Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Phantom of the Opera and all related characters do not belong to me. I'm just using their likenesses for my own, and hopefully others', amusement.
Author's Notes: Back again! This turned out to be a lot longer than I was planning, but I'm quite pleased with the way that it turned out. Hope that you enjoy and please remember to review! I love hearing what you guys think! The story is mostly movie based, but takes the musical timeline into account, meaning that Christine knows about the plan to trap the Phantom.
Christine was in a world of her own, Erik noticed as he glanced back at her. Her precious God above was the only one who could see inside her head now. Suddenly, he heard a loud crack and looked ahead to see a tree branch falling, right into the path of the carriage. He tried to get the horses to turn, but they had been spooked by the noise and were out of control. Turning sharply, the horses broke free and left the carriage teetering precariously. Erik was thrown from his seat and he managed to twist around on the ground, watching in horror as the carriage fell and the figure of Christine disappeared. Despite everything that had happened in the last six months, his heart stopped as Christine vanished underneath the carriage and his only thought was to get to her. She had to be alive. She had to be. He would accept no other outcome.
He ran over to the carriage, lifting it up with an inhuman surge of strength. She looked so fragile, lying on the ground, her cloak spread out beneath her and a trail of blood marring the perfect skin of her forehead. Kneeling beside her, he held his breath, leaning down and placing his ear to her chest, desperately searching for a heartbeat.
His own heart started beating again once he picked up her own rhythm, a bit faster than normal, but strong. Leaning back, he was shocked to see her eyes flutter open. Realizing too late that the charade was up, he saw the recognition dawn in her eyes briefly before they fell closed once more, slipping into an unconscious state.
He had a small cottage nearby, he'd often stay out there while composing or as a hiding place if Christine were to need him while visiting her father's grave. He used to think that she would enjoy staying there every now and then once they were married, being so close to the cemetery and to her beloved father. Those foolish hopes were all but dashed now, but it could perhaps still serve a purpose.
Picking her up carefully, cradling her like a child, he made his way through the forest towards the once familiar cottage. Unlocking the door proved to be quite a difficulty with Christine in his arms, but he managed. The interior was musty from about eight months of disuse, but it would do. He quickly laid Christine on the bed and left for a moment to get some snow from outside, intending on melting it on the stove and tending to Christine's wounds.
He had managed to read through various volumes of medical texts over the years and from the remembered knowledge, he had concluded that her injuries were not serious and that she should be fine within a few days, although head injuries were tricky. He wouldn't know for certain until she woke up. And she would wake up.
As he put the snow on the stove to boil and started a fire in the fireplace, he took note of the fact that Christine's colour had actually worsened in the short amount of time that he had been gone. He cursed himself for not noticing the fact that her clothes were soaking wet, she surely would catch cold if she were to stay in them. As gently as he could, he lifted her up and began undressing her. His fingers were slightly numb from the cold and his hands were shaking uncontrollably at the close proximity to her. But he knew he had to stay focused, for Christine's sake.
He soon had her stripped of her cloak and dress, taking care to rid her of that infernal corset as well. Hoping in vain that her undergarments would be fine, his hands shook as they gripped the thin material of her shift only to find that that was soaked as well. He quickly stripped her of everything, taking pains not to gaze at her naked figure before placing her underneath the covers, tucking her in securely, both for her health and his peace of mind. The cottage was now suitably warm and he hoped that he had acted quickly enough as to stave off sickness.
Moving to the stove, he moved the pot of water off, allowing it to cool before moving it to a table near the bed. Sitting beside Christine, he dipped his handkerchief into the water and carefully cleaned the cut on her forehead, breathing a sigh of relief when it was revealed to be quite shallow and already healing.
He moved away from her side to go and place her clothes in front of the fire, hoping to have them dry by the time that she woke up. If not, he knew that he had an armoire of spare clothes here for her, just in case she was to ever need them. There was nothing to do now, except wait for Christine to wake.
Erik sighed and sat down heavily in a chair across from the bed, picking up a book that was resting on the nearby table. His mind could scarcely focus on the words in front of him though, as he contemplated what her reaction to their current situation would be.
As Christine slowly became aware again, her first thought was how comfortable the bed that she was in was. She snuggled deeper into the covers, taking full advantage of the lovely feeling of the soft cotton sheets against her...bare skin. Her eyes shot open and she quickly peeked beneath the covers, confirming with her eyes what the rest of her body already knew. She was naked in this strange and ridiculously comfortable bed. A flush overtook her entire body as she pulled the covers up to her chin and quickly looked around.
Her vision swam slightly and she tried to remember what had led up to this moment. She had been unable to sleep and had decided to go to visit her father's grave...but she had never made it there. The carriage had overturned and...he had been there. Her eyes opened again, slowly this time, as she scanned the room she was in, hoping that her suspicions weren't true.
But there he was. In a chair, situated right across the room from her, seemingly asleep, with a book on his chest. She couldn't help the gasp that emanated from her, which startled him into waking. His eyes were instantly alert and she cowered underneath the sheets, paling with the realization that he was the one who had brought her here...that he had been the one to strip her of her clothing and place her in this bed.
