Author's Note: This little one-off was originally written as one of the two possible epilogues to Angels & Phantoms. I chose the other version for that story, but I thought I'd post this extra fluffy piece anyway.
You have been warned...there is absolutely no plot.
Follows timeline of both Angels & Phantoms and Little Conversations.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the adults.
A Quiet Afternoon
Guests at Rose Manor, the London residence of the Rousseau family, were a rare occurrence, as the master of the house was considered rather a reclusive sort. Yet there were a privileged few that were welcomed onto the grounds without reservation. Of those few, none were welcome with more pure joy than the woman who currently sat in the parlor sharing a cup of tea with Christine Rousseau. The blonde leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes and enjoying the peace and quiet of the afternoon with her dearest friend.
"I think I'd be quite content to sit here all day, Christine."
Christine laughed a little, "You only say that because everything is quiet at the moment."
Meg opened her eyes and grinned, "That is a large part of the attraction, I confess."
Christine turned and craned her neck back towards the terrace doors, just beyond which their families were enjoying the outdoors. "Do you not think it a bit too quiet?"
Meg chuckled, "Are you complaining?"
Christine glanced at her friend with a raised brow. "I would think you'd be more concerned than I."
Meg waived a hand, "My husband can take care of himself, and I trust yours to be on his best behavior with so many children running about underfoot."
In all her friend's brief visits over the past years, this was the first time she'd brought her children, and Christine had been fussing over them from the moment they'd arrived. She grinned, "They do make for quite a brood all together." Six of them, and each lady proudly laid claim to three.
Meg laughed, "They do at that. I am so happy that they've become such fast friends."
"Just as their mothers did." Christine said with a wide grin.
Meg returned the smile, then sighed. "I think it shall be a rather dramatic scene when it comes time for us to return to Paris."
Christine arched a brow. "Perhaps you should consider relocating to London."
A wistful expression passed over Meg's face. "And deprive the Paris aristocracy of one of its oldest and noblest families?"
"My sincerest apologies, Madame Comtess. I'd forgotten my place to suggest such an act of treason."
Meg shot her friend a withering look. "Please, Christine. Even after all these years, I still feel more like the little ballet rat than a woman of title."
Christine giggled, "But it's such great fun to tease you, my dear Marguerite."
Meg snorted, "You've a nerve to tease me, Madame le Fantôme de l'Opéra."
"And proud to claim the title."
The two friends shared a laugh. So much had happened in the thirteen years since the infamous course of events that had changed both of their lives so dramatically. The only thing that had remained unchanged was their friendship. Christine took another sip of her tea, and glanced over to Meg in curiosity. "Did you know that the Populaire wishes to perform Erik's latest opera in the coming season?"
Meg nodded slightly, "Monsieur Ranier did mention that it was amongst the considerations."
Christine raised a brow, "Did he also mention that he has invited me to be the guest soprano in the production? And Erik to accompany me, of course."
Surprise was evident on Meg's face. "No...indeed, he neglected to mention that little detail. Are you considering the invitation?"
A look of longing entered Christine's eyes. "I would love nothing more than to return to Paris and stand upon that stage again, but I doubt it would be wise for Erik and I to be anywhere near the Opera Populaire." Though they'd discussed the possibility in great detail when the letter from Monsieur Ranier had first arrived.
Meg sighed, reluctantly admitting Christine was correct. "The Opera House is perhaps the one place in Paris where the memory of the Phantom seems to linger. Still, it would be wonderful to see you both back there again."
Christine chuckled, "Even after what happened the last time we were there together?"
Meg grinned, "Yes...even after that."
This time, their easy laughter was interrupted by the appearance of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl who scurried into the room between the two women and began tugging on Meg's sleeve. "Mama…"
Meg looked at her daughter in mild concern. "What is it, chéri?"
The little face, the very image of her mother's, frowned with worry. "Papa and Uncle Erik are fighting."
Christine tensed slightly in her chair, asking the child, "Madeline, your Uncle Erik does not have a rope in his hands, does he?"
Ten-year old Madeline looked at her 'Aunt' strangely, shaking her head and sending her loose curls bouncing, she replied, "No, Aunt Christine."
Meg suppressed a smile at Christine's question and raised a brow to her daughter playfully, "Does papa have his sword?" Again, the child shook her head, and Meg grinned, "Does Uncle Erik?"
