A/N: See, here's another update! I promised I would keep them coming :D. But I got one lonely review, and I know there are more of you out there. Please review for me so I know you guys are even remotely interested, because if not I don't want to waste your guy's time and mine by writing something that no one enjoys. I mean, that's why write in the first place, right? LOL. So I hope to hear from some of you soon! But for now, here's a nice update :D.
Chapter 6: Goodbyes and Obligations
Erik looked out the side window of the door when he heard a car pull up to the front of the house. He recognized Luke Daae and watched as he helped, who Erik assumed was Jen Daae, Luke's extremely pregnant wife.
Erik quickly walked back to the kitchen, checking the coffee he had brewing, he knew Christine would get the door when the slow moving couple would make it there eventually. He hadn't slept a wink and had needed some caffeine to sustain him. Set on not talking to Christine sleep deprived and without caffeine to avoid a really big blow-up, he rooted through the cabinets until he found what he needed.
"Actually, I shouldn't ever speak to her unless necessary. Not like that'd stop her from speaking," Erik thought ruefully of his charge silent and still and then shook his head, "Not in a million years, Erik. Wishful thinking at best."
The doorbell rang and Erik poured himself a cup of coffee, pulling out his pill bottle from his coat jacket, downing several pills, sighing and took a large swig from his cup. He heard Christine coming down the stairs and then voices carried into the foyer as he heard greetings and muffled sobs.
Luke came through the doorway into the kitchen, nodding to Erik, "Agent Matthews."
"Lt. Daae," Erik knew the man hadn't slept either, and felt for him. Erik had been in this situation too many times, a lost partner, another life gone, to recognize the look on Luke's face.
"Last night?" Luke asked, taking the liberty of pouring himself a cup of coffee.
Erik looked up from his paper, "I spoke with your niece, all was well, no sign of disturbances," he said emotionless, restraining himself from asking how Luke had dealt with such a mouth for years on end.
Luke laughed lightly, looking Erik straight in the eyes, "I told you not to underestimate her."
Erik just shook his head, looking back to his paper, "Oh believe me, I won't," he muttered as he saw Christine and an extremely pregnant woman walk into the kitchen behind her.
"So, you must be Agent Matthews? It's very nice to meet you, sir. I am Jen Daae." The petite blonde woman practically had to waddle to come and shake his hand she was so pregnant.
He took her hand lightly, brushing a small peck in greeting, "Madame, please sit," Erik grumbled in his deep voice, standing up and pulling the chair out for her.
Jen looked like she was about to swoon over him, she blushed and giggled, "Oh thank you, sir. Well, Chrisitne, you never told us how much of a gentleman Agent Matthews is."
"Please, call me Erik," Erik smiled, sweetly, realizing he had an in here.
Christine scowled darkly at him, as he tried to hide a chuckle, "It must have slipped my mind, Jen…or possibly it's a freak coincidence," she looked at him, almost as if she knew what he was doing.
Luke looked back and forth between his niece and Erik, "Well, they talked last night, that much is clear." He laughed to himself as he saw Christine glare at a smiling, gloating Erik who was hamming it up for his wife.
"They are perfect for each other, both as stubborn as each other," Ross thought wryly to himself, wondering if maybe there was something more and then shook the notion, realizing how much he sounded like his wife's nighttime soap operas.
He decided to break up the internal war going on between Erik and Christine before it heated over, "So, has everything been set for going back to Emerson?" Luke asked Erik.
"My agency has prepared everything, we leave tomorrow. I suggest, Ms. Daae, that you begin to pack because we will be leaving early, and on schedule," Erik said sternly, he had a schedule to keep and she was going to follow it.
"Come on, Christine, I'll help you pack, and we can give these guys some time to talk business," Jen said, as Erik helped her up from the chair, smiling at a glowering Christine as the two women went upstairs.
"So, are you turning in your notice yet?" Luke asked, grinning.
"I have no intention of leaving anytime soon, Lieutenant Daae, rest assured that I meant what I said when I said I would not let anything happen to your niece. I am a man of my word," Erik grumbled, finishing his coffee.
"Thank you, Agent Matthews, I appreciate that," Luke said earnestly.
"Please, Erik, and it's my job Lieutenant," Erik stated firmly.
"Luke, I insist. Well, can I hear the details concerning the situation in Camden?" Luke asked, "It will help me feel better about everything to know."
"Of course, Lieut-Luke. Christine and I will be leaving for Camden, Maine tomorrow at first light. I am registered as a grad student, and have been assigned to all of Christine's classes. I will be occupying the apartment next to the one that Christine and Ms. Heart share to keep a watchful eye there as well." Erik repeated his instructions, mentally cringing at the thought of a college campus.
"Best of luck to you, you'll need it where you're going," Luke joked.
Erik nodded silently, musing on how a skilled agent as himself was already cringing over the fact of making a college campus apartment his home for the next few months, "Sure, Erik, you can do 6 weeks in a mud hut you couldn't even stand up in, in Uganda but God forbid you spend a few months on a college campus."
Luke's phone rang shrilly breaking Erik's reverie, "Excuse me, Erik," he said, walking out of the house to take his phone call as Erik nodded, realizing how late it had gotten; it was already dusk.
"Ten hours, cooped up in a car with her tomorrow…this is not going to bode well." He sighed, as he heard the shuffling above him.
"Pompous, arrogant, pig-headed? Oh, wait! Insufferable?" Christine ranted as she paced back and forth from her closet, throwing clothes into her duffle bags.
"I was going to say sweet, chivalrous, and…extremely interesting," Jen smiled at her head-strong niece, folding the clothes Christine threw on in the bags.
"You weren't here last night, you didn't hear the rubbish coming out of his mouth, believe me Jen, sweet is not in his nature," Christine huffed, flopping on the bed next to Jen, falling backwards, her arms above her head stretched out.
"How am I going to survive this car ride tomorrow? Ten hours, without traffic! How am I going to get through these next months? It's not fair, Jen…it's not. Dad should be here," Christine ended softly, tears stinging her eyes.
"Oh, Christine, baby, I know. It's not fair," Jen soothed, moving Christine's hair out of her face, rubbing her head tenderly, "But you know, the only way to make things right, to make things fair again is to live fully. You know they would want that for you, you know it but I know how hard it is to accept. Sometimes it takes time, but we'll see how easy it is one day. I promise," she said softly, willing her tears to keep at bay.
Ross had been like a brother to Jen, always there, always guarding and teasing. When Luke had come home last night, she couldn't believe it, she sobbed with her husband in their loss. She had always known that his job was dangerous, but never did she actually think it would ever come to this. It had just been the other day that Ross and her had had lunch, and were laughing over baby names and stories of the old days when Jen had first met the two Daae boys.
"Do you know why he wears the mask?" Jen asked, trying to find an escape from her sad thoughts.
"I don't know. My first thought was eccentricity, but no agent would risk that in his or her line of work. Discretion is necessary to become good at what they do. So then I would say a disfigurement of some kind." Christine mused mostly to herself.
"He looks very…bodyguard-esque doesn't he?" Jen smiled, "He's very handsome, mask or no mask, that's for sure."
"Jen!" Christine exclaimed, shocked. Not exactly shocked at what her aunt was saying, because somewhere in the deepest recesses of her mind, Christine knew she couldn't deny that the man she despised and could not get rid of was good looking.
"What?! Like you haven't noticed. Nice body, deep voice, green eyes that rival your own brightness, intelligent, chiseled features…No matter how much you think that man is a pain in your ass, you can't deny that he is extremely good looking," Jen admonished, sticking to her feelings.
"It's just your hormones going crazy because he was being nice to 're shameless! 8 months pregnant with my uncle's baby and you tell me how you have the hots for my prison ward," Christine teased as Jen stuck her tongue out.
"You really haven't noticed?" Jen pressed, as the two of them finished packing and zipped up all the bags.
"It's hard to notice anything when he opens that mouth of his," Christine smirked and Jen just shook her head.
