A/N: So this is the final ending to A Visit From the Past. I'm sorry it took so long to get this up, but I worked to make it as good as all of the previous chapters combined into one awesome ending. I hope everyone enjoys the last installment. Please R&R!
Disclaimer: Phantom will forever belong to the genius ALW.
The sun reached the top of its peak, flooding the scene before him with light. The horse he rode was as black as midnight and kept up a steady pace, its hooves rhythmically thudding against the tightly-packed soil beneath them. The man atop the black beauty felt that their heartbeats had become one, and when he closed his eyes even for the slightest second, he was sure he was flying.
They reached the forest in no time at all, the trees whipping past them in large clumps. Now, only patches of sunlight shone through the high branches, which provided them with much welcomed shade from the intense heat. The man pushed his horse faster, determined to reach his desired destination by nightfall.
The moon had just appeared in the sky, the last flash of sunlight vanished from the horizon, when he arrived. The streets of Paris were filled with people. He noticed they all seemed to be heading in the same direction, and soon realized he was as well.
He kept to the shadows, deciding it was best to stay hidden from the crowd. It was not long before he found the very place he was to meet Raoul de Chagny.
After receiving a letter from the boy, he knew he had to see him one last time. Though why the young de Chagny had insisted on meeting here, just outside the Opera House, the man was not sure. He dismounted from the horse. It was now eight o'clock.
The first few silent minutes of waiting increasingly convinced the man he would be leaving without saying a word to anyone at all. Perhaps he should not have come, for he had not made the trip for his health.
But Raoul seemed to decide at that very moment to make his appearance, for he stepped out of the moonlit street and into the shadows.
He nodded once in greeting. "Erik."
The man beside the black horse did not say anything at first. He was gazing up at the sky where the first signs of stars were beginning to appear, wondering if someone else far from where he was now happened to be looking at them, too. . . . "To be frank, Monsieur Raoul, I'm not quite sure why you requested we meet here, of all places." Erik shifted his gaze to the boy's face, waiting for some sort of explanation.
Raoul averted Erik's gaze and smoothly ignored the comment. "I wanted to ask you if you would take this." He extended a hand, which held a sealed envelope.
Erik took it, immediately noticing the name on the front. It was addressed to Christine.
He nodded. "I will give it to her. You have my word."
Raoul hesitated, as if he needed greater assurance but instead said, "Take care of her, Erik. Make her happy."
The masked man swung a leg over his horse before glancing down at Raoul de Chagny for what he thought would be the last time. "That has always been my intention, from the very beginning."
And then he rode off into the night, leaving Christine's childhood sweetheart behind to wonder if his one and only love would ever truly be happy without him.
The trip back did not seem to take nearly as long, and Erik surely did not mind this fact. He was eager to return to what was now his paradise, his home, which he would finally be able to share with his beloved Christine. It would be their fantasy world now, where the two of them could live in peace together. He couldn't help but have warm thoughts, for Christine had been joyful ever since he had decided to make their engagement more official earlier that morning. The memory filled his mind as he neared the trail that would lead him back to his fiancée.
The sun was just beginning to rise when three knocks came from the door. Christine was already awake, sitting on the edge of her bed, glancing out through the open window.
"Come in," she called.
He walked in with a smile and a slight bounce in his step. "Good morning, Christine."
She glanced up at him with narrowed eyes. "Can I ask why you seem so buoyant?"
Erik's smile widened a little. "Is there some particular reason why I shouldn't be?" he countered.
"I don't believe there's a reason why you shouldn't be," Christine said.
The corners of his mouth fell. "Could you not sleep?"
She shook her head quickly. "No. No, nothing like that. I heard you singing, and it helped me to." She flashed him a small smile. "But . . . I was up thinking for quite a while. . . ."
Erik sighed and sat down beside her on the bed. "Tell me what's on your mind."
It took a few tries for her to get it out. "It's - I'm. . . . It's just that I'm worried about how the ceremony will be."
A troubled look came over the left side of Erik's face, though he felt rather relieved. Of course! It would be natural for her to be concerned about their wedding, but he wasn't sure how to console her. He sighed again. "There should be no reason for you to be worried, Christine. The priest is an old . . . acquaintance of mine. He has informed me that he shall arrive in three days' time."
