The Court was buzzing as Christine entered the room two days later, having fully prepared herself to make an appeal. She took the seat at the head of the room and waited for everyone to settle down.
"Thank you all, for coming to hear what I have to say." She smiled. "I have found… something that may change everything and I wish to inform you of it."
She cleared her throat nervously and read the piece of information that Raoul had found in a clear, although slightly trembling voice. The court listened in amazed silence. When Christine had finished she said,
"You all know what this means. If I am given your permission, I can take my rightful place on the throne of Rymansia and still stay with my husband and daughter. I am pleading with you to agree to this, to change the law in my favour."
Christine took a deep breath.
"I hope that you all know that I love my country and that I want this more than anything. But only with your agreement can this happen. I am returning to the castle now and in three days time I ask you to return so that you may inform me of your decision and a decision can be made on the future of Rymansia."
They all stared at her. She didn't smile but looked at each of them before leaving the room.
Erik paced the music room in… what? Anxiety? Anger? He didn't know.
Had these last five years been so unhappy for Christine that she would rush back to Rymansia so eagerly? Why else would she seize the throne that she had insisted meant nothing to her?
And yet, that accusation was deeply unfair. Christine had a responsibility towards Rymansia and if Raoul would not take over again, there was no one left. But Erik could not seem them being happy here, could not imagine them leading the carefree existence they had had in the Southlands.
Rymansia would gladly accept Christine as their Queen. Serenity would be welcome as their new princess. But surely they would never see the man who had stolen away their princess as a King. A man who lived for only three things – Christine, Serenity and Music, could not make a decent King.
He cursed Atherton Hawkins for staring the rebellion and he cursed Raoul de Chagny for failing to keep it under control.
"You're glaring." Said a soft voice. He looked over at the door and saw Christine watching him. She smiled slightly. "Are you angry at the floor?"
"No. Not the floor." He said shortly. "How did the court take it?"
"Stunned. The decision will be made in three days." She said, picking at a nail. "I don't know what will happen if they say no. Raoul won't take the throne back and I wouldn't know who else to trust."
Erik didn't reply. Christine frowned.
"Is everything alright?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"Don't do that, Erik. I hate it when you answer me with a question." Erik sighed and leant against the wall, his arms folded across his chest.
"I simply did not imagine that we would be staying here permanently. I assumed that we would eventually return home." He said quietly.
Christine stared at him but before she could say anything Serenity skipped into the room. She smiled up at her mother.
"Mama, I can't find the milk."
"Ask Meg to call a servant, darling."
"Meg is gone."
"Gone where?" Christine frowned. Serenity rolled her eyes.
"Meg and Raoul are upstairs, talking. It was boring and I wanted milk."
Christine cast a quick glance at Erik before crossing to the bell and tugging it. Within a minute a servant had arrived.
"Please could you fetch some milk for my daughter and some tea? We'll take it in the sitting room."
"Yes, your highness."
She took Serenity's hand and looked at Erik.
"Come with us, Erik. I want to talk to you."
Once Serenity was occupied with milk and Ayesha, Christine moved across the room to sit beside Erik.
"Tell me what's wrong, Erik." She said softly, taking his hands in hers. He met her eye.
"You don't want to hear it."
"I wouldn't ask if I didn't." She pointed out. Erik sighed heavily.
"Christine, you will make a good queen."
She blinked at him.
"And that makes you angry?"
"No. I'm angry because I will not be a good king and I will disappoint you."
It took several moments for this to sink in. Christine's mind clouded over. She hadn't even considered what this would mean for Erik. She had been so self-absorbed, getting Rymansia back together and working on her appeal, it didn't even occur to her to think of what Erik would want. What he wanted was to live in a house in a valley, to play music and play with his daughter, to live happily in a simplistic existence.
"Erik, you could never disappoint me." She said, appalled that he would even think that it were possible to do such a thing. "And as for being King… it's only a title, some silly little thing. It won't mean anything, nothing will change."
"Everything will change. We won't be able to do hundreds of the things that we used to." Erik said tiredly. Christine swallowed hard.
"No. None of the important things will change."
He closed his eyes for a moment and Christine squeezed his hands tightly. He looked at her and saw how upset she was.
"Erik, please! I can't do this without you! I can't… don't leave me!"
"No! No, Christine, I didn't mean that." He hurried to assure her of that. She looked at him.
"But… I don't know what to do. I just thought… I didn't think that you wouldn't…"
Erik took her face in his hands and kissed her.
"Let's wait until the court makes their decision. Then we can make ours." He said calmly. Christine nodded, fighting back tears.
"Yes… yes, that'd better." She agreed. She took a deep breath and then said, "I love you."
"I know. I love you too." He said, as she put her head against his shoulder, clinging desperately to him.
