Et Velle Et Perficere
Disclaimer: Don't own POTO… but I do own Jeremy, James and Jules. I don't remember where the quote at the end was from... I'll look it up later.
A/N: Thank you all, dear reviewers, and I hope you enjoy this update... I'm sorry it's been so long.I wrote this ages ago. If you get a chance, have a look at my new story Let Me Be Your Hero.
Please read and review…
Chapter 17: It is Strange What a Man May Do…
A week later, Erik and Christine's Music class had just gotten to London where they would be staying for a three-day field trip before leaving off for the Christmas holidays. There were only five in this particular class – Christine, Erik, Meg, James and Jules, as Carlotta had been removed – so only two teachers were needed to take them – Mr. Harper-Matthews and Mrs. Giry. They were all staying at an auxiliary off-grounds school building which was used for their regular field trips and run by caretakers for the rest of the year.
It was late night when they got there and everyone headed off to bed in the old-style dormitory with the creaky old bunk beds. There was only one dormitory in the building so all seven of them were in together… though there were separate changing rooms, of course, and everyone got changed into their pyjamas as soon as they arrived…
"Which one do you want, Angel?" Erik asked Christine as he carried their bags in.
She chose the top bunk against the back wall and Erik immediately commandeered the one right below her. He then chivalrously handed her up, as there were no ladders, and made sure she was settled before getting into bed, himself. Meg and James did the same in the beds adjacent to theirs… Next to them, Mrs. Giry took the bottom bunk and Jules took the top, leaving Jeremy all on his own.
"Pfft," he scoffed. "I don't need you lot anyway. I'm perfectly happy all by myself over here in the corner…" He was even more annoyed when nobody said anything or made any noise other than the sound of the lamp being turned off. "Fine, then… Don't think I'll forget this… Just you wait until tomorrow when you need me to–"
"Jesus, Jeremy… will you shut your gob?" Christine shouted over to him in the dark, cutting him off.
"The bloody cheek…" he huffed, quietly.
Not half an hour later, all of them were asleep… well, all bar one…
Erik was still awake, listening to the sounds of everyone else breathing softly… it was hard for him to be back in this sort of environment – reminded him too much of the care home he had been banished to not so many months ago. Though, it seemed like a lifetime ago now… and he would not go back for all the world – he had an angel now… an angel he would have to protect and care for, and he would not leave her ever again. He would fight the Lord himself to keep her…
His thoughts trailed off in that direction and occupied him for the next several hours before he was disturbed by a large white shape moving swiftly at his right. He had not been quite sure he had seen anything other than the over-workings of his tired mind but he sat up, anyway, to look at the shape and let his eyes adjust to it as it moved. However, he realised quite quickly that he had seen something and that it was a person – a person heading quickly towards the door of the room and out into the hallways… so, he raised himself silently from the bed to follow them.
He stood up and turned to look into Christine's bunk to check on her one last time before heading out after the person he had seen… and he turned three shades of white when he found that Christine was missing from her bed, coming to the realisation that she had been the shape he had seen. He didn't know what she was doing up at this time of night but he didn't like the idea of her wandering about the old building on her own… Lord knows what could happen – and Erik was very much the overprotective boyfriend, for lack of a better word, that Christine knew him to be.
He quietly hurried out the door after her in a bid not to lose her but was unable to locate her in the subsequent darkness of the windowless hallway. He could not rationally make sense of how worried he had become at her disappearance but hastily followed the corridor that he assumed she would have taken, passing the kitchen and the old classroom without finding her.
He spent a few moments at the turn in the hallway, debating going back the other way to look for her when he heard something resembling a shriek coming from up ahead of him. He immediately set off running towards it and found himself standing in the entranceway to the old shower-room, staring at the back of a reasonably fat man as he appeared to be leaning against the wall.
Again, he heard the shriek and realised to his utter fury that the man was not leaning against the wall, but actually pinning Christine to it. With a cry of absolute rage, Erik tore her from him and brought the sobbing girl against his chest to check her over. "Are you hurt, my love?" She shook her head, burying her face in the shoulder of his pyjamas. "You're sure? He has not touched you?"
"No…" she sobbed. "Thank God you came…"
"You…" the man hissed. "What are you doing here? How did you ever manage to wrangle your way into a school like that?"
