Disclaimers: None of these characters belong to me. Please put them back when you're done. Grateful thanks to Beth, Kristin, Marian and Lena for beta reading; all remaining problems/mistakes/errors are mine. No money was made off this endeavor, but a great number of sleepless nights have finally been put to rest.Perfection
"Perfection" is the follow-up to "Perfect" and is rated M. Please enjoy.Chapter 1
Madame Giry and the Phantom stood in the flies, watching the activity below. She turned to him with her news. "Erik, I have arranged for the priest to marry you and Christine next week."
"Where?" he asked, apprehensive. He did not want to risk going to a church.
"Here, in the House chapel," she replied, and could see his relief right away.
"I knew you would not want to go outside." She smiled, beckoning him to accompany her from their talk. "I have something for you. A wedding gift, of sorts. Come and see."
They retired to her room, where Fleur motioned him to sit on her chaise lounge. Bringing a small wooden box from her dresser, she opened it to reveal a set of condoms. Made of the new latex rubber and colored to resemble skin, they were the very latest in preventing both infection and pregnancy.
Ever the pragmatist, Fleur explained, "To use these correctly they must go on before you come near her, or else they will not block conception. When you are finished, wash them out thoroughly, then let them dry, but do not use them if they develop cracks, or there will be no protection." She placed the box on the table nearby.
They were expensive, and not easy to come by. "Thank you," he said gratefully. He was thankful for the gift, and to Fleur for keeping her promise to help him make a life with Christine without passing on his curse. He could feel the weight of it lifting, and it was easier to breathe now as he thought of his beloved. Fleur came to sit next to him on the lounge.
Now came the hard part. Fleur had no idea how much he knew, but it was too important to let it pass. "There is something peculiar to women the first time they lie with a man. You know about this?" Certainly the House was a licentious place, but that might not help.
He nodded. "Our wedding night," he said, nervously pulling at his gloves. "I won't be the cause of pain for her, Fleur. I've already frightened her; I won't do anything that worsens her fear."
"Why do you say you will hurt her, my dear?" she asked quietly. It was harder to talk to him about this than all the ballet girls put together. His life had been so tragic, she could only guess his reasons for feeling as he did now. "It is different for every woman; there is no way to tell what will happen until it does."
"There are things that go on here when couples think no one is watching, or don't care. I've seen so much…" he stopped, agitated.
Fleur placed a hand on his shoulder. "We have all seen so much. Christine has too. But I will talk to her as well before the wedding, yes? And you will see, it will be all right." She smiled warmly.
"I… know it hurts," he said, looking guilty. There was something odd in his tone.
"You do? And how do you know this?" she asked, suspicious.
He met her eyes briefly, and that one glance told her all she needed to know.
Slowly she realized what he implied. "Surely, you do not mean…" she began, disbelieving.
He swallowed, looking down at the floor, motionless.
"What! You were spying on Alphonse and I on our wedding night!" Shocked, she raised her hands to her face, horrified that her most private moments had been observed. He'd been there, out of her sight, but she had not been out of his.
Still watching the floor, he managed, "I was afraid for you, Fleur. I didn't know what he was capable of. I was afraid he would hurt you," he finished, barely audible. Were he not so fearful himself, he would never have told her the truth from all those years ago. Finally he risked looking up, knowing she would hate him for this but knowing also he would go mad if he did not say what preyed upon his mind.
She felt sick. "Do you think me such a fool as to marry someone who would use me so?" she asked shrilly, hurt, and then the anger began to build.
"Of course not! But you were so enamored you would have suffered anything for him! How long was he here before you married? A few months, that was all! All I knew…" he took her hands, bringing them down from her face, "was that I was afraid for you. I had to be there in case you were…mistreated."
She heard his words, but the betrayal was too much to bear, a fist closing around her heart. Snatching her hands back out of his grasp, she cried, "How could you do such a thing to me?" She stood, turning on him.
Desperate for her understanding, he shouted, "I was fourteen! I was scared for you! For me! What if something happened to you, what would I do, where would I go? I had to protect you!"
"I did not need your protection!" she raged.
"But what if you had!" he thundered back. They were too loud now; someone might hear.
Incensed, Fleur paced the carpet in front of the lounge, and him. There were few times when she questioned her impulse to spirit away a starving, abused child, but this was one of them.
