A/N: So we've reached the end of the story.
I just wanna thank EVERYONE who has reviewed, especially you guys who review after every single chapter =) You guys make me happy!
Thank you for all the support you have given. You've made the story what it is, because without you, I would have stopped at chapter one.
I can't believe I've managed to write 24 chapters and over 50 000 words…longest thing I'd ever written before this was a 5000 word essay on the Cold War (thrilling stuff that xD )
Anyway, enough rambling. I hope you enjoy the final chapter. Leave me one last review before you sail of into the sunset to some other story =)
I love you all!
Chapter Twenty-four: A Second Chance
A week later, Erik had made vast improvements. He was now awake most of the time and was able to sit up. His voice had not returned, but he was able to whisper. Christine requested that he be allowed to leave the hospital and be moved to Nadir's house. After much debate, the hospital staff had agreed, and Erik had been transported to the Persian's house in an ambulance, where he was moved straight into his bed. Christine was happy that she was able to sleep beside Erik now, and Gustave was using the sofa as a bed.
The next day, two policemen had come round, demanding that Erik answer their questions. Christine and Nadir had been angry, but they had complied. The police had asked the questions in the bedroom, and Christine, Nadir and Gustave had been forced to wait in the living room.
At length, a policeman appeared from the bedroom.
"Mademoiselle, Monsieur, if you would come in here. We have some things we wish to discuss with you," he spoke politely.
"Of course," Nadir smiled, getting to his feet and following Christine into the other room.
Once in, one of the policemen began to talk.
"Mademoiselle, Monsieur, we have questioned Monsieur Erik, and we have no reason to doubt your stories. They are all consistent, and the recent behaviour of the Vicomte only supports your claims."
Christine smiled at Nadir, glancing over at Erik who returned a half-hearted grin. She was confused by his lack of enthusiasm, and she realised their must be a catch in what the man was saying. Sure enough, the policeman continued talking.
"However," he began, "You understand that you have all broken the law in one way or another. We are obligated to arrest all of you, but we see that in such a situation you were forced into your actions. However, I'm afraid we cannot simply testify your innocence in these circumstances, but we have decided not to arrest any of you due to your obvious innocence, provided yourself, Monsieur Erik and Gustave leave France as soon as Monsieur Erik is able to," he explained.
Christine looked taken aback by this information, but she supposed it was a good thing that they would not be arrested. Although, she didn't quite understand the policemen's reasoning and suspected that there was more to it. She looked over to Erik, who nodded at her.
"Very well, Monsieur," she nodded.
"I'm glad you understand, Mademoiselle. We shall return soon to see whether Monsieur Erik is able to relocate. But for now, we ask you to remain inside and unseen."
Christine nodded and bade the policemen farewell as Nadir showed them out. She sat down on the bed beside Erik, placing her hand down on his cheek.
"There's more to it isn't there?" she asked.
He knew what she meant, and he nodded, before explaining in the strained whisper that was all he could manage these days.
"Everything that has happened recently would make their police force look very poor. If they admit that I had managed sneak past them in the first place, it would ruin public confidence in them. At the moment, the press don't know that you're in France, and I am thought to be incarcerated in Calais. But they are aware of the Vicomte's suicide," he told her, "It is easier for them if we just disappear. Any involvement with the courts would only result in the police being questioned."
Christine nodded thoughtfully.
Nadir returned to the bedroom, closing the door behind him so that Gustave would not overhear.
"So, Erik, once again you are to be run out of France," he commented.
"So it would seem," Erik whispered, "Although at least this time the police want me gone and not caught."
"Where will you go?" Nadir asked.
"America," Erik answered, "At least I have some sort of a life there to return to."
"I will be sad to see you leave again, my friend," Nadir sighed sincerely.
"Come with us," Christine suddenly chirped up.
Erik looked at Nadir expectantly, but the old Persian just chuckled and shook his head.
"No, no, I'm too old to be gallivanting off around the world. I have a quiet life here, a peaceful life. Plus, Darius needs me. Once he gets out of prison," Nadir laughed.
"Well, I should think we will be here for at least another few weeks. We need to wait for Monsieur le Phantom to recover," Christine teased, throwing a mischievous smile at Erik. He grinned back, winking at her, "I suppose we had better tell Gustave," she sighed.
Nadir went out and fetched Gustave, helping him limp over to the chair beside Erik's bed. Christine then knelt down before him, resting her hands on his knees.
"Gustave, you know that your father is in trouble with the police, don't you?" she asked him.
"Well, the gendarmes have been very kind, and have promised not to arrest him," she told him.
"That's excellent!" Gustave grinned happily.
"However, there is one condition. We are not allowed to stay in France," Christine said sadly.
