Hello! I'm alive! My laptop broke and I had a lot of problems retrieving the files, so I had to actually rewrite some stuff. I'd hope to make one huge chapter but since it's been so long since I updated here is a brief pre-masque snippet of E/C fluff. Enjoy!

"Just a moment longer, ange." His hands stayed firmly on hers. She took small, tentative steps, wary of any clutter that liked to cover the cold floor.

She twitched her nose when the silken binding tickled her. The black ribbon was tied in a relatively loose knot that successfully obscured her vision. She could make out shifts in the light, and what she assumed to be Erik's body walking in front of her. But everything else was hidden.


Christine felt his hands reach behind her, undoing the knot.

Her eyes adjusted to the light after a moment, coming to focus on the tall object in front of her.


Erik stood next to it, gazing at her with a mix of hope and anxiety.

"I hope you find it satisfactory. It should fit your exact measurements."

The gown seemed to shimmer in the dim light. The silk flowed elegantly to the floor, a wave of off-white or cream. Delicate feathers clung to the material, gold and silver accents mixed in. It was accompanied by a feathered choker.

Her hand came to rest on her heart, and disbelieving smile touched her lips and she pulled her eyes away to look at him.

He remained apprehensive, hands behind his back, and he was clearly studying her.

She let out an incredulous laugh and launched herself at him, throwing her arms about his neck.

"Erik, oh Erik! It's beautiful! Where on Earth did you find it?"

She delayed his response with a sound kiss, breaking away when she started to flush from oxygen deprivation.

Erik's jaw flexed slightly for a moment, and he swallowed shallowly.

"I-I made the design and brought it to a tailor. I wanted you to have something new, something no one else had seen before." He set her down, and she felt that he actually had something in his hands pressed against her back. Pulling away, he hesitantly handed it to her.

"This is something I made myself. I wouldn't risk some artisan doing it incorrectly."

White, silver and gold, like the dress, the mask was flawless. On the right side, there was gold pulled into the form of…

"A swan?" Christine asked, tracing the pattern delicately. She looked back at the dress, clearly seeing what her costume was to be.

"Indeed." Erik said softly. "While they typically represent the dancers, they are treated as the most beautiful creatures of the woods."

She met his eyes then, and they burned with such intensity that she had to gulp…

Erik placed his finger under her chin, tilting her back for his inspection. She closed her eyes as he leaned in and grazed the apple of her cheek with his lips.

"Creatures of elegance and grace." He made a slow descent toward her ear. "Do you not agree?"

She felt a powerful blush creep up her face, and ducked her head, resting her forehead against his chin.

"And your guise, Erik?" She saw his throat clench, and leaned back to see his eyes once more.

They were harder than before, though she saw that the change in his mood had little to do with her.

Wordlessly, he waved his hand to the left of her gown. On a table behind it, she saw a black mask. She walked over, picking it up.

It was wide, stretching beyond a human face. Its inky black color was chilling, and what appeared to resemble wing tips protruded from the face. She saw that it would almost completely cover the wearer's face, except for their mouth and eyes.

"It is also a bird, correct?" She did not turn to look at him as she spoke, instead picking up the mask to further examine it.

"The raven," he replied softly, though the hard edge did remain.

She turned to him then, the question in her eyes instead of her voice.

Erik sighed, striding forward to remove the mask from her hands. He turns it over, looking at the sightless eyeholes.

"One of Aesop's fables was 'The Raven and the Swan.' It's one of the lesser known tales." He paused, weighing the mask in his hand. She did not speak or prod him, giving him the choice to continue. He looked at her, finally. "The raven saw the swan floating upon the river, and coveted its beautiful white feathers. Assuming that it achieved such beauty from the lake, it abandoned its home and food source to bath in the water. It starved itself, so that it might be beautiful." He paused again, his eyes looking beyond her. Christine fought the urge to swallow nervously. "The moral? No matter what you do, you cannot change nature."

Christine stood still for a few moments, looking at his eyes.

How could she respond to that? What could she possibly say to defuse this situation? She knew this mood. It needed to be dealt with, but not now.

At present, the only thing she could think of was to change the subject.