Christine couldn't keep a smile from spreading on her face and let out a shaky laugh. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be fretting over something this silly." She looked at him curiously. "What is it you wanted to talk to me about?"
Erik took a deep breath. "I wanted to ask you something, if you don't mind."
A mixture of confusion and curiosity became evident in her features. "Of course."
She began to pay close attention. What was he up to?
He held out his arm. "Accompany me to the rose garden?"
She took his arm and followed him out of the house, through the greenery, and finally to the rose garden. She studied his face the entire time, but he gave nothing away.
As they were nearing the end of the short trail, their pace slowed only slightly. "Please bear with me, Christine," Erik said. "I've never done this before, though I intend for it to be perfect."
Erik lowered onto one knee, and said, "I believe it's time I properly proposed."
Christine could do nothing but hold her breath and wait.
Erik took her left hand in his. "Every day I've spent with you has been like a day in my own personal heaven. I've loved you since the moment I knew you existed, and I always will." He paused to clear his throat. "Christine Daaé, I kneel before you now to ask for your hand in marriage. Will you take me as your husband?"
After all the crying she'd done lately, Christine didn't think it was possible to shed another tear. But her eyes began to water, and the warm moisture inevitably spilled over.
At first, Erik panicked. Had this been the wrong time? Had he said something that had upset her?
And then he was suddenly pulled to his feet, where he was embraced.
"You didn't have to do this," she whispered in his ear. "You know I would have, anyway."
Erik hugged her back. "I just wanted to hear you say it."
She choked out a laugh. "Then, yes, I'll marry you, Erik." She pulled back to kiss him, but before she could, he swept her up in his arms.
He chuckled. "I thought I should get some practice before the wedding," he explained. "You know, before I have to carry you over the threshold."
"Isn't that like cheating, Erik? Breaking the traditional wedding rules?" she asked.
He smiled. "And since when, exactly, have I been a man for tradition?"
Erik carried Christine all the way back to the house, thankful he now had her permanently in his life.
When they reached the door, Christine frowned. "Wait, were you saying that I'm a heavy load?"
Erik laughed and shouldered open the door. "No, I just meant that I want everything to be right for us. And practice does make perfect."
"Everything already is perfect," she insisted. "And will be . . . forever."
He nodded once and agreed: "Forever."
Erik took her all the way back up the stairs to her room. When he laid her back on the bed, her eyes were closed, her breathing slow and even; she'd fallen asleep in his arms.
Now, as he turned into the clearing, he could see her waiting by the front door. He quickly made sure the envelope was tucked away deep in the folds of his cloak; he'd give her the letter when the time was right.
Erik had waited until Christine had woken up before telling her he had a few loose ends to tie before the wedding. Though he had felt bad for lying to her, he knew it was necessary. He intended to make up for it in every way that he could, for he wanted to be able to tell her the truth when he knew she was ready to hear it. He smiled, thinking of what he had already planned for them.
Erik rode up to her, and held out a hand. "Care to join me?"
Her eyes widened slightly. "May I ask where we would be going if I were to accept your invitation?"
Erik gently pulled her onto the saddle behind him in one swift, gentle motion. "I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise." With a smile, he urged the horse forward.
As the horse's speed increased, Christine's hold around his stomach became tighter. He slowed when they were nearing the place he wanted to show her. She rested her head against his back.
"We're here." Christine could hear the smile in his voice.
"Do I have to close my eyes?" she asked.
"Only if you want to," he replied. "But I did bring this, just in case you didn't." He pulled out a piece of cloth.
"Is this really necessary?" she asked as he fastened it over her eyes.
"No, it's merely for my enjoyment." He took her hand and slowly began leading her forward. "Trust me?"
"I don't really have a choice here, Erik."
She heard him chuckle.
Christine did her best to keep silent. She only asked once if they were close.
"I couldn't take you straight there, or it wouldn't have been any fun!" he'd said.
Maybe the whole marriage thing was starting to go to his head.
He picked up the pace. They were so close. . . .
