I know, it has been a while, hasn't it? I'm sorry. Shit went down in my life… Lotsa stuff. Let's not get into that, though, and on with the story!

Chapter Twenty-Four: Recovering

Isabelle sat in the far corner of the costume room, cradling her hand close to her chest. Lucienne had rushed off to get some ice from outside, while Amelia sat next to Isabelle, stroking her hair and trying to get the poor girl to stop crying.

"It's alright, darling, it's alright," she said, resting her lips at Isabelle's ear. "It's alright. I'm here."

"Here," Lucienne said with flushed cheeks as she came storming back into the room. In her hands, she held a white cloth now dripping with water. "It's melting slightly, but it will help the swelling."

The three women sat together in the room, huddled close, while Lucienne pressed the ice wrap against Isabelle's hand. The tears continued down the young girl's cheeks as she tried to control her heavy breathing. Amelia sang softly.

"You know, Isabelle, I used to be a member of this opera house."

"You were?"

Amelia nodded. "Mm-hm. I was a chorus girl, with Mademoiselle Christine. I hardly think she remembers me, but I sang alongside her for many years. I remember learning the dance steps to the opening dance to Don Juan Triumphant. It was the most complicated dance I had ever learned. I wasn't an acrobat, but I had to learn how to use the silk ropes. My arms were sore for so many months, but it was worth it."

"I wish I had seen you," Isabelle said with a small smile.

Lucienne tucked her legs underneath her and touched her friend's arm softly. "She was positively wonderful."

"You saw her?"

Lucienne smiled. "I danced along side her. Mind you, I did not perform on the silk ropes, but I was one of the dancers in the ensemble with Mademoiselle Christine. We were good friends before the horrible fire. She must not remember us now."

Isabelle moved the ice around on her hand. "I'm sure she would remember you if you introduced yourselves once more."

Amelia smiled. "I'm sure…" From downstairs, there was some shouting and chattering. Foot steps thundered on the stairs that lead to the sewing room. "We should get to work before the messieurs think we are slacking in our work."

With a nod, the three women shot from their spots and scurried over to their sewing stations. Lucienne began pinning gold sequins onto one of the chorus girl's dresses while Amelia and Isabelle worked on assembling Sandrine's new costume. Isabelle jammed some pins between her lips to distract herself from moving them and saying anything stupid.

The door flew open.

"Where is she?" Monsieur LeBlanc demanded, his eyes scanning the room.

"Where is whom?"

"That ghastly, little girl. We should have kicked her out of here when we had the chance."

Lucienne and Amelia stood in front of Isabelle to protect her. "You won't do anything with her."

"I believe that is a rather large understatement, mademoiselle," Monsieur DeSaulniers leered, pointing his cane at the girl. "Mademoiselle Sandrine has refused to perform on our stage until Isabelle is taken care of."

Amelia reached back and gripped Isabelle's hand. "She's not going anywhere," a voice said from the shadows in the far corner of the room.

The five figures turned to look in the direction of which the voice had come from. Christine Daae stepped out from the darkness, her long, dark brown locks piled onto the top of her head. Her even darker dress hugged every curve on her body, revealing the rise of her breast and far too much of her cleavage line to be considered appropriate.

The messieurs' eyes traveled over her in awe and disgust. "And who are you to tell us how we should run our opera house?"

Christine took three large steps toward them, her hands place firmly on her hips. "This is my opera house."

DeSaulniers laughed. "Mademoiselle Daae, you have shown us no paper work that you even own a carpet in the place, let alone the entire opera house. Until you produce such papers, we have no reason to believe that it is."

From above them, an envelope floated from the ceiling and landed delicately in Christine's hands. She ripped it open, smiled to herself, than handed it to the gentlemen.

"Read it aloud, please," she said, placing her hands on her hips again.

Monsieur LeBlanc cleared his throat and began. "'In lieu of my presence, I have left the Opera Populaire to Mademoiselle Christine to run and possess. The Opera Ghost.' Oh, please! The Opera Ghost is no more real then Pere Noel. We don't have to listen to him any more then we need to listen to you, a pathetic, little woman."

Christine reached up and slapped her hand across his face. "You shall not disrespect me. You have seen the Phantom yourself, and you cannot lie to yourself, can you, Monsieur?"

The two men took a step back from her. "We are not afraid of you, or any ghost."

"Your eyes say otherwise. You two gentlemen are lucky that the Phantom is even continuing to let you enter the Opera Populaire, let alone conduct performances. If I were you, I would consider myself very-" She took a step toward them. "Very-" Another step. "Very lucky. Isabelle is not going anywhere, and if that means Sandrine will not perform on my stage anymore, so be it. In fact, I'm sure we will all be better off."

Without another word, Christine began to walk away from the two men, but not before more footsteps thundered on the stairs and soon enough, Sandrine appeared between the two messieurs.

"Has she been banished yet?" she said, crossing her arms over her bust and pouting.

Messieurs LeBlanc and DeSaulniers cleared their throats a few times, still in shock from Christine's confrontation. "In light of recent events, Isabelle Poirier shall not be removed from our staff here at the Opera Populaire," Christine answered for them, staring at the tall, blonde woman before her.

"What recent events?"

"That, Sandrine, none of your concern. What you need to be more worried about is going downstairs and practicing that new dance that Marie taught you this morning," Monsieur DeSaulniers said, watching as Christine stormed out of the room, slamming the door loudly behind her.

Sandrine pouted. "I said I would not perform until the little Phantom Girl left."

