Hello, everybody! I thought it was time for something a bit lighter than usual. This is one of my older stories. I wanted to use a Christine similar to "Untouchable" and give her a bit of playfulness. I hope it is enjoyed!
Also, some of you already know this, but on my website's blog, I have pics posted of my dolls dressed as Erik and Christine. They're adorable! And if anyone is looking for something cute to put a smile on your face, check them out! :)
SUMMARY: An evening without judgment, a loss of inhibition, and the start of something new.
"An Evening of Query"
Hard-soled boots echoed down the vacant corridor as Christine ran to her dressing room without hesitation. She had barely shut herself within those sacred walls before she collapsed in a heap on the carpeted floor, tears traveling in wayward, unbidden paths down her cheeks. A sob escaped her frowning lips as she drew her knees to her chest and buried her face in the rough material of her blue skirt.
From his hidden vantage point behind the concealing glass of her mirror, Erik watched her with a sharp pinch in his heart. He couldn't remember the last time he had born witness to her tears. Not even the recent turn of events that had brought her to betray their budding trust and learn the truth of his ravaged features had been worthy of tears from her glorious blue eyes. The last time…. It had to have been before he had even become angel to her, let alone a seeming staple in her day-to-day existence…. That was months ago. And now….
Considering their strained relationship as of late, even as he knew the desperate urge to offer something akin to solace, he knew the equally strong wave of fear that she would reject any attempt. So for a long torturous minute, he simply watched her, studying the little hands clutching her knees so tightly as her little body rocked back and forth, seeking a comfort all its own. It pained him further to be unaware of the cause of her anguish. Usually, he rarely let her out of his sight during the natural course of her day, but this particular afternoon, he had been engrossed in preparations, ironically enough for her. She was supposed to join him this very night for supper in his home far below the opera house, and after days with hardly words beyond her lesson, he had been determined to use this opportunity to mend the gap between them. How he missed their nightly chats from days gone by! She had spoken with such open candor to a false angel. He had been in the process of learning every detail, every nuance of what made her Christine when he had grown overzealous and had reached out to her as a man, destroying every illusion he had weaved about her. Tonight was supposed to be his chance to make amends and recapture what he longed to possess.
As he pondered yet again if he should dare speak, she suddenly lifted a tear-stained face that he ached to touch and stared at the mirror. He had to remind his flustered heart that there was no viable way she could actually see him, and yet she obviously felt his observance just the same.
He knew he could not resist. "I am here, petite."
Christine released the viselike grip she had on her calves, and as she stretched out her legs, she crawled the few feet to the tall mirror's glass. Without hesitation, she set her palm against its cool surface, touching it as he yearned for her to touch him.
"What's wrong, ange?" he gently bid, and he could not stop himself from daring to lay his own palm to the exact spot where hers was pressed, fitting his longer fingers against the shape of hers. It made his stomach flutter to consider that if the glass were gone, he would actually be touching her. He could almost pretend it. If only the glass wasn't so cold to a touch! …Her skin would be warm.
"My life is over," Christine cried, and he had to grin at her dramatics, accustomed to them yet having been denied their full extent for weeks. "Utterly and completely over." An exaggerated sigh followed on the brink of more tears. How he adored the passion in her! And equally her lingering touch of childishness! It reminded him how innocent she still was.
"Tell me, ange," he urged, his other hand now grazing the glass at the level of her tearful cheek. One real touch, and those sweet tears would be wetting his fingertips.
"Oh, Erik, I was humiliated! That cow Carlotta screamed at me in front of everyone, cast and crew! She said the most heinous things about me and my voice…." Her tears had quickened their pace, their trails crystalline and shimmering in the faint candlelight of her dressing room. "Everyone only laughed as they watched…. How shall I hold my head up in rehearsal tomorrow under their stares and whispers?"
Heart aching with paralleled pain, he snapped, "That diva needs a good, hard lesson! She has no right to say a single insult to you! You are so far above her! You shine so brightly, Christine. You must see that she acts on pure jealousy."
"She called me an orphan," Christine continued, her anger gleaming through. "She said my father would be ashamed of me if he knew I was whoring myself to the Opera Ghost to further my career on the stage."