Then Erik stopped suddenly, and pulled off her blindfold.
One of the most beautiful scenes laid before her: There was a large lake, trees surrounding it all along the north side. On the edge closest to them, a blanket was stretched out, and a tiny bundle sat beside a small basket. It was like a picture from a story book.
"Welcome to our paradise for the night," he announced.
Even though her eyes were still drinking in the scene, Christine couldn't believe it. "You did all of this?"
"Yes." He glanced up at the sky, where the sun was already beginning to sink. "I've never spent a night sleeping under the stars."
Christine started forward towards the blanket. "Neither have I."
Erik followed and took a seat next to her. He unfastened his cloak and set it aside, putting both hands behind his head before lying down to gaze up at the stars. He thought it was odd for them both not to have experienced something as simple as sleeping outside under the night sky.
Christine used his cloak like a pillow, resting her head on it and breathing in his scent as she, too, looked up at the sky. A few moments of silence passed, in which they gazed in wonder, and then a sudden burst of light streaked across the collection of stars. It came and went so quickly, Christine knew she would have missed it if she'd blinked.
"Why do you think people wish on shooting stars?"
For that, Erik did not have a direct answer. He thought for a while. "I think it is because they are rare, or so I've heard."
"That's the first one I've seen in a long time," Christine said in barely above a whisper, clearly awed, "since I was a little girl."
"That was the first one I've ever seen with my own eyes," Erik said. The same awe was not as clear in his voice, but Christine was sure she had heard a hint of it.
She turned her head so that she saw the masked side of her fiancé's face. "What did you wish for?"
Erik waved a hand absently. "It was nothing of importance."
He turned to look at her. He laughed once, as if she was being silly. "Now, do you really think I'd tell you that, Christine?"
"I thought you might."
Erik smiled. "Then I guess you don't know that if you tell someone what you wished for, it won't come true."
As he told her this, the last of the sun's light vanished beneath the horizon.
So that was why Raoul's wishes had never come true! Christine realized. He'd always told her what he wished for when they were little.
The smile still on his face, Erik sat up rather abruptly, grabbed her hand, and charged towards the water. Christine tried to break his hold on her, to no avail.
"Erik, no, wait . . . !" Her pleas were drowned out by her own scream as he pulled her into the lake.
The lake was so shallow that Christine could touch the bottom, the water only reaching the tops of her shoulders. Erik had allowed himself to go completely under, and he resurfaced with his mask still on his face. But in the next moment, he had tossed it carelessly back towards his cloak. Christine watched as it landed neatly on top of the black fabric.
While she was distracted for that second, Erik dipped down in the water low enough so that he could gently lift her into his arms. Careful to keep one hand between her shoulder blades and his other arm hooked under her knees, he swirled her around in the water in a small circle.
She opened her mouth as if to protest, but eventually closed it. Being in his arms seemed to calm her.
"I've never seen this side of you before," Christine said, some of the awe returning to her voice.
He didn't exactly smile at this, but it looked as if he wanted to. "That's because I'm just discovering the man I can and want to be."
If every night could be this peaceful, this wonderful for them, Erik was sure they could survive eternity with no problem at all.
It must have been around midnight when Christine's eyelids started to droop. They had nearly emptied the basket full of food after their swim in the lake. Erik barely noticed that the moon was high in the sky, bathing them in white light. His fiancée - he still couldn't believe Christine was going to marry him - was half-asleep, trying to ask him something. He wrapped a now-dry arm around her.
"Erik, what . . . what is your last name?" Her words were slow and slightly slurred. Her head was resting on his shoulder.
Though he felt like laughing, her question was too serious for him to find humor in her behavior. He answered after a few seconds of looking out across the lake. "Destler," Erik told her. "My last name is Destler."
"Christine Destler. . . ." Her voice trailed off, and soon he heard the familiar sound of her controlled breathing. He saw the gentle rise and fall of her chest as he smoothly slid his arm out from under her and rose quite agilely, unable to keep still.
For a while, he just thought and paced back and forth at the end of the blanket. When he realized he was being extremely foolish for thinking the same way he had after he'd brought Christine to the paradise he created for her, Erik settled himself beside Christine. He watched her throughout the night, thinking. He wanted to make her so happy that she could hardly contain it.