He stood, holding out one gloved hand to her, although he knew she would not take it. "Fleur," he pleaded, "Please. You don't know all I've seen. Not long before you married Alphonse, there was another girl, younger than you were. A seamstress' daughter." The sounds of that night came back to him as he stood in Fleur's room. The darkness, the laughter coming from both as the man had pulled the girl into the shadows...and then her screams as he had taken her, not even his age yet, so suddenly, brutally. The man had enjoyed it, the pain he caused, and the girl was left weeping, alone. Erik had been too scared to move, frozen in place. It was months before he could he could sleep peacefully again.
Abruptly he came back to Fleur's room, and their argument. Anything he could say about that night was inadequate. He settled for, "She…was not treated kindly." He paused. "Can you not forgive me? I was afraid for you, that was all." He let the hand fall.
Fleur lowered her voice. "And did you watch? The entire time? Did you see?" she asked coldly.
"No. I left after…awhile." Miserable, he sat down on her lounge again.
"After what? Come, you cannot tell me this and then keep the truth from me! After what?" Her fury was palpable.
"After he…" he searched for the right words, gauging her expression. Fleur was so angry he dared not provoke her further. "He took your innocence. You cried out in pain, I almost burst through the door when I heard." The raw emotion on his face only infuriated her more.
"Innocence!" she snapped. "He took nothing I did not freely give! Did I struggle? Did I scream? Did I run away?"
"No," he whispered, closing his eyes, and hung his head, wishing he could die and get it over with. He felt it when Fleur stopped pacing, stood in front of him for long, silent moments. He dared not look up as she considered his transgression.
He truly regretted what he had done. That she could tell. Of course he had said nothing through the years; he never thought he would ever touch a woman himself, certainly never expected to fall in love. How much fear did he have, that he told her this now? He was thirty-three, yet at times Fleur felt he was still a child. She saw the awkward, thin boy he had been at fourteen, and how fragile he was back then. How dependent he'd been on her: mother and father, sister and friend, all in one. Hiding, constantly afraid of being discovered. At fourteen she had shown him how to shave. If he'd been that worried for her, if he'd seen a young girl raped, perhaps she could understand, and she softened toward him. An only child, he was the little brother she never had; she could never stay angry with him.
"Why not?" she asked, the worst of her anger gone now. She watched him carefully, aware of the purpose she was heading toward, but for which he needed guidance. At least let his admission count toward something.
"I…can't say." He steadfastly stared at the floor, but Fleur would not let him off so easily. He had confessed, and the price of her absolution was his education. She took both his shoulders and shook him, forcing him to look up at her.
"Yes, you can. Say it, Erik. You were there, you saw. Why did I not scream and fight him off, why did I not run? Say it!" Her hands held his shoulders, but she truly pinned him with her eyes, held him there while he struggled to avoid her.
His face was burning red. "You enjoyed it," he whispered, pained. Finally she let him escape her gaze, taking her hands away as well. He was not sure which had been stronger as he breathed again, recovering.
"Yes, of course I did." She sighed and turned away, resigned. Done was done, and there was no undoing the past. The important thing now was that he understand. "Yes, it is true. The first time, for the first moments, no one can tell what happens. The true measure of a man is how he treats such a lover, the first time they lie together. But after that…after that there can be great love." She sat beside him again, at last. "Erik, can you truly believe it is only men who have passion? How many times have you seen a woman pull a man into her embrace? Have you not seen, with all those couples, the fire in the eyes of the women as well?"
"Yes," he nodded, seeing such fire in her eyes for just a moment, before it retreated again.
"Well, there you have it, my dear." She was not pleased, but she was no longer cross with him.
He straightened at her use of 'my dear' again. She forgave him, then, and the wash of relief was a welcome joy. She took his arm once again, making him look directly at her.
"Erik, listen to me well. I know you are afraid, but this first time will not ever be repeated, for either of you. Arouse her, but again, wait for her to come to you. Caress her, shower your passion on her until she feels it too. Then it will be her passion also, and then she will not run, either." She smiled at him, a secret forming in her eyes. "She may yet surprise you."
Later that evening Fleur found a drawing on her lounge, done in a familiar style. It was one of Erik's, but from long ago. A sleeping Meg, no more than six months old, in aged colors. Beneath it were written words no more than a few hours old. "It was a good marriage," was all it said. The Ballet Mistress smiled.