A/N: i'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi' msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'ms orryi'msorryi'msorry-
It is difficult to put into words how I felt that night. It seems callous to use such simple emotions like anxiety and shock and the purest sense of joy but to be honest, they are the only words useful enough. They encompass such a range of degrees between them that surely one such part of those feelings has to depict what I felt.
Erik loved me. Erik loves me. I could not imagine how it came to be but it transformed me. Love turned my world anew, solnyshka. It grew security out of my hesitance, hope out of my fear. It grew ecstasy from my wounded heart and everything was suddenly so different. I had been living under the assumption that the Phantom could never love someone as plain as I for so many years.
As it turned out, Erik did not agree.
"When did you know?" she asked with trepidation. In a small dark corner of her heart, Margot was still prepared to retreat should she find the slightest hesitance in his words. She could scarcely believe Erik loved her the way she had pined for him- it seemed too good to be true.
Having effectively tackled her love, the pair had fallen on to the settee where Margot was loathe to release her grip from around his neck. Though she could hardly believe what had happened, she would be damned if she would let the opportunity go to waste.
After what felt like mere seconds, Margot could feel Erik's steadying hands begin to shift and she clenched tighter onto his form as though he might slip away if she was careless. His musical chuckle warmed every part of her as he gently pried her limbs away.
"It has been…growing for a long time." He replied, carefully. "When we first arrived here, you were so capable, Margot. You certainly know how to make a man feel useless." He chuckled.
"You could never be useless, Erik." She cut off his self-deprecating thought frankly. "The world is in dire need of minds like yours."
"It was not my mind that secured us passage out of the city, cherie. It was not my mind that got us this house, nor my mind that supported us when we first began this life." he observed, fondly but sadly. He gathered her scarred fingers to his lips. "I told myself I would watch over you after you hurt the first time and for those first few months, I failed you."
"I never knew." Margot whispered, recalling how Erik had reacted to her brief, terrifying stint as a hard skinned, miserable, expendable laundress at the Populaire. Gently, quietly as he forbade her from returning and harshly, bluntly as he tried to heal her hands. She could still remember resisting the foul concoction he'd wanted to poor on them and his cruel words. Fine! Scar yourself! No man will ever want to kiss your hands then!
Drawing them away, she tried not to look at the damaged flesh which was mottled and bleached from the toxic cleaning agents of the Populaire.
Trying to change subjects, Margot pressed a kiss to Erik's mouth, revelling in the soft strength of him. "Since we arrived here? That is when you knew?"
"More so after the Town Dance." He admitted, quietly. "I don't think you understand how heartbreakingly beautiful you appeared to me that night."
"And yet you said nothing?"
Erik sighed. "I thought you would be better off with another."
Margot connected the dots between his words quickly. "Another like Dmitri?" A cold splash of fear gripped her. Was it only fear of loneliness that sprouted these words and this love? "Erik, you know- you know I would still care for you as a friend and companion even if I had left?"
Erik growled a little. "I would have you cease doubting me, Margot."
She forced herself to calm as she looked up at him, pressing her lips to the hands that traced circles across her clavicle as he had done to hers. "Then I shall." She breathed back.
Her half faced love's irritated gaze cooled. "And I would have you be honest with me. I-Is that little gosse what you want?"
"Erik," Margot whispered, effervescent in the joy radiating through her. "I love you. Not Dmitri, nor anyone else. It has always been you. I love you."
"And I you, cherie." Erik breathed back, letting his eyes trace over her but made no move to touch her. Naturally, Margot did not agree with this plan.
As she sat up slightly, half in his lap from being so close, Margot spent time brushing kisses over his eyes and forehead and cheeks and chin. She used her most searing, pent up kisses for his mouth, which she had recently developed a fascination with and her sweetest kisses were for the space at the edge of his jaw.
But her most tender affections were dedicated to the supple mask that covered him from view and Margot applied each one with care. She had waited what felt like her whole life to show Erik how she adored him and she would not be stopped now.
