It took a lot of debating with myself to settle on which of the various versions of each story I would follow before I finally decided to just follow the books. This story picks up immediately at the end of Leroux's Phantom of the Opera novel as well as the end of Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. Though, if you prefer any of the movies, I did try to leave some ambiguity for you. ;)
Also, I do not do slash! If you are expecting some romance between Erik and Dorian, you've come to the wrong story. This is merely a "what if" tale.
Now that that's settled, hope you enjoy!
ERIK IS DEAD
Erik is dead.
That was what the Époque read, and it needed no context for Christine to know its meaning. Immediately, it drew her suddenly dazed eyes to the gold band upon her finger that was shadowed by the large stone of an additional ring.
"Come back to me, Christine… Swear to me you will come back when I am dead to bury me forever away from the eyes of the world… And bury with me this gold ring. I wanted you to wear it as my bride, but now I only ask that you wear it until I am dead… Only then can we truly be free of each other…"
He then told her where and when she could find his body in the cellars of the opera. There was such a change in him, one that reminded her of the gracious "angel" who had taught her to sing. To express herself with her voice in the most divine way capable of any mortal. The cruel and hideous "opera ghost" was momentarily hidden as he sank to his knees and lightly touched the hem of her gown.
Without a word, she knelt down as well, and very softly, placed a kiss upon his pallid forehead. The most heart wrenching sobs burst from him, his grotesque face buried behind his clammy hands. Raoul, who was weak from captivity, had been watching all the while and summoned his remaining strength to lead her from the fallen angel; to lead her back out into the sunlight once more.
No sooner did she and Raoul find themselves free did they seek out a priest somewhere isolated, to confirm their love and devotion in elopement. Now, she sat at a breakfast table with the sun shining upon her back and lighting the black ink of the paper in her hand.
Erik is dead.
She read the words again. There was not joy or sadness at the advertisement. Instead, there was a distinct emptiness. Her Angel was dead. Slowly, she lowered the paper to the table, her eyes unfocused.
"Christine?" Raoul's voice softly came across the small table, a piece of toast in one hand as he held a letter the other that had arrived in the morning post. "Is anything wrong, my love?"
The reminder of reality brought her to blink away the past and to offer a sweet smile. "No, dearest. I must still be tired…"
Folding the paper, she deliberately concealed the advertisement. To counter the promise that she had made to Erik to bury him when he was dead, Raoul had made her swear as well that she would do nothing of the sort. That she would go nowhere near the cellars of the Opera House ever again. She promised, and even as she did so she knew she could not keep it.
Erik had made her suffer. He had made a lot of people suffer. But how could anyone have suffered as much as he had? And how could she refuse him one last request when he had given so much of himself to her in secret for so long? It was not something she expected Raoul to understand. To a noble sailor and aristocrat, the world was black and white. The chapter of her life involving that Angel of Music would have to be concluded in secret and alone as the only secret she ever intended to keep from her beloved Raoul.
That night, Christine lay awake in bed as patiently as possible. She listened to Raoul's breathing, waiting for him to fall into a deep sleep and remove his comforting arm from around her. It pained her to sneak away from him like a thief in the night, but he would surely stop her if he knew where it was she was going.
Dressing quickly in a simple walking dress, she felt as though she was reliving a scene from the past. Of a time when she ventured out into the night to visit her father's grave to hear his violin play in the fog that swirled around the mausoleums and headstones. There was a time that she thought it to be her father, but she quickly learned that it had indeed been Erik. Who else could have played so perfectly? And on one of those nights, Raoul, in his need to protect her, had followed her to the graveyard. Tonight, she would not be so oblivious. Tonight, she would be vigilant and keep one eye over her shoulder.
A cab was hailed rather than one of the household servants. She ordered it to the Opera, and after a long clattering ride through the quiet streets of Paris, they soon reached the magnificent building. It blended into the blackness of the sky, as there was no moon to outline it. Using memory that had become like second nature, she made her way through little known corridors that Erik had once led her through when taking her to and from his lair. There were only a few times that she had to pause in the darkness to remember her way or to avoid the screeching rats that lined her path.
The further she went into the bowels of the earth, the more her heart began to race and her mind to wander. The damp chill of the cellars made her shiver and she began to wonder if this was a lure. The Phantom was conniving and was willing to kill to make her his. He could have been waiting down there for her, to steal her and lock her away forever. The thought was terrifying, and yet she continued onward to fulfill her promise.
As instructed, she crossed the black lake from the Rue-Scribe side, taking the gondola for the first time by herself. Her frail arms were not accustomed to such a task, and so it was a slow process pushing the boat into an easy glide across the water. Her hands began to tremble as she could faintly see the outline of his house on the lake. There was only one source of light that served as her beacon. It was a single candle somewhere in the darkness that was unmoving in the dank and still air of the underground lair. But it only lit a tiny radius of the place, leaving the rest in blackness.
The gondola scraped the edge of the lake sooner than she anticipated and it caused her to stumble forward rather ungracefully. But, with her hands on the pole, she maintained her balance and cautiously stepped off of the boat with one hand clutching at her skirt. Due to her inability to see in the darkness, she went directly for the singular candle that had almost burned completely. It was set upon one of the Louis-Philippe tables that decorated the Phantom's home, and as she picked it up by its coiled brass handle, she realized that was the only piece of furniture left. Everything else had been removed, the place emptied to look like the tomb if often served as.
Her voice threatened to rise from her throat, to speak his name into the shadows. She felt as though he was there to hear it, but the deathly silence made her consider otherwise. With the candle in hand, she continued to follow his instructions as to where to find his body. He told her that he would be at his organ, the place where he had poured out his heart and soul in the form of musical notes etched in ink. Her steps echoed in the strangely emptied place as they timidly carried her towards that large instrument. The candle was lifted some to reveal the mass of pipes that extended towards the ceiling.
As she came nearer, however, a black mass caught her eye and brought her heart to stop. It was slumped on the floor, the upper portion of the body hanging over bench seat. Draped around it like a funeral tapestry was a black cloak, and the only thing that made it recognizable as a body was the outstretched hand that seemed to glow in its paleness.
His name came out at a whisper, her voice drenched with pity, but not necessarily regret. Only death could bring a tortured creature like the Phantom true peace… With some reluctance, she moved nearer and set the candle upon the organ. Then, lowering herself beside the motionless body, she reached towards his narrow shoulders. Her hands withdrew once with unknown fear, but with a deep breath, she carefully pulled the body from its slump on the bench seat. As gently as she knew how, she moved it in hopes of laying it flat upon the ground, in a more respectful position. But as she moved it, it groaned.
The surprise caused her to gasp as a scream caught in her throat, and reflex made her to release the body as she moved it, causing it to thud onto its back at the foot of the organ. What she saw, however, made her stare wide-eyed in the dim light for what seemed like ages. With a gaping expression, she reached blindly for the candlestick to bring the light of the flame nearer. It was not the grotesque and haunted face of the Opera Ghost that was lying there… It was a young, smooth, and handsome face that looked as though it had been peeled off a romantic painting. This wasn't Erik at all!