The day before the decision was due to be made, Hawkins was sentenced. Christine was not present at the trial, but was informed that he was sentenced to carry out the rest of his life in prison. His home and lands were taken from him. Christine knew just what to do with them.
She took the rights to the land and slid them into a parchment envelope before going out into the garden. Raoul and Meg were sat in the rose garden, enjoying the sunshine. Christine spotted Ayesha prowling around the bushes, stalking some insect. The pair beamed at her.
"Christine! How are you feeling?"
"Nervous." She admitted. "I wanted to give you something, Raoul."
Christine handed him the envelope. He opened it, puzzled. As he read the papers, his mouth fell open.
"Hawkins won't be using them and they're beautiful lands, about a half hour ride from the city." Christine smiled. "You wanted to stay in Rymansia, and stay you shall. The land is yours to do what you will with."
"This is so generous, Christine."
"You deserve it. You've done so much for me and Rymansia these five years." She said solemnly. And then a sly glint flickered in her eyes. "I'll just let you two… celebrate."
Both flushed a charming shade of pink as she turned to go.
"Are you sure that you want to come?" Christine asked Erik for what seemed like the thousandth time. He nodded.
"Yes. I'm sure." Christine patted her hair, making sure it was still presentable and tugged at her dress, smoothing it nervously. Erik caught her hands and held them still.
"You're fidgeting, Christine."
"I have a good reason to!"
"But it won't help and it's extremely irritating." Erik said. Christine sighed heavily and looked outside.
"The carriage is here."
They climbed into the carriage and rode in silence to the courthouse. Before they entered the room, Erik turned to Christine.
"Whatever they have decided, we will come up with a solution. We won't be separated. I promise you that at least."
She didn't smile, but clasped his hand tightly.
"Where you go, I go." She said quietly before releasing his hand and pushing open the door.
She and Erik walked proudly together, down the centre of the room to the chair reserved for her. One of the lords hurriedly moved forward and placed a second chair beside it, which Erik took. Christine glanced at Erik before turning to face the court. Her eyes went to Lord Charlton who got to his feet.
"Your Highness… Monsieur Destler…" He bowed to each of them before clearing his throat. "We, the court of Rymansia, have reached a decision concerning the change of law that you have requested."
Christine bit on her lip and nodded for him to continue. Lord Charlton cleared his throat again.
"The majority has voted… for the law to be changed."
Christine let out a gasp and then quickly composed herself. Charlton smiled.
"The law will be changed within a few days and then you can begin organising your long overdue coronation."
"Thank you. Thank you all." Christine said, unable to help the smile on her face. She looked around at Erik. He was watching her, with a slight smile. He couldn't help it, she looked so delighted. Christine looked back at the court, beaming.
"I will return to the castle. There are a few things I need to sort out. I thank you all once more for this."
Erik pulled Christine into the sitting room before anyone had a chance to ask what had happened at the court. She looked at him and he pulled her into a kiss. After a few moments she stared breathlessly at him.
"Erik!" She laughed, surprised.
"We will stay."
"We will stay here. You shall take the throne and rule Rymansia." He said. "I do not wish to make you choose and I won't."
"Erik, you don't want to be king."
"But I do want you. As long as you leave me out of any important ruling that must be done, I don't see why we can't make this work."
She blinked and mouthed wordlessly.
"Erik… are you sure?"
"No." He admitted. "But it's what we must do."
"Yes. We." Christine said. "Not me. Not you. Both of us. You don't need to do any of the important court things; I have Raoul to help me with that. You can just play your music and be my husband and Serenity's father. That's all you need to do."
"And since I've been doing it for quite some time, I'm well practised." He smirked.
Christine smiled and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"Then that's all we need." She said quietly.
I remember a time when things were quite different to this. We didn't always live in a castle. Some time, in my early childhood, I have vague memories of a house in a valley. It's rather fuzzy these days, but I remember that we were happy.
That's not to say that we aren't happy here. I adore the castle, and everyone in it. The servants are kind, my parents are happy, Raoul and Meg are frequent visitors and Marie is my mentor. I don't know what I would do without them all.
I walk along the corridor and pass a servant.
"Good afternoon." I say.
"Good afternoon, Princess Serenity. Your mother was looking for you; I believe the party from Hirlos has arrived."
I thank the servant and move onwards, cheered. Philippe and Sorelli are nice people, I love their company. And then there's Richard, their son. He's older than me, by a good four years, but we get along very well. I know that Mama and Papa would love for us to marry, and I expect we shall. It's never been in anything that we've said. It's just a feeling. If we do marry, Richard and I should be very happy.