But when Erik slowly eased the pair apart, Margot had to reign in the fog gathering in her mind that was colouring every part of Erik in a light glow. "Wha-?" she complained slightly but Erik's finger tracing the cupid's bow of her lips stopped her.
"My dear, we have time enough for that." He said, not even breathing hard as she was. How dreadfully unfair.
"I've been patient enough," Margot muttered, complaining half heartedly. It was hard to complain when Erik's hand was still busily sketching her features with his fingertips.
"Indeed you have, cherie." Erik murmured back. Margot would have thought his tone perfectly neutral had it not been for the tiny flash of guilt in his gaze as he looked upon her.
"What bothers you, my love?" she asked quietly. His finger tried to erase the crease forming between her brows but she refused to be dissuaded. Unwilling to allow their newfound happiness to be tainted by Erik's sadness, she wiggled into a seated position and took his face in her hands, delicately embracing the right side with every tenderness she possessed.
"How long, Margot? When did you know?" he asked, noncommittally.
Frowning, she shrugged, unbothered. "I must have been ten or so when I first began to think of you like this. But I've always known you were spectacular, Erik, surely you must have known?"
"Eleven years then." He replied, calmly. "Eleven years you waited while I tormented you. I wonder how you cannot hold it against me. How spectacular could you possibly find me when I did not even see what was blooming before my very eyes?"
"Oh Erik," Margot sighed, half sad, half exasperated. "Do you truly think I expected you to see me? To love me? It was enough to be your friend, to have to privilege of knowing you. You did not torment me, you saved me, loved me as your friend and confidant. How could I ever blame you for that?"
"Eleven years, Margot." Erik frowned, seeming frustrated with her words. "More than half your life-"
"Spent loving a man who could not have deserved it more. Spent in your wonderful company." She insisted.
"-loving a fickle monster." He finished, scornfully.
Margot's whole body, which up until that point, Erik had found lovely and pliant as she rested in his grip, turned rigid and unyielding. Erik made a small noise of complaint as she wriggled from his arms and stood before him, shoulders back, neck extended and a scowl that would fell a lumberjack across her features.
"If you love me even a little as I do you, you will never use that word again." She demanded quietly, grey eyes suddenly turned to smoke. Erik had little doubt that where there was smoke, there was most certainly a fire and in Margot's case, it seemed to be her temper. But how beautiful she was in the flames of it.
"I asked you not to doubt me, Margot." Erik snapped, unwilling to confront or answer her demands. Better to concentrate on the other half of her words.
"And I asked you not to call yourself that." Margot replied, unbending. "If we could simply agree to both issues, our problems would resolve themselves."
"Then I suppose resolution is simply too far outside our capabilities, cherie." He snarled, irritably. Could she not simply accept him as he was? Could she not abandon that infuriating perception of him as some kind of saviour?
Margot's jaw clenched as she knelt before him and immediately, his hands leapt to her shoulders, trying to pull her back to her feet but she would not be moved. As he sat before her, Margot gathered his hands and pressed her lips to the palms. "I wish you could see yourself as I do for even a moment, Erik." She murmured. "I would not have wanted you to return my affections if you were not certain. To have you as a friend was extraordinary and to have you now as...you are," she added, hesitantly. He frowned in reply. "That is the most wonderful gift I've ever received. But to have you trail between the two as you would have if I'd told you? To have you uncertain, pressured even? Erik, I am glad we finally pieced ourselves together and I don't regret how it happened."
Despite having restrained their affections earlier, the former phantom could not stop himself from standing, wrapping his arms around Margot and lifting her into the air in a single movement, pressing his mouth to hers in a desperate embrace.
They would have so much to do; Margot seemed determined to convince him of his goodness, Erik firmly wanted to correct her on what she'd called them (they were lovers, not 'as they were' and there was nothing more to it) and neither of them seemed in any way ready to back down. But their tenacity was an achievable obstacle, Margot's steel coil spine masked in soothing tenderness, Erik's brilliance and inner light only dimmed by self loathing, not extinguished. There were ways around such flaws and in all honesty, Erik was rather looking forward to the challenge.
