Disclaimer:I own nothing nothing nothing, save the words in this order. This story may include references from Leroux, Kay, or ALW- as I use all in my writing, though this piece really isn't based on any single source. Enjoy, and please leave a note if you have any opinion at all. On with the story!
(or The Fine Line)
The scene wasn't out of the ordinary in any way. Two people who cared deeply for each other sat in a lavishly decorated personal library, each reading their genre of choice in from of a blazing fire. It was a scene of perfect contentment, each person silently reveling in the presence of the other. But who could these elegant creatures be? A married couple perhaps? Very dear friends? Such is what an uninformed voyeur would suspect. However, the circumstances of such a scene were beyond the typical.
The beautiful library was set not in a grandiose manor atop a hill, but deep under the streets of man- entombed somewhere between Humanity and the despair that is Hell. The couple were not two wealthy newlyweds, but a reclusive genius and his young protégé. Yet, each personage held the other in such esteem and held such sentiments, that it was hard to describe exactly what they were to each other. Yet, fear on each one's part, one of rejection and the other sprung from naivete kept such feelings encased in glass hearts. There is a fine line between true love and hate. A fine line between madness and sanity. And, unbeknownst to all, hairline cracks threatened to shatter the crystal illusions.
She sat staring at the dying fire, her cerulean gown spread across the rich Persian carpet and her feet tucked beneath her. It was a position she had adopted often these past weeks, one of contentment and repose. Her pastel wardrobe always seemed such a strange contrast to the room, with its heavy velvet reds and luninous spun golds. The décor was so unlike her, so opposite from the light airy world of her dreams. Yet there was something perfect about it, something which made her feel at peace here. It was as if her perspective on life changed each time she descended to this castle of the Underworld.
Then there was Erik- darkness personified- who was a perfect match for this midnight mansion. Whenever she returned, decked in the breezy finery of her aboveground existence, she would feel more and more out of place in this ethereal world he wove with his art, his words, his music. She would find herself longing to be adorned in darkness, a Persephone with violet silk draped against alabaster skin and deadly garnets encrusted in mahogany curls. She wished only to be an embodiment of this place, but she could never speak such imaginings aloud to anyone. Erik would only laugh and reply with practical sarcasm that "Dark velvet would make you sallow, my dear. We wouldn't want you resembling me." or "You are much too alive to be Queen of the Dead, Christine." No, she could never tell Erik. Nor could she ever speak to Raoul of it. He would think her mad if he did not already question her sanity at times. If she wasn't careful, her dear childhood friend would cause the end of this moonlit fairytale.
A light cough broke her reverie and she quickly turned her head towards its source. He was staring at her above the heavy tome in his hands (seemingly written in Russian), his golden eyes mirroring the dying embers she had been studying so closely, yet so unseeingly.
"Is your novel so against your liking, my dear? Or do you perhaps fancy yourself a gypsy- divining the future through the flames?" Had he not perfected the art of stoicism, she was sure his exposed lips would have curled into a sort of smile. As is was, however, only his eyes danced in their amusement.
"Oh, no Erik! The novel is intriguing. I only got caught up in my own thoughts, is all."
"Those thoughts must hold a great deal of gravity, the way you were gazing at that fire so intensely." He had set his large volume aside and was leaning forward ever so slightly, with an air of expectation. She understood his silent request for her continuation and made no hesitation indulging him in the inner workings of her mind.
"Only my thoughts of how my life has changed in so little time, is all."
As she spoke, Christine began to slowly inch her way over to the plush chair which held her Angel. With every movement towards him, he made a subsequent movement back until he was once again leaning against the cushioning. He alwaystried to keep what he called "respectable distance" between teacher and student. The concept bordered on the insane, however, as he went to great lengths to avoid the breach of such a distance (save for certain times when he lost his fragile temper). In truth, though he would never admit, he was afraid that if she ever came too close, he would never be able to let go.
They stared at each other for a time, she awaiting a response and he silently regarding her presence at his knee. Finally he spoke, composed and melodious, with only the remnant of a pained expression within his eyes.
"Tell me then, has it changed for better or for worse?"
