Six Years Later
Covent Garden was the home of the Royal Opera House, and as such, proudly laid claim to both the talents of an eccentric masked composer and the finest soprano in all of Europe. It had been a blessed day indeed when Monsieur Erik Rousseau had arrived in London by train over three years before to play his new opera, La Fleur dans la Nuit, for the manager, Mr. Williams. Quick to recognize genius when he saw it, Williams had commissioned Erik immediately. Equally quick to recognize opportunity, Erik had inquired about arranging an audition for his wife. Mr. Williams had been somewhat reticent at first, not wishing to place himself in the position of insulting the composer so soon into their relationship, but he had consented to hear Madame Rousseau. It was a decision that had begun a very fruitful relationship for all involved. Christine Rousseau, quite simply, possessed the most exquisite voice ever to be heard upon the stage.
The Rousseaus resided in a fine manor outside of London that had been designed and built by Erik himself. The house was a beautiful structure, the architecture drawing on classical designs, yet flavored with a decidedly modern character. The building was situated perfectly upon a lush green landscape, surrounded by gardens overflowing with flowers of all kinds, the most cherished among them being the red roses. Spreading out behind the house was a peaceful little pond that served as a happy home for an array of fish and several ducks.
On this bright and sunny afternoon, which itself was quite a cherished occurrence in London, the mistress of the house sat laughing at the antics of her children as they tackled their father to the ground. Gustave Rousseau, at the tender age of only four, already possessed the keen intellect and all the catlike agility of his father. His older sister by two years, Angelique, was a handful with her father's indomitable will and slightly devious, albeit genius, mind. Both had inherited their mother's pure heart and loving nature. At the moment, they were combining their considerable talents to defeat the dreaded Phantom of the Opera.
Christine's musical laughter drifted on the breeze as Erik lay on the ground, two tiny bodies pinning him more effectively than any restraints ever could. Gustave sat triumphantly upon his father's chest; his riot of ebony curls framing wide brown eyes that currently sparkled with proud victory, while Angelique knelt over her father with hands pressed against his shoulder; her blue-green eyes glinting with satisfaction and her mahogany curls slipping free of her hair ribbon.
He raised a brow on his unmasked face and speared his daughter with his most intimidating look, growling, "Never."
Erik turned quickly towards his daughter, wrapping his arms around his son and sitting up. Angelique squealed and jumped back, and Gus began to giggle madly. Erik stood gracefully, hoisting the laughing boy into the air and tucking him under his arm as he chased after his daughter who ran to hide in her mother's skirt.
"You little Delilah…do you think your mama can save you from me?"
Christine pressed a hand over her mouth to stifle a very unladylike snort. Erik directed a raised brow at his wife as he carefully let Gustave slide down his body to the ground, and the boy immediately wrapped himself around his father's leg. "Mon ange, I believe these little ruffians belong to you."
She grinned, "Oh, no, Erik…they are entirely yours today."
Angelique huffed at her mother's words, placing her little hands on her hips and glaring at Christine in a pose very much like her father's. "Mama! You are supposed to save us from him."
Christine laughed, leaning forward and wrapping her daughter in her arms. "And who will save you from me, bel ange?" She placed a rain of kisses over her daughter's face until Angelique was giggling and squirming to get away from the attack.
Gustave, not wanting to be left out, relinquished his grip on his father's leg and launched himself into his mother's arms, as well. After a similar assault on her son, Christine stood and glanced down at her children, "Come now, you two…time for a bath. You've both made a mess of yourselves."
Two little faces wore matching expressions of horror. Gustave pouted, "Do we haf' to?"
Angelique shook her head furiously, sending her curls flying. "I do not want a bath."
Erik chuckled, "I would suggest you both heed your mother or you will have no dessert tonight."
Angelique crossed her arms, glaring up at her mother, "Does papa have to have a bath?"
Erik grinned wickedly at his wife, "Yes, mon ange…shall papa have a bath, as well?"
She smiled sweetly at her husband, "He shall if he wants his dessert tonight."
He laughed, scooping Gustave up into one arm, then swooping down to lift Angelique. "Baths all around, then."
