Disclaimer: I do not own The Phantom of the Opera, but The Phil is mine.
Author's Note: Thank you to my reviewers, a special thank you to Musicallover for her inspired suggestions, and thank you to my friend and editor, Terri.
Christine went downstairs to the laundry room to put her clothes and towels in the dryer. While she transferred them from the washer to the dryer, she thought about last night, about Erik's reaction to her touching his mask after she'd allowed him to take her anally. He'd watched her warily, mistrustful of her so near his mask even after she'd given him all she had to give, all she was.
She sighed and shook her head. She loved him with every fiber of her being and would never do anything to hurt him or cause him discomfort, but he was still fearful that she would somehow someday betray his trust. She would never be able to do anything to make him trust her.
This knowledge was like a stone in her heart…heavy and cold. She would love him forever with no restraint, but he would never give all of himself to her...ever.
She walked upstairs to her apartment and decided to call Megan. Perhaps Megan could see something in this that she'd missed. She picked up on the second ring.
"Hi, Megan. It's me."
"Christine? Hi, how are you doing? Did you have a good time last night?"
"Yes, it was great. Um, I need to talk. Do you have a few minutes?"
"Sure. What's up?"
"I spent the night with Erik last night. Everything was great, and he asked me if I'd be willing to try anal sex because it's what he did in Iran. I went ahead and agreed because I thought it'd prove to him that I was completely his and that he could trust me, but later, when I touched his mask, he froze up. It was like nothing had changed. He thought I was going to take it off, but I wasn't. He wanted me to spend tonight with him, but I couldn't because I felt like I needed tonight by myself just to think about it."
"So what do you think you want to do?"
"Well, I don't think there's anything for me to do but just try to accept it, because I know I love him and I know I don't want to live without him. I just need to learn to accept it. What do you think?"
Megan pondered this for a moment. "Well, if you know you don't want to be without him, then I think you're right to try to learn to live with it. Except…"
"What bothers me about this is that Erik really does love you, just like you really love him."
"So why does that bother you?"
"Well, we're talking about love, and people in love all want the same thing and want to be able to give the same thing, talking about trust."
"But he doesn't trust me! He proved that last night!"
"Right, that's how he feels right now. But if he really loves you, and I know he does, he will trust you sooner or later. And dollars to donuts, I'll bet you anything that it'll be sooner rather than later."
"But, Megan, how can you be so sure?"
"Because we're talking about love! If you love someone and you know that person truly loves you, then how can you not believe that they have your best interests at heart? How can you not trust them? You proved to Erik that you trusted him by letting him take you anally, right? And you did this because you loved him and trusted him. One of these days, Christine, he'll prove to you that he loves you and trusts you the same way. Maybe it'll involve his mask, maybe it won't, but however he does it, you won't have any more doubt that he trusts you."
Christine thought about it, but still couldn't understand how Megan could make these assertions. It sounded more like wishful thinking than common sense.
"Megan, I have to go get my clothes out of the dryer now. Thanks for talking with me about this. I'm going to have to think about it. We'll talk again later, okay?"
"Okay, hon. We'll see you later. Bye."
Christine made her way down the stairs and to the laundry room. She checked to make sure everything was dried and then began to fold and then place them in her laundry basket. She thought about her conversation with Megan and her reasoning that Erik would soon prove his trust. But Megan wasn't there, she thought. She didn't see Erik freeze up when I touched his mask. If he ever does trust me, it won't be for a very long time…
"Rather late for laundry, isn't it? I do mine on the weekends."
Christine jumped and let out a small scream, surprised to see Roan standing in the doorway. "Roan! What are you doing here? You scared the hell out of me!"
"Sorry," he grinned. "I checked your apartment, but you weren't up there, and I saw your car was still here, so I just thought I'd check in here. We didn't get to talk the other night."
Christine resumed folding her towels. "No, we didn't. What did you want to talk about?"
Roan walked into the laundry room and hopped up onto the counter so he could watch her. "You know, I don't understand you, Christine. Erik was with Joanna and you took him back. Then Erik's with that brunette and you take him back. I don't get it."
Christine glanced over at him. "You don't have to get it because it's none of your business. I chose Erik because I love him. That's all you need to know."
"Well, actually, it is my business because I care about you. I've always cared about you, and I cared so much that Erik even broke my arm because of it."
"Erik broke your arm because you attacked him. Sounds like self-defense if you ask me."
"He broke my arm because I hurt his pride."
"And how did you hurt his pride?"