"Oh! For better of course!" she cried emphatically, her sapphire eyes glistening. "I've finally been able to sing- in real roles, too- just as my father always dreamed I would! I've finally become more that just a face in the crowd! I've become, well, somebody! But, most of all, not only have I discovered my Angel of Music is real flesh and blood—"
He felt his heart lift and begin to soar at this. She was glad he was real, even if he was not truly heaven-sent. His lips twitched in a most unfamiliar sensation of joy, and perhaps they would have formed a smile. That is, had Christine not continued thus.
"—and I have been reunited with my dearest childhood friend! It is magnificent what changes have occurred, in such immediacy, too, Erik!" she smiled innocently, quite unaware of her unthinking blunder.
He regarded her darkly, his fey eyes now dulled to a tarnished brass and mumbled, more to himself than anyone else, "Ah yes, the boy… and all the other amiable suitors waiting to buy you with their trinkets and tokens of affection."
"Buy me!" her nose wrinkled in disbelief. "I was unaware of a price upon me! Though, I must admit, I do not understand the sudden notice of the public- specifically the men! Do you truly believe they care so little of me? That they only wish to parade me around like some prize horse?"
He took in her wide eyed glare and knew fully well that she wished hime to refute such doubts, to assure her the handsome young suitors cared only for the sweetness that was Christine. She wanted him to tell her that they loved only her, not some fantasy, even if she was forbidden to love any of them in return. However, he knew that not only to be an untruth, but that telling her such things would not help his purposes in the least. He instead lightly replied,
"What man would not wish to stroll through the parks with the Bijou de l'Opéra
upon his arm?"
He watched as her face fell, but his thoughts were elsewhere, in a lovely park complete with it's own lovely stream. A moonlit paradise where he walked arm in arm with one, Mademoiselle Daae, and the sound of her bell-like laughter melded with the light tinkling of the stream until the entire scene was bathed with overtones of a beautiful sonata.
"…I suppose it is true then," she was saying when suddenly she noticed Erik humming some unknown melody. She was having a serious conversation and he was humming? "Erik, have you heard anything I've said?"
His reverie broken, he blinked at her a few times, as if adjusting his eyes to the light, before replying, "I'm sorry, dear, but you know, they say hearing is the first sense to endure decay."
Her brows knit together in consternation as she mumbled, so softly she herself could barely discern it, that she believed his hearing was not the problem in the least. A sudden glitter in amber orbs acknowledged he had heard her perfectly and, with her suspicions confirmed, she continued.
"I was simply stating the truth of what you have been trying to tell me. They only want La Daae, I suppose. They have no notion of loving Christine. For who ever noticed mere Christine?"
They sat in contemplative silence for a time until he questioned, albight quietly, "Would you rather I had never taught you to sing?"
Her instinctive reaction was to protest against such a thing, but a glance at his countenance stilled her tongue. He was gazing at her with such a strange, intense emotion, she feared he would burn holes in her clothing, or worse, her skin. The realization slowly dawned upon Christine like a crashing wave. His indifferent comment had been anything but indifferent, it had served to veil his true meaning- one he would not speak aloud. I noticed, it said, I cared when no one else did. Her gaze fell from his piercing glance, though she could still feel it upon her, towards her wrist as she began to absently play with the bracelet given to her by the only admirer she felt anything for. Raoul. Had he noticed her when she was still just Christine?
Unbidden by her mind, an image emerged of a particular day in which two patrons arrived backstage- Phillipe, Comte de Chagny, and his brother. She could remember recognizing his face immediately, but being too shy after all these years of separation, she had said nothing. He, on the other hand, had looked straight at her for a minute or so, before turning upon his heel and walking over to the next group of lovely chorus girls. Meg Giry had assured her he had not seen her, but she knew otherwise. And then, that night, she had cried her heart out to her Angel, who, though adament they begin their lessons, had aquired a much more gentle, comforting voice for the duration. Raoul. Did he love the reality of the girl or the fantasy of the star?
