Disclaimer: It's called fan fiction for a reason. So, no... actually, I own less than nothing.
One word described Erik's reaction to those daunting words, frozen. His legs were rooted to their spot, his breath caught and he swore he could feel the moment his heart ceased to function. He could feel the blood drain from his face as his body went numb. Powerless was the second word that came to mind and it was not one very often, if ever, used by Erik. For people other than himself, to be powerless toward Erik was a given. For Erik to feel this was a foreign idea completely. Yet there he was powerless as the day he was born to do anything about what had just occurred.
Many things ran through his mind and he refused to give into any thoughts, until he had the liberty to dwell upon them in solitude. Then he would mull over ever angle and give his mind the freedom of exploring every circumstance and outcome. Until then his soul was in total anguish, mangled and tormented.
"Yes Erik, your sister has accepted my proposal." Raoul looked at him with meaning, but just what that was, Erik was unsure of. Was he gloating over his victory? All this made Erik want to finish the "special" chamber even sooner, and he knew exactly whom he would enjoy watching, withering away under the hot lights with no way out. Wait! What if there was a secret switch? A means of escape that no one knew of, not even the Saha himself. After all it was best to ensure the safety of himself and Christine should something ever occur.
Erik's attention quickly went back to Raoul's sickeningly fine-looking face and he immediately made a second mental note on how to improve the room with a simple rope. Thus giving an even further macabre twist to his magnum opus of death.
Oh yes, Raoul would taste his recent masterpiece, no one would be allowed in before him. He will be Erik's guest of honor! Such a privilege could only be reserved for someone as special as him! After all, the first turn practically screamed his name. Of course it would not end as polished as the other soon to be unfortunate betrayers of the realm. Though he'd have Raoul to thank in perfecting this and making any updates needed to complete Khanum's special room. Others that would eventually have that chamber be the last thing they see, would be the Khanum's problem. All others would have to wait. For now he shamelessly craved for only one, the one daring to hold Christine's ethereal hand. It was his, and belonged only to him, no one else was allowed this access to her. Especially not him!
His ears rung with rage as his vision blurred. Then out of the darkness he could hear a beautiful voice calling to him. Slowly bring him out of his current state of madness. A way of thinking, or more like operating on pure emotion, that he hadn't felt since all those years ago back in Javert's tent. He had hoped that part of him would stay buried forever, but is was still just as alive as it was that horrible night, though it seemed to have come back to a greater extent than ever before.
"Erik? Erik, my dear brother, are you alright?" Her timid voice quivered with anticipation to his answering her question.
Brother? Why was she calling him that... Then it was as if the cloudy smog of insanity parted and he could think clearly once again. Brother! The boy must know then! Christine must have told him, and if he cared in the slightest for her safety, then Raoul wouldn't risk bringing any kind of harm to her and go along with their ruse of being siblings. Yet the thought of his declaration of their engagement still didn't quite fit.
All the years he tried to live a normal life, to make Cristine feel comfortable and loved, safe, seemed to slip through his fingers like the sands of this arid inhospitable nightmare. Years suddenly turned in to a cruel joke that he once sincerely believed to be truth. Waste, it was all a wicked waste, that he ever thought such an angel could love, or even considered that a monster such as himself could ever pass as a normal man. One society would ever embrace. The blurred dark state of his mind washed over Erik again in a tremendous wave of emotion, vanishing rational thought and causing him to become unhinged once more.
Why would Raoul say such a thing? Why would he play with Erik in a way that the only outcome would lead to his demise and Christine's cries over his cooked carcass. She would eventually get over her and Raoul's playing at being engaged, and in time would begin to forget what he drove him to do. After all what other option was left for him? His hand is forced to do this.
Erik could not make himself look at Christine, not now. He would deal with her later. Right now his focus was on the instigator of all this, the one who caused all he had, his world to crumble at his feet as Erik watched Raoul set what was left on fire. The boy didn't even have the nerve to regard him, but was too busy making eyes at his Christine. Then tossing the last proverbial piece of alcohol soaked wood to the fire, Erik saw him wink at her. It was all he could do to not lash out in a temporary state of mania and enjoy the feel of his tender flesh under his vice like grip. For now all Erik could do was look away in disgust as a sour taste entered into his mouth.
