Summary: They thought that they had found Elysium, but around them the bitter winter had descended. The Fates have woven another thread into the fabric, and it will either bind them or rend them asunder. Sequel to An Elysian Piece.
Setting: Andrew Lloyd Webber Version (movie) with a dash of Kay, and all due credit to Leroux. Takes place approximately six months after An Elysian Piece.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, I just borrow them to play with…entirely without profit.
Author's Note: Oh no, a sequel? Yes, indeed. May the gods forgive me for this (very) humble attempt at completing the mystery never fully explained.
Too Long In Winter
Opening Performance of Verdi's Aida
The light gradually spread across the stage of the Teatro la Fenice, casting a soft glow around the form of an angel. Her dark, chestnut curls spilled wildly around her shoulders, and a serene look of joy spread over her face as her mesmerizing voice wove a spell over the rapt audience. The golden melody floated upward and surrounded the shadowed figure lurking in the palchi above. For a moment, his eyes fell closed in bliss at the musical purity that smoothly assaulted his ears, but unable to be long deprived of the vision of beauty before him, his gaze focused again on the stage as she sang, completely lost in the passion of her aria.
Christine Daaé was exactly where she belonged.
Her fame had been growing in leaps and bounds since she had arrived in Venice more than three years before. All over the city, posters triumphantly heralded the exquisite La Daaé as Aida. The tragedy of her past seemed so very far behind her now as she stood proudly ruling over her domain. She had become the diva that she was always meant to be, and he briefly regretted that his presence in her life could never be free of the painful memories that they shared.
He nervously rolled the playbill in his hands as he practiced, not for the first time, what he would say to her tonight. Without a doubt, her life would be forever altered by what he would ask of her, and he must be certain to choose the correct words to ensure a favorable response.
She must not say no, he thought with determination.
I cannot allow her to refuse me.
Christine took a final bow amidst the swirls of flowers raining down upon the stage. As had become her tradition, she chose the single bud of a deep red rose that had fallen at her feet and momentarily held it over her heart, smiling her brightest smile for the appreciative audience, before tossing the flower over the orchestra pit and into the waiting hand of her maestro, Signor Cassetti, who caught it graciously and bowed to her. With an elegant slide backwards, entirely credited to the strict training of Madame Giry, she disappeared behind the descending curtain.
Congratulations were echoed from the chorus to the ballet, and Christine basked in the pleasure of a nearly flawless performance. All around her, performers, musicians and stage hands were beginning the celebration of a successful opening night gala. Signor Dellano appeared from the bustle, clasping her hands between his and kissing both her cheeks in affection. "Bravissima, mia cara. You were magnifica."
She smiled gratefully at her manager, modestly thanking him for his praise. Leonardo Dellano was a distinguished gentleman in his late fifties with a head full of curly black and silver hair, a thick moustache and beard to match, and warm blue eyes. Best of all, he was as well versed in music and the arts as he was in business...unlike the managers that she had known in Paris. The entire opera company adored him, and Christine was no exception.
Leonardo had taken a rather large chance when he had offered her a contract at La Fenice, being that she had been completely unknown to the Italian theater; a blessing in light of her tattered reputation in Paris. She would be forever grateful to him for the opportunity, and had repaid him tenfold by filling the seats at every performance.
He had also become her self-appointed body guard for the potentially harrowing journey backstage, and he gallantly offered his arm to escort her to her dressing room. Her admirers could be quite insistent, and many of them did not take well to being rejected without a second glance. She had learned long ago to avoid eye contact as much as possible, for that seemed to give the impression of the cold and aloof diva...an image which suited her perfectly well these days.
Even after more than three years in Venice, she had yet to become comfortable amidst the shouts of Signorina Daaé and Bella Diva, and was always relieved to reach the quiet of her elegantly appointed dressing room without incident. Tonight especially, she was glad to cross the threshold into what had become her private sanctuary at La Fenice.
Leonardo bowed at the entrance, saying "A pleasure, as always, bellissima donna. Now I will go and beat the dogs away from your door, no?"
Christine offered a crooked smile. "Grazie."
He backed out of the room, allowing the heavy oak door to close behind him with a firm click. She pressed both hands against the cool wood and bowed her head for a moment as the post performance high drained away to leave her physically and emotionally exhausted. She inhaled deeply of the quiet, and straightening, she turned and crossed to her dressing table where she collapsed into the chair with a sigh of relief. She would not trade her career upon the stage for anything, but there were nights when she longed for the relative obscurity of the chorus.
As she rubbed at her temples, her eyes drifted without volition to the dresser top in front of her, only to find it empty of that which she longed most to see…the single red rose tied with black ribbon.