"Are we going to go back to America?" he asked excitedly.
"Yes, as long as that's ok with you…"she suggested.
"Of course," Gustave smiled, "Will we go back to Phantasma?" he asked, turning to his father.
"Perhaps," Erik whispered thoughtfully. The truth was he wasn't sure whether returning to Phantasma was a good idea. It had been the place where he'd spent ten miserable years, and the island held many bad feelings. Yet it had also been the place where he had been reunited with Christine, and where he had found out about his son. There were so many good feelings mixed up with the bad. Perhaps returning to Phantasma would be best for all of them.
A month later, the gendarmes returned. They declared that Erik was fit to travel, and instructed the family to leave France by the following evening. Christine had not been happy about the time the police had given them to leave, but she could not claim that she hadn't expected it.
Erik was indeed much better. Although his voice still had not returned, his lungs had healed well, and his ribcage was fixed, but still slightly weak. He could walk around now, although Christine still insisted he take it easy. She was starting to worry that his voice might never return. It seemed his damaged lung was not the only reason for his lack of the ability to talk. It seemed that Frank had caused severe damage to Erik's neck, and although there had been no damage to the bones, it seemed his voice box had suffered a tremendous beating.
Erik felt lost without his voice. It was the one thing that he had always had. He had always used it to save his life, and to get what he wanted. But, most importantly, it had brought him Christine. He had to admit that he was terrified that without his voice, she wouldn't love him. After all, it was his voice that had drawn her to him. But Christine had no such worries. Of course, she loved his voice, but he was still Erik without it. And she knew it bothered him more than it bothered her.
Once the police had left, Christine, Erik and Gustave began to get ready to leave that evening. Christine and Nadir ventured over to the empty De Chagny mansion to collect hers and Gustave's things. She felt sad leaving the house where she had spent ten years of her life, and yet happy to be leaving to start anew. She had not told Erik, but back at the hospital, the De Chagny lawyer had visited her. He told her that Raoul had left her everything he owned. She had been taken aback at first. She had considered taking what he had left her, but she had decided against it. She couldn't take anything from Raoul after everything that had happened. She would not be a hypocrite. So she had refused, and Raoul's entire estate had been returned to his parents.
She opened the wardrobe in what was once hers and Raoul's bedroom. There were rails and rails of Raoul's jackets and shirts. She touched the smooth fabric of her favourite jacket of his. She was hit with a wave of nostalgia as she thought about the young man she had married. He had been so happy at first, so full of life. How can it have gone so wrong? A silent tear rolled down her cheek. She really had loved him, a long time ago.
She sighed, and pulled her own clothes from the wardrobe, packing them into a bag on the bed. She picked up the suitcase, and left the room quickly, refusing to look back. As she walked down the stairs of the mansion, she realised that she had to visit his grave. For her own sake, she had to settle things within her head before she left the country, perhaps forever.
She sent Nadir home with her bags, telling him that she wanted to visit the cemetery. She opted to walk there, feeling like she needed the time to prepare herself. It was a relatively long walk, but it went quickly as memories of the past ten years swirled through her mind all the way.
Before she knew it, she was stood before his grave. His family had given him a very regal looking gravestone, engraved with the family emblem. Now that she was here, she had no idea what to say. Only two words entered her mind, so she said them.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. Then the words began to flow, "I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry it never worked between us. I'm sorry I made you unhappy. I just wish I could change things. I wish you had never met me. You could have been so happy with someone else. We never fitted right. You were the Vicomte, I was the orphaned chorus girl. You deserved so much better. I was nothing compared to you."
"You're everything," a voice whispered in her ear from behind her. She knew that voice, even as a whisper.
"Erik, what are you doing here?" she asked, not turning around.
"Making sure you're alright," he said, "Nadir told me you were acting strangely. He said you came here, so I came to keep you company."
"How did you get here so fast?" she asked.
"I took a carriage. It's much quicker than walking."
She heard him shuffle closer, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his head on her shoulder.
"Are you ok?" he whispered softly.
"I think so," she answered quietly, entwining her hands with his at her stomach, "I just…I can't believe it turned out like this. If only I had had the courage all those years ago to tell him I didn't want him. Before we were married. He could have been happy."
"You're not to blame, Christine," he told her softly, pressing a tender kiss to the side of her head, "None of us can change the past. We can only make the most of the future."
Christine sighed. He always knew the right thing to say. She turned in his embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck and reaching up to kiss him gently. At length, she pulled back, resting her forehead against his.
"You know I love you, don't you?" she asked.
"Not as much as I love you," he teased, kissing her on the nose.
She smiled, pressing her lips to his again.
"Come on, let's go," he whispered against her lips.