Her gaze lifted from the glistening gold and quickly hid it beneath her sleeve once more, lest Erik discover it. His thoughts, however, appeared to be focused upon some unknown horizon as he gazed at the ring around his smallest finger. Was he scrying a course of action from that midnight stone, as a great magician is wont to do withhis crystal ball?
The moment didn't last long enough for her to decide, however, for mere seconds after her gaze fell upon him, his head snaped up in one fluid motion that seemed almost inhuman. Almost an action of the cornered prey. He glanced back at her, a strange resolve echoing around his eyes, and in one graceful motion, emerged from the chair cushions while simultaneously beckoning her to follow.
"Come, Christine," he said with a hint of some primitive hymn in his voice, "I have something for you. Would you like to see?"
It was a command, not a question on his lips for she would be shown, whether she wished it or not. The thought that had presented itself to Christine but moments before was shattered by his strange, imperious smile. He would never allow himself to be the prey- only the predator.
She was led into the Louis-Phillipe room which, though decoratedin the same basic shades as the rest of the house, had a more subdued, more dreamlike, more feminine air. Christine remembered her first visit to this space, how she had marvelled at the vanity, the canopy bed, how even the paintings upon the wall had been chosen with only her in mind. The though had made her shudder then as it did now. Erik's fervent gaze upn her wasn't helping the foreboding feeling welling within her chest, either. What was he staring at anyhow? He was too close to her, closer than he usually allowed himself to be. Her breathing became disjointed as she followed. Something was wrong.
He walked ahead of her towards the vanity, pulling out the mahogany chair for her. With a graceful flourish of his hand, he made a slight bow as if inviting her to take a seat.
"Come Christine, you really should sit down. You are looking a bit peaked, my dear."
Words eluded her as she made her way towards the dainty chair, sitting upon it gracefully while allowing her Angel to push her towards the gilded vanity. She watched him in her mirror uneasily as he procured some small object from behind her back. She took little notice of whatever it was he set down before her, however, as she was too busy studying him. Sapphire eyes watched only reflected amber orbs, just as the owner of said eyes kept his unreadable gaze fixed upon the double of the woman seated in front of him.
"Are you not curious as to what I have given you?"
Her eyes snapped down to the object set in front of her. A soft gasp escaped her lips as she took in the sight. A dainty jewelery box lay before her, all gilded gold carved into images of roses and spring. The lid held a crimson cameo, its milky goddess forever captured in an expression of serenity, porcelain curls falling upon porcelain shoulders. Christine reached out to caress the gilding when he made his move, like the viper she knew he could be.
"I don't believe I've ever seen that particular bracelet before. It is truly magnificent, you know. Wherever did you get it?"
It was spoken innocently enough, but Christine felt her hand stay poised before her gift. The words had paralyzed her as sure as any venom would. Her gaze moved from the exquisite box to the glittering band upon her arm, its single heartshaped charm dangling dangerously in the air. Fear gripped her heart as she took in her teacher's reflection- nonchalant, uncaring. But his eyes, oh those horrid eyes reflected the myriad lights of candle flames circling the room.
A plastered grin upon her face, she shaking replied, "Oh, that? Oh it was… only given to me… by Ra… by a friend… yes, a friend. Just a token, you know."
"Of course," the dark voice replied, "Just a token. Then you won't mind if I examine it, then?"
She would have mentioned that it wasn't worth looking at, but was not at such liberty to do so. For, without waiting for any assent, the Dark Angel had firmly grasped her wrist and pulled it upwards and behind, towards his glittering eyes. This, of course, caused Christine to be tugged halfway around her chair into a most awkward position in which she had a spectacular view of an expensive, black evening jacket. His long fingers were still clasped upon her and she wondered where all his careful attention to "respectable distance" had gone. A tilt of her head allowed a view of Erik's scrutinizing gaze upon the trinket. It wasn't until he turned that look upon her that she recognized the crazed, jealous cast to his eyes.
"To my dearest Lotte," he read, carelessly dropping the charm to rest against the wrist still within his deathly grasp. "I had no idea your aquaintances were calling you by childhood names, Christine. Had I but known you no longer enjoyed the title of my Angel, I surely would have stopped calling you such, dear. Though I can't say I believe Lotte to be a better alternative."