Maddy huffed a little, "No, mama."
Meg laughed, "Then all is well."
The little girl put her hands on her hips and raised her own brow in exasperation, "But they are shouting...and you told me to keep an eye on Papa."
"And you've done a very fine job of it, chéri. Now go and tell them to behave themselves or they'll have to answer to me."
Maddy grinned, her eyes suddenly twinkling with mischief. "Yes, Mama." The child threw her arms around her mother's neck and planted a kiss to her cheek before rushing back out the French doors that led to the terrace.
Christine sat with a hand pressed to her mouth, shoulders shaking uncontrollably with laughter, and Meg soon joined in. When the ladies had calmed themselves somewhat, Meg shook her head at Christine. "I cannot believe you asked my daughter if Erik had a rope!"
"Well, it seemed a logical question under the circumstances."
Meg snorted, "I suppose it was too much to expect our husbands to behave themselves for the entire visit."
"They are getting better, Meg. They've managed to be civil almost an entire week this time."
"I wonder what started them at one another again."
"Do they ever need a reason?"
Meg chuckled a little, and a moment of quiet fell between the two friends before Christine nervously glanced back towards the French doors. "Perhaps we should go out and check on them."
Meg shook her head, "Don't worry, Maddy will report back if there is anything amiss."
Christine smiled tenderly, "She really is adorable, and so much like you."
Meg groaned, "Yes…Maman takes great pleasure in reminding me of that every time my precocious daughter gets herself into some new mischief."
Christine giggled, "Well, you did manage to get yourself in a great deal of trouble as a child, if I recall."
The blonde slanted her friend an amused look. "I recall that you were often right there beside me."
"Only because you encouraged her, child."
Meg and Christine both jumped a little and turned at the sound of Antoinette Giry's voice. The years had been remarkably kind to the woman, though her hair had finally begun to show more white than brown. She stood in the doorway flanked by two small children, both six years of age, whose hands were held securely by their grandmére. On her right, a boy with dark blond hair and clear blue eyes, and on her left, a girl with black curls and brown eyes. Both were covered with smears of dirt.
Meg smiled at her mother, then glanced briefly to Christine with a teasing tone to her voice. "A Comtess with three children of my own, and still I am child to her."
Antoinette raised a brow, "You will always be my child, Meg. Just as Christine will be."
Christine smiled at the older woman, and reached out a hand to her daughter, Melody, who slipped easily into her mother's arms. "Are these two little imps causing problems?"
Antoinette sighed, "I am afraid they both discovered a fondness for gardening."
Meg had stood from her chair and knelt in front of her son, Armand, brushing at the smudge on his nose. "What does the garden look like?"
Her mother shook her head, "It is not a pretty sight at all."
Christine sighed, "Well, it appears our quiet afternoon is at an end." She looked at her daughter. "You need a bath, ma petite."
Melody frowned. "Armand needs one more."
Armand stuck his tongue out at the girl, and Meg tapped him lightly on the nose. "Now, Armand. What would your father say if he saw you treat a lady that way?"
The boy hung his head, "Sorry, Mama." He looked over to Melody. "Sorry, Lottie."
Meg and Christine looked at one another is surprise, both mouthing at the same time, "Lottie?"
Antoinette sighed, "He started calling her that today for some reason."
"Has…Erik heard him?"
Antoinette arched a brow at Christine, "He's been rather preoccupied with the older children."
Meg shook her head and stood. "Come on, love. Let's get you that bath."
Antoinette laid a hand on her daughter's arm. "I can take care of them. I only came to inform you both that we would be upstairs. Everyone else is taking a short stroll by the pond. The children still had energy to burn."
Christine stood, her brow knitting. "Does that mean that our husbands are no longer shouting at one another?"
Antoinette scoffed, "Much like her mother, Madeline does tend to exaggerate. They were merely debating, albeit rather intensely, the merit of the French aristocracy."
Meg grimaced, "I would think my dear, sweet fool of a husband would know better than to engage Erik in such a conversation."
Christine smirked, "Well, you have said you married him for his looks, and not his intelligence."
"Christine! How wicked!"
