A Defensive Parenthood
A Defensive Situation Part Three, Which I Know I Said Wouldn't Happen But Here We Are Anyway So Stop Complaining.
Before we start this story, I must give an apology. If you are reading this, I assume that you have read the prequels: A Defensive Situation and A Defensive Christmas and at the end of both of those stories, I insisted than there would be no sequels.
This, by all logic, is a trequel.
And so, I present to you, the third and final instalment (or trequel) of The Defensive Trilogy.
The Phantom of the Opera a.k.a Opera Ghost a.k.a The Angel of Music a.k.a Erik was remarkably unimpressed.
And why, I hear you cry? The reason is simple.
He felt thoroughly neglected. Just because Christine was 8½ months pregnant, she got all of the attention. Nothing for him. No new clothes, no champagne, no mugs proclaiming him to be the World's Greatest Mother. Not that he wanted to be the World's Greatest Mother. But a little something would have been nice.
"Erik, do stop sulking. Raoul and Dennis will be here any minute. Go and put the kettle on." The heavily pregnant soprano told him, rearranging cushions, as though Raoul and Dennis would find their current cushion arrangement to be out of date. Erik scowled and poked at a pair of woollen bootees.
"The baby isn't even born yet. Why does he need socks?"
"Because when he or she is born, he or she is not going to catch a cold from living in this ghastly cellar." Christine said firmly. Erik huffed and went into the kitchen only to have Christine call after him, "And you still haven't thanked your mother for sending them!"
Erik scowled again, filling the kettle with water and slamming it down. Just as he was taking a sip of milk (straight from the bottle as he knew that this peeved Christine) there was the sound of the customised doorbell ringing. Erik had designed it himself to play that wonderful Overture from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. The booming organ music was starting to drive Christine a little insane.
"Erik, they're here!"
"Whoop-de-doo." Erik muttered, putting the milk away and slouching into the living room. Dennis smiled cheerfully at him.
"Hello Dennis." He quite liked Dennis. She was nice and made cookies. He looked over her hopefully, searching for aforementioned cookies. She smiled and handed him a bag.
"Here you go. I wouldn't forget about your Smartie Cookies."
Erik took the bag, rather pleased. Raoul beamed at him.
"Erik, old chap. How are you?"
"I'm not old." Erik said scornfully.
"Oh, no, it's just an expression." Raoul assured him quickly. "How are you?"
"He's fine. We're all fine." Christine assured them, "Do have a seat, there's tea being made."
"Christine, you're glowing!" Dennis announced cheerfully. Christine blushed and whilst Erik noted that she was pretty when she blushed, he did not see how being compared to a light bulb was a compliment. Still, who was he to unravel the mysteries of the female psyche?
Raoul and Dennis seated themselves as Christine poured tea. Erik sat in his favourite armchair, glowering around the cellar as they prattled on about nothing important what-so-ever. It was all dreadfully irritating, especially when he had so many better things to be doing with his time. For example, the managers were planning a marvellous dinner party. Well, it would be considerably less marvellous by the time Erik had finished with it. See those fools recover their social standing after they accidentally served a live piglet instead of a joint of pork! He chuckled to himself, amused by his genius.
Christine gave him a warning look. The patented Christine Daae 'If-you-don't-stop-scheming-whilst-we-have-company-I'm-going-to-dunk-the-Punjab-family-in-the-lake' look. Erik shuddered. Poor Mr, Mrs and Junior Punjab had still not recovered from their last visit to the murky depths of the lake and all because Christine couldn't have a sense of humour about practical jokes. Raoul's eyebrows had grown back, hadn't they?
"Have you decided on a name for the baby yet?" Dennis enquired and Christine smiled across at Erik.
"Charles, after my father. We're fairly certain it'll be a boy."
"Did you need any help baby-proofing the cellar?" Raoul offered and Erik glared at him.
"Well… it's just that it's not very safe." Raoul offered feebly, "I mean… with all the glass and exposed flames… not to mention the lake."
"I have someone coming next Monday, but thank you anyway, Raoul." Christine said kindly and Erik eyed her.
"Who is doing what to my cellar?" He demanded and she narrowed her eyes.
"I have a workman coming in to make it a decent place to raise a child, Erik!"
"This cellar happens to be a marvellous place to raise a child!"
"It's a death trap."
"It's got rustic charm!"
"It's got rusty harm!"
"That was terrible. And didn't make grammatical sense." Erik pouted. Christine ignored him, offering Dennis more tea.
Was the screaming really necessary? Erik did not dare ask this aloud because the Giry women and Nadir were present, trying to soothe his suffering wife. And she did seem to be in a lot of pain.