Erik was suddenly glad the mirror separated them so that she could not see the deadly fire that lit and blazed to an inferno in his eyes. Dear God, if Christine was not in need of his attention, he likely would have gone off and strangled La Carlotta with just cause. Of course, he had overheard the whispers among the cast over his involvement with Christine, how she was suddenly being thrown in the spotlight by his intervention, but never, never had he intended for her to know it.
"Christine," he breathed, desperate to keep the tight fury from his tone. "She would not insult you if she didn't consider you a valid threat to her place as diva. You must see that. And she would concoct any excuse to avoid admitting your tremendous talent. She is purposely trying to break your spirit; you must do your best to ignore her ill-begotten attempts, or you will react just as she wants. She isn't worth even one scratch on your luminescent soul."
"If only it was as easy to act as to say the words," she replied somberly. "She will make my every day here miserable."
"And if she sees it affects you, she wins. You need to listen to my words, not hers. I am your teacher, and I have never lied to you…about your gift, at least." He could not tell if she heard the sadness in his voice, if she possibly understood his remorse. But unwilling to dwell on the flash of bitter memories it brought, he attempted a friendly façade. "Now no more tears. I have prepared an elegant supper for you below…if you will still join me, of course."
Christine only gave a dull nod as she stumbled to her feet. When he spoke from behind the mirror, it was so simple to forget everything else and fall back into an innocent belief in angels. But as soon as the mirrored doorway opened and he became the man, a wave of apprehension welled within her once more, and she felt herself leash her tongue as she had these past weeks. To her, the man before her was a stranger. He wasn't the angel or even the soothing voice. He was someone else entirely, …phantom, murderer, Opera Ghost.
Erik felt the immediate change in her, but chose not to let it falter the welcoming smile on his lips and in his mismatched gaze as it met her wary one. She was entitled to her mistrust.
He did not dare offer his arm, did not dare initiate any touch that wasn't separated by a thick piece of glass. He only gestured for her to follow and led her through the gateway to his world.
How often had she traveled this path in these last weeks? Over a dozen times surely. And yet the damp chill in the air still unnerved her, the dark that was impenetrable even with Erik's lantern, the very scent like a tomb. Usually, she could use such disconcerting details to avoid giving much thought to her companion, but tonight under the pretext of a social engagement, she found her eyes riveted to his dark silhouette just steps ahead, her mind suddenly in a rush of turmoil. She wasn't exactly afraid; she knew with a modicum of certainty that he would do nothing to hurt her. Not afraid of death, but terrified just the same for reasons she still could not pinpoint. All she knew for certain was that it was the man who caused her terror, not the many roles he chose to embody. It was the corporeal body, the hands that could touch, the eyes that always watched her with a longing she wasn't sure she wanted. And she had ignorantly agreed to a supper with him!
When they came upon the house built into the stone wall of the catacombs, nervousness overwhelmed her until she could barely grant him a look.
Erik had a warm fire awaiting them, hoping it would make the scenario a little less threatening for his guest. Guest…. He had never before had a guest to dinner. And yet how he longed for her to be so much more than that unfitting title! He cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, having been serenaded their entire journey only by footfalls as words were obviously lost between them yet again. He was determined that it would not be so this night. No, tonight they would speak in the manner they had before, and he would make her laugh. Dear Lord, it had been weeks since he had been granted a laugh; even a smile had been denied to him, making him regret ever bursting her childlike bubble of dreams and happy endings.
Leading her to the hearth in his sitting room, he softly said, "Feel free to warm yourself by the fire while I add the final touches to our meal."
And with that, he left her. She sighed with a sense of relief to be out of his presence and slowly approached the fireplace, sliding to her knees before the flames and holding her hands to their inviting heat. She knew that he was anticipating something, anything from her that could be construed as encouragement, and even as part of her genuinely wanted to give it, the other part held back with an unarguable scolding.
Erik found her in that same position a few minutes later when he returned. "I thought this might help chase out the chill."
She lifted questioning eyes as he offered a glass half full of red wine, the open bottle balanced in his other hand with his glass. Her hesitancy made the curiosity beam in her blue gaze; oh, how he knew that emotion so well on her lovely features, and the trouble he usually got because of it!
