Genre: Angst, Romance
Time Frame: Kay-verse
Characters: Raoul de Chagny, Christine Daaé
Summary: He was there waiting for her when she returned, another man's ring on her finger and a look about her eyes saying that she had just taken all the sorrows the world could offer onto herself.
Notes: Really, Phantom from me? After all of this time? Yep. I just reread Kay's novel, and in between crying buckets at the end, I was struck as to how really awful the ending was for Raoul as it was for Erik and Christine. The character, while one I would often simply wish out of the way, is a strong one. And one often put down upon as well . . . So, my muse decided to go soft on him, all the while indulging in all of the shippy inclination's that Kay manages to personify . . .
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
She is gone now.
Only days after saving her from the catacombs beneath the opera house, Christine came to me and calmly told me that she was returning. She would tell me nothing more than she had a promise to fulfill, one that she could disobey no longer. One that she no longer wanted to disobey.
It is this want, perhaps, more so than duty or devotion than struck me harder than anything else. Anything else I could handle. The want I saw in her eyes . . . it seared everything in me that loved her so ardently.
I watched her disappear into the dark shadows outside the Garnier, and I knew that whatever transpired between my fiancée and her dark maestro, I would never see her again.
She would come back, I knew – my ultimatum or not - and yet, she would not be the same. If I was completely honest with myself, which I have found myself being more and more often as of late, I know that she hasn't been the same for a while now – changed as she was by things straight out of myth and dream. Before, I had thought that she would come out stronger, and stronger she was, for sure. But hers was now a strength and a peace that I can not empathize with. Hers was a mind now otherworldly, warped as it always would be by him. It is something I fear I will never understand.
I love her still, of that I have no doubt . . . no matter how much she had changed. I know she knows that. And I know that she regards me with every light and pleasant adoration.
And yet . . .
The kind of love she now knows is something I will be foreign to. Even at the end of this torrid business, I know I will have her in the bonds of matrimony. I will have her body, and her heart. But her mind would always be absent to me. Even years ago, as children, I had known that music was something that both defined and filled her. She was song embodied, music personified . . . and that was something about her that only he would be ever be able to touch.
Sometimes, I think I saw the way he possessed her so very well. Even more so than she did. I may not like it, I may not completely understand it . . . but I am not blind to it. I do not hold claim to the innocence that Christine wears like blinders.
The catacombs were dark and damp when I once again found my way down to Erik's abode. There was no fight this time, no battle. My hand was far from the pistol at my side, and my steps were heavy without hurry.
On the edges of the lagoon, the Daroga nodded in greeting to me, having heard my descent. His dark eyes were troubled, and his face was crossed with wet tracks that looked suspiciously like the remnant of tears. When he wiped them away, he seemed surprised to find them there. Formally, I returned his nod with a shallow bow, and when Nadir gestured to one of the chambers – which I remembered to be Christine's rooms, I understood.
It was almost done now.
The halls of the great house were eerily silent. Before when we had made our plunge into this world, music had dripped off of the walls and danced around us like ghosts. The Phantom's opera had been a dark collection of vice and pain, but it had been strangely compelling as it vibrated deep within the center of my bones, echoing in the hollow places around my heart . . . his voice had been something that angels would envy, a rumbling timbre that was both Hades and Persephone combined. For me, who had no understanding of music past the pleasure I took in Christine's voice, the beauty and power I heard there was staggering. Awe-inspiring even . . . to this moment I cannot dredge up the words that existed in simple language to explain what I had heard in those notes. All I know is that in that moment of hearing him, past my fear and rage, I think that I understood so very well what had drawn Christine to him . . .
Now it was silent. The music that had defined these halls was gone. The magic and mystery that had made these caverns so seductive to Christine was dead. Now the stone walls were merely stone. The waves just whispering things that held no more secrets. The stone pillars were silent specters, paying a lost homage to a forgotten kingdom.
Peppering the entirety of the ground were torn sheets of music. The scarlet notes that spiraled over them gleamed in the scant light of the few candles the Daroga had arranged about the rooms. The notes formed discordant patterns against the opulent Persian rugs they covered, snagging on the chilled cavern air and echoing with a genius the world would never hear.
Under the torn sheets, there were pieces of sketch parchment, still whole, with unerringly accurate portraits of Christine littering their surfaces. Poses of her were crammed into every scrap of white, some running off the pages where it was clear his obsession had became to great.
There was something heartrendingly tragic about it. My gloved hands clenched together to fight from reaching out to touch the torn and forgotten things.
I took a deep breath in through my nose, let it out slowly through my mouth.
"Was anything kept?" I asked into the silence.
Nadir hesitated. "To Erik's knowledge, no."
I nodded, understanding. "And to yours?"
A crooked smile lit the Persian man's face, catching on the harsh lines of his grief. When he turned to reveal a leather folder, I shook my head in amusement at the Daroga's craftiness. He explained, "These were written for Mademoiselle Daaé. I thought it fitting she should keep them, lest Erik's idiocy kept all of his work from the world."
I untwisted the ribbon from around the folder, and opened it to find a thick stack of sheet music, once again marked in spiraling red notes. Each piece was untitled, and while my untrained eyes could pick up not rhythm nor melody, I could easily spy the simple inscription of 'for Christine, with love' at the foot of every page.
Something twisted low in my stomach, but I pushed the feeling away.
I then waited in silence.
Two hours passed, and then it was if a great chill had settled over the entire place. I stood up straighter at it. Nadir bowed his head to it, muttering under his head in his native tongue – begging forgiveness in last rites for a soul which had forsaken any sort of creator long ago.
I breathed in an icy breath with my understanding, and turned towards the Louis-Philippe room to where Christine was emerging. Her eyes were old and haunted. Her whole demeanor was numb. Her hands were white where she had them tightly clasped over her stomach. In the dim light from the candles, the simple gold band around her forth finger sparkled mockingly.
At her feet, a Persian cat mewed, rubbing at her ankles nervously. A great diamond collar hung heavy around the creature's neck.
A moment passed where her eyes tangled with the notes strewn violently around the chamber. Her eyes caressed the broken pipe organ on the wall, and the violin that sat battered on what was left of the organ's bench. All of this was studied and cataloged before she turned her eyes to me.
I saw the quiet affection in her there, but gone was the bright and sunny love that had always defined her time spent with me. Now, there was something older in her eyes, something wiser. It was almost as if she had taken the rest of him into her spirit as he had passed on without her.
When she pressed her hands into mine, there was a sweet and earnest relief about her touch, but her grip was white knuckled. Her hands shook, pressing the cold metal ring that much closer to my skin. She stood on the tips of her toes to kiss me, but her lips were salty. Something about her taste was different.
So, I breathed in this new side of her, imagining that she was the same girl of even days ago. My childhood friend. My sweetheart. My bride. My Christine . . . and not his. Not his muse, not his great love . . . not a fleeting specter whose last task on Earth was to now house the burdened remains of his staggering soul.
Over the years, I will become so very good at pretending, I know.
And as I closed my eyes against the woman before me, somewhere inside of me, something dark and biting, pretended that she was not doing the same as well.