"Erik, don't just stand there!" Nadir said, "Help her!"
"I can't exactly give birth for her, you imbecile." Erik pointed out dryly. It's not that he wasn't very concerned for Christine, but it was a rather inconvenient time for her to be giving birth. The baby had been due almost a week ago but had apparently decided that the Buffy marathon was the appropriate time to come shooting out.
The child was grating on his nerves already.
"Erik!" Christine cried and Erik winced. Meg Giry appeared and brandished a Chinese throwing star.
"Get your spooky butt in there, Erik!"
Erik remembered a time when the name of the Phantom of the Opera inspired fear in the occupants of the Opera House. Good times, good times…
He edged into the bedroom, where Christine, Madame Giry and Doctor Hoo were gathered. Doctor Hoo smiled weakly at the masked fellow.
"Mr Phantom, the baby will be here any minute."
"What's taking so long? She's been like this for hours." Erik demanded and Christine glowered at him, sweaty and dishevelled. But not in the way that Erik rather liked.
"Erik, I swear to God, if you don't get over here and start helping, I'm never letting you eat pineapple again!"
He crossed to her and she snatched up his hand, whimpering as Doctor Hoo ducked under the sheet. Madame Giry patted Christine's shoulder.
"It's almost over, dear. Not long now."
"It hurts!" She whimpered.
"I need you to push, Christine!"
Morbid curiosity overcame Erik. He released Christine's hand and peered around the edge of the sheet, just in time to see the baby crowning.
He was unconscious for the rest of the birth.
"Erik, we cannot call the baby Charles!" Christine insisted two days later as Erik stubbornly filled in the birth certificate, naming the child Charles Nadir Phantom.
"Why ever not? You're the one who wanted to name the child after your father."
"Because it's a GIRL!" Christine said crossly but Erik had already finished filling in the certificate and sealed it in an envelope.
Baby Charles began to cry.
Midnight feeds were not something that Erik enjoyed. Most of the time, he was quite fond of the child. She didn't cry too much and was generally quite amiable. But when she wanted feeding, she was remarkably annoying.
"Charles, you're being very unreasonable." He told her firmly but she didn't cease in her crying. He sighed and put the bottle to her mouth. She slurped happily and Erik sighed in satisfaction.
"See, much better."
She burped and Erik patted her on the back.
"You're not too irritating when you're like this."
She burped again.
Five years of marital bliss had passed in the lair of the Phantom of the Opera. Well… bliss might not be the exact term that could accurately describe the time that had passed.
Satisfied insanity might be a better phrase.
"Daddy!" The piercing call echoed through the cellar and Erik shuddered, stuffing his latest composition into a waterproof folder as his five year old daughter, Charles, skipped into the room. He had invested in a great many waterproof folders since she'd been born.
"Yes, dear?" He smiled weakly as the precocious child grinned up at him before holding out a small white object, faintly stained with blood.
"My tooth fell out! Look, here it is!" She announced proudly. Erik stared at the tooth with a mixed expression of revulsion and amusement.
"Well, isn't that… disgusting."
"Mama said that you'll give me some money for it!" Charles crowed, tossing her brunette curls over her shoulder. Erik frowned and stood, walking past the babbling child.
"Yes, dear?" His lovely wife smile sweetly.
"Why are you telling our child that I purchase body parts? Murder, blackmail, vandalism, name-calling… those crimes, I will admit to. But I have never once participated in the harvesting of human organs!"
He pouted at this insult of his good name and Christine sighed, looking down at Charles, who was observing the exchange with a great deal of curiosity.
"Erik, its tradition, like the tooth fairy."
"I will not have talk of ridiculous mythical beings in this cellar! I won't stand for it!" Erik said firmly and Christine arched an eyebrow.
"Does that mean you'll stop watching Buffy?"
"Vampires are not ridiculous. Except for in those dire novels you insist upon reading." Erik pulled a face, "Vampires do not sparkle!"
"Edward does, Daddy!"
"Silence, Charles!" Erik ordered, "Go and read something educational!"
Charles pouted in an unnervingly similar way to her father and scurried away, still clutching her bloody tooth. He rather disliked that she was quite so intelligent that she could read full novels at five years of age and chose to spend that time reading ridiculous teen vampire novels.
… He hadn't been able to think of a way to read them without Christine finding out and mocking him.
There was a knock at the door and Nadir let himself in. Charles skipped over to him, utterly delighted.
"He's not your uncle."
"Quiet, Erik." Christine ordered, "Nadir, come on in."
