Disclaimer: I'm not Gaston Leroux and have no money. Why sue me?
"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable"
Strangely, she doesn't miss the music. Since her marriage there have been no moments where the desire to sing outweighs her desire to be warm and happy and forgetful. She does not miss her former self who was silly and selfish and malleable.
He knows her too well. He understands enough to be worried. (Something Erik never did.) That morning over breakfast, he cautiously asks:
"Darling, do you want me to get you a piano? So you can have some music?"
The funds in their little Swedish cottage are too tight to afford it, but the thought and love behind the question melts her heart.
"No, Raoul. I do not need music."
He gently rubs her hands, causing shivers (good ones, unlike those from Erik's boiling ice need) up her arms, until they seem to creep into her heart. The dry, safely exothermic palms of his hands seem to thaw the inhumanly cold emotions within her.
His eyes read hers, just to be sure that she is not warring against herself. Not to dominate or second-guess or manipulate. She reads too much into such things. Erik has taught her well. Inability to trust is not a skill acquired without some difficulty, without some heartache.
She pins down the images of betrayal, of black nights, of scorpions and grasshoppers and iron trees that pervade her dreams with too much effort. I can't live like this any more.
The realization resonates through the rest of the day. It controls her halting movements as she halfway does her daily toils, mind not in her body. (She is so consumed by it, she does not notice her husband's careful watch, concern and preparedness to jump to her aide if her abstraction should cause her harm.)
She makes her weekly journey over to Mama Valerius' little grave at sunset. She died six months ago and Christine is finding it hard to remake her world without her surrogate mother in it. But, in a way, she is thankful. Mama Valerius was half dead without her husband.
As she steps over the threshold, the smell is what causes her feet to halt. Someone did tell her once that smell is the strongest human sense (although, that can't be true because love is so much more powerful). And it is the love she dissects in the scent of a cooked dinner that makes her wish she had some tears to weep, these in happiness.
"Well," Raoul gives the smirky smile reserved just for her as he stands in front of the table, "I don't know when I've ever seen you speechless before. Maybe I should prepare our meals more often."
It takes so long for her to formulate words out of her mouth that he asks in concern, "Christine?"
"Raoul….I….Oh," throwing dignity away she clings to him unashamedly, her lips brushing his collar, "I don't deserve you." She also whimpers into his ear.
He runs his hand down her back. It is something he can never understand, this need of hers for tenderness, being brought up surrounded by it as he has. The world has treated her so fiercely hard. He will never understand why such manifestations of affection unravel her like this, but he is happy to break those barriers, to war against her past. To conquer those scars left by Erik.
He lets her stop shaking before finally he carefully thinks up a reply.
"Of course you do, my darling. We deserve each other, don't we? You saved me from Erik and death. You are my life, and do not say I do not deserve my life. Forgive my pride, but I'd like to believe I earned it, and you."
"You did more than earn it Raoul, you saved me. Saved me from him. If not for you, I would be there now, in that darkness." Her eyes connect to his, glistening with unshed tears. "I would hate life, but for you."
"Think what my life would be if I didn't have you. I'd been condemned to be Philippe's little brother forever: the pale, sickly, golden boy of the Chagny's, forever hating the gilded world of wealthy pretence, forever a subject of tradition. You saved me from that meaningless sort of life. Dearest, we saved each other."
She holds him close, and mutely presses her lips to the lips of this grown man who loves her so much to have grown out of his boyhood innocence and pampered way of life just for her, only for her. She wants to tell him that he has done more than save her, he has filled her once cold and empty life. Oh, to have been so ungrateful, so unhappy, when all the happiness she ever need was here in the circle of her arms!
"Darling, the food will be cold soon," he hesitates, slipping out of her arms to take her hand.
"I don't care," she whispers, wanting him closer again.
"I do." His eyebrows shot up in panic, "It's dashed hard to cook. I have a whole new respect for women and their ability to cook."
She giggles, full of silly thoughts like those of him in an apron or trying to knead dough only to have it splatter all around (as the stains on the floor give evidence to). They eat the meal quietly, and while it may not be the best food she has ever imbued (far from it in fact; Raoul has long strides to take before he can claim proficiency in the culinary arts), it is the happiest mealtime she has ever past.
The beautiful effortlessness of the silence between them glows in her blood as she lies beside him in their bed, even the moon seeming to smile down her blessing through the window.
"Raoul?" she queries softly.
"Yes, darling?" he mumbles sleepily.
"Whatever for?" She doesn't know the words that could encompass all that he's done for her, but she tries to find some to give him.
"For saving me, for keeping me whole and intact. And happy."
His arm snakes around her waist and the touch speaks to her, other unsaid things: I love you, you don't have to thankful, my sweet, and, finally, thank you for loving me, for helping us save each other. She suddenly understands why Mama Valerius couldn't live wholly without her love, knowing it would be the same for her without this precious Raoul cradling her against his chest.
Finally, he does speak: "It was my pleasure, dear darling Christine." The words are spoken in a soft whisper, but the meaning behind them is as strong as diamond, which can't be cut or melted or ripped apart. Hearts are weak, can easily be destroyed, but what is between them can be truly unbreakable. She is never more thankful that she put her fragile heart into his hands.
And so, she realizes that the only music she needs is here, the wave's lap against the land and his soft breathing, the connection between their hearts perfect and sweeping in its melody.
A/N This was really just a long-winded of saying "Christine and Raoul love each other, get over it." What is it about Phantom fanfic that makes me so aggressive? Sometimes I really just wanna bop E/Cers on the head with an air-baseball bat. Project Vicomte, this and any other of my fics are yours for the taking!
The title "Sauf" is the French word meaning intact or unharmed, just FYI.
Have a beauteous day and a happy spring to all of you:)