"He didn't like that I'd slept with you, and he didn't like that I had a prettier face."
Christine sighed. "There's that ego again…"
Roan's smirk faded. "Oh, but it's not ego; it's the absolute truth. Let me explain a few things to you…
It was late, but Erik wasn't sleepy. He'd tried working on a few scores today but hadn't been able to concentrate, so he spent time out on the patio planting some new flowers and trimming back some bushes. He thought about calling Amir over for a game of chess, but then decided not to; he was too distracted.
He'd spent the greater part of the day and night thinking about the night before. He knew that what he'd felt last night was real. After Christine had given herself to him, he knew that she was his and his alone. He knew that she would never again give herself to another man, and he'd never felt more love or trust for her than he did at that moment. So what went wrong? Hadn't he wanted to show her his face at that moment anyway? He closed his eyes and shook his head.
Christine said she would talk to him tomorrow, but he didn't want to wait that long; he wanted to settle this tonight. For the first time, he wanted to show her his face. It was 11:00 p.m. He wondered if she was already asleep. He grabbed his keys and his jacket and went down the elevator to the car condo. He hopped in the Range Rover and made his way through late night traffic to Chinatown.
He was nervous and excited and scared. He knew it was the right thing to do. He would never again love anyone as much as he loved Christine. She gave him everything. Now, he would also give her everything.
"The first time you guys broke up, did he tell you that it was because he'd heard me talking about you on the phone? No? Well, he'd 'overheard' me talking to someone about you and me. But not to worry, I wasn't on the phone with anyone. I was just pretending."
Christine stared at him. "Why would you do that?"
"It was a test. I wanted to see how much he really trusted you. Apparently he didn't trust you at all."
"How could you?" she whispered. "I wanted to die when he left me."
"Yes, I bet you did. But since he believed me instead of you, it just proved to me that he didn't deserve to be with you…that you should've been with me." He leaned on his hands as his eyes bored into her.
Christine shook her head in disbelief as she stared, her breathing shallow.
There were even times when he tried to leave notes at your door, and roses. But I'd intercept them to keep you from getting confused. I even spoke to him on the computer once when he tried to IM you. He thought I was you." He smirked at the memory. "It was fun being you."
Christine was shocked and speechless.
Roan hopped off the table and approached her. "I love you, Christine. I've loved you for a long time, and I've done a lot for you…even got my arm broken." He reached out and stroked her face with the backs of his fingers. "I love you."
Snapping out of her shock, Christine slapped him visciously. "YOU MONSTER! How could you!"
He stepped back, shocked, and then grabbed her, pinning her to the wall. "I can because I care, Christine! Apparently more than Erik, but you just don't get it, do you? DO YOU?"
Without warning, his lips were suddenly on hers, pressed against her despite her futile struggles. "Roan! Stop! STOP! I don't love you!"
"You're mine, Christine," he murmured as he nuzzled her roughly. He grabbed her breasts and again assaulted her lips when he was suddenly wrenched away. Roan caught himself on the opposite wall as he glared at the intruder.
Erik moved Christine protectively behind him, then slowly approached, looking murderous. Dressed in black, he spoke now with an eerie calm that reminded Roan of a coiled snake. "You don't seem to understand, Richards, she doesn't want you. And if you so much as touch her again, I swear I'll do more than just break your arm."
Roan slowly straightened against the wall. "Go ahead, beat me up. Show Christine what kind of 'man' you are. Real men don't need to resort to violence, Dupont, they settle with words." He saw Erik smile then, a frightful smirk that made him cringe, unconsciously preparing him for fight or flight.
"What would you know of 'real men,' Richards?"
"More than you would, Dupont, because you're always holed up in your apartment. You've fucked a number of women, but don't think it was because they cared anything about you. They pitied you because of your face, because you had to wear a mask, and they no doubt thought they could get something from you for their time."
"Roan, stop it!" Christine cried, stepping forward, but Erik held her back.
"After everything you've done, do you think you look any better to Christine?" Erik asked. "Do you think she'll ever respect you again?"
Roan forced himself to appear calm. "She doesn't have to respect me," he said, glancing quickly over at her. "She just has to know that I'm right, and I've always been right about you, Dupont. She knows that."
"I think she knows enough to stay away from you, Richards. "You've been a liar from the very beginning."
"This is ridiculous." He pushed himself away from the wall. "Christine, I can't believe you're letting him manipulate you like this. Wake up!" He stepped around Erik and grabbed her arm. But in a flash, Erik grabbed him and pinned him to the wall.