They settled down to tea, Charles sat happily beside Nadir, showing him her tooth,
"Uncle Nadir, my tooth fell out and I'm going to get money for it and Daddy said that Edward doesn't sparkle but he does and I think that Daddy's just jealous that his vampires don't sparkle and can't read minds like Edward does and-"
The intelligence, Erik decided, came from him. The ability to speak constantly without breathing most certainly came from her mother. Things had been going so well until she'd learned how to talk.
"Charles, cease your prattling." He ordered and she pouted. Nadir smiled, patting her head.
"Erik, I'm here on business. I've been informed by the managers that they will be hosting a ball in the opera house in a month's time and your presence is requested."
"Why would I do that?" Erik asked curiously, "I only ever cause trouble. It's what I do."
"Exactly. By inviting you, you can't show up unexpectedly."
"Uncle Nadir, what is your job?" Charles asked innocently and Nadir sighed.
"Well, Charles, my job is to help your Daddy make people miserable and cause trouble."
"That doesn't sound like a very nice job." Charles commented sadly and Christine sighed, looking at Erik.
"Daddy's job is very complicated, sweetheart."
"What does he do?"
"I'm the Phantom of the Opera. I haunt the Opera House." Erik said proudly and Charles considered him curiously.
"Like a ghost?"
"Like a ghost." Erik confirmed.
"Most certainly not!" Erik said, affronted and Charles pouted.
"That's a silly job!"
"It's a perfectly respectable job and you'd better start learning it. As my heir, you'll be taking over when I retire."
Charles stared at her father and then leapt to her feet indignantly.
"No! I don't want to be a phantom!"
"Young lady, this is your destiny!" Erik declared and Christine frowned, touching his arm.
"Christine, she is going to be a phantom and she's going to like it! What else would she do?" Erik pointed out and Charles stamped her feet, fuming.
"No! Daddy, I won't be a silly old phantom! I want to go to New York and open a theme park on Coney Island!"
Erik's anger was palpable as he stared at his daughter. Charles stared right back, arms folded in a stubborn pose. Christine sank her head into her hands and Nadir eyed the door, wondering if he could make it before the explosion happened.
He did not.
Three and a half seconds later, Erik was shouting, Christine was yelling and Charles was crying. Nadir slunk into a corner, waiting out the inevitable nuclear meltdown.
"I do wish you hadn't done that, Erik." Christine sighed as they got ready for bed that night. Erik glowered at her, climbing under the duvet and lining up the Punjab family on the bedside table.
"There's no point in letting her think that she's going to go off and do something utterly ridiculous with her life when she's going to take over my legacy." He said, adjusting Mr Punjab's mask. Christine got into bed and looked at him determinedly.
"Erik, if she wants to do something else with her life, you must let her! Even if it IS utterly ridiculous…" She rolled her eyes, "A theme park on Coney Island? What sort of idiotic idea is that?"
"I don't know where she gets these ideas. I blame Nadir."
"You blame Nadir for everything." Christine pointed out, snuggling under his arm. Erik shrugged as he turned off the light.
"Usually because he's to blame."
When Charles Nadir Phantom turned ten, her father decided that in addition to her normal schooling, she would begin 'Phantom' lessons. He ignored all protests and came up with a curriculum.
Lesson One: How to write a rudely-worded note.
"The trick is to insult the managers in such a way that they may not even detect that they have been insulted!" Erik explained to a thoroughly bored looking Charles. She sighed heavily and picked up her pink pen. Erik folded his arms, scowling.
"No. No pink pen."
"Dad, this is my favourite pen. Grandma sent it to me."
"Your grandmother also sent you a spotty knitted jumper but I don't see you insisting on wearing that!"
Charles glares at him and swapped the pink pen for a black one. Erik beamed proudly and paced back and forwards in front of her desk, dictating loudly.
"My dear managers… it has come to my attention that due to your imbecility, my box has been offered to Viscount de Chagny for tonight's performance. I object to this on many levels, the first being that my box is far too good for the likes of that fop-"
"I'm telling Mother that you're being mean about Uncle Raoul!" Charles declared, "She said you're not allowed to call him names!"
"He is NOT your uncle!" Erik announced sulkily, "And I'd like to see you write a better note!"
She scowled at him and began to write again. Using her pink pen.
Lesson Two: How to drop a chandelier.
Christine would only allow this once Charles turned fourteen. To Erik's dismay, his daughter had not inherited his love of the destruction of public property.
"Dad, that is a crystal chandelier! Do you know how much labour went into making that?" She folded her arms under the cloak he'd insisted on her wearing. Erik shook his head in disappointment.