He straightened in the chair but stayed in place and she tightly gripped the sheets, watching him warily. Surely he wouldn't have...she thought to herself, remembering the way that he had looked at her the first night that he had brought her down to his home. But then she shook her head slightly, banishing the thoughts. He wouldn't. Not to her, not without her consent. Others might have thought him a monster, but he would never be one towards her.
They stared at each other in silence for a few moments, before Christine worked up the courage to speak. "What...what has happened? Where am I?" She wished that her voice didn't tremble so, that her questions weren't coloured by distrust.
"In a cottage near the cemetery. I own it. A branch fell in the woods and spooked the horses, they ran and the carriage tipped over. You were injured. I carried you here." He obviously took great care as he spoke, not moving an inch from his position in the chair; his voice was calm and measured. She felt like he was taming a wild animal, trying not to frighten her away.
"And...where are my clothes?" she asked timidly.
A flash of something...amusement perhaps, flashed in his eyes and Christine almost smiled. "They are over by the fire, drying. You were soaked to the skin, Christine; I didn't want you to catch cold. I apologize for my forward behaviour, but you must understand that I only had your health in mind. I took no liberties." He bowed his head slightly and this time she did manage a small grin.
"I know." His head moved up once more and his gaze locked with hers. She clutched tightly at the sheets and tried to sit up. But her attempts were thwarted as the room suddenly began to spin and she fell back against the pillows. Her angel was immediately by her side, his hand reaching out as if to brush her cheek before he retracted it.
"You hit your head quite hard when the carriage fell, Christine. You mustn't try and move quickly."
She moaned slightly and opened her eyes slowly. "I realize that now." He was so close now, closer than he had been when she had seen him the last time, at the Bal Masque. If she were to take her hand out from underneath the covers, she could touch him. But she didn't. "The driver?"
He looked down, away from her inquisitive gaze. "I knocked him out. He still lives, Christine, do not fear. I just...I had to see you one more time, without that meddling Vicomte interfering. But yet again, the best laid plans..." he trailed off.
Her hand snuck out from underneath the covers and she gently laid it across his. He looked down at her in shock; she had never initiated physical contact with him before, other than right before she had unmasked him. She had touched his face so lovingly and then betrayed his trust in the worst possible way. But now...her hand was so innocently lying on top of his and her gaze had such warmth in it... "Thank you, An-" she stopped herself suddenly and her lips quirked up. Her brow furrowed and she bit her bottom lip slightly before glancing up at him curiously. "What is your name? It seems quite odd to be calling a flesh and blood man 'Angel'."
He chuckled slightly and looked down to where her hand still rested on top of his, savouring the sensation. "Erik. Your fallen angel's name is Erik."
Her face brightened and she grinned up at him unexpectedly and he found himself returning the gesture. "That's a Swedish name!" Her face crumpled slightly and she shook her head carefully. "What a perfectly daft thing to say, Christine," she murmured to herself. He smirked as she shook her head.
It was suddenly as if she remembered the fact that she had nothing on underneath the covers and quickly withdrew her hand, tugging the blankets up around her chin again. She looked up at him shyly, "Erik...do you think that there's anything dry here that I could wear? It would put me more at ease."
Erik nodded, trying not to mourn her touch, and got up, going to the small armoire in the corner of the room. Christine didn't dare move again until she was fully dressed, but she tried craning her neck to see what Erik was pulling out. Sighing, she gave up and relaxed into the soft comfort of the bed once more. She could definitely tell that this place was Erik's, he had only the finest of things and the bed was the most comfortable place she had ever been in her life. For a man who lived in the fifth cellar of an operahouse, he had exquisite taste.
He returned to her and she managed to lift her head slightly to appraise his selection. Laying down the outfit, she took in the simple navy blue dress, probably made of wool, and all the appropriate undergarments...save one. She glanced up at him and raised an eyebrow. "No corset, Erik?"
He smirked slightly. "You know how much I hate those infernal things, Christine. Something that inhibits your breathing so much cannot be good for your voice or your health. I have none here and the one that you came in is not yet dry. Apologies." But Christine could tell from his expression that he wasn't in the least bit sorry. Honestly, the last thing that she wanted at that moment was to strap herself into a corset, so she supposed it was all for the best.
"Thank you, Erik," she said softly. Blushing, she looked down, not able to possibly meet his gaze. "Could you...could you turn around, Erik? Give me some privacy while I change?"
He nodded slightly and moved to turn, but suddenly faced her again. "I will keep my back turned as long as you promise to move slowly, Christine. It won't do to have you falling over and hitting your head again."
She grinned and nodded, sighing with relief as he moved to the other side of the room and turned around. Staying right where she was for a few moments more to insure that he didn't move, she finally began to sit up, slowly, just as he had requested and let the sheets fall down her nude body. She took much longer than normal to dress, taking great pains to go slowly so she wouldn't accidentally injure herself, just as he had requested.