He isn't here, she thought sadly.
Of course, he had warned her that he would be unlikely to return from his business in Milan in time for the opening of Aida, but that had not stopped her from hoping that he would somehow find a way to be at her side. After all, he could do anything that he set his mind to, as he had proved to her repeatedly, not to mention arrogantly and smugly at times.
Erik Villon…master architect, brilliant musician and composer, gifted artist, philosopher, magician, teacher, (retired) opera ghost and forever her angel.
And her lover of more than six months.
Christine smiled to herself at the memory of that magical Carnival night in Piazza San Marco when her black clad Phantom had reappeared in all his seductive glory. The three years of their separation had changed them both indelibly, but time could never alter the soul deep connection that they had to one another. In the months since that fateful encounter, they had grown even closer, talking openly, for the most part, of their past, present, and future. She had learned, however, to tread carefully over certain subjects, as Erik's temper was still a touch unpredictable.
The first time he had come back stage at La Fenice, for example, he had been only seconds away from doing physical harm to one of her overzealous would-be suitors. She'd had to forcibly drag him into the safety of her dressing room and, even then, it had taken some creative distraction on her part to soothe his violent jealousy.
Erik would never be an easy man to love, but love him she did.
She had long ago discovered that there was simply no other way for her. Her foolish, youthful attempts to purge him from her heart had failed miserably, and she had realized, nearly too late, that it was far easier to battle his demons than her own.
Sighing again, she turned her attention to the task of removing her stage make-up as she dreamily imagined the many ways in which she might welcome Erik back to Venice. He had come to love the city as much as she, and his intent was to eventually conclude all of his business affairs in Milan and permanently relocate. Yet Christine knew it would not be a simple task. Even though his career was the more flexible in terms of location, he had certain obligations that he could not immediately abandon. The man who had hired Erik upon his arrival in Italy, Signor Rivaldi, had only recently succumbed to a long battle with illness, and Erik had a duty to properly settle his business. Christine respected him for this, and would never wish him to act against his fledgling conscience, but she could not help wanting him permanently at her side.
She missed him terribly when he was away from her.
Unaccustomed to such happiness as she had experienced in the past half a year, she could not help worrying that some unnamed dark force was laying in wait to snatch it from her grasp. Her short past had been filled with nearly as much tragedy as Erik's, and the years that their lives had intertwined in Paris had overflowed with the brightest of light and the blackest of shadow for both of them. They had been lucky enough to be given a precious second chance, and thus far, the joy of their rediscovery had been worth far more than the many difficulties they had yet to fully conquer. She could only hope it would remain so in light of the secrets that she knew he still kept.
Christine nearly jumped out of her skin at the unexpected voice of Signor Dellano accompanied by his insistent knock. Her manager very rarely interrupted her after a performance until well after the backstage had been cleared.
Certainly it cannot be that late in the evening.
She glanced at the clock on the mantle as she tightly cinched her dressing gown. Barely twenty minutes had passed since the curtain had fallen. Frowning in concern, she placed a trembling hand upon the door handle, a sudden feeling of foreboding inexplicably building in the pit of her stomach. She opened the door a scant inch to peer through, and encountered the worried blue eyes of Leonardo.
"You need to see me, Leo?" she asked in barely even tones.
He visibly shifted his weight and cleared his throat nervously, apologetically saying, "Scusi, signorina. A gentleman wishes to congratulate you on your performance tonight."
She arched a brow in surprise. Her first thought was that it must be Erik, for Leonardo knew that she never allowed any other gentlemen into her dressing room save himself, but if that were so, Leonardo would not look so put upon. The two men had gradually developed a grudging respect for one another…Leonardo due in no small part to the fact that Erik had been the one to perfect Christine's talent, and Erik in appreciation that her manager had recognized this fact.
Christine grimaced, coldly stating in her haughtiest tones for the benefit of whoever stood behind Leonardo, "You know that I do not accept gentlemen callers, signor."
"Now, Christine," came the not unfamiliar voice, "is that any way to greet an old friend?"
She stumbled back from the door in surprise, the action allowing it to freely swing open, as her hand flew reflexively to her throat. Her pulse fluttered wildly beneath her touch and she inhaled sharply as her eyes focused on the form revealed in the open doorway.
Palchi Private box
Bravissima, mia cara Very well done, my dear
Bella diva Beautiful star
Bellissima donna Most beautiful woman
Scusi Excuse me
Grazie Thank you
A/N: Hmm...not who you thought it would be?
Translations are rough...and anyone fluent in Italian please feel free to correct any misusage.
As always...I welcome feedback.