I go into the sitting room. Sure enough, the de Chagny's are all present, along with Raoul and his heavily pregnant wife, Meg. Mama smiles at me.
"There you are! Where have you been?"
"In the music room." I admit. She laughs.
"In which case, you are perfectly excused."
We all sit down and everyone starts to chat. I look across at Richard, who is sat in the chair opposite mine. He smiles.
"How are you?"
"I'm very well. Yourself?"
"I couldn't be better. Horrible weather all the way here." I look out of the window and grimace at the rain-lashed sky.
"It will clear up before long." I say airily. "It never rains for too long here."
Ayesha pounces onto my lap. She's getting old now, not nearly as agile as she once was. But I adore her nonetheless. Richard strokes her head and she begins to purr. I smile and he returns it. Philippe chortles.
"I believe it's a very good thing that we no longer employ a royal pianist."
They all laugh, some private joke between them. I frown.
"What do you mean?" I demand, and Richard looks curious as well. Mama looks at my father.
"Would you care to explain to your daughter?"
"She's your daughter as well, you can explain." He says gruffly.
"Will someone explain?" Richard demands, looking at his brother. Philippe grins.
"No, I don't believe anyone will. Some more tea?"
I roll my eyes and look at Richard, who shrugs. We leave the others to talk, huddling on the windowsill together and discussing nothing in particular, but doing it very passionately. I enjoy arguing with him.
After an hour, Mama looks at us and smiles.
"Serenity, we were just discussing your birthday plans."
"Oh?" I say. Yes, I shall be turning twenty next week. What an alarming thought!
"Would you enjoy a Masquerade ball?" Papa asks. I blink.
"A masquerade? What an obscure notion, why on earth did you think of that?"
"We happen to enjoy masquerades. We haven't had one since I was your age." Mama says. She smiles mischievously. "And this time your father might even dress up."
"He most certainly will not." Papa added vehemently.
I laugh and shrug.
"That sounds fine. A masquerade it is." I say, wanting to return to my conversation with Richard.
"I'll have Marie start planning. And don't leave it to four days beforehand before deciding on a costume, like some people." Papa said pointedly, looking at Mama. She looked aloof.
"Only because you were such a slave driver with my music lessons!"
"Nonsense, you were just too irresponsible."
"I'm going to agree with Erik on that point." Meg smiled. Mama scowled at them both and Richard tapped my shoulder.
"Come for a walk?"
"Gladly." I mutter, happy to leave them all to their gossip.
We wander around the castle, as it's raining outside. Eventually we settle down in the music room. Richard looks over at me.
"Yes?" I say, tracing a pattern in the condensation on the windowpane.
"Are we going to get married?"
"There's no need to sound so horrified at the thought." I mutter. He grins.
"I didn't mean it like that, as well you know. I was simply asking so that it's clear. I mean… everybody expects us to, and I suppose I always did as well. But I didn't know how you felt and it's probably rather important that you know about it as well."
I glance over at him and then smile, shrugging.
"I never really thought about it. It was just an assumption that we would."
"Would it make you happy though?"
"…Yes." I admit, still drawing on the window. I can see my reflection, although it's not very clear. I can only just make out my pale face. I got that from Mama, although I look very much like Papa. His bright green eyes and ebony hair. Mama always said that I look very striking, but I don't know about that. She's got a gentle beauty to her, whereas my own looks seem to be a little to sharp.
Richard joins me and traces a star on the cloudy glass.
"Good. Shall we cause an absolute uproar and announce it at the masquerade ball without telling the others beforehand?"
"Oh, that'd be fun!" I agree. As children we had loved playing tricks on our families. More than once it had gotten us into serious trouble. Richard smiles.
"That's settled then."
"I suppose so." I smile back.
There is an awkward moment of silence and Richard clears his throat.
"So… what do we do now?"
"If we were going to be terribly cliché, you should kiss me."
"And if we're not going to be cliché?"
"I should kiss you. Nobody ever expects that." I tease. Richard laughs.
"I'm afraid I'm a cliché, Serenity."
He kisses me. And you all know what happens then.
We all live Happily Ever After.
But I suppose you'd already guessed that, hadn't you?
A/N: Whew. Hard chapter to get through, but I made it! And now it's all over. I hope you enjoyed it!
Thank you to everyone who supported me on this story! As usual, I appreciate all the reviews and emails people have sent me. I can't believe it's over.
Now I'm going to take a little break from writing. Finishing two big stories is a hefty task and I need a rest. But my next story will be up in December, the first chapter will be up on December 13th. I know, random thing to decide on a date, but all will become clear.
…and to be terribly unsubtle, December 11th happens to be my 18th birthday! Woohoo!
Once again, thank you all so much.
Lotsa luv 'n' huggles 'n' Phantom-shaped cookies