"Oh, no, but I didn't want… that is—"
The grip around her wrist tightened and she felt herself pulled upwards, so that she was half sitting and half kneeling upon the chair. His face was now mere inches from her own as he said softly, melodiously,
"I had thought you understood my instructions about accepting girfts from your suitors, especially accepting kisses, Christine!"
Horror permeated her being as she remembered the circumstances surrounding the gift. Raoul had been leaving the Opera and she had been entering. He had placed the little bracelet within her hand and then, with utmost chastity, place a light kiss upon her lips. Christine's free hand touched her lips, not only at the thought of that kiss, but at the realization that Erik had seen. He had seen.
"Oh, yes, I knew. You are a horrid liar, dear. We must keep you in the most honest of roles in future productions, you know. But, enough of that, perhaps you would like the rest of my gift to you, hmm? If you take from those I directly told you not to, I doubt you'd reject an offer from me… though a tutor and a suitor are not nearly the same, are they Christine?"
His face inched closer to hers until she could feel his breath caress her lips. She felt her breath catch within her throat. Was he going to kiss her, just as Raoul had after giving his gift? More importantly, did she actually want him to kiss her? Instead, his face suddenly fell away, leaving her lips cold and abandoned. Her wrist was suddenly released and she dropped harshly onto the chair. A mixture of relief and disappointment flooded her as she gathered the strenght to mention that anything between Raoul and herself was only a petty, childish game. Erik only twisted her back around in her chair while pointed to the jewelery box before her.
"Then pretend for me that you are simply elated, just bursting with excitement, to open that."
Never had such a lovely piece appeared so ominous. Did a scorpion await within, to prevent her hand from ever accepting another gift? Her thoughts began to run wild until she realized she had hesitated too long, and Erik was not pleased. She felt another hand upn hers, roughly guiding her fingers to open the lid.
She had no choice but to obey and, as the object flipped open, she recoiled in fear of what might be within. No deadly creature met her gaze when she finally opened her eyes. Only a shimmering ring was nestled inside the velvet fabric of the box. It was an exquisite, yet decidedly simple, gold band set with three small sapphires, each almost as black as midnight. She stared at it vaguely as realization of exactly what it was reached her.
"That's a wedding ring." she began quietly.
He visibly scoffed at her as he lifted the ring to the lit sconce upon the wall. "Why would a man such as I have any need for a wedding ring, dear?" a hint of sorrow permeated his speech," Although, I do believe it will fit best right… here." He said this while lifting her right ring finger slightly. Then, he proceeded to forcibly push it upon her finger, taking no care for gentleness or bruised skin.
"Take it as a oken of my friendship, just as you say your Vicomte's gift was. Take it as a reminder that I am always watching, always seeing, always guarding."
He let his hands pass through the air about her hair and then brought his lips close to her ear, silently whispering.
"Take it as a reminder that I saw you when no one else cared to look."
And, with that, the air shifted and he was gone, dissolved into the shadows which he took such solace in. She had been left to stare at the glistening ring upon her lightly bruised finger and to listen to the dark concertos reverberating through the house upon Lake Averne.
She awoke the next morn to find a note scrawled in red ink upon her bedside table.
Forgive any impropriety on my part last night. It is not necessary for you to accept that abominable piece of jewelery if you do not wish to. Tea awaits you upon the table in the parlor.
She set down th note and began to ponder the ring that had been laid beside it sometime during her slumber. Had it been she who pulled it of in a fit of desperation? Or had he removed it while she slumbered, a silent plea for a truce? Yet, as she studied the darkness of the stones, she herself divined a course of action. With sudden determination, she placed the ring around her finger, knowing its meaning fully. She would accept all its truths and consequences as surely as Persephone accepted the pomegranate seeds. For, though we may hate those that we love, it is only because we love that we begin to hate.
A/N: laughs I believe this is the single longest story I've ever written in one chapter. 10 pages, typed? Anyways, I hope you truly enjoyed this effort. As always, I ask for any feedback, even if it is simply "I hate/love this story!" Until next time, I remain your faithful author: