Summary: For tonight I am Hades. And you will be my Persephone…at least until the music ends.
Setting: Andrew Lloyd Webber Version (more movie than stage) with just a dash of Kay, and with all due credit to Leroux.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, I just borrow them to play with…entirely without profit.
Author's Note: Two years of writer's block later…
I am lamenting the decided lack of (high) quality period E/C in recent months. Unfortunately, this fiction probably won't alleviate that, but at least it got me writing again.
I am fully aware that, historically, the Carnival celebrations in Venice began to decline at the end of the 18th Century, and were not revived until about the mid 20th Century. However, the beautiful thing about fiction is that it doesn't have to conform to fact, but can lead us into the beautiful realm of what if…
Rated M for the final two chapters…forewarned is forearmed.
An Elysian Piece
iL Carnevale di Venezia
She was a goddess.
That was all he could think as his eyes feasted upon her from across the piazza. All around them, the Venetian carnival raged with laughter and music. A sea of masked faces in countless vivid colors separated him from her, bodies twirling about in dance, and yet the whirlwind faded into a peculiar calm as all his energy focused onto her.
She was dressed in a gown of the deepest emerald trimmed in gold tulle. The velvet bodice lovingly molded her curves and narrowed to a point at her slender waist. The full skirt flared at her hips and ended just above a white underskirt that peeked out from beneath. The sleeves of the dress dropped off pale shoulders, and her dark curls were left loose to coil alluringly around her face and over her back. She wore a simple gold Columbina mask that covered her eyes and curved up into winged points at her forehead.
And she was alone.
He had watched a parade of eager young men ask her to dance, only to be sent away with a firm shake of her head. To approach her now was a fool's errand, he knew, but he could not resist. He could never resist.
Purposeful strides moved him effortlessly though the waves of boisterous revelers until he was but a few feet away. Her perfume filled his senses until he thought himself drunk on her sweetness. She seemed at first not to notice his presence beside her, but then some otherworldly frisson passed over her and her eyes fluttered beneath her mask.
Drawing a breath, he finally spoke, the perfect Italian carrying just the faintest trace of a divergent accent. "Are you not dancing, Signorina?"
The smooth tenor of his voice fully captured her attention, and she finally turned to look upon her admirer. Her dark gaze unerringly found his and the moment hung suspended between them as time itself seemed to alter and grow still. Had she been able to look away from his hypnotic green-blue eyes, she would have seen that he was dressed all in black, from the tips of his boots to the bolero jacket and cape. An elaborate sword hung at his side; the belt buckle adorned with a silver skull. A black mask covered the upper half of his face, leaving only his full lower lip and strong jaw exposed.
His inviting mouth curved upward in amusement at her prolonged silence, and a blush colored her cheeks as she finally answered his question with a whispered, "No."
One leather clad hand extended toward her. "Will you do me the honor?"
Her only answer was to slowly place her delicate hand onto his.
He silently led her into the heart of the dancing couples before sweeping her into a graceful waltz. Their bodies flowed seamlessly together, and once again, she could not seem to look away from the hypnotic green-blue eyes that touched a long silent chord deep within her. The overwhelming sense of familiarity that descended upon her was inescapable, and she finally found her voice.
"Do I know you?" It was telling that she had forsaken her adopted Italian dialect and slipped into her native French.
He smiled mischievously and responded in kind. "Perhaps yes, perhaps no. To tell you would spoil the pleasure of the masquerade. For tonight I am Hades. And you will be my Persephone…at least until the music ends."
Her steps faltered and she nearly stumbled over her own feet. The mythos he had chosen cut far too close to the bone. Hades, king of the underworld…what little doubt she had still harbored vanished in a puff of smoke. The curve of his sensuous lip and the fiery glitter of his gemstone eyes swam in her vision until she was transported back in time to a distant stage.
It was him.
Hardly daring to breath, she waited for her traitorous body to tremble with remembered terror. It was an entirely different emotion that fought its way to the surface, and a nervous laugh escaped her unbidden.
His eyes narrowed slightly, "You are amused?"
She did not shy away from his dark intensity, but called upon the strength she had molded from the ashes of her broken dreams. "I was only wondering if you plan to kidnap me and make me your bride."
It was his turn to falter, clearly shaken from her unexpected show of steel. His hesitation was brief, however, and in the blink of an eye his entire aura became as unreadable as the mask he wore. "I would never presume. A beautiful woman, such as you are, must certainly be spoken for."
The venom in his tone was unmistakable. Once, she would have recoiled from such a show of temper, but she had learned from painful experience that there was no peace to be found in retreat.
Her chin tilted up defiantly, "I am not."
"I find that difficult to believe."
She could feel the tension radiating from his powerful form, though the graceful slide of their dance continued uninterrupted. She searched his eyes as she confessed, "I was engaged once several years ago, but it was broken."
She felt the illusion he had wrapped around himself give way, and his affected accent slipped. "Why?"
A wry smile curved her lips. "It was…a youthful infatuation. We were childhood sweethearts who met once again, surrounded by memories and romance, and drama and danger. But before long it became all too clear that our attachment could not sustain a lifetime. We were too different."
"I am…sorry." And he actually managed to sound sincere.
"You shouldn't be. It was all for the best." She did not admit the personal hell she had been forced to walk through in order to arrive at that realization. She likely never would.
His silent contemplation of her admission unnerved her more than a little. An uncomfortable awareness descended on her then, and the fear that had been blessedly absent suddenly seized her. "And you , m'sieur? Are you spoken for?"
He laughed ruefully, "I am destined to remain a…bachelor."
She was certain that he'd begun to say alone, and the thought of that made her throat tighten with sadness. She knew that were she to continue this verbal duel with him, there would be no turning back.
Her dark eyes danced with unspoken promises as she said, "I think not. I am certain there is at least one woman who will gladly claim you for her own. Perhaps you have met her already, and she is even now plotting how to lure you back to her, ensnare you in her sweet trap so that you can never leave her again."
He was taken aback for a moment, but recovered with an enigmatic smile. "I am a very difficult man to trap."
She grinned back in earnest. "Perhaps you only need the proper bait."
His good humor faded, and his smile turned sad around the edges. "The hook was baited long ago. She had my heart on a string, but she did not want it." He looked away, fixating on a spot just over her shoulder. "She did not want me."
Her hand came up to his masked face, and ignoring his involuntary flinch, she forcefully drew his gaze back to hers.
"She was fool. A frightened, selfish child who did not deserve your love. She knows now just what she lost, and regrets her choice. Every moment of every day."
They stood unmoving amidst the maelstrom. The music faded into silence around them, and neither could remain hidden behind the masks they still wore.
His entire countenance betrayed his longing, and his eyes fell closed as he whispered, "Oh, Christine…"
A soft smile transformed her words into a caress. "I thought I would never again hear my name said in just such a way. Even though I have heard your voice every night in my dreams. Erik…"
His name on her lips seemed to wake him from his placid dream. He pulled her closer in a burst of passion, and for one heart-stopping moment, Christine was certain he meant to claim her right there. His lips hovered scant inches from hers, so close she could nearly taste the spicy flavor of his kiss, but he failed to close that final distance between them. Instead, he released her and stepped back, his expression once again blending coldly into his mask.
"Forgive me, mademoiselle. I fear I have taken up far too much of your time."
He offered a stiff bow, and quickly spun away with a sweep of his cape to disappear into the crowd. She stood staring after him in confusion, her shattering heart the only evidence that the encounter had been real.
That, and the glittering, gaudy blue diamond that Erik had pressed into her palm.
Christine stared down at the ring in despair, a single tear escaping from beneath her mask to splash against the symbol of her betrayal. They had come full circle.
All around her, the dance continued.
A/N: Was a potential one-shot, but soon blossomed into a prologue to a longer E/C.