"Well, you're all packed. I can't believe you're leaving tomorrow when you just got here. I know it's probably for the best…but we didn't get any time. I miss our girl nights!" Jen smiled, hugging her niece tightly.
"I know! I know, Jen…Christmas will be here before you know it and I'll see you both, excuse me, the three of you, then." Christine beamed as she patted her aunt's humongous stomach lovingly.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Let's go get your uncle and your masked guard, and order some food so I have something to keep me busy from crying like a mother hen," Jen joked, hugging Christine as best as she could with her stomach between them.
After an emotional goodbye between Jen and Christine and with many promises to stay in touch regularly with her uncle as well, the couple left begrudgingly waving all the way down the driveway and into the street.
Erik had made himself invisible as the tiny family said their goodbyes, offering some privacy as they talked about how the next few months were going to go. He found himself sitting underneath a quaint, little gazebo covered in ivy and moonflowers, he decided after much contemplation over the petals, while collecting his thoughts from the past couple of days.
After a couple minutes of peace, Erik felt his phone vibrating in his pocket and sighed when he saw the familiar big block letters screaming, "WORK".
"Matthews," Erik practically grumbled in greeting.
"How is our Phantom agent holding up?" Hunter's voice filled Erik's receiver.
"Britain, why do you feel the need to check up on me? Are you lonely? No airhead warming your bed tonight? What a pity." Erik narrowed his eyes in frustration of being interrupted in his time of peace.
Hunter laughed, used to his blunt friend, "If I never called you, to whom would you talk to besides the Chief? I'm only looking out for your benefit. And you know, if you went out every once and while, you could get your own airhead to warm your bed my friend."
"I prefer my bed warmer to know that when the news reports attacks on Georgia, they don't mean the state." Erik countered, to hear his friend laugh again. This is how their friendship went; bantering back and forth.
"Touche, my friend. Touche. I was calling to update you. We narrowed Darovik's men down with Christine's description and our scarface is Ivan Petrov, a newcomer on the scene. Has a long rap sheet all the way from petty theft and misdemeanors to wanted for triple homicide in Prague, looks like Darovik picked him up on his last getaway to Berlin in the summer. We had a few agents get a tip on Petrov's whereabouts but by the time they got to the scene, the trail went cold and there hasn't been any activity on his financials for a trace." Hunter sighed.
"Keep tabs, Britain. Darovik has his men on lock down now, and we need to be ready if one of them slips up. They are all together somewhere, so if you find one they'll lead you to the rest." Erik talked fast, but smooth, always composed in whatever situation.
"You've got it. I'll update you if we have any activity. I need to tend to my new partner. Matthews, a pleasure as always. Tell Christine I said good luck and Godspeed. Anyone who survives a 10 hour car ride with you is a saint." Hunter laughed, his accent coming through loud and clear to Erik's ears as he rolled his eyes at the slight against him.
"I'll be the saint, she's 20 times worse than me," Erik shot back and hung up abruptly as always, this time to Hunter's thick laugh.
He hung up the phone and sighed as he felt a cool breeze drift over him, bringing with it the rustling of the orange, red, and yellow leaves scattering about on the ground beneath him. He loved the crispness that the air held in autumn, it filled his lungs and let him know he was still alive and capable of feeling…something.
Erik was just about to go inside, when he heard it. A clear, strong, bell like voice carrying over to him from origins unknown. He looked around, thinking a neighbor was outside milling around in her yard, but found no one. He could hear the lilting strains of "At Last", a classic in Erik's eyes, and longed to find the woman who could produce such an amazing sound, when some acknowledgement hit him like a ton of bricks.
He turned around and was met with a surprising sight. There she was, his brown haired, green eyed charge, illuminated by the soft glow of the kitchen lights, cleaning up plates from dinner, softly singing to herself. Erik concealed himself in the shadows of the gazebo, it was clear she thought he was somewhere else, unable to see or hear her. Erik took his time taking her all in, as she was naturally, without any provocation; completely at ease.