"Charles, you needn't care about how much it cost. We don't pay for it!"
"Actually the managers have been docking your pay," Charles shrugged, "Have been for years."
"What? How do you know?"
"I've been doing your taxes since I was twelve." She shrugged again, examining her fingernails absently, "Its good practice for when I need to keep the books whilst running my own business."
Erik sighed in frustration as he examined the reinforced chain the managers had used to put up the new chandelier.
"Not this ridiculous theme park idea again. Haven't you grown out of that yet?"
"Dad, Andy and I have already started designing it. We just need to come up with funding but I'm certain that with the right backers…" She looked off dreamily and Erik narrowed his eyes, reaching for his Punjab.
"Andy Lester Wright, my friend from school."
"Friend?" Erik asked dangerously.
"Sure, ALW. I've mentioned him to Mother, we've been friends for years." Charles said absently, examining the chandelier, "He's got big plans for the theme park."
"I won't hear any more of this nonsense, Charles! Now cut down that chandelier this instant!" Erik ordered.
Charles rolled her eyes and tossed a Chinese throwing star at the chandelier. It fell instantly and she left, muttering something about rollercoaster licensing. Clearly, she had been spending far too much time with Meg Giry. Erik wiped away a tear.
She was a natural!
"Dinner, Erik! It's pizza!" Christine called and he abandoned his organ, taking a seat beside her.
"Out with her friend."
"Would that be ALW?" Erik asked pointedly and Christine sighed, handing him a slice of pineapple pizza.
"She told you about Andy…"
"Christine, she's a natural at being a Phantom! She cut down the chandelier with finesse and writes notes that make grown men cry!" Erik said, taking a bite of pizza.
"But Erik, she doesn't want to be a Phantom. She's got her heart set on this Coney Island Theme Park idea." Christine pointed out, "And Andy's a perfectly nice young man."
"I don't like him."
"You don't know him."
"I don't have to." Erik said snootily, "He's not good enough for her!"
The door opened and Nadir came in, sitting down at the table and helping himself to a slice of pizza.
"Evening all. Erik, do you know that Charles is outside with a boy?"
"Erik, put down the noose!" Christine screeched and Erik scowled, leaning over to pick the pineapple off of Nadir's plate. He didn't like it anyway.
"They seemed to be making a scale model of a theme park."
Andy Lester Wright had never been so terrified in his life. He was a fairly ordinary sort of guy. He went to school and worked part-time at a fast food joint. But he had plans for the future. It had been his lifelong dream to open a Coney Island Theme Park with his best friend, Charles, and whilst making their scale model to put forward to potential financial backers, he had quite suddenly found himself strung up with a noose whilst aforementioned best friend screamed at her father to 'quit it'.
"Dad, this is SO not cool!" She cried but Erik ignored her. Christine groaned, putting an arm around her daughter's shoulders.
"Charles, dear, just let him get it out of his system."
"Charles, your dad is trying to kill me." ALW said nervously, but was distracted by the arrival of Dennis and Raoul. The viscount beamed.
"Look, Erik's trying to kill someone who isn't me!"
"I bought smartie cookies!" Dennis declared cheerfully.
"Dad, stop killing my best friend!"
"Erik, would you stop? He's perfectly harmless!" Christine cried as Nadir scratched his head.
"This can only end badly."
"Dad, quit that!"
"I CAN'T WORK UNDER THESE CONDITIONS!" He screamed, running into the bedroom and slamming the door.
They all stopped and stared.
Raoul and Dennis looked at each other.
Nadir sighed, putting his head in his hands.
Christine sighed and went after her husband.
Andy looked around nervously, "Can I get down now?"
A family meeting was called. Christine, Erik and Charles sat around the table, but were joined by Raoul, Dennis, Nadir and Andy. The family meeting became something of general meeting. And then Meg showed up for no apparent reason apart from Nadir had texted her and she didn't want to feel left out.
Erik glared down the table and Christine squeezed his hand.
"Erik, why don't you tell us how you're feeling?" She asked tenderly and Erik folded his arms.
"You're all trying to repress me."
"We're not trying to!"
"It's not like that, Erik." The voices all came at once and Christine held up a hand.
"Let Erik talk."
Erik sniffed and shrugged.
"Well, you are. All I want to do is haunt an opera house and bring my daughter into the family business. And now she's all 'I don't want to be a phantom' and Meg is training her to be a ninja and Nadir won't stop nagging me to stop causing trouble and the fop is always hanging around reminding me that I failed to kill him and ALW is encouraging this ridiculous theme park idea and I don't feel like I can fulfil my potential as Phantom of the Opera with you all repressing my creativity likes this! It's enough to drive a man to fanfiction!"