"Is this true, Erik?" The Saha looked at the three of them trying to figure out just what was going on.
If Erik said no then it would end disastrously for all of them. Too many questions would be asked. Erik and Christine needed to keep a low profile till they left this atrocious place, and as much as he wanted disaster for the boy, he could never allow another to bring any harm to Christine or her duplicitous heart. He would be the one to punish her for her actions, and even then, no true harm would ever come from him. Just enough of a correction for her to know never to cross Erik again.
Erik met the Saha's eyes with a stern and unfeeling countenance. Though his voice was exceedingly well trained and did all he commanded of it, Erik did all he could to squeeze out his response. "Yes. It is true."
"I see you are as thrilled as I am. Are you sure you won't reconsider, perhaps, giving her away to someone in even higher standing?" Did this delirious man think for a moment he would ever give her up to anyone, more less him? As long as Erik was alive he would never allow her to end up with anyone other than himself. He would rather have her go though life as an unwed woman! Never would another man come close to her if he could help it and, by all means, he would.
The Saha waited for a response that Erik would never dignify. "Well then..." With that he walked back to the ballroom and spoke in whispers to one of his servants.
Christine grabbed hold of his arm when the three of them were alone. "Erik, it's not what it seems! I can explain, this had to happen. Please look at me!"
All he heard were excuses, each one inflicting more pain than the last. Especially "...this had to happen...", that one stung worst of all. Of course this would happen, She had enough of this living corpse and when Raoul's perfect face comes back into her world, wouldn't she rather have him?
Erik looked down at where her hands desperately held onto his arm. She must have sensed the rigidness that radiated through his body at her touch since she slowly released her trembling grip. Tears fell from her eyes as Erik fought the urge to wipe them away, after all they were just tears of pity for this gullible fool.
"Attention!" One of the guards cried out to the masses of dignitaries in the ballroom. "The Saha wishes to make an announcement." The Saha then regarded the audience and lifted his arm toward the trio.
"There appears to be love in the air. It has come to my attention that this young couple are newly engaged! The Vicomte deChagny and Miss Christine Daaé" The room filled with applause as Erik's fury was fanned by the gall and imprudence of the Saha, especially as he finished up his little impromptu speech. "How about a song for the two lovebirds." The music began to play as the crowd parted, allowing Christine and Raoul entrance to the dance floor.
Erik's view became blocked by the numerous couples that filled the dance floor trying to be as near to the newly engaged couple as possible. No doubt trying to get as much information from them as they could to spread around once they got back to their respective places.
Now that Raoul was publicly engaged to Christine, he would be allowed almost as much access to Christine as Erik was. That particular thought did not thrill Erik. It seemed as though it was time for Erik to fully step into his role as brother and protect Christine by not allowing the two of them to become too cozy in this imitation relationship, and the best way of doing that is by completing the Khanum's request and dragging Christine with him away from this infernal palace.
Erik had as much as a man is his state could handle and was ready to leave the commotion for a quieter place of solitude. He turned his back to the hidden couple, and made his way through the palace toward the torture room. Once inside his uncompleted room he began to remove his jacket and vest, rolling up his sleeves and removing the cravat that was beginning to threaten his air supply, along with the top buttons of his dress shirt. He then picked up a masons hammer and began to work on the revisions for an emergency escape route.
Very soon his room would be completed, and with every blow of his hammer the stone gave way to the brute force inflicted upon it. With each swing of his arm, beads of sweat began to drip down his neck, rolling further down and causing his shirt to become wet with perspiration. Ignoring the droplets that would cause him to stop his most urgent work to wipe them off of his body. Erik worked on, unyielding to personal discomfits. He replaced the stinging burn of his arms with the thought of the younger man's lips on hers. The rock crumbled away with each powerfully aimed impact. He hoped the manual labor would make him too tired to think of them. Too tired to think of how Christine would finally see Raoul the way Erik will after the room would leave his face and body as a former shell of it's one time resplendent self. No, he would not think of that tonight. Not with all the things that needed his full attention to be accomplished as quickly as possible. Their fading faces became distant as he forced himself to focus solely on the task ahead of him tonight. Otherwise he was fearful that if he focused too much on the occurrences of that evening, his mind would recede to a frightening place and he would be unable to find his way back. Especially since he was standing on the ledge of that place of no return, looking down and wondering if the fall would hurt.