Morning came sooner than Erik expected. Christine continued to sleep, and he let her; he'd watched her sleep all night, and it was like nothing he'd ever seen before.
As he waited patiently for her to awake, Erik suddenly remembered what he'd overheard Madame Giry once tell her daughter when she was terribly ill. Meg had asked for her mother to tell her stories to help her sleep, and Madame Giry had told her a love story that Erik had been sure she'd created on a whim.
The ending line had been: You know you love someone when you can watch them sleep throughout the night.
For the next two days, Erik made sure Christine was happier than she'd ever been in her life. They mostly sang together, for she'd missed their singing lessons. He spoiled her, right down to buying her a wedding dress.
She loved it at first glance. Then she shoved him out of the room so she could try it on; the dress fit like it had been made for her.
Life didn't seem like it could get any better, but the following day, Christine woke to find that bright sunlight had filled her room.
Today, she was going to marry Erik Destler.
She briefly reflected on all that had happened to her in the past year, remembering how things had been before she'd gotten to where she was now. So many things had led her to this point. . . .
The priest arrived shortly after Christine dressed in the wedding gown. Erik did not see her until she stepped through the undergrowth of the path that led to the rose garden. She slowly walked straight up to him where both he and the man that would marry them stood waiting. Erik had never seen anything more beautiful.
The ceremony did not last long and their vows were short. Both knew how the other felt, knew they'd never say anything they didn't mean.
When Erik said, "I do", there was both joy and triumph in his voice. Christine understood why, for there was a pause in which the priest asked her if she would take Erik as her husband. The same feelings thickened her voice with emotion as she also said, "I do".
The priest pronounced them man and wife. They both leaned forward until their lips met and shared a gentle kiss.
Erik and Christine had agreed it would be best if they held the ceremony without an audience. No one clapped for them as the priest presented Mr. and Mrs. Erik Destler for the first time, but the pair didn't need the applause. Their wedding had turned out to be just fine, as Erik had promised.
Erik thanked the priest, who hopped in a carriage and left right after the ceremony ended, wishing them happiness and long years ahead to spend together.
Erik swiftly swept Christine up in his arms and carried her, bouquet and all, back to the house. They had followed the traditional wedding ceremony, though nothing had seemed traditional about it. It looked as if they were one of kind.
"I'm glad I practiced," Erik told Christine when they'd reached the door. "It's rather tricky, carrying a woman while wearing a suit."
She laughed once.
"I still think that was cheating."
He shouldered open the door and carried his new bride over the threshold.
"Here we are," Erik said, looking around, "Heaven on earth if there ever was one."
After a brief moment of silence, Christine said, still in his arms, "Erik, there's one thing I've been meaning to tell you."
He looked down at her. "Yes?"
She whispered, "Feel free to kidnap me anytime." Christine stretched to kiss the exposed part of his neck.
Erik looked incredulous for a second, but then smiled. "I may just have to take you up on that offer, Mrs. Destler."
A few weeks after the wedding, Erik sat Christine down in the kitchen one afternoon and handed her the still-sealed envelope. She saw that it was addressed to her.
"It's time I gave you this" was all Erik said before he left the room. She assumed this was his way of giving her time to be alone while she read the contents.
With her eyebrows scrunched together, Christine opened it and pulled out a neatly folded piece of parchment. Smoothing out the folds, her eyes scrolled down the page, reading the same tidy handwriting that had written her name on the front of the white envelope:
As I sit here, writing this letter to you, I realize this will undoubtedly be the last time I do so. Things would be both better and easier for me this way, as I'm sure it would be for you as well.
First, I must admit that life here in Paris has been quite different without you. It's as if my eyesight has gone bad, and I'm starting to see things as they are in reality. I sometimes dream you are still with me, and I wake to find that you are truly gone. I then wonder why I still expect you to simply appear out of thin air before my very eyes.
I hope you don't blame me for thinking about what might have happened had I not taken you to the Paris Opera House that night. Things could have turned out to be so different. . . . But I don't wish to dwell on what could have been.
