A/N: Just a random plotbunny, to answer the question: What was Christine up to while Raoul questioned Mme Giry after Masquerade? This is just one possible take, a bit off-canon as Christine refers to the Phantom as Erik, but that was to make things easier on me ;) Thanks to bee (sparklyscorpion) for her always-helpful comments and encouragement as beta! Credits go to G. Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
I fell into Raoul's sheltering embrace with a cry, shying away from the bright light and puff of smoke signaling Erik's departure. His voice continued to ring in my ears. Your chains are still mine…he had said, tearing Raoul's ring from my neck. His eyes had burned into mine from behind his death's head mask, eyes that I had not seen for six months, and I still trembled from the shock of it all. Raoul and I began making our way to the front doors and then, suddenly, my arms were empty. I heard him murmur something frantically about Mme Giry before running off and disappearing into a dark corridor.
The rest of the crowd had vanished, as well, knocking into me and each other in a desperate attempt to flee the Opera. No doubt they piled into their finely-appointed carriages to hurry home and spread the word of the Opera Ghost's return. They would retire to bed, their fears out of mind now that they were out of sight, but there would be no such easy rest for me this evening. I stood alone in the now-empty foyer, littered with confetti and half-filled glasses of champagne abandoned by their drinkers. Unsure of whether or not to go off in search of Raoul, I settled for perching on the marble steps to consider my options…until a voice from the shadows decided for me.
"Christine…" he called softly, just as he used to do from the other side of the mirror. I rose and whirled around in search of him, catching a flash of scarlet emerging from behind the staircase. My hand went to the base of my throat instinctively, feeling for the gold chain he had ripped away. Noticing the gesture he asked with an audible scowl, "Missing something?" I forced my hand back down to my side, even as I felt the flush that crept across my skin. "Oh, but you have only been without it for a few minutes. After six months you will have forgotten it completely."
He did not disguise the hard edge in his voice, and I willed myself to remain calm. It would do no good to betray the muddle of emotions twisting around within me at this impromptu reunion. Erik stalked towards me, the great red plumes atop his head bobbing as he walked, and in an odd moment of humor I wondered wherever he had acquired such a costume. Any other time I may have smiled at the thought, but I could not bring myself to laugh in the face of death, even when it was made of papier-mâché. He reached up to strip away the hat and false skull he wore and I held my breath in anticipation of seeing his bare face, but beneath it lay his usual mask.
As he stared at me I realized that he was waiting for some kind of response and I exhaled shakily. What did he expect me to say? To tell him the sleepless nights he had caused me, how I had felt him haunting my steps everywhere I turned? Or how his music remained burned in my memory, the ghost of his cold touch making me shiver as I lay awake? In the end I told him the truth, simply. "I am not so heartless as that," I whispered, hurt by his accusation that I had forgotten him. Something softened in his expression, but when he spoke again it was to change the subject.
"It is no matter. Without other…distractions…I finally had the time to complete my opera," he explained, and I tried to ignore the sting of his dismissing me as a passing annoyance. "You will sing in my Don Juan," he insisted, his voice deceptively calm. "There is no one else who can sing it, you see—the part was written for you and no other." I imagined him alone those months, slaving away at the organ, pouring his frustration into his music, and I felt ashamed of having anything to do with the matter.
"You know I cannot…" I protested lamely, and his eyes narrowed.
"Because of this, I suppose," he noted with a sneer, and with a flick of his wrist my necklace reappeared, my engagement ring swinging back and forth from the end of it. I had not had the strength to resist when he had first taken it, but now indignation rose in my chest.
"Give it back, Erik," I ordered with as much authority as I could muster. "It does not belong to you, whatever you may believe." I snatched at it like a child whose toy had been stolen, and like a child he held it just out of my reach.
"Everything beneath the roof of this Opera belongs to me, and everything above it…" he stated in a cryptic tone, and as quickly as it had appeared the ring vanished back into his sleeve.
"I do not know what you are playing at, but I will not be a part of it," I vowed, crossing my arms defensively. I wished that I were in my normal clothing and not the scant pink and silver costume I was wearing. He seemed even taller in the guise of Red Death and I felt as if we were locked in a hopelessly uneven match.
"Playing?" he spat, and I stepped back. "Which one of us is playing, my dear? I am not the one traipsing around Paris on the vicomte's arm, perfectly happy to the untrained eye…but if so happy, why not wear that pretty little bauble on your finger? Just whom were you concealing it from, Christine?"
I was trembling again, for his words struck truer than I dared acknowledge. Even I did not fully understand why I had insisted upon keeping the engagement a secret, and so I fumbled for explanations, my lips moving but no sound escaping. The small amount of courage I had found was slowly draining away, but I was saved from having to provide a reply by the echoing click of footsteps, the sounds growing louder each moment. I turned toward the source of the noise, trying to make out who was approaching, and when I looked back Erik was gone once more.
Raoul came in charging just as he had left, panting for breath, a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. "Christine!" he cried in what sounded like relief, and in my ear there was an echoing Christine… He took me into his arms, but I was still too shocked by what had happened to return the embrace. "Are you all right?" he asked, pulling back to look into my face. I nodded, not trusting my voice. His eyes held an unreadable expression, and I wondered just what he had been off doing…but I asked no questions, for fear of being asked myself. There would be no answers this night, for any of us.