How could everything change so fast, in a split second? Just an hour ago she was out here on the dance floor with Erik. How did that suddenly change to her here in Raoul's arms instead? She was happy to see her old friend, but now she felt trapped, captured in a situation that she wanted no part of. Her life was complicated enough before he showed up with trying to keep her and Erik's secret. Now it was a disaster.
Christine began to mutter to herself, "This is wrong. This is all wrong. How can I possibly make him trust me after this?"
Raoul took her chin in his his hand, guiding her gaze toward his. "Christine, please forgive me, but I could not allow any man, Saha or not, to attack your honor like that!" The look in his eyes was one of pure sincerity. "I did not simply do this from my sense of gentleman obligation, but because despite all these years of absence, your still my dear sweet friend from those days at the shore house. I want nothing more than your happiness and truly have your best wishes at heart. Look around Christine, in such a crowded ballroom an accusation like the one the Saha brought up would have spread like wildfire! Your reputation would of been ruined, and you'd be unable to show yourself in proper society ever again, not to mention you would never be able to preform in public and the way the Saha is, before the end of the night everyone would have heard!"
"Heard what my good man?" A older man spoke to Raoul as the greyheaded couple danced into their conversation.
"Oh, Sir Hughes, merely the fact we are the happiest couple in the world tonight, and can't wait to begin our lives as Vicomte and Mrs. deChagny." He said the next words sarcastically and aimed a sly smile toward Christine. "The Saha was all too generous in announcing our engagement and saved us the work of sending out a few extra engagement notices." Christine did what she could to fight the urge to reply with some kind of 'humph' as a response. "Please allow me to introduce my fiancée, Miss Christine Daaé."
"Ah, yes. Our congratulations by the way on that. It is a pleasure to meet you." Sir Hughes looked over to Raoul. "I say, can this be the same Daaé that I heard you spoke of so much when you were younger? Now to finally be engaged after all these years! What a fantastic story! Come Alice, let's leave these two enamored ones to themselves. Pleasure Miss Daaé, Vicomte." They danced off happily muttering to themselves.
Raoul gave her a look as if to say, told you so. A moment later the song ended and Christine led him off to a less crowded corner of the ballroom where they can have a private moment while in plain sight. "We need to talk, but not here. Not tonight. There are somethings that you need to know. I have a voice lesson in the morning with Erik, but I have a feeling he won't be up to it tomorrow."
"Congratulations!" A passing couple gave their best wishes and walked toward the refreshment area.
"Thank you." Christine waited till they were out of earshot. Her eyes looked away from him to the place where Erik stood moments ago before he disappeared in the crowd. Christine wished she knew where he went off to. There was nothing she wanted more now than to settle this misunderstanding between herself and the man she really belonged with. "Meet me in the garden before nine and have a coach ready. We need to have this conversation outside of palace walls."
"Christine, I know you must be upset with me..." This time she couldn't hold back the humph that escaped her throat. "...but please, at least say you understand why I said what I did. I would give anything for your happiness, anything." There was something in those blue eyes that began to fade, the once bright color showed vulnerability and unashamed begging. As upset as she was with the situation, and even Raoul, what else could he have done, and under pressure to save her from the Saha's unyielding grasp?
Afraid of crushing his spirit completely, she weighed her words so as not to blame him for a situation that was forced upon him as much as it was upon her. "What can I say? Theres nothing we can do about it now. I realize you did what you had to do for a reason, because you were trying to be a true friend and help me, but there are still things that have to come to your attention and I'm tired. I don't have the energy to deal with this now and I wish to retire for the evening. Tomorrow I'll be in a better mood to discuss this with you. For now, will you make my excuses for me if anyone asks where I am?" Her eyes pleaded with his to let her go and he gave in.
"Yes, of course." She turned around to leave and felt his gentle touch on her arm to hold her back. "Christine, I'm not sure it's worth much now, circumstances being what they are, but I am sorry. Truly so, and wish this evening had gone entirely differently."