She moved with grace, he could tell there was a history of ballet or gymnastics; the way she held herself emanated it. She became completely wrapped into herself when she was alone, Erik could tell she was there, but gone at the same time and he could see the pain and sadness permeate her eyes. But her voice! It was fantastic-a little rough, a sign of no formal training, but amazing nonetheless.
"Erik, what the Hell are you doing? Creeping in the dark, pleasing your voyeuristic urges on a young woman whom you are personally responsible for, and whom you need to trust you. Great start!" Erik mentally berated himself. "How low you've stooped."
Erik sighed and found himself walking towards the house, as Christine left the kitchen, he didn't want to startle her. He may not be fond of her or her mouth, but he still needed her to come and trust him or she was going to be extremely difficult to handle.
He went upstairs, and knocked on her bedroom door, only pushed closed, seeing as the door jam was still broken from last night, "Ms. Daae, a word if you please?" he spoke, wishing he could hear her sing again.
"What do you want?" she asked, her face scowling as she hobbled back to her bags closing them all up.
"Tomorrow we leave at 8, I expect you'll be ready and rested; we have a very long day." Erik said quietly, yet sternly.
"I am not a child, please don't speak to me as if I am one," she shot back as she continued to hobble here and there around her room gathering odds and end things. Erik was becoming frustrated yet again; every conversation they had was like this, she was incorrigible.
"I'll speak to you how I see fit. You wish not to be spoken to as a child? Cease being a child." Erik grumbled, annoyed.
Christine scoffed and continued to throw things into another bag furiously, "Why do you care at all, huh? Why?!? You hate me, I dislike you, you have no obligation to me, so then why are you torturing yourself and me with this ridiculous farce?" Christine shouted, angry at everything and taking it out on the closest thing; Erik.
"I don't care! Believe me Ms. Daae, someone as pig-headed and ignorant as you can't be helped. I don't have any obligation to you, you're right," Erik raged back, in front of her in two of his long strides, forcing her to listen to him, "I have an obligation to your father and I'm sure as Hell going to fulfill it, and if that means to take care of his childish, incorrigible daughter while my agency hunts down his murderer and her stalker, then by God that's what I'm going to do!"
Erik smoothed his hair down in an attempt to calm down. He looked into Christine's fiery green eyes full of distaste with an undertone of sadness, and felt his anger simmer at a girl who had no idea how much her father had sacrificed for her.
"Tomorrow at 8, Ms. Daae. And rest assured that if you do not go willingly, it will only make it harder on yourself. I suggest you comply and there will be no problems, am I being clear?" Erik barked over his shoulder as he left the room, seething at this girl who had such a hold on him. No one had ever been able to get under his skin like this; no one, and he prayed that they wouldn't kill each other before they got to Maine tomorrow.
He heard her yell sweetly back from her room as he reached the kitchen, "Crystal, Agent Matthews." Too sweetly.
"This woman is going to be the death of me," Erik thought as he tried to go to sleep, consumed again with thoughts of Christine, peaceful and content, singing lightly as she worked.
Christine thought about what her Aunt had said about her masked guard and scoffed, if only her aunt could see him now, "Sweet, indeed!" she hissed, rolling from side to side, trying to find sleep.
She would never admit it, but deep down, Erik's words cut through her like a hot knife, no one cared about her anymore. She had no parents to talk to, to run to with problems. Sure there was Luke and Jen, but they'd soon start raising their own family and she'd be a bother. She truly had no one, and she felt empty inside. "Damn him!" she cursed, as tears rolled down her cheeks silently.
Finally, as she began to drift off, she thought she heard her father whispering softly to her, "Ma Bella, give him a chance. I love you. Always and forever. Give him a chance. You are not alone." Christine let more tears slip out in grief, her father's voice comforting, safe, and all too familiar.
His voice continued to echo in her head, "You are not alone, give him a chance Ma Bella. I love you."
A/N: So how'd you like it guys? I intended to write the car ride this chapter, but felt like we needed this chapter first. The next chapter will be the infamous car ride and Camden, Maine! Please review for me, it means a lot! Thanks!