A/N: Just a little plotbunny I had. Many thanks to bee for beta-ing and for encouraging me, as always! Thanks to Leroux for his characters--they remain his, not mine.
The Persian did not inform Darius of where he was going when he left the flat that evening. His plan was to reach his destination, see what he needed to see, then return without ceremony or explanation. He did not know what force compelled him to enter a jeweler's shop on his way to the Opera, or to purchase a plain gold ring, a double of the one Erik had described during his first and final visit to the rue de Rivoli.
Erik had seemed sincere when describing the oath he had made the poor Daaé girl swear, to return and bury him with the ring. The daroga told himself that all he would find when he had made one final trek to the monster's lair would be a pile of earth, that his money would have been wasted. There is no need for a new ring, he tried to reason, as certainly the one Erik spoke of will be beneath that mound, worn by a once-living skeleton…and yet its twin sat heavily in his pocket as he continued on his way to the place de l'Opéra.
Old habits died hard, it seemed. His time as the chief of police, decades ago though it had been, had not led him to be a man to assume anything based upon testimony alone. Upon receiving Christine's papers and personal effects he had contacted the Époque and paid for a single-line advertisement in hopes of alerting the girl and the viscount to Erik's ultimate demise…but he had not counted the matter as closed. Instead, he had waited what he thought to be an acceptable amount of time for Mlle Daaé to return and do as she had promised before going to investigate the matter himself.
Erik had instructed Christine to use the rue Scribe entrance, but it was in the usual way that the daroga found the path to the underground lake, trudging through the winding cellars.
A week after the announcement of his "death" had run in the Époque, Erik lay beside the little well where he had told Christine she would find him. The only sounds in the darkness were the trickle of water down the wall and the rattle of his breathing. He had the daroga take out the advertisement earlier than necessary to allow time for his angel to return before he had been too long dead, "a final favor to her" he had joked darkly to himself. The last thing he needed was for the girl to pass out from the smell and hit her head or something equally dreadful! No, there was to be only one funeral.
Yet, Erik wondered if he had not been premature in sending Christine's things along to the Persian. He would have laughed at his predicament had he possessed the strength—years spent living in a tomb, sleeping in a coffin, and now he remained terribly alive. But Erik knew full well why he still clung to life. She had promised, oh yes, sworn it with her kiss as much as with her words, but part of him wanted to see the act. It would mean not keeping his own end of the bargain, he knew, not entirely—for she had promised to return, and he had promised to be dead—but he hoped that she would forgive him when the time came. He would not deny her long; he needed only to see her face and the ring on her finger.
Yes, he was alive, but not by much…and Christine had not yet returned. He cursed each breath that passed his paper-thin lips, both for sustaining his life and delaying his death. Oh, you've thought yourself very clever before, Erik, but you were never anything but a fool! No better than that Persian fellow, no more able to take a hint… Oh, why, why did you make her promise? What promise did she ever make to you and keep?
His thoughts trailed off, his eyes fluttering closed as the cold seeped deeper into his already-chilled frame. The sound of approaching footsteps just reached his ears as sleep threatened to take him. Christine…
Holding a lantern ahead of him, the Persian ventured into the cellars with confident steps. He was sure of the way, having explored it many times when he had first tried to discover Erik's home all those months ago. The daroga was thankful for his many failures, though, for now he could expertly navigate the complicated layout of the Opera's underbelly.
Reaching into his pocket, the Persian toyed with the ring that lay at the bottom of it. He did not know why it mattered to him—Erik was dead and would not know if his final wishes had been carried out or not. The poor devil had seemed truly to believe that Mlle Daaé would return and the Persian took comfort in the thought, once again telling himself that his trip was a waste of time.
Erik cursed himself for thinking ill of the girl…his good, honest Christine. She had come…she had come! He willed his eyes to open but they would not; tears struggled to fall but his entire frame was dry and brittle. There was the rustle of fabric as she settled next to him, the warm pressure of her hand on his forehead. He moaned softly under that gentle touch and tried to speak, but his voice had shriveled with his body. She made a quiet shushing noise, taking his hand in hers. Such a good, sweet girl… Erik felt her slide the gold ring onto his fourth finger, followed by a drop of rain, then another…Oh, my dear, it's raining cats and dogs outside!...No, not rain…a tear, one of her sweet tears! falling on his hand as they had fallen on his forehead that night. With a final bit of strength Erik sighed a blessing on her name and did not draw another breath, content to die now that her promise had been fulfilled.
The Persian continued to weep as he covered Erik's body with earth. Darius would no doubt stare at his dirtied clothes when he returned but the daroga had no intentions of ever speaking of this night, the night he buried his friend. A new wave of pity came over him as he continued his task, his trembling hands clutching the shovel more tightly than necessary. He had not needed to make the entire journey to the lake after all, for he had found what he was looking for along the way. He had expected Erik to use underground palace he had built himself as his tomb, but coming upon the small well he understood why the dying man had chosen this as his final resting place—in her personal papers Christine had written how Erik had held her in this spot, cradling her head on his knee. The Persian mourned the unfairness of it all, of wasted genius and promises unkept. Erik had longed for a living bride, but had to settle for being a dead groom, the wedding band not slipped onto his finger until the all the life had slipped out.