A corner of her mouth twitched upwards as she spoke, "Me too." She sighed as her arm reached out to caress his head with the back her hand for a brief moment. "Me too." His hand went up to cup her hand holding her contact there for a few more seconds as he leaned into her touch. She did care for Raoul and even with the time apart, it was as if nothing changed that bond they shared from much happier days. He was still her friend, and though a part of her wished he hadn't returned, another part of her was glad he did.
Barely above a whisper Christine said her parting words as she tenderly removed her hand. "I have to go. Goodnight Raoul." This time he let her go, yet despite her hasty retreat to try to find Erik, she could still feel his eyes on her as she exited the room.
Rushing toward an empty hallway in the distance she began to run, needing to be somewhere, anywhere that was far away from the masses of people from where she was. Once she reached her destination of solitude Christine slowed her pace to a brisk walk. Where would he be? His quarters maybe? She took the long way back toward his room, not caring if she was a woman in the men's quarters. It was vital that she talked to him immediately.
The twists and turns of the palace were all beginning to blend and soon the path she was taking was starting to become disorientating. Trying to retrace her steps she came upon a new hallway that was unlike the others. It looked unfinished and at the end of the long corridor was an open doorway that lacked oversize doors.
Clink. Clink. Clink.
A faint repetitive sound echoed toward her in the vast empty area. Slowly she softly stepped toward the noise as it grew louder in her ears. Heavy breathing could be heard as she stood in the threshold. Looking around briefly she could see it was in fact two rooms with walls of stone. The first when she entered had three walls and a thick window looking into the second room that made the fourth wall. As she walked into the second room, Christine marveled at the mirrors that covered everything throughout it except for a small section of wall.
There with his back turned toward her was Erik. His legs were poised in a stance that was ready for the next strike, arms exposed and veins protruding from his forearms and back of his neck. As his long fingers curled tightly as he held onto the hammer, the white shirt clung to him as it was soaked through, making it slightly sheer. The power that he struck the wall was unlike anything she had seen before. She was amazed at the strength he possessed. This project caused him to work much more physically than ever before. Though Erik was strong before, this particular job was causing his body to change even more into that of a man's than ever before, and his moisture logged clothes accentuated this by adhering to the new contour in his arms, back and legs. He had changed very much from the days they used to go swimming with Sasha in the lake.
The sight caused new feelings to flutter through her as her stomach started to tighten slightly, for some reason she was nervous, and for the first time, uncomfortable and unsure of herself in his presence. Though despite all this, she couldn't bring herself to avert her gaze. Wrapping her arms around herself she also noticed she felt frightened at the display of sheer might and aggression against the solid stone. Her arms ached at the thought of how much forcefulness he was hitting that wall with.
Not wanting to disturb him in a way that could cause him to hurt himself, she slowly walked into his field of vision. "Erik?"
He hit the wall one last time with extra vigor and brought the hammer to his side, allowing it to slip from his grasp. The noise was amplified as the room was void of anything, that is, except the two of them. He did not, however, look at her. Instead he chose to look at the floor.
"It looks almost complete." The words fell flat and she wasn't sure if that was perhaps the best way to start off. "I haven't a clue what it's for but, It's amazing Erik."
Some time passed and she was worried for him. Never had she seen him in such a state. Finally he answered and she felt like she was holding her breath in anticipation of hearing his voice. "There are still a few things to do yet but it is, for the most part, complete. I have to bring a very rare tree in."
A tree? What was this room? "Is this some kind of atrium or plant house? It's a mighty odd one with no natural sunlight..."
"You shouldn't be in here, and I know you didn't come here to discuss my work. What do you want Christine." Though his voice was quietly restrained, she could hear the effort it took him to keep it so. She'd better get to the point, he wouldn't stand for idle talk. No, not now. Not after everything that happened.
"Erik, the Saha, he saw Raoul and I come out from behind a balcony curtain. He was going to... well he wanted to, make me one of his wives!He was going to use what he saw against me, to force me to marry him. Erik, don't you see? If Raoul didn't say what he did, it would have turned out much worse that it did. Even you wouldn't be able to save me then!"