Antoinette shook her head in exasperation as she clicked her tongue. "And you wonder why I still address you both as child." She took Armand's hand in hers and bent down to take Melody's as well. Both children were giggling madly that their mothers had just been scolded by their gandmére. "Come now, you two. We shall get you both cleaned up in no time at all." Antoinette turned them towards the stairs, calling over her shoulder. "Do enjoy your afternoon, girls."
Meg and Christine both colored, feeling like they were children back in the dormitories once again. Then their eyes met, and they began to giggle once again. "I think you are in trouble again, Meg."
"Perhaps she'll send me to bed without my supper."
"Oh…I remember you used to sneak into the kitchens after hours when she did that."
A deep masculine voice cut in on them. "I recall that as well. You were both quite the brave little things running about at night in my Opera House."
Christine's face lit with happiness at the sight of her husband standing in the open French doors to the terrace. He wore black trousers , a white shirt and blue brocaded waistcoat. His coat and cravat had both disappeared during the course of the afternoon. His hair was slicked back away from his face, where his elegant white half mask gleamed in the sunlight. He'd chosen that particular mask entirely for the benefit of their company, and he looked every bit the Phantom at the moment with his lips tilted in amused irony.
Eleven-year old Gustave came to a stop beside his father, and the resemblance between them was marked. Gustave looked almost exactly like Erik, having inherited from Christine only his wide, soulful brown eyes and riotous curls in his ebony hair. Curls which he had slicked down and combed back in an effort to tame them. Just above the boy's right ear and extending up to his temple was a patch of knobbed skin which marred his otherwise perfect flesh. His hair was thick enough that it covered most of the blemish, save the one spot where his sideburn would not grow.
Meg grinned slyly as she responded to Erik's observation. "Well…Christine did have an angel watching over her."
Christine flashed a smile to her friend as she crossed the room to her boys. She stroked her fingers over Erik's cheek. "Antoinette said you had gone for a stroll…" She glanced behind them. "Where is everyone else?"
Erik rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to speak, but Gustave answered first, his tone reflecting the same bored distaste that surely would have passed from his father's lips. "They are down by the pond, Mama. Angelique and Madeline are dancing around and giggling and acting very silly." Gus smiled then, his voice filling with eagerness. "Papa is going to teach me a new piece to play on violin."
Christine suppressed a smile, wondering what her son would think if he knew that his mother had been engaging in the same silly activities as his sister and Madeline. "I cannot wait to hear you play it."
Gustave was a brilliant musician, picking up every instrument with an astounding speed and skill. It pleased Christine to no end that his favorite, by far, was the violin. She only wished her father could have lived to see his grandson following in his footsteps. Her eyes met Erik's, and they shared a smile, both grateful for the family that they'd been blessed with.
Meg smiled at Gustave, "Neither can I. Perhaps you will play it for all of us after supper."
Gus blushed deeply, "If you wish me to, Aunt Meg."
Christine rolled her eyes at Erik. Their only son, while truly a prodigy, was also painfully shy around people. The only exception to this was his dear 'Aunt' Meg, and only for her would he agree to perform in front of anyone but his parents and sisters.
"I most certainly do." Meg winked at the boy. "Perhaps we might convince your parents to join in and sing something, what do you think?"
Gus smiled up to his parents, "Will you, Mama, Papa?"
Erik chuckled, "Of course. Perhaps your sister will even consent to sing, as well. It shall be a family event."
As if on cue, their daughter, Angelique came racing through the French doors into the room, followed close behind by the younger Madeline. Angelique had just recently turned thirteen, and was the image of her mother, save the penetrating blue-green eyes of her father that, at the moment, were glittering with excitement. The girls were both panting from their run, and Madeline was giggling.
Christine shook her head at them. "Angelique, Madeline…what are you doing?"
Angelique smiled gaily, "Mama, Papa…you will never guess what happened."
Still giggling, Madeline chimed in. "It was the funniest thing I ever saw."
Cutting back in, Angelique said, "Maddy and I were dancing just like you and Aunt Meg used to, Mama…and my favorite hair ribbon came loose and blew away into the middle of the pond…and it was just a hair ribbon after all, but Philippe jumped in to rescue it?" The girl held up the offending red ribbon, which looked slightly the worse for wear after the adventure.
Meg's hand flew over her mouth to smother her surprised gasp while Christine and Erik both stood gaping at their daughter. Madeline chirped, "He was splashing around like a fool!" This caused Angelique to join in the giggling again.
