Author's Note: This is a cute little ficlet that I've been having the idea for quite a while… this takes place a few weeks after the Chagnys are married.
The young viscount paced his study, deep in thought as he reflected upon the fact that Christine's birthday was rapidly approaching. One would think that being a viscount made the dilemma easy; all he would need to do would be to purchase the most expensive piece of jewelry around. Oh, she would love it; that was certain. But it wouldn't come close to conveying how much she meant to him.
But she knew how much he loved her; that was why he had risked everything to save her from the Opera Populaire that night. But that didn't dissuade Raoul from pondering over the current situation.
Perhaps he could give to her some memento of their days by the seaside, where they had first met long ago. Back then, he would have tried catching one of the unseen gnomes that they used to "chase" for hours on end. Or he may have given her the biggest, shiniest conch shell that he would have found after inspecting the shores carefully. Or he would have spent an eternity in the shallows, searching for an oyster that still had a pearl hidden within it.
Then, inspiration arrived. Raoul quickly announced to his valet that he would be leaving for a short period of time.
"Where shall you be going, Monsieur?"
"The Opera Populaire," he replied.
"Are you certain, Monsieur?" the valet asked. "The ruins are quite dangerous--"
"I'll be fine," Raoul declared. "There's something in there that I need to find."
The abandoned opera house still had an air of mystery and eeriness, despite the knowledge that the Phantom had long since left. No one knew where the masked musician had gone; the people who had been searching for him all came back with nothing—not even so much as a sign of him.
Raoul wasn't sure as to exactly what he was looking for, but he knew that he would be able to find it here… whatever it would be…
There was a flap of a dove's wings coming from overhead; Raoul saw the small creature presenting another dove with a shred of red ribbon. And then he knew. He headed immediately to Christine's old dressing room—the one she had used the night of the fiasco. The room was covered in months' worth of dust, which rose into the air as Raoul entered the room.
Everything was exactly as she had left it that night. Her script and music were on her desk, in front of a mirror so dusty that Raoul couldn't even see a reflection in it. Beside it was a letter of reassuring words that he had written for her. It, too, was covered in dust, but he knew exactly what he had written.
"Don't worry, Christine; don't be scared. If anything happens, know that I will fly to your side in an instant, no matter what the consequences may be. You are not in this alone."
And he had stayed true to his words. Even the Phantom could vouch for that. But Raoul never regretted his journey into the cellars to rescue her. Even if he had never made it out, it would have been worth it to know that he had kept his promise to his beloved.
But he hadn't come for the letter; the object of his quest was there, beside it, on the table was a piece of long, red fabric, also abandoned. It was slightly battered; it had splotches from the salt water that it had been doused in, threads and pieces of it had been pulled away (undoubtedly one of the culprits had been the dove he had seen earlier), and the old scarf, like everything else in the room, was covered in dust.
But it was exactly what he had been searching for; it was the ultimate token of his devotion to Christine. He had risked his life once in order to return it to her, and it would be the perfect start to a gift, once it was restored.
Yes, it was but a start. There had to be something else that he could give her… something that would help bring back the memories of those bygone days. He thought about the conch shell, as well as the oysters. And the ideas began to form.
Raoul wasted no time. He went to the best tailor's shop to get the scarf restored, and spent the remainder of the time ordering a second present for Christine.
Christine awoke on her birthday, not sure of what to expect; this was the first birthday that she was celebrating with Raoul since they were children. She hadn't said a word about it to him, and yet she knew that he never would have forgotten, even after all those years.
So she wasn't surprised when Raoul presented her with an ornately decorated box. She suppressed a smile as she accepted it.
"Raoul, you need not have done this…" she said, although her curiosity was getting the better of her. "But since you did, thank you."
"Why don't you take a look before you start thanking me?" asked Raoul, half-teasingly.
She didn't hide the smile now; her face was alight with happiness.
"Oh, come now, Raoul!" she exclaimed, as she opened the box. "Surely it couldn't be…" she trailed off at the sight of the red fabric, as bright and vibrant as it was the day her father had given it to her. "Oh, Raoul…!"
She gathered her scarf into her hands, not even noticing the smaller box that it was wrapping until the box tumbled to the floor. But even then, she didn't pick it up; she immediately threw her arms around Raoul, and he returned the embrace.
"There's more…" he said, picking up the smaller box and handing it to her.
"Raoul, thank you, but I didn't need anything more…" She was stricken silent again as she opened it to find a pearl necklace. In the center of the necklace was a small seashell, which had been dipped in gold. The happy, carefree memories of their childhood returned to her in an instant.
"Do you like it, Christine?" Raoul asked, although he knew it was a pointless question; the look on her face told him everything he needed to know.
"It's beautiful," she whispered at last. "But know one thing, Raoul. I already have everything I could ever have wanted now that I'm with you. You honestly didn't have to go through all this trouble."
"There was never any trouble," Raoul assured her.
The young couple embraced again.
"Happy birthday, Christine," Raoul whispered.