He rounded on her causing her to back up as he spoke once again in restrained ire. Though his voice was at normal tone, he might as well have been yelling at her with the intensity he spoke with. "'Don't I see?' Oh, I see more than you think, Christine! I would have given my life for your escape if it meant you didn't have to marry the Saha, but why dwell on what could have been? There are a lot of things that could have been that I foolishly believed in, but I know better than that now. I know now not to waste my time on fantasy's of what if's."
He was still coming closer. Leaning down right into her face. Somewhere deep down she knew that if she continued to let him talk to her this way, that he'd have the upper hand and then there would be no way to make him see things clearly. Gathering up her courage, she stood still causing Erik to either keep walking toward her and bump into her, or stop immediately in his tracks. Needless to say he chose the latter.
Erik's gaze first held confusion, then mirth as he straightened up to his full height. Never before had she ever challenged him and the thought seemed to humor him. This gave her more stamina not to bend and give in. He had taken on many things, but she was determined to be his match, at least she hoped she was strong enough to hold out till she could settle the matter.
Ignoring his previous comments she continued. "Erik, you know you are the only man I want to be engaged to."
"Just engaged to?" He cocked his head back looking down on her.
"You know what I mean, I want to marry you Erik. You, and only you. There is simply no room in my heart for another. With all the," she paused to word it right, "liveliness you have, how could there be?" He smirked at the remark, knowing fully what she meant. "Erik, Raoul could never, never take your place."
"Is that so, my dear? Then what were you doing out on the balcony with that poor excuse for a chaperon?" His countenance seemed smug. As if he caught her in a broad faced lie.
"I was explaining to him our situation so he wouldn't say something he shouldn't. If he did Erik, were all dead! I needed to let him know as soon as possible as that was the only place we could talk with a little privacy." His arms were crossed and his stance was still rigid, but it appeared as if was listening. At least she hoped some of her words reached him. "I just, don't want this wall between us. I love you, and I'm going to need you now more than ever, to get through this." She laid her hand gently on his forearm and could feel him flex a little at her touch. She let out a heavy breath, "Everything is wrong. I hate it here, Erik. I want to leave. This place scares me, and I feel like it's starting to get to you. I don't know if it's working nonstop on this project the Khanum wants or what, but I do know that if it involves that woman, it can't be good."
He broke eye contact and looked away. She could see his arrogant posture fall away. He turned around while shaking his head and muttering to himself. "She's right... but must finish... to give her a good life... why me... why not him... how could she love me instead... after all I'm going to do to him... what I'll end up doing to her...?"
"Erik, what is it?" She walked over to where he was leaning against one of the mirrors.
He then cried out in anguish, "It's this blasted room! I should have never agreed to it!" He leaned against the mirror as if he'd collapse from it's absence. He spoke so quietly she strained to hear him. "Now it's dragging me down with it, and I don't know how to get myself out of it's grasp, but that's not the worst part. I'm afraid soon I'll drag you down with me. Then you'll hate me for it when you hit bottom too."
"Oh Erik!" She put her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Your not dragging me down with you..."
He slowly moved his arms, encircling her lightly, as if she'd break. "You don't know how close I am to the end of the Erik you know, Christine. I feel like a tightrope walker in the middle of a wind storm. I can't keep doing this and not expect to fall."
"Then let's just leave. Right now, tonight even. I don't care where we go, just a long as I'm with you." She pressed herself against him wishing her presence to bring him much needed comfort.
"I would want nothing more, but with your recent engagement, if we leave now your future will be a life of poverty and hard times. Without money and just leaving Raoul here with a broken engagement, no one will want you in their circle, or hire me for building projects. More less buy my music. We'll have no means of living. Life will not end up much better than those days back in the cages of the circus. I could live like the animal people think me to be, but there's no way I'll ever have you succumb to being the wife of a sideshow freak. Having to clean my wounds and sores every night from the things people will throw and hit me with. You would be open to such ridicule and abuse as I would be, and I could never let that happen to you!"
That brought back so many painful memories of seeing Erik like that back when they lived with the circus. True, there were happy memories too, but the bad ones seemed to outweigh the others. "What can we do? Tell me what to do."
"I have to finish this. If not for the Khanum, but for us." He pulled her away to look in her eyes. "You are braver than I imagined," he laughed lightly. "Especially standing up to me. You still manage to surprise me, my lionhearted songbird."
