if the sky was light or not.
"How do you feel?"
She looked over at the chair beside the bed sharply. Erik was sat there. She smiled faintly.
"I have felt better. Where is the baby?" He got to his feet and went to the cot on the opposite side of the room, lifting the wrapped baby. Christine heaved herself up into a sitting position. Erik hesitated before had in the child to her.
"It's a boy."
"A boy…" Christine repeated dumbly.
She gazed down at the child in her arms. He had green eyes. Like his father. She ran a finger over his cheek, the child watching her plaintively. Her finger reached his ear. She frowned slightly, pushing the blanket back to look at the deformed ear. Erik watched her, almost fearfully. Christine didn't speak. Eventually Erik said,
"He's… Christine, he's-"
Erik stared at her.
"What?" She looked up at him, her face firm, as if daring him to deny it.
"He's perfect, Erik." Her husband gazed at her. She was pale, weak, trembling. But some strength shone through her dark eyes, overwhelming protectiveness of the child in her arms. Erik allowed himself to smile slightly.
"Yes. He is."
She smiled and looked down at the restless baby.
"You are beautiful. You're my beautiful son." She stroked his cheek and kissed his forehead. Erik watched, not wanting to interrupt the perfect moment. Christine smiled at the baby, tracing his features.
"I love you." She whispered softly to the child and then looked up at Erik. She reached out an arm and he sat on the bed beside her, putting his arm around both her and the child.
"He needs a name." Christine said, looking down at him. Erik kissed her hair.
"You choose." He said, although instantly his mind turned to the possibility that she would call him either Raoul or Thomas. She met his eyes for a moment and smiled slightly.
"I don't know… help me. I can't think of anything."
Erik considered his son, almost relieved.
"Stefan?" Christine smiled, looking at him. "Where did that come from?"
"I don't know." Erik confessed. Christine smiled at her son.
"Stefan Dumas. I like it."
At that moment, Stefan Dumas began to wail. Christine looked surprised.
"What does he want?" She asked anxiously. Erik looked just as helpless.
"I'm not sure. I'll fetch Marie."
But at that moment Marie burst into the room, like an avenging angel.
"What is going on? Ah, you're awake. It sounds as if your son wants feeding."
"His name is Stefan."
"If you don't feed him, you won't be calling him anything." Marie said sternly. "Come on."
Christine smiled as Marie helped her.
She was a mother.
Three months had passed since Stefan's birth. And Christine was exhausted as she went to the crib and picked up the screaming baby.
"Oh, Stefan, please stop crying." She said tiredly. He didn't stop. She looked down at him. "Stefan, it is three o' clock in the morning. I am tired. Why won't you sleep?" She said desperately.
Stefan did not cease in his screeching. Christine groaned, rocking him from side to side. She hadn't slept properly since he'd been born and she was almost sick of it.
"I swear, if I didn't love you so much I'd just ignore you!" She told him sternly. No response other than another ear-splitting scream.
"Allow me." Erik said, having entered the room. He took the bawling child and stared down at him. Christine watched curiously as he crooned a tune to the baby. She couldn't hear the words but Stefan could. After a few moments his screams turned to whimpers and he gradually fell silent, watching his father with contemplative eyes. Erik waited until he was completely quite before handing him back to Christine. She stared at him.
"How on earth did you do that?" She demanded. He smirked.
"Magic. Come back to bed."
She settled Stefan back down and followed Erik into the next room. They climbed back into bed and Christine yawned.
"I'm not getting up tomorrow morning. Tell Marie that Meg can take my turn to do breakfast." She said cheerfully. Erik laughed quietly, pulling her into his arms.
"Very well. Although you'll have to face Meg's wrath."
"Anything. As long as I can sleep first!"
Nadir flicked the horse's reins, whistling cheerfully. It had been over a year and a half since his departure and now he was finally going home. Even now he wondered why it was that he considered the castle his home. He had his own houses dotted around Europe. But he always looked forward to returning here.
The front doors of the castle were flung open as he made his way up the drive and a pretty blonde girl flew out. Nadir laughed as he climbed down from the carriage and Meg jumped into his arms.