"I made myself very clear, Richards," he said dangerously, pressing against him, "and I do not take defiance lightly."
Roan struggled, but Erik was too strong. His grip was like steel. "What are you, some kind of maniac?" he cried.
"Just tempt me," he whispered close to his face.
"Erik..." Christine sounded afraid. "Please, let's just go. I don't want you to hurt him; he's not worth it. Let's just walk away. Please, Erik."
There was a moment of hesitation before Erik loosened his grip and let him go. He didn't want to, but it was done. He was about to turn away when Roan suddenly reached out and ripped the mask off his face. For several seconds, everything was silent.
Erik stood motionless and stared at the mask still in Roan's hand. He looked at Roan, and then at Christine.
It took a moment for Christine to take in Erik's deformity, and then she saw everything. His face was deformed, but it was bad…very bad. Sunken areas that had never formed, skin stretched over bone, faded scar tissue from failed surgeries... Roan was suddenly speaking loudly to her.
"So you think I'm the monster, Christine? Look at him!Look at his face and see what you've been fucking! You've been fucking a monster, Christine! Is that what you want? IS IT?"
Erik couldn't move for his shock as he watched her. She was staring at him, the horror evident in her eyes. She was speechless, rooted to the spot. He'd seen this very thing before…in Catherine, and Sarah…
Roan was laughing; this was all very funny to him. He could reason the obvious to her now and there could only be one outcome. He would win…yes, he would win. "Answer me, Christine! Is this what you want making love to you, what you'd have to face ever night? Do you want your children looking like him?" And he laughed all the more.
Erik couldn't look away as Christine continued to stare. His heart was breaking and was now bleeding. A tear fell from his eye, and then another. She couldn't have known it would be this bad. Roan had destroyed him at last…
He could still hear Roan's laughter in his ears even as Christine slowly approached. She saw his tears and she looked at him for a long moment, seeing his deformity close up. But then, she reached out and caressed his face. Erik turned away, but she turned his face back.
"Don't ever turn away from me," she said softly. "You have nothing to hide from me." And then she brought her lips to his, pressing against them gently, then more firmly, her hand upon his deformed face. The laughter stopped suddenly and there was blessed silence as they held each other.
Christine held him close and then turned to Roan. "I love this man," she said coldly, "and he's not the monster. You've shown me what you are, Roan, and you're the monster!" She stepped forward and ripped the mask from his hand. "I've made my choice. Now leave us alone."
Roan was shocked, and he looked at them now as though Erik were a freak and Christine had lost her mind. He shook his head in disbelief, trying to find his voice, and finally said the only thing he could think of.
Christine smirked. "Well, at least I'm not your bitch."
His eyes widened, and with a final glance at Erik, he strode out of the laundry room.
Erik gazed at Christine, still unable to believe what she'd done. He took the mask from her, but before he could put it on, Christine kissed his lips, and then kissed the deformed side of his face. He looked at her, seeing kindness and total acceptance in her eyes, and he held her close. He felt such love that he could have died and been happy just to know it at last…
"I'll kiss you again if you help me take my laundry upstairs," Christine said softly.
Erik looked at her in surprise and smiled, and Christine giggled as she handed him her laundry basket. He replaced his mask and they made their way up the stairs to her apartment.
When Christine opened her door, Erik carried the laundry basket inside, but then turned and asked with a smile, "Then does this mean that you're my bitch?"
That was when Christine jumped on him, causing him to drop the basket and all its contents…
Monday morning, Erik's
He didn't open his eyes when he first awoke. Last night had been wonderful, but he hoped it had been more than just a wonderful dream. Christine had insisted that he not wear his mask to bed, so he hadn't. He lay there for awhile now wondering if he should put it on before getting up. Christine's acceptance of his appearance meant more to him than she could ever know, but surely she couldn't want him to be without his mask all the time when she was with him.
He expected her to be asleep when he finally opened his eyes, but she was already awake, and she was watching him with a smile on her face. He stared at her curiously.
"Good morning," she grinned.
"Good morning, love." He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "How long have you been up?"
"About ten minutes. Do you know how good you look when you're asleep?"
"How am I supposed to know that if I'm asleep?" he smiled. "Come on. Let's get up and I'll make you a special breakfast."
They took a leisurely shower and then began to dress, but when Christine saw that Erik was about to put on the mask, she stopped his hand. "You don't have to wear it when you're home with me, love," she murmured. "Wouldn't you be more comfortable making breakfast without it?"