Erik looked back up at him and gritted his teeth as he saw the face of a man he'd rather forget – an old foster parent, if one could even call him that, who had been of less than exemplary character, one could say. He had been heavy with his hands, not only on all of the children he had fostered, that Erik knew of, but also his wife… not to mention, his other unsavoury habits with the young girls who had once been under his care. Erik could remember them sometimes being brought back – in tears and too scared to say anything to anyone, though they all knew what was wrong but could do nothing if they didn't tell them themselves. He would never let that happen to Christine…
"Nothing to say? Too scared, perhaps…"
"I am positively shivering in my little silk booties," Erik said, dryly, moving Christine behind him and out of harm's way. From the clothes the man was wearing, it was clear that he was the night caretaker there – something of not much concern or danger to others until the building was in use…
The man laughed heartily at that and shook his head, causing Erik to be filled with such rage at the uncaring and positively smug persona of the person who had been one of so many to get around the system.
For a moment, Erik turned behind himself, keeping a watch on the man out of the corner of his eye, and touched Christine's shoulder gently. "Angel," he whispered. "Go back to the dormitory and stay beside Jeremy – he will keep you safe for now… I'll be through in a few minutes."
"Erik, what are you–?"
"Just go…" he snapped, and watched briefly as she disappeared around the turn in the corridor.
Turning back to the man who had tried to touch his angel – his angel – he gave him a quick glance up and down to estimate his threat to him… after all, no need to be complacent just because he was an unfit old nonce. Allowing the bastard to make the first move, Erik easily blocked a punch to his stomach and returned it with a quick blow to the man's jaw, snapping his head back momentarily. It gave him just enough time to knock the man's feet out from under him and pinned him easily to the dirty ground – Erik had grown a lot and gotten much better at fighting since the unfortunate time that he had been unable to defend himself against the fists of the man now beneath him on the floor. Erik felt a certain satisfaction that he could now look down upon him, whether they were both standing or not…
The man, however, did not really take to having done to him what he used to do to Erik and a number of others in his apparent care… so he struggled one fist free and managed to knock Erik quite powerfully in his upper chest – not hard enough to get him off but sufficient to stun him for a moment as he reached his other hand, unnoticed, into his back pocket trying to reach for a knife.
He stopped though when Erik asked him a question… "What were you going to do to her?"
"What does it matter to you anyway?" he laughed. "Is she your girlfriend? We both know how likely that is…"
"Why her…? Is it because she's beautiful? Because she's an angel…?" Erik asked, his voice far more timid than he actually felt. But the thought of something so disgusting happening to his Angel – his girlfriend – his sweet Christine… it caused him to become desolate with grief.
"An angel…? What's gotten into you?"
Erik struck the man across the face as hard as he could in his anger and placed one hand around his throat, applying pressure immediately. "Fine, fine…" the man choked out. "Yes… she's beautiful but that's just a plus… I found her wandering around down here in her sleep and I saw the opportunity…"
Erik was incensed… He raised the man's head off the floor and struck it down sharply over and over again as his eyes began to roll up into the back of his head and a series of sickening thuds followed. The next thing he was consciously aware of was somebody pulling him by the shoulders away from the man and out of the now lit room…
"Erik," a very flustered-looking Jeremy said, holding him back against the hallway wall by the shoulders. "Erik… calm down. He's unconscious… she's safe… just leave it. Now, go back to the dorms and try not to wake anyone else up – just sit with Christine while I sort this… alright?"
When Jeremy returned to the dark dormitory later that night, he found Erik and Christine sitting in his bed with his blankets wrapped around them. They were both worried about what would happen now and Erik was painfully aware that he would be eighteen in a month and, if he were thrown out now, he would be on his own – something that no longer held any peace for him since he had met Christine.
Christine looked up at Jeremy expectantly… "Don't worry," he whispered to calm her. "He's not here anymore – I called an ambulance and they've taken him away… he can't hurt you now…"
"Have you called the police too?" Erik asked, wondering when they would arrest him for beating the man up.
"No… I have no proof that he did anything… it's not as though they could charge him for anything serious or worthwhile. Trust me – I know…"
Erik was confused. "I meant – have you called them for me?"
"For you…? What should I do that for? You were protecting Christine… I'll never let you be punished for that, Erik… If it came to it, I'd say it was me who had done it…" he said seriously.
Erik didn't know what to say – 'thank you' would just not do in this instance – and he was touched beyond belief at the length this man would go to, to protect his students.