"And how late do you wish to stay tomorrow night, dear?" She took the black mask from his hands, placing it delicately back on the table. She walked past him, taking his hand to lead him back to the main cavern. "I would not want to force you to remain out longer than you please."

She heard no response at first, and his hand was limp in her own. But she did not release him, instead pulling him to sit by the fire. He looked at her warily, like she was tricking him somehow. She promptly placed herself on the arm of his chair. She took away his mask without asking, placing it gently on the end table.

"Understandably, I could not remain after midnight, my dear." He looked at her impassively, but there was a challenge in his eyes. "The party might take a nasty turn should the guests become terrified of a real demon amongst them-"

Christine acted on her go-to strategy for when he called himself such derogatory titles. She placed a fast kiss on his mouth, lasting only a few seconds, before pulling back and moving the conversation onwards as if the interruption had never happened.

"So midnight, then. We'll leave shortly before the masks are removed. Now the next question is where shall we meet to attend? It might look peculiar if you come collect me from the dormitories, and that is where I'll have to dress. So we'll have to find each other elsewhere."

She looked at him, a small smirk coming to her face while he regained himself from her sudden kiss.

"Fear not. I will come for you after you enter the party itself. The less attention drawn to me, the better. You shall have your spotlight, and then we will meet."

He spoke with finality, and Christine knew it would be best not to argue. They shouldn't draw attention to him, as he had no place in society, no background that people would know him by. Too many questions would only lead to more problems.

"Very well. But when someone inevitably asks who you are, what shall we say? You need at least some background to share with them." She stroked his left cheek as she spoke, and he leaned against her fingers.

"Fret not. I have already created an appropriate false persona." He raised an eyebrow at her surprised expression. "I have needed false identification previously. Acquiring paperwork is not difficult."

She turned to face him more fully, allowing their legs to brush together.

"So… who are you?" She looked at his eyes, dreading the glint in them. Surely he didn't make his name…

"Erik DesRosiers, at your service."

Christine blinked, before a few giggles escaped her mouth. Erik pouted slightly.

"Did you expect me to become Monsieur Fantome? Or perhaps Ombre?"

She looked at him, a slight blush covering her cheeks.

"Will you take offense if I say yes?" She cupped his cheek when he scowled slightly. "I thought perhaps you would take a name that would connect you to the Opera Ghost. You love to tease and provoke those around you. You cannot blame me for believing a false name would be another joke."

His lips thinned, and he shrugged noncommittally.

"I do enjoy provoking those fools. But this evening will be… significant. I do not wish to tie myself to a joke for life."

Christine's breath caught in her throat as she took in the true meaning of his words. The new name, DesRosiers, would be how he would be known in society from tonight onwards. He'd chosen a name that was not suspicious, but that held significance to him. Erik DesRosiers. Erik "of the roses."

His name was not a reference to his position at the Opera. It was a reference to her, and to the gifts he gave to her after her performances. His trademark that only she knew.

It would also be the name she would take later in her life, should they finally be married.

She placed another swift kiss on his lips, catching him off guard once again. This time she slid from the armrest and sprawled across him. His hands fluttered clumsily in the air for a few moments before settling tentatively on her upper back and shoulders. One tangled in her hair.

She broke away finally, and saw that Erik's eyes were somewhat glazed over. She laughed and rubbed her nose against his.

"That's a beautiful name," was all she whispered. He blinked a few times and took a steadying breath.

"It seemed appropriate." And in a rare moment of bravery, Erik leaned forward to kiss her himself. She savored it, and when they parted, his smile was shy, and gentle. "I'm glad you like it."

Christine's Dress: Since I can't post the link, if you want to see it, I'll try to give you Google directions. Look up Fort Lauderdale Swan Lake Costume and you should see it. In this, I extended the bottom into a full gown.

Christine's Mask: go to mask italia dot com and it is the cignetta silver/white mask. No alterations.

Christine's Shoes: I didn't actually address them in the chapter but this is them. I just made them cream colored to match the dress.

Analoguechic com / 2011 / 06 / remnants-random-fashion-goings-on

Erik's Mask: etsy com/ listing / 64282801 / raven-mask. I've extended the cheek portion on both sides so it is a fuller mask, covering his deformity. It is made of leather dyed black.

Thank you to all the reviews posted over the last few months! I hope you keep reading!