"I've never had wine before," she admitted plainly as she took the glass, her fingers nonchalantly brushing his, and yet they both took note of it.
"If you'd like something else-"
"No," she interrupted, "this is fine." Gazing up at him with widened eyes all the while, she took a sip and felt the fiery path it made down her throat. Her immediate cough came with a grimace that scrunched all of her dainty features to a point that he could not contain a smile.
"Are you all right?" he asked with the flutter of a laugh that he hoped would not offend. It could not be suppressed when she retained such a disgusted expression, one hand pressed firmly to her sternum.
She only nodded, and still grimacing, took a second sip as he shook his head.
"You needn't finish it, Christine."
"I know." Her features relaxed slightly. "It's not so terrible anymore." Another sip followed and another, each small but quickly adding up.
"Perhaps you should slow down," he tried to warn. "You haven't eaten, and alcohol can hit one hard with an empty stomach."
"You're worried I might become inebriated?" Even as she demanded it, she could not stop a little giggle from slipping between her lips.
"Yes, exactly that." And yet he smiled to hear that so craved sound from her, trying to hide it by sipping from his own glass.
"Have you ever been inebriated?" she suddenly asked before better judgment had the opportunity to rein her in.
He nodded as he hesitantly took a seat on the carpet a fair distance from her. "Yes, and it has unpleasant aftereffects. Once you've endured them, it makes one a bit more careful with one's amount of consumption."
Even as he was speaking, she took another sip and then insisted, "But it takes quite a lot to actually make one reach that stage, doesn't it?"
His eyes trailed over her with a bit more languidness than he typically indulged, but she didn't seem to notice, too fixated on the flames of the hearth. "You are small, you've never drunk alcohol before, and you haven't eaten anything yet. It won't take much at all."
A scoff of disbelief fell from her lips. "Ridiculous. I can handle far more than you realize."
His brows raised as he shook his head again but posed no argument, loath to upset her and end this conversation that though frivolous was the most they had spoken in weeks that was not related to music.
As Erik watched her, studying at every instant she did not notice, he softly said, "Christine, may I ask you a favor?"
Blue eyes met his inquisitively. "Of course."
"I hoped that maybe for tonight, we could forget…everything else, the world, our lives, and our chosen roles in them. Can we simply be Christine and Erik without expectations or fears or apprehensions? Or…am I asking too much?"
"Not too much," she replied equally as soft, and a slow smile, tentative though it was, tinged her lips. "And is supper ready? I am ravenous."
He smiled back at her, adoring the lightness, the sweetness in her voice that was far too realistic to be a lie. "I will see." Hesitant yet, he extended a trembling hand. "Would you care to join me in the dining room?"
Swallowing the remaining contents of her glass, Christine stared at the offered hand a moment before taking it, curling her fingers around his cold, shaking palm as he stifled the urge to sigh in delight. "Bring the bottle," she commanded as he helped her to her feet, and he complied without argument.
A little later, as he placed a steaming plate of his carefully prepared meal in front of her, she daintily twirled her second glass of wine in her hand. "I didn't know that you knew how to cook," she said, the delicious aromas teasing her growling stomach.
"One has to learn when one lives alone." He tried to conceal the bitterness that would have otherwise laced his comment, but she was so engrossed in her plate that she hardly noticed. As he watched, she lifted her fork and took the smallest of bites gracefully, properly, and he insisted as he took his seat, "You need not keep up fine airs with me, Christine. You are starving. Eat and forget the ridiculous ladylikeness you are practicing."
Her expression was so innocent as it met his, but within the moment, she was eagerly devouring with fork and fingers, leaving him to simply stare at her in utter amusement. Had she ever been further from proper, and yet had he ever wanted her more?
Christine felt strangely uninhibited, the scolding in her head dwindled off to a pesky utterance that held no sway. Lifting her eyes to her companion, she saw that he watched her, and even as she knew that it should bring embarrassment, she found that such an emotion did not come. Swallowing hard, she quizzically asked, "What?"
Erik only shook his head with a deep chuckle before he dared reply, "It amazes me that even the way you eat is enchanting."