He looked at her and then hugged her warmly. He'd been so accustomed to wearing it all these years that he'd gotten used to always having it on, even when he slept. He'd never been without it even when he was home alone, and this was to preclude anyone from accidentally seeing him without it. It would be a new experience not to wear it, but he found himself looking forward to being comfortable in his own home without it. He smiled at her as he placed the mask on the dresser, and they walked to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
Christine sat at the counter and watched while Erik gathered his supplies from the pantry and fridge. She felt happy and relaxed, and watching Erik make breakfast this morning without his mask confirmed what she'd always known…that with his mask or without it, he was the love of her life.
Breakfast was ready in half an hour. Christine set the table with china, silver, and cloth napkins while Erik placed the food on the table, and everything looked wonderful. He'd prepared orange blossom French toast, his special frittata, sliced melon, and then poured some juice.
Christine loved the French toast and closed her eyes as she ate it, a smile playing about her lips.
Erik was pleased she enjoyed it so much. "Good?"
"Mmm, it's wonderful," she said happily between mouthfuls. She sipped her juice and had a thought. "Erik?"
"What made you come over last night?"
"I needed to talk to you and it couldn't wait."
"What did you need to talk about?"
"About my mask. I was going to take it off."
He was going to show her his face even if Roan hadn't been there. Everything would have worked out anyway for he had come to trust her just as Megan said he would. Christine felt a warmth in her heart and she smiled at him while taking another bite of her frittata.
Seeing the love in her eyes, the love that had always been there but which he'd been too afraid to see for so long, Erik made a decision. "Cherie?"
"I'm going to share a couple secrets with you."
"Secrets? What kind of secrets?" Christine stared at him, her fork suspended halfway to her mouth. The secrets Erik shared with her were never small.
"They're about me. I want you to know because I love you…and I trust you."
There, he'd said it. Christine involuntarily smiled and she felt the last barrier between them fall. There were no more secrets between them now, and it had come when the mask no longer mattered. "All right. I'm listening."
"I wrote An Overture for Mankind." When Christine didn't say anything, he wondered why. "What are you thinking, cherie?"
Christine was still finishing her breakfast, but she was eating much slower now, and she looked away as she took in this information. "I'm surprised, but not surprised," she said finally. "I can't believe it was you all this time…the unknown genius who's changing the face of music in our lifetime. And I'm in love with him!"
Erik smiled. "You inspired it, cherie. And I also designed the Phil."
Christine stilled as she thought about the day Erik showed her the image on the façade of the Phil. She'd thought then that the architect had to have been a genius to carve minute niches in the face of the building, but which could be seen as a whole only under certain conditions, and all without the aid of a computer…much like his paintings which were on display at the MOCA. But now a thought occurred to her that she'd wondered about for months. "Erik, the image of the man on the façade of the building that day you showed it to me…"
"Yes, my love, it's me. Or at least what I would look like if both sides of my face looked the same."
"Oh my god," she whispered, the awe evident in her voice.
They finished breakfast and took their dishes to the sink. "What say we go out to the island again Wednesday?" Erik asked. "Once you start working, you won't have a lot of time on your hands."
They made quick work of the dishes before going out on the patio. They gazed over the wall towards the Bay and saw boats making their way slowly out to sea. Erik recalled the fortune cookies he'd received from The Forbidden City: You will find what you seek above all else. And now he was here with Christine. There were no more secrets between them and nothing to stand in the way of their love. He thought back on the past several months and everything that had happened to try to keep them apart. He wrapped his arms around her now and whispered, "I love you, Christine." He knew he would love her forever.
She smiled and rested her head back on his shoulder. All her dreams were coming true, and Erik was by her side. She would soon be at the Phil with Megan. Her parents would have been so proud, but in her heart, she knew they were watching over her from where they were. She was happier now than she had ever been. "I love you, too," she replied.
The waters were a sparkling blue in San Francisco Bay and the sun felt warm on their faces. A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the trees and bushes on the patio, but they both knew that this would be a wonderful day for they would be together. The sound of the city coming alive in the morning was audible in the distance, and they saw a group of seagulls flying above the Bay towards the sea. The sky was a bright blue with a few cirrus clouds overhead, and it reminded them of their first time on the island together. It was good to be alive.
Author's note: A sincere thank you to my readers and to all who reviewed. A special thank you to my editors, translators, and to Glaen Redeker for her poems. Since this is my first story, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts about The Phil. If you would like a personal reply, please e-mail me on AOL. Thank you again.