"Now," Jeremy continued. "We can't stay here any longer – I think it'd be best if we went home soon… but I promise you that you'll never see that nonce again and he won't get you in trouble… he won't say a word, I assure you."
"What have you done?" Christine asked worriedly. "How do you know that he will not say anything?"
"Don't ask me that, pet… it's nothing I've done… but people with his… tendencies don't tend to want to draw a lot of official attention to themselves."
"What about the others?" Christine asked after a pause. "They'll be disappointed – they'll want to know what happened."
"Leave them to me, sweetheart… I'll take care of it and I shan't involve the two of you either…"
Just under four hours later, everyone was back at Garron Tower… most were grumbling about having had to sit in a bus for four hours there, getting a measly few hours sleep and then having to go back on the bus for four hours again – but at least nobody knew what had really gone on. They were also upset about not getting to actually do anything in London before they had left again but they had quieted when Jeremy promised that they could go back sometime in the new year and they would do it properly… minus one dodgy night-caretaker.
As it was starting to get light, most of them headed off to their own rooms to catch up on their missed sleep… but Erik remained behind, waiting for all of them to be out of sight before he made his way up the stairs of the old music tower and towards the beautiful old concert grand. He needed to relieve some of his tension and could not help turning to his music to do so… it had been so long – too long, in fact – since he had played furiously and passionately to relax as usually the practice rooms were not private enough for his tastes.
It was not to be, however, as he heard footsteps following him up the stairs before Christine appeared in the doorway. He had not spoken much to her since the incident as he was terribly afraid that he had upset her, scared her, even.
"I thought it was only Jeremy who sneaked off up here to play while everyone else was asleep…" she commented.
Erik stood up from the piano bench and bowed his head meekly before her. "You're not angry at me?" he asked, surprised. He was not the only one…
"Why should I be angry at you?"
"It's my fault that we had to come back here early… you loved it there – love it there – and I made you have to leave…"
"It wasn't your fault that we had to leave and I do love it there… but not more than I love you," she said confidently, moving closer to him.
"You… you love me?" He was utterly shocked and could not think of the proper way to respond to such a declaration – he supposed that was because he had never heard anyone tell him that they loved him before. "Do not fool with me, Christine – it would kill me if you did not mean it… if you are doing this just as some sort of sick joke then I need you to know the damage you will do…"
"I love you, my perfect Erik. I have wanted to tell you for so long but I was not ready – I am now…" She smiled brightly at him and watched as he realised her sincerity.
"You really love me?" he asked with heartbreaking hope lacing his voice.
"You're fast, aren't you, dearheart? I love you… and it feels amazing to say it."
"It is amazing to hear it, my angel… so much you would not imagine… oh, I love you so," he whispered, reverently touching her cheek as she smiled at him. He would never tire of hearing her tell him that – he only hoped she would continue to do so.
He was going to kiss her as he leaned forward but was interrupted by her placing a hand over her mouth as she yawned. "I'm sorry, Erik," Christine said. "I know this is not the time but I am just so tired – I'm going to go to bed now… alright?"
"Of course, sweetheart, take all the sleep you need – good thing we will not be expected to go to classes today… One more thing though – why didn't you tell me that you sleepwalk?"
"I suppose it never came up… and I haven't been doing it long… just a few weeks."
Now Erik was worried that something had caused her to suddenly start sleepwalking but was unable to voice his concerns as she disappeared down the stairs again without another word.
He sighed, sitting back down on the bench before once again being interrupted as her footsteps came quickly back up. "Oh, darling, what have you forgotten? Your kiss, perhaps…?" he called out to her.
"Much as I love you, Erik, I think I'll pass," Jeremy laughed, leaning against one of the old desks. Erik was mortified…
"Oh, this great tragedy of not being able to be alone," he muttered.
"If you want to be alone, Erik, you should not have come up here where you know I come to play… You know, I thought I was the only one around here who pretended to be the Black Butler… apart from Christine, of course."
"You are not the first person to have commented on that tonight," Erik said, bored.
"Mmm, quite… now, why don't you tell me about that little conversation I just heard…" He smiled warmly at him.
"Christine is beyond perfect," Erik sighed. "For her to say something like that to me is just… unbelievable… especially after what she witnessed tonight."
"It is strange what a man may do, and a woman think him an angel," Jeremy agreed.
© Copyright of CrawfordsBiscuits, November 2005