With a mock air of irritation, she demanded back, "Are you teasing me, Monsieur le Fantôme? I thought you were only ever serious; your reputation demands it."
"I can be quite jovial if the situation calls for it," he argued yet kept up her playful tone. "Of course, as of late, I've found little need for such emotions." He could feel melancholy so near the surface, but was determined to push it away. "You realize, there is quite a lot about me that you are unaware of."
"Quite true," she replied, finishing her second glass of wine in one gulp and extending it toward him for more. "Perhaps it's time I learned."
He refilled her glass without pause. Even as his head argued that every bit of her candid and open mannerism was alcohol induced, he found himself wanting to play the game and live in the fantasy so much that he allowed it to continue.
"We'll start with simple topics," she went on with another sip. Smiling with a brightness that lit her entire face, she asked, "What is your favorite color?"
He raised a brow dubiously yet still obediently answered. "Black."
"Black isn't a color," she insisted, waving a finger matter-of-factly. Did he dare take notice that even that small gesture was slightly askew?
"No, it's not. Color implies…, well, color. And black has no actual color to it."
"Fine," he reluctantly agreed. "But it can still be a favorite. Is it my turn then to ask you a question?"
"That's only fair."
"What do you consider your favorite color?"
She gave a roll of her eyes and a little giggle as she sarcastically replied, "Very original question…. But I would say that mauve is my favorite."
"Mauve? …What's mauve?"
"You know," she leant across the table as she spoke, "not pink exactly and not fuchsia. Kind of like a mixture of brown and pink, but more pink than brown."
"Oh, …I see." In truth, he did not see at all.
For quite awhile, they continued to ask mundane questions back and forth: favorite composer, favorite food, favorite season. Silly, trivial things that neither had ever considered about the other. And eventually, they ended up sitting on the carpet in front of the fireplace again, supper cold and over, wine glasses still within reach. The topics had been hinting at more serious subjects, yet never seemed to cross a line. But as it became Erik's turn to ask again, he pondered a moment, watching her tilt her head to study her wine before the firelight bemusedly, before daring.
"Are you in love with Raoul de Chagny?" The words sounded grave as they hit the air, and she immediately lowered her glass to turn widened blue eyes to him.
For a long minute, she only held his gaze with hers, and he was unsure whether she was considering her answer or if she already knew and was instead considering just how to tell him. Finally, she said, "No, I can't be in love with someone if I have a broken heart."
"Broken heart?" he whispered.
With a reminiscent glint in her pretty eyes, she admitted plainly, "I was in love with an angel, but now he's gone and my heart is broken in two."
Erik went numb, completely devoid of any sort of feeling for a long, still breath as he fought to understand. "Christine," he whispered, searching for something to say.
Before he could, she shook her head and gave a little laugh. "So serious! You said nothing else matters but tonight, and here I am broaching somber subjects when they are not to be discussed." Setting her glass aside, she suddenly yanked off her boots and stood on stockinged feet. "My question, isn't it?" She spun in an elegant pirouette as she spoke, "Which do you prefer: opera or ballet?" And to that, she lifted her leg in a perfect line like the previously trained dancer she was, her skirt falling back enough to reveal the perfect curve of her leg to his intent eyes.
"Um…." He had nearly forgotten her question as he sought a voice to answer. "Opera…, opera, of course…. Do you miss the ballet, Christine?"
She shrugged, yet her body moved in a pattern of steps. "Sometimes." She spun again with another leg lift that exuded such grace that he suddenly wondered how, in her current tipsy state, she could still move so fluidly. "Ballet never came inherently to me. I had to work at it, but I did. And somewhere along the way, I did grow to love it. Watch."
Without hesitation, she proceeded to do a series of movements that he recognized from the current production's ballet, her entire body arching and rising with such poise and skill, but with her final spin, she landed unceremoniously back onto the carpet with a resounding thud.
"Oh well," she pouted before daring to meet his gaze again. "Your question, Erik."
How he adored hearing his own name on her lips! Before this night and its turn of events, he had never had the pleasure as she chose to avoid addressing him beyond "Maestro". And such a simple, yet intimate act had not been enabled by alcohol. No, she had called him to her since the very start in her dressing room.