She pulled away, looking into his eyes and smiling sadly. She nodded, and they turned away from the grave, and walked away hand in hand.
They returned to Nadir's house to find the Persian in a very good mood.
"What are you so happy about?" Erik asked in his most confident sounding whisper. He found that ever since he had lost his voice, he could not sound anywhere near as commanding.
"Good news, my friend, Darius has been released," the Persian declared happily.
"Excellent news. You must thank the boy on my behalf," Erik replied, smiling at the Persian's excitement.
"You can thank him yourself. He is meeting us in Calais tomorrow to see you off."
That night, Christine, Erik, Nadir and Gustave piled into a large carriage and left for Calais. Gustave waved goodbye to Paris as they crossed the border, and Christine smiled, sharing his enthusiasm in leaving for their new life.
They travelled throughout the night. Nadir sat reading a book. Christine slept against Erik's shoulder, and Gustave slept across his father's lap. Erik revelled in the unfamiliar closeness of his son. He stroked the boy's hair as he slept. He still could not believe how beautiful his son was, yet he did not doubt that he was the father; he could see the features of the clear side of his own face all over the boy's. They had the same eyes, and the same cheek dimple, that became especially pronounced whenever they smiled. Yet there was also so much of Christine in him, which Erik had no doubt was where he got his beauty from. He turned his head and placed a soft kiss to Christine's hair, careful not to wake her.
"You really do love her, don't you," Nadir stated more than asked.
"More than anything," he whispered, "except perhaps the boy."
Nadir smiled as Erik looked down at his son.
"He looks like you," Nadir said softly.
"Poor child," Erik chuckled.
"He loves you, too," Nadir stated confidently.
Erik smiled down at the boy.
"I know," he replied, "I just hope I can be a good father. All I want is for him to be happy."
"Erik, there's no doubt in my mind that you will be an excellent father," Nadir told him, "Of course, you can be a stubborn fool at times. And you're far too self-pitying. But you have a good heart, and that boy could do a lot worse than have you as a father."
Erik smiled appreciatively at his old friend. He just hoped the old Persian was right.
Darius met them at the docks the next morning. He helped Erik, Christine and Gustave carry their luggage to the ship. Erik pulled him aside from the others, leading him a little way from the ship.
"Thank you, Darius," Erik told the young man, "You cannot imagine how much I appreciate what you have done for my family."
"Oh, really, it was no trouble, Monsieur Erik. I was happy to do it," Darius replied.
"Take care of Nadir, will you?" he asked Darius.
"Of course," he nodded.
Erik clapped him on the back, before turning back towards his family and Nadir.
"We have to board," Erik stated.
Christine nodded. She looked at Nadir for a moment, before throwing her arms around his neck and embracing him.
"Thank you, Nadir. For everything," she told him tearfully.
"It was my pleasure, Christine," he chuckled, "Look after him. He's new to all of this," he whispered so that Erik could not hear.
"I will," she whispered back, before stepping away from the Persian.
"Gustave, it was a pleasure to meet you," Nadir said heartily, smiling down at the boy and offering his hand for a handshake.
Gustave grinned back, shaking the Persian's hand with enthusiasm.
Christine took Gustave's hand, pulling him away a few feet from Erik and Nadir to give them a moment alone.
Erik looked at the old man before him. He could feel the tears welling up as he sensed that this would be the last time he would see this man. Nadir seemed to be thinking the same thing, because his kind, wrinkled eyes were also glassed over with the threat of tears. At length, Erik stepped forward and embraced his friend.
"Thank you," he whispered in the Persian's ear.
"You have nothing to thank me for, Erik," he replied, pulling away and holding Erik still before him, "Just make sure you enjoy your life from now on. Make the most of what you have been given and don't go throwing it away. You have been blessed with a second chance. Use it."
"I will," Erik replied sadly.
They looked at each other for a moment, before Nadir held out his hand to his friend. Erik took it, shaking it gently.
"Go now, or the ship will leave without you," Nadir said shakily, trying to hold down his tears.
Erik nodded, and turned from his friend.
"Goodbye, Monsieur," Gustave said cheerily over his shoulder as Erik led him and Christine towards the ship.
Nadir waved, forcing a smile onto his face.
The trio boarded the ship, and Gustave ran straight up onto the deck, followed by his parents. He waved down to Nadir and Darius as the ship pulled away from the docks. Erik stood behind his son, watching his friend seem to grow ever smaller as they travelled further out into the sea. Christine looked up and saw the sorrow on her masked man's face. She shuffled towards him and nuzzled herself into his side. He wrapped his arm around her protectively, placing a kiss on the top of her head. Together they stood and watched as France disappeared on the horizon, and dreamed of their new life together, whatever it may bring.