"Hello, my little Meg." He said, kissing her head fondly. Three more people appeared in the doorway. Marie moved forward and Nadir embraced her warmly.
"You look stunning, as usual." He commented.
"And you're as charming as usual." Marie replied with a smile. Nadir laughed and hugged Christine.
"You're looking well."
"You as well. Australia agrees with you?"
"Very much so. Erik."
"Nadir." They shook hands, both with a smile. And then a wailing came from within the castle. Christine laughed.
"Stefan's awake. He'll want to meet you, Nadir."
She disappeared and Erik helped Nadir carry his things into the entrance hall.
"How was the journey?"
"Long and tiring. But it was worth it. And yes, Meg, I did bring presents." He said, grinning at the hopeful girl. She laughed and then smiled as Christine came down the stairs, holding a young child in her arms. He was rubbing at sleepy eyes and Nadir stared in amazement.
"Good lord, Erik, he looks just like you."
"Doesn't he?" Christine said happily. Erik lifted an eyebrow as she went to Nadir and smiled at her son.
"Stefan, look. It's Nadir. We've told you about Nadir, haven't we?"
Stefan nodded mutely, eyeing the stranger suspiciously. Nadir smiled and held out his hand.
"A pleasure to meet you, Stefan Dumas. And now, I bring you a gift from the Far East!" Stefan immediately perked up. He was just over a year old but he definitely knew what a gift was!
They all moved into the living room. Christine set Stefan down and he toddled over to Nadir curiously. Nadir smiled and pulled out a box. Stefan took it excitedly and sat on the floor to rip it open. And then he laughed delightedly, holding up the toy in the shape of a monkey. Christine smiled.
"Nadir, it's lovely! Say thank you, Stefan."
"Thank you." Stefan said obediently.
As Nadir handed out gifts (Meg being just as excited as Stefan about it) Erik sat by Christine. His hand found hers without him even seeming to notice and she leant her head against his shoulder.
That evening, they walked together in the garden whilst Nadir was resting and Meg and Marie were cleaning the dinner things. Stefan ran ahead with Chima and his toy monkey. Erik watched him, his eyes barely noticing the deformed ear and hairless patch behind it. Christine, who never saw it, squeezed his hand.
"You're very quiet tonight." She commented. He smiled at her as they reached the fountain in the Rose Garden.
"More so than usual."
"Why? You can be quiet if you want to be." She smiled. Stefan and Chima were chasing each other through the bushes and his parents sat down to watch.
Christine chewed her nail for a moment and then said casually,
"I wonder what it would be like if Stefan had a sister."
"Why a sister?" Erik asked.
"I'm not sure. I was just wondering what sort of brother he'd be."
"Are you hinting at something, my dear?" Erik asked with an arched eyebrow.
Christine smiled sweetly.
"I might be." She said in a would-be casual tone. Erik looked at her.
"Fine. Yes. I'm with child."
"So soon?" Erik said, concernedly. Christine laughed.
"What do you mean? It's been well over a year since Stefan was born."
"And you think it will be a girl?"
"Hmm. I'm not sure why. I just think it will be." Christine said thoughtfully, playing with a rose snapped from a nearby bush. Erik smiled and tucked the rose into her dark curls.
"I think he will be an excellent brother."
"Yes… yes, I thought so too." Christine said satisfactorily, leaning against him. His arm slipped around her as they watched their son playing and the sun began to disappear over the trees.
A/N: Well, there ya go! An entire story posted in a week. And you enjoyed it, so yay! A few notes.
Mademoiselle Phantom, go ahead with your story!
Thank you to everyone who reviewed! I want to name you all, but I'm supposed to be packing for France right now. (Guilty Look) So you'll have to settle for many hugs and Erik shaped cookies in return for plenty of reviews on my return! I bought myself a notebook today so I can start writing my next stroy. Which will be a sequel to 'From Angel's Eyes'. I had sworn off sequels but I think I left off too early with that one. I think there's a lot more I could do with those characters. Hmm... anyway, I'll see you in two weeks!
Au revoir mon amies! (I speak little-to-no French. This is gonna be a fun holiday!)
Lotsa luve 'n' huggles 'n'Erik-shaped-Cookies