Holding her eyes captive in his, he softly bid, "Have you ever known a kiss?"
She blushed. He could see the red tint clearly in the fire's glow. He almost thought she would refuse to answer, but then with a bubbly giggle, she said, "No, I haven't. Raoul tried once, but I turned away before his lips could touch mine, and the kiss landed awkwardly somewhere between cheek and temple. He was the only one embarrassed by that…. It's my turn, and I ask you the same question. Have you, Erik?"
He only shook his head with an air of timidity. "Before you, I had never even spoken to a woman besides my own mother, and our conversations rarely went beyond her screaming insults at me and yelling at me to run away from home and never return."
Deep lines suddenly creased her brow. "You…you never said anything about that before."
"It is a part of my life I am only too happy to forget…." He drifted off, his eyes turning to stare distantly at the hearth.
Christine could only stare at him even though he would not look back. For the first time, she considered the sort of life Erik had survived. Perhaps there-in held explanations for his dark sins and temper. It was odd to her that before this night, he had still been only the phantom and the Opera Ghost; now she was suddenly seeing him as a human being …and even beyond that as a man.
"It…it's your turn to ask a question," she softly told him, but he still would not meet her gaze.
"I think I'm through playing this game."
His desolation hung so thickly that she could feel it overwhelm her, and it brought a flash of guilt. On the wings of the unrestricted feelings of the evening, she mustered her courage and softly said, "May I ask you one more first before we end this?"
He only nodded.
And with a shiver down her spine, she replied, "Well, seeing as how neither of us has known the pleasure of a kiss…. May I…? I mean…. May I kiss you, Erik?"
His eyes met hers then, their mismatched depths laden with an inability to comprehend her suggestion as if terrified he had heard her wrong. "Christine, …what…?"
"May I?" she prodded again even as she lifted herself onto her knees and scooting nearer to him inch by inch until her skirts grazed his leg.
Erik did not answer; he couldn't even if he had tried. He simply watched her as she approached him shyly, leaning closer, her gaze darting back and forth between his lips and his eyes.
And then her lips gently touched his, and a jolt shot through his body. Even as she felt his shock, she did not draw away, and inexperienced though she was, she ever so gently moved her lips against his, urging him to kiss her back and delighted when he hesitantly did. A kiss so delicate in the lingering glow of the firelight.
When she drew away after only that one moment, her lips curved into a shy grin.
Erik was leaning in to her this time, whispering, "Shall I ask you the same question? …May I kiss you, Christine?"
He did not wait for an answer, meeting her lips again with a more determined intensity. One kiss bled into the next, his confidence growing when she mirrored his fervency and kissed him eagerly back, even as neither of them yet dared to actually reach for one another.
When he finally pulled away and met her gaze with a hundred questions, before he could formulate a single one, she suddenly hiccupped.
Christine's solemn expression burst into uncontrollable giggles, and though he hated to see their intimate moment end, he found himself chuckling as well to watch her. Giggles and hiccups intermixed as they escaped until she was in tears with laughter, pleased to see him the same.
That ended their exchange. As the laughter faded, she grew overwhelmed with sudden fatigue, and without thought, he swept her sleepy body into his arms and carried her to her bedroom in his home, one she had used only once before.
"Can I stay here?" she asked with a slur even as he set her beneath the covers.
"Of course, ange. Rest now."
Christine caught his hand in both of hers before he drew it away. "Don't go…. Lay with me?"
Erik paused. Oh, how he yearned to give in! But he was suspect how much of her behavior was due solely to alcohol. Come daylight, would she reject it all?
"Erik?" she bid again, her eyes already closing though she still clasped his hand and seemed to be awaiting his answer.
"Whatever you wish," he whispered, and slowly, tentatively, he climbed onto the bed beside her.
She seemed to sense his presence, immediately cuddling nearer as he gazed at her in silent adoration.
"Christine," he whispered tenderly.
"Hmm?" Her eyes never opened, her body already relaxing to sleep.
"I love you." He knew she never heard him, but it was enough to say the words.
Lying next to her yet never daring to hold her, he watched as she slept, sure that when the sun rose, it would all be a faded memory….