Now only to make the rest of Favreau understand that.
None could have guessed what happened inside the Thierry Cottage at night when darkness fell around the secret couple, a cool autumnal blanket which promised security and cover from the sight of the town. Margot still cooked supper each night and Erik still fixed the various parts of the cottage with his beautiful work but the commonplace actions were now interspersed with kisses and stories and long moments where each other's beauty would overwhelm the senses. It was as though they had simultaneously taken a leap back to a time where being around each other had been simple and pleasurable and a jump forward to a time where neither of them were inclined to hide their affections.
Erik had no qualms about scooping Margot into his embrace and Margot certainly had no issue with snuggling deeper into his chest as he read from the few books they'd bought or brought along. Though hardly romance novels (Margot had a penchant for adventurous texts like Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne and Erik preferred deeper, somewhat sad and even morbid pieces, like Les Rayons et Les Ombres by Victor Hugo), Erik had a way of making every syllable resonate through his body which in turn made the echo in Margot's feel far more intimate than the telling of nautical adventures should.
Occasionally, Margot would read to Erik instead or make her own stories, or recount the fantasies she'd had as a youth, of the pair running away from Paris and finding a secret forest or island in which to hide. But as the fall leaves dropped around their home, the storyteller and her former phantom found themselves more inclined to simply lay together, gentle and very much in love while the clouds opened up around them.
It was one night such as this as the rain began tapping tentatively at the window that Margot sighed into Erik's chest, unwilling to broach her thoughts. "You are happy here, Erik?" she asked, frowning slightly as she considered the soft handmade coverlet around them. Mme Dovina had long since allowed her to take fabric for her own use and sensing the oncoming rain weather, Margot had sewn extra warm blankets for their bed, though the pair remained chaste beneath them. Though not for the lack of trying on her part. Another thought Margot was unwilling to touch upon.
Erik chuckled slightly at the odd question and the sound rumbled across his chest beneath her. "Of course cherie."
"I know you like Monsieur Le Pont, even though you say you don't," she added on a whim. "And the Dovins are wonderful people. And the whole town is so friendly-"
"What is this about?" Erik asked, a touch of amusement in his rich voice.
Margot fingered the coverlet idly, trying to avoid the topic she knew she had to face. "Everyone here thinks we're family." She murmured after a long moment. "That you are my brother and I am your sister. No one can ever find out what we are or we will be shunned, for what they consider incest or for lying and staying together unmarried."
Erik did not respond for a long while and Margot tried to fill the silence and anxiety growing beneath her skin.
"I-I'm not saying I want to leave. I think Favreau is wonderful. I know it's difficult being in such a small town, I know you wish you had your music back-" she thought she felt him flinch at that but it was true. Erik had begun humming again under his breath though he always stopped himself abruptly. It hurt her to know that he associated music with Don Juan and the Populaire and the new Viscountess but they were hardly in a position to make new memories in Favreau. "-but I feel like we have a place here. But I feel like it is a place for the Pierre siblings. We cannot tell anyone about us, Erik. They would not understand."
"They would not." He agreed, quietly. "You're right."
"We'll have to keep things a secret." Margot replied, cautiously. "No one can know."
"Then no one will find out." Erik answered, brushing a kiss to her hair. She flagged a little, only allowing herself to feel the tiniest bit hurt by the ease with which Erik had agreed to keep them a secret. It was your idea Margot and it's the only sensible idea you have.
"We'll figure things out though in the end, won't we?" Margot asked after a moment of pause in a small voice.
She could feel Erik's smile in the dim light of the fire place. "Of course cherie. I'll only hold back from kissing you in daylight for so long."
Margot sighed with a touch of dreaminess in the sound at the idea of letting Erik escort her out along the cobbled streets of Favreau, handsome, tall, strong, perfect in the daylight, looking at her with eyes of love she had so often imagined.
At first, there was no issue.