"I am not a little Phantom Girl," Isabelle said, stepping around Lucienne and Amelia to go nearly nose to nose with Sandrine. "After all, if we are picking Phantom favorites, everyone knows that is you, Sandrine. Why, he is so fond of you, he showed himself to your face," she sneered, reiterating the moments when Sandrine had been haunted by the Opera Ghost.

Sandrine raised her arm quickly, a threat to hit Isabelle, but the brunette was quicker, ducking under a mannequin and protecting herself with the dummy. Sandrine stepped toward her until she was at the mannequin herself, but she stopped.

"Stay away from her, you wretched girl!" Lucienne said, taking a step toward Sandrine.

"Who are you to tell me what to do?"

Lucienne glowered. "I'm the woman who makes your costume, mademoiselle," she said in a snide, mocking voice. "So, unless you want to parade around the stage in no clothes, I suggest you do what I tell you and leave Isabelle alone."

Sandrine sneered at Lucienne for a moment, but then turned away, glaring at Isabelle in the process. As Sandrine walked away, her eyes glanced over at the washing table and noticed a bucket full of dark liquid. A smirk spread across her face. The young brunette stepped out from behind the mannequin and, at the same time, Sandrine yelped and fell, pretending to trip as she reached to the table for support. However, instead of grabbing the table, she reached for the bucket and crashed to the floor, knocking the entire contents of the bucket—indigo blue dye—all over herself, her dress, and nearly the entire floor of the sewing room.

When she landed, everyone froze and Sandrine's face scrunched up into a grimace. "Now look what you've done!" she shrieked, looking at her arms that were now tinted blue.

Isabelle gaped at her and bellowed. "What I've done! Look at what you've done! I didn't touch you; you did this yourself!"

Sandrine stood up, blue dye dripping from her as she stared at herself in the mirror. "Ah! My hair! Look at my hair, look at what you've done to it!"

"I didn't do anything!" Isabelle shouted as Sandrine tried to wring the blue color from her locks.

"Messieurs, she's a menace! Look at what she has done to me."

Isabelle turned to the two men. "Please, I haven't done anything."

"It's true, messieurs, she hasn't. She was nearly three feet from Sandrine when the little brat fell," Amelia said in the girl's defense.

Monsieur LeBlanc nodded once. "Until you give me something that can prove Isabelle's innocence, we are holding her responsible for this."

Tears boiled up in Isabelle's eyes and Amelia took her hand in comfort. "Because of this mess, you lose a week's pay, Mademoiselle."

"No, Monsieur, you don't understand. You cannot take my pay away from me. I need that money. My mother, she's sick. I cannot afford not to send her the money. Please."

"You will lose a week's pay. This is not a negotiation, Isabelle." She fell to her knees, her skirts absorbing some of the blue dye that hadn't yet been soaked up by the other costumes. "Not only that, but you will stay in this wash room until you all of these costumes are cleaned. And you will replace those that cannot be. Understood!?"

She shot to her feet and was about to argue when Monsieur LeBlanc shouted for the last time, "Do you understand, you imbecile?"

Isabelle silenced herself and nodded, looking down at her reflection in the blue die on the floor. "Yes, Monsieur, I understand."

"And you'd better. Now, Amelia, if I am to be mistaken, you have something that can wash out the dye, yes?" The woman nodded. "When, why don't we find that and help Mademoiselle Sandrine clean up?"

With a reluctant look on her face, Amelia followed the three of them from the washroom, picking up a bottle of a foul smelling liquid and soap on her way out the door.

When Christine arrived back in the lair, Erik was sitting at the piano with a pen in hand as he scribbled furiously on a piece of sheet music. Elmae had not yet come down, meaning practice on the stage above them hadn't begun yet, so she and the Phantom had a few moments alone. He turned around as she walked up the few steps to the piano. She placed her hands on the side of his face and stroked his skin softly, her fingers dancing over the boiled scars on his face.

"Beautiful," she whispered, leaning down to kiss him tenderly on the mouth.

His hands moved to grip her waist and he pulled her down on top of him, gripping her hips in his wide palms. "You as well," he said against her lips, tangling his fingers in her hair. Erik's lips trailed down her neck and she gasped at the contact. "So, so beautiful."

Christine smiled when his lips started to wander lower, but then she gripped at the nap of his neck and pressed her lips together in a tight line. "Erik?"

"Yes?"

"Erik, stop."

He looked up at her and frowned. "What is it, my love?"

She jolted in her seat slightly. "I think…" She jolted again "I think I'm going to-"

Before Christine could get another word out, she climbed from Erik's lap and rushed to the wash basin, where she gagged and coughed a few times. Erik rushed to her side and held his breath so he would not smell the foul odor that filled the air.

"Are you alright?"

"No, I am not," she said, her voice wavering. "It hurts."

"What hurts?" he said desperately.

Christine picked up a goblet of fresh water and rinsed out her mouth. "My throat." He relaxed slightly. "I'm alright."

The Phantom shook his head. "Perhaps you should see a doctor."

"No, I'm alright."

Her hand fluttered to her stomach as the color drained from her face and she heaved over the side of the wash bin again.

"Are you certain?" he asked as she rinsed her mouth again.

"I'm certain. I'm not sick, Erik. I'm-" Her hand still rested on her stomach. "Erik, I believe I might be with- With child."

The Phantom stared at her for a long time, his eyes wide as his jaw clenched a few times. Christine reached up and placed her hand on the side of his face while her brows pushed together in worry at his lack of an answer. Before she could say anything else, Erik placed his hands over hers on her stomach, and smiled.

Yes, hello, I'm sorry. This chapter was a little bad, but I tried.

Please review! Outfits on my website, and the faces of the women who play Lucienne and Amelia