Summary: Christine travels to pastures new and remembers moments past.
Rating: PG/K+, as ever. I don't think angst should ever be G.
Genre: Angst, for the most part.
Setting/Spoilers: This takes place about a year after Don Juan Triumphant and all subsequent drama thereafter, and is basically your bog-standard 'what happens next' story. Elements of Leroux, Kay and ALW (and a bonus addition from the 25th anniversary gala!), but quite emphatically not the 2004 movie…
Pairing: Erik/Christine, natch, though it's only implied….
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Gaston Leroux (and Susan Kay), and the song belongs to Katie Melua. I own nothing except the idea and the hopeful amalgamation of words into meaningful sentences.
Author's Notes: This was intended to be a short songfic to "I Cried For You" by Katie Melua, from her second album, Piece By Piece. It's a lovely song and I wanted to write a POTO ficlet for it the very first time I heard it. That ficlet turned into a full-length chapter story, but the main themes remain. I can't post the lyrics any more thanks to FFN guidelines, but a quick search should find them...
In terms of characterisation, it suited the story to write a slightly darker, stronger, more mature Christine, whilst trying to stay true to character. Here's hoping it works… Erik appears very little in this story, but when he is mentioned it is with the ALW-inspired half-mask. Whilst I appreciate this goes against the grain of Leroux, I've always thought the half-mask was somewhat more enigmatic, and it's always how I picture Erik in my head. That being said, Christine is also ALW-inspired in appearance – that is, she's a brunette.
It's also the very first time I've written Nadir. I'm in the process of re-reading Kay for the first time in years, but I apologise in advance if his character seems off.
MANY MANY THANKS to Eni for the beta – despite knowing nothing about the fandom. :P
I'm still working on Sweet Intoxication, for those following it (anyone left?), and hopefully there won't be too many chapters left before it's finished. I changed my ideas for the ending ever so slightly, and I'm determined, at least, to get it done and dusted… eventually. The delay on that story is heinous and I can only apologise. In the meantime, I'm writing this to get back into the flow of the fandom and, well, because I want to. :)
Feedback, as ever, is greatly appreciated.
The small passenger ship was vastly different from the luxurious surroundings she had grown accustomed to, with its hard, wooden benches and weather-worn exterior. It was manned by a small crew of equally weathered sailors, with coarse skin and even coarser language, but they kept to themselves and did not worry her. They were keeping the vessel moving, and that was the important thing.
Christine stood at the stern of the boat, staring out to sea. The mainland of France had disappeared an hour ago into the distance, the perfect blue sky marred by slowly gathering clouds. There was very little to see at all, in fact, but she was not interested in the view. The greying sky and the slight chill to the air were enough to numb her outward senses, and she was left instead to her thoughts. It was a luxury she had been unable to indulge in before now, and she savoured it.
Things had changed significantly in Christine's life over the past year. She reminisced with a certain bitter fondness – how paradoxical! – when she thought about the girl she had been. There were times when she loathed herself – that naïve child so unaware of the greater world – and others when she longed for simpler days, when the most important thing in her world was performing. It was nothing but make-believe on a grand scale, and Christine had lost herself to make-believe from a very young age.
It had been time to face the harsh reality of the adult world. It was with only a little reluctance that she had acted upon this realisation; she was heading to England, and she was doing so alone.
The journey had been a long time coming: months of planning after a swift decision. She had battled her conscience, and her own irrational fear of travelling by herself, before finally setting foot onto the deck of the passenger ship with a sense of indescribable relief. With the warning foghorn, she felt her worries and guilt melt away into the lapping sea below.
She was alone on the outer deck. There were very few passengers on board due to the weather, but the low hum of chatter had nonetheless been enough to send her outside. She found the company of other people increasingly frustrating, that of strangers even more so. Small talk seemed pointlessly inane, and in-depth conversations were exhausting.
Christine found the peace and quiet to be exactly what she had been yearning for. Peace; quiet; solitude; God forbid, to be leftalone. Since the unfortunate incidents at the Opéra Populaire, she had been coddled to the point of suffocation by everyone. Now finally able to breathe, she watched the sea foam and the path of the boat disappearing into the distance, and let herself remember the events of over a year ago without fear of interruption.
The moment she first saw Erik's face had haunted Christine ever since. The memory grew fuzzier with age, but in her dreams it returned, repeated and always slightly different, as though her mind were trying to make sense of what she had not comprehended at the time. She had relived it so often, but each time consistently failed to make the situation any better.
It had been unwise of her to take the mask as she had; she realised that the second it was in her hand. The white porcelain was stark between her fingers, bright and garish in the candlelight; on his face it had seemed less obvious against the pale skin. The full enormity of her actions dawned only when he turned on her, unmasked face full of anguish and rage, and she had clutched the precious object to her chest for fear of dropping it.
His face, she remembered with undeniable clarity, was not the frightening part. It was twisted and scarred, and the eyes were intense, but his features were distinguishable. She could still see the swoop of a cheekbone, the distinctive shape of his nose. It was his anger that had terrified her, so sudden was his reaction, and with that flash of fire in his eyes she had felt certain he would strike her – or worse, kill her. She had stared in horror, unable to look away. When he challenged her – "Is this what you wanted to see?" – she could only flinch away in instinctive terror. It was an action which now, many months and a lifetime later, still made her heart contract uncomfortably with guilt.
Then Erik had recoiled inside himself, hiding from her. In the calm that followed, Christine had passed back his mask slowly, as though approaching a dangerous animal. If it was gratitude she saw next in his expression, it was gone just as suddenly…
The memory faded once more, and Christine sighed. That first encounter of his naked face had set the scene for all others to come. Christine felt certain that if Erik had only trusted her, she could have kerbed her instinctive reaction to recoil. Perhaps also if she herself had not used the tactic of unmasking him so childishly, things might have been different.
When he was calm, she had seen an undeniable beauty in his features. The unmarred side of his face showed definite signs of handsomeness, and of course, she had grown to learn that he was more than just a voice; that beauty, in fact, was not skin deep. He was fascinating and deeply intelligent, and with it, quite ingeniously dangerous. In their quieter moments, as he read to her or played the violin, Christine would watch him for as long as she dared before he noticed, and beneath the darkness and the torment, she wondered if his soul was pure; if she, in all her innocence, could make it so.
Of course, that had turned out to be a more-than-naïve assumption. She had never anticipated the 'accidents', nor his ultimatum – had never thought he could be so cruel or so heartless as to make her choose. Yet, despite it all, she had always intended to return one day and explain things. Her still-adolescent brain had been unable to fully comprehend the situation, and she vowed that when she was older and wiser, she would be able to articulate her feelings without crying like a child with a broken doll.
It had been a year since then, and Christine had changed significantly. She understood things better now than ever before. Perhaps the most awful thing of all was that she would never get the chance to return and explain as she wished. Then again, she had never really worked out exactly what she would say, or in what form. Should she apologise, or beg forgiveness? Should she demand to know the truth – that same truth she had once refused to accept?
Perhaps, she pondered, such things were best left unsaid – especially if she would never get to say them.
A/N: This was the point when I realised it would be a chapter story. :P I think Christine's a bit too pleased to have some way of voicing her thoughts. I have visited the Palais Garnier twice in the course of writing this story (it's taken a few years to finish), in 2009 and 2011 respectively, and before then in 2007 (and also 2003, although I didn't go inside that first time). It's a truly inspiring place, and partway responsible for this story. If you do get a chance to visit, I can highly recommend it.
In the meantime, a review or two would be absolutely lovely. I haven't written in this fandom for what feels like forever. :) (Anonymous reviews are turned off – sorry.)