Meg cleared her throat, "And just who rescued Philippe?"
Madeline rolled her eyes at her mother, "Papa, of course."
At that moment, both le Comte and le Vicomte de Chagny came dripping across the terrace…both completely soaked through from their blond heads to their ruined shoes. The Vicomte, twelve-year old Philippe, wore a shy grin on his handsome young face directed solely at Angelique Rousseau. His father's grin was more than a little ironic.
Christine could barely contain her laughter at the sight of them. Meg, too, was laughing, though trying not to. She composed herself as Raoul steered their son over to her. Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she looked them over thoroughly, "Did you both enjoy your swim?"
Raoul shook his head, and Philippe blushed, "Sorry, Mama. I did not mean to cause any trouble."
Meg pushed her fingers lovingly through her son's wet hair, "You've nothing to apologize for, Philippe. You were very brave, rushing into the pond. I am certain Angelique is grateful that you rescued her ribbon." The last words trembled only slightly in laughter, but her son didn't seem to notice.
The boy turned at the sound of his sister's giggle, and he saw Angelique smile shyly, "Yes…thank you, Philippe." Then without warning, the girl rushed forward, gave Philippe a peck on the cheek, and raced out of the parlor. Madeline laughed at her brother's red face and merrily chased after her friend.
All four adults stood stunned at the interaction.
"Christine…has our daughter just….kissed…le Vicomte de Chagny?" Erik's tone was not at all pleased.
Christine sighed, "Yes, my love, I am afraid she has."
Erik glared at Raoul, "That is simply not acceptable. I will not have my Angel anywhere near that…"
Meg sharply cut off Erik's words with wilting look, "Careful Erik…he is my son, as well."
Raoul growled, "And I would certainly never permit your…"
Christine frowned at her childhood friend, "Raoul…do not say another word."
Raoul broke off, exchanging glares with Erik, who finally shook his head and looked down to Gustave. The boy stood quietly at his side taking in every word. Erik sighed heavily, "Come now, Gus, my boy…let us have that music lesson."
With a final glare at Raoul, Erik led his son toward the music room. Philippe touched his mother's hand and looked up at her with wide, worried eyes. "Mama, have I done something wrong?"
Meg smiled down to her son. Philippe was a gentle soul, sweet and brave and always concerned about everyone else. "No…you've done nothing wrong, my love. Do not for one moment think that you have."
"But Uncle Erik is angry."
Meg shook her head, "He is not angry at you. He's just being an overprotective papa…" She glanced back up at Raoul with a raised brow, "just as your papa tends to be." Raoul looked duly chastised and Philippe smiled in relief, thankful that he hadn't upset anyone. Meg winked at her son, "Now let's get you dried off before you catch a chill."
Raoul sighed, "Let me. I'm in need of a bit of drying off myself."
Meg smiled up at her husband, brushing at his damp hair, "My hero."
Raoul grinned back at her, "Ever at your service, sweet Meg." He pressed a lingering kiss to his wife's lips and then laid a hand on his son's shoulder. "Upstairs, Philippe…we have already tarried about dripping on Aunt Christine's floors."
They disappeared as well, leaving Christine and Meg once again alone in the parlor. Christine sighed, "Meg…I am sorry that Erik reacted as he did. You know he really is quite fond of Philippe."
Meg waived a dismissive hand, "I know his displeasure was not directed at my son. Nor was Raoul's directed at Angelique. There is simply too much history in play."
Christine nodded thoughtfully. After a moment of silence, a slow smile blossomed. "It was rather adorable, though."
Meg failed to hide the smile that pulled at her lips. "It was. I've a feeling we'll need to keep an eye on those two."
Christine laughed, "And on Erik and Raoul."
"Do not forget about Armand and his Lottie."
"Oh, Lord…I had forgotten that. At least Madeline and Gustave are behaving themselves."
Meg chuckled a little, "Perhaps it is not the best time to mention that my precocious daughter confessed last evening that she finds your son terribly fascinating."
Christine's eyes widened, "Does she?"
Meg grinned, "Oh, yes…of course, he is her second choice. The Phantom of the Opera is quite taken, after all."
A/N: Told you...pure fluff.
Just a little heads up...if I ever get the next story finished...it will likely be called True Distortion and will be a retelling of the Phantom story with both Leroux and ALW elements. And of course...EC.