"No!" Christine gasped, "Don't talk like that, Erik!"
"No one needs to resort to fanfiction." Nadir said quickly, "Erik, we can resolve this."
They were all silent for a minute. Eventually Charles cleared her throat.
"Dad… I never wanted to be the Phantom of the Opera." She said quietly, "I know that it's what you always wanted, but I just want to be a successful business owner. I'm a modern woman-"
"Girl." Erik interrupted sullenly and she frowned.
"Whatever. You need to get it. I'm not going to take over as Phantom of the Opera. And as for Meg teaching me to be a ninja, I'm only doing that because I find the Punjab unwieldy in comparison to nunchucks."
"I suppose I can tone down the nagging," Nadir admitted, "It's only because the trouble you cause sometimes backfires. You just need a little managing from time to time."
Erik considered him and then nodded shortly.
"I'm not paying you more." He warned and Nadir sighed. He'd gotten used to his depleted paycheck. Christine looked uncertainly at Raoul.
"OK, that's fine but… Erik, you can't kill Raoul just to prove a point."
"I've been trying to kill his spirit for years. The man is hideously resilient." Erik pointed and Raoul looked at him sadly.
"I'm sorry, Erik."
The viscount looked suitably chastened. Christine smiled at Erik.
"Why can't you encourage Charles in this venture, dear? It makes her happy and just think about how proud you'll be when she manages it! Her and ALW, of course." She smiled in the young man's direction and he waved nervously. Erik glared in his direction and he shrank back in his chair. Charles patted his arm comfortingly.
"Don't worry, Andy. He doesn't like anyone at first."
"Why don't you hire an apprentice, Erik?" Nadir asked thoughtfully, "Someone who wants to be the Phantom?"
Erik blinked at him.
"An apprentice?" He pondered.
"Nadir, that's a wonderful idea!" Christine gasped, "Erik will be able to train them and that leaves Charles to do what she wants!"
Nadir beamed and Erik stroked his chin in consideration.
"An apprentice, eh…?"
He knew just the person.
Several Years Later…
"Erik, Meg, I have a letter from Charles!" Christine called and the pair looked up from their scale model of the opera house. ALW had made it for them – apparently scale models were a hobby of his and it kept him busy whilst Charles ran the Coney Island Experience, or to use its official name, Live Now Die. It consisted of several of the world's largest rollercoasters and the name came from the number of near death experiences people were believed to have had. It had been a very successful few years since their opening.
Charles and ALW had been running LND for several years and it had been surprisingly successful. It had also left Erik free to train his new apprentice – Meg Giry.
It had only made sense. She knew the opera house, was intelligent and had a penchant for killing with style. And nunchucks. She straightened her mask and picked up her cloak.
"I'd better get going, Christine. Erik, I'll be back tomorrow to help inspect the new chandelier." She said and Erik nodded, handing her a page of notes.
"I'll quiz you on insults in the morning and we'll talk about your duties whilst Christine and I are away visiting Charles."
"Sure thing, Erik." Meg waved and disappeared in a swish of her cloak. Erik swelled with pride. She'd learned that from him.
"How are Charles and Andy?" He asked as Christine handed him a glass of milk.
"They're very well. A woman had a heart attack on that large rollercoaster."
"Oh, well, if they're stupid enough to think that LND is a good idea…" Erik said snootily. Christine rolled her eyes. She knew he didn't mean it. Because ALW and LND were now part of their lives, whether they liked it or not.
She kissed him fondly, putting a smartie cookie on the table.
"I know you're proud of her really." She said and he smiled, reaching for the remote to turn over to Buffy.
This fatherhood thing wasn't so bad.
A/N: Just a silly little one-shot story to mark my 100th story on this site. It's a pretty big number and I wanted to do it in my favourite phandom!
I swear to God, this is the very last one. No, really. It is. I started this months ago, not long after I posted Defensive Christmas, but it ended up in my 'abandoned folder'. Then I found out that people are still reading the Defensive series. No, really! It's been almost 5 years since I wrote it and people are STILL reading and reviewing it. I figured stories eventually just got shunted to the deep dark areas of the archive and forgotten about, but apparently not. So I figured – 100th story, why not revisit?
So yeah – Erik's attempt at fatherhood and some unsubtle commentary on the disaster that is LND. Let's just not go there people. It's too painful.
Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading. Have a smartie cookie on the way out.