Christine smiled at his complement, "It was one of the more formidable things I've ever done."
"I'm sure it was. I need to tell you something though. Just as you need me, I'll need you to remind me who I am. Promise me you won't stop loving this pitiful fool?"
"I'll never stop, Erik. Never!" He then pulled her close and held her there for a while till he finally let her go.
"Now, my love. I will try and complete this room as soon as possible, but you know how your beauty distracts me so. I need to finish this part tonight. There isn't much more chiseling to be done since this meets up with... Well, I can't say more than that, but after that it should be done in a matter of days instead of longer. I'll have people work on it day and night till it's complete, much sooner that I originally though." He walked her toward the hallway. "Good night, my dearest one." He went to kiss her lightly on the forehead, but Christine tilted her head up and grabbed the back of his neck to bring his mouth fully on hers. His breath caught for a second, but then she could feel him relax and enjoy the contact. As they parted and she slowly backed away from him and down the hall way, she took in his sight one last time, slowly examining him up and down before giving him a coquette of a smile and a little waggle of her brow.
"I'll see you tomorrow for my lesson." Teasingly she winked and blew him a kiss as she continued backward down the hall.
What was visible of his face blushed hard. "It appears you should be the one giving the lessons. Though I do promise to be a most apt and motivated pupil." He gave her a wolfish smile.
"If you come in your most recent choice of attire, I might just have to!" She gave what she hoped was a flirtatious pout, then bit her lower lip, giggling as he looked down to see what he was wearing, or rather how he was wearing the now formfitting articles of clothing.
Christine then rounded a corner and made her way back toward the way she came earlier that evening. She began to recognize where she was and that made it easier for her to find her way back to her room. Once inside Nava began to help her out of her dress and into her robe.
"I have your bath ready for you." Nava led Christine to the bathing room attached to Christine's room. "The whole palace is speaking of your singing." Nava poured some of the perfumed water Reza gave her into the water. As she was doing so the door to her main room burst open. Christine quickly put her robe back on and went to see who was in her bedroom.
"Can't wait a few hours till you see me again? Really, now. Your just going to have to..." The last part of her sentence fell off along with her smile. "What do you want. You have no right to be..."
Vashti strode toward her with purpose. "I have a proposition for you. There is something I want from you when Erik finishes the job here."
"What makes you think I'll ever make a deal with you!" Nava came in at the sound of Christine's voice.
"I know that Erik is not your brother!" Christine couldn't breath, she had to sit on the bed.
"I followed you that night in the garden. I knew from then, but with your little announcement tonight, I had to find out what was really going on. So I followed you again, and now I know everything!" A smug smile appeared on her face.
"What do you want from me?" She pleaded with her.
"I want a half of the riches you receive for the completion of the room."
"Half! It's Erik's money. He won't give that to you." Vashti moved to sit on the bed next to her.
"Judging from the way he's in love with you, he won't give that to me, but he'd give you anything you ask of him." The exotic looking young woman tapped Christine on the nose. "That is, depending on how you ask him."
Christine stood and walked a few feet away as she contemplated the offer. "You won't say anything to anyone? Ever?"
"I'll take it to my grave. Right sister?" Vashti walked over to where Nava stood, still holding the bottle. "Well, do we have a deal?" She took the bottle from her sister and toyed with it. "Your bath water's getting cold you know."
"What choice do I have? Were all dead if I don't go along with your scheme." Christine felt as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders.
"Good. I do so enjoy getting my way. Don't I Nava." Her sister looked away with disgust. "Oh, and I don't think I have to tell you not to mention this to anyone, including Erik, but I will anyway. Breath a word of this and I'll make sure he dies first in his little invention of a room. That way you get to watch!"
Christine pondered what she just said, 'invention'. Just what was he working on? One thing at a time Christine! She walked toward the tub, hoping their business was completed. "Are we done here? If we are, I want you out." She stood in a pose not very unlike Erik's imposing one.
"Fine. Fine, but if I were you, I wouldn't soak in there." Vashti held up the bottle for her to see. "It's one of the Khanum's poisoned bath waters. It keeps the men in the realm focused on serving her and not their families. I can't have you die on me before I get my half. Until another time." She left the room and the two young women with their mouths open.