Christine watched them with a fullness in her heart that had grown steadily during the past six years. There had been rough patches, of course, especially in those first years when Erik had been quick to sink back into his dark brooding. His volatile nature had not disappeared, though he'd learned somewhat to control his temper. Christine suspected that was more for the sake of their children than anything. There was simply nothing that Erik would not do for his son and daughter.
Angelique had wrapped her papa around her finger from the moment of her birth and had learned early how to use her power over him. Christine smiled to herself, knowing very well that her daughter had the very same power over her mother. And Gustave had been an apt pupil of his big sister.
While Angelique had been born without a blemish, Gustave had not been quite as lucky. He had a small imperfection in the skin at his right temple and around his ear which was almost entirely covered now by his thick hair. Yet at his birth, Erik had fallen into a blackness of self loathing from which he'd been nearly inconsolable. He'd left their house for days, and Christine had begun to fear he would never come back to her. She nearly hadn't forgiven him when he finally did. To this day, she had not asked him the details of what he had done in those days away from her. She truly had no desire to know. Not long after that, they had begun to talk of finding a position at an opera house once again.
Music had always filled their home, but there had been something missing from their quiet life in Dover. The thrill of the stage. The performance. Erik had never stopped composing, and he craved an outlet for his creations. Christine had craved the same…for her husband and for herself. There had never been any second thoughts about moving to London.
Mr. Crawford had been loathe to see Erik go, yet the man had understood that music was what truly called to the young couple. London was only a short train journey, and the Rousseaus often returned to Dover to spend holidays on the white sands by the ocean. They'd had many visits with the Crawford family, including the young barrister that Victoria Crawford had eventually married. A man her father had been very happy to introduce her to.
Despite Erik's success as a composer, he still preferred the solitude of their manor and had little tolerance for polite society. Nor did Christine really care much for the demands of public life, and she was far more content to spend time with her little family than strangers she had to perform to. They had both made one or two trusted new friends in London, and Christine and Erik were both ever grateful that Madame Giry and Meg remained in constant correspondence, though they'd not seen each other nearly as often as any of them would like.
It was to be expected, of course, as Meg had married Raoul soon after returning to Paris and they had started a family of their own. Christine grinned, thinking how very much Erik disliked Meg's choice of a husband, but he'd managed to tolerate the few visits they'd had. It was rather an odd thing to think of Meg as a Comtess, but Erik and Christine had both learned to accept such little oddities of life, as true happiness was often found in the most unexpected places.
Long after the night had fallen and the children had been tucked into bed, the couple sat side by side at the piano in the music room, as they often did. Erik was nearly finished with a new opera, and Christine found herself lost in the beauty of the aria that he played. When the last notes had faded, Erik turned to his wife, "Well, mon ange, do you approve?"
She smiled, "You know I do, my love."
He nodded, "I think I shall have it performed in the coming season. You, of course, shall have the lead."
Christine was certain that her husband intended to see to it that his will was done. Some things would never change. Her smile softened, and she slipped her hand into his. "Erik…I am afraid you may need to consider casting another soprano."
He tensed, looking at her sharply, "Why would I need to do such a thing?"
Her eyes fairly sparkled as she brought his hand to rest over her abdomen. "Because I shall be busy with another of your productions, my love."
Erik's eyes darkened momentarily with the same uncertainty she'd seen twice before, but his lips curved slowly upwards and his voice was tender as he spoke. "A role you were born to play, mon ange."
Erik leaned forward, capturing his wife's lips in a reverant kiss. Christine had done far more than simply save him from his solitude…she had brought him life in all its agonizing splendor. The light, the darkness, the joy and the pain. Woven through it all was the unbreakable bond of their love.
Two of the precious few who understood that happily ever after is only what you make of it.
A/N: Well, there you have it. The end of the tale. Thank you all so much for sharing it with me. It has been a true pleasure to write (again) and hear all your comments.
This last chapter was initially the epilogue I wrote before I decided to extend the story…and it still fit…so there it is. I wrote another version of the epilogue which I will soon be posting as a one-off. I guess you could call it an extra-fluffy one chapter sequel to both A&P and LC. So keep an eye out for it.
One last time...I invite anyone who is interested in the Meg-Raoul side of the story to read Little Conversations.
I have another story idea in the works…but only time will tell if it materializes.
Again...a very sincere thanks to all of my reviewers who I have had such fun corresponding with this past month and a half. I hope to be able to repeat the experience.
So until next time…