I am writing this to wish you well, both you and Erik. I have seen for myself how beautiful it is out there, and I know you will be happy.
My maids were most delighted to hear that I returned safely home after I told them where I'd gone, for I had to explain why you did not accompany me when I stepped through the door. They begged me to ask you to come back, but I assured them you would not. The door to my manor will always be open to you, Christine. Never forget that.
Along with this letter, I have enclosed a thousand francs. I would love for you both to buy yourselves something, as a wedding gift from me.
Mary is complaining that I am not eating the dinner she so kindly prepared for me, so here is where I must say farewell for the last time. Good-bye, Christine. I love you.
Raoul de Chagny
Christine re-read the letter several times, her mind wandering while she did so. Why wasn't she crying? Why couldn't she shed just one tear for the loss of a friend?
She eventually folded the parchment and put it back in the envelope. Leaving it behind, Christine made her way outside.
She found him in the rose garden, pacing, a grim look upon his face.
"Thank you," she said, bringing him back to the present.
Erik was surprised. He had thought she would take a lot longer to grieve, to remember all of the times she had spent with Raoul.
"I would have given it to you sooner, but I was afraid you wouldn't be ready to read it -" He was silenced by the sudden appearance of a smile on her lips.
He'd already done so much for her, even if most of it had not happened in the way she'd wanted or expected it to. She'd realized after he'd kissed her that first time in the rose garden, right where she was now, that she'd been running from him. Even back when he'd forced her to make a choice down in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, she'd chosen Raoul to save his life . . . and she'd refused to believe she'd felt anything for Erik. Even then, she'd loved him. Then he'd brought her here to the most beautiful place she'd ever seen and helped her to see that it wouldn't be right to keep running. Running from the person you truly loved somehow always brought you back to them. So she'd slowed to a peaceful walk so that she could forever be by Erik side, where she was determined to stay . . . forever.
Christine kissed Erik in a way she never had before. His arms wrapped around her, pulling her even closer to him, her arms around his neck, melting into his embrace. He finally felt at peace here, being able to give her his heart and receiving hers in return. Now Erik was sure she would finally be his . . . forever.
Christine Daaé never saw Raoul de Chagny again, though she heard of all his successes in Paris. He seemed to have returned to being a great supporter of the Opera House.
It was almost three years before Christine heard so much as a whisper of him again. She was quite happy to receive news claiming he had gotten married to one of the ballet girls, for this meant Raoul was doing just fine without her; he was getting on with his life.
Christine wrote to Raoul every month but never worked up enough courage to send one to him.
She never knew anyone other than herself had read them.
Erik stumbled across a small box one afternoon while Christine was out in the town. He had insisted on staying behind, curious about the long hours she'd been spending in her room. He read every letter, right down to the very last one before replacing the lid back on top.
When God welcomed Christine into the afterlife nearly twenty years later, Erik sent the box to Raoul, along with a short note, explaining what had happened. The Vicomte arrived in a carriage less than a day later, wishing to pay his respects.
It rained that day, as both Erik and Raoul dug Christine's grave. They laid her to rest beside her beloved garden of roses.
Almost an entire year had passed before Raoul received another letter from Erik. When he did, he was surprised to find that Christine's husband had asked him of a first and last favor.
Raoul was very sad to come across Erik's still body the next day. In the letter, Erik had told Raoul he thought he was going to die very soon. Raoul been hoping he would be wrong, for he'd wished to speak with Erik one final time.
With the help of the two young Destler boys, Raoul carried Erik down to the rose garden and dug a large hole right next to Christine's grave. Erik's sons laid him to rest beside their mother.
Raoul placed a stone at the top of each grave and carved their names into it. He had some difficulty in doing this, for the Vicomte was not as young as he'd used to be.
"You made her happier than I ever could have," his voice, cracking with age, whispered to the ground at the foot of Erik Destler's grave. "Thank you for everything, old friend."
With a last look at the graves, Raoul de Chagny left Erik and Christine to rest in peace for all of eternity.
When he was gone, a small red rose poked through the surface of the soil, right in the middle of the two small mounds of earth.
And that is the end to A Visit From the Past.