Rarely was it seen that the two Pierre siblings were together in town as Erik worked with Le Pont and Margot with the seamstress. As they had been doing such a wonderful job at avoiding each other for the past few weeks, no one found it odd that the brother and sister did not come into contact much around others, though they noticed the lift in spirits in each of them.
Margot Pierre's smile was now burned into the memories of many young men around town as it lit up her face most often as she moved about Favreau, not to mention the swooning which occurred at the carpenters when Erik Pierre's laugh resounded from within. Few thought it strange and carried as usual.
"Whatever has changed your spirits, I approve." Mme Dovina said one afternoon as they prepared to leave the dressmakers. It had been an unusually busy day, mainly due to the cool rush of weather they'd been experiencing. Warmer dresses and clothes were being pulled out for the approaching winter and garments which had fit so well a year ago, were suddenly too small or big or ill fitted for their owners. Margot enjoyed the change of pace however; at one point, Mme Dovina's mutterings over how a gentleman's wife had possibly ruined the hem of her dress again had reminded Margot of Madame Tenau at the Populaire in a way which she'd nearly forgotten.
She couldn't quite remember when Favreau had become so familiar but having lived in the town for just over six months, Margot had to admit, like the garments the inhabitants were finding ill fitting, slipping back into Populaire life conjured a similar feeling. She didn't fit in the opera's crew anymore; the idea of it left her feeling sort of pinched and uncomfortable and a little sad. The Populaire had been her home for a long time, longer, she thought, than any other place in the world, including her old Versailles home.
And while Favreau had been just what she needed, a place she could branch out and stand apart from the rest of the busy, abrupt, perhaps a little corrupted crew of the opera house, it was beginning to pinch in unexpected places too. Like when she picked out bread from the bakery and Theo would greet her with a smiling Mademoiselle Pierre, how lovely to see you again or when she went to drop off an article of clothing to one of the country homes and a manservant would introduce her as Mademoiselle Margot Pierre, from the Dovin Dressmakers to the mistress of the home.
Margot Ferrand still burned at the very heart of her and it was frustrating that Margot Pierre was all the Favreau inhabitants would see. Of course, it was nonsense to think that way. Margot Ferrand died in the sewers of the Populaire, a victim of the Phantom's rage. Margot Pierre had been a fresh start, a young woman with considerable skills in her occupation who had endeared herself to the public but now, Margot Pierre was becoming more like a cage than a beginning.
"I'm glad," Margot replied laughingly as she checked her bag for the length of ribbon she'd purchased from Mme Dovina's to go with a new dress she was working on. She told herself to put away her melancholy and enjoy the crisp autumn air, the success of a good day's work, the smell of Theo's petit fours, the sound of Dmitri's greeting his grandmother-
She turned to see the brown haired stable keeper brightly kissing his grandmother's cheek and relieving her of her bag. "I'm here to escort you home, grandmamma." He laughed when Mme Dovina squawked at having her things taken away.
Her eyes softened at his words. "Your grandfather used to escort me home, you know." Mme Dovina sighed, wistfully. "Dear boy, I'm an old battle horse, I've no need of an escort. Take Margot home instead, she's carrying more than usual this evening." Mme Dovina's shrewd gaze fell upon her arms which indeed carried a few children's clothes Margot was making for Theo and Yvette's new baby boy who had been born just a week prior.
Margot smiled, uncomfortably. "And here I thought I might escape unscathed." She muttered to Dovina in Russian. The old woman barked out a laugh and took her bag back from Dmitri who looked well pleased with this turn of events.
"It would be my pleasure." Dmitri told her, extending his arm.
With no reason not to, Margot took it and waved goodbye to Mme Dovina as they set off for Thierry cottage. Dmitri kept up a steady stream of conversation and Margot felt relieved that she did not have to contribute much more than a quiet oh? or of course in response. As the cottage came into view, Margot was sure she could see Erik at the window. Claude Le Pont had told him to take a few days rest since his father was feeling ill and Erik had taken the time to reorchestrate the entire house. It drove Margot mad to find all the furnishings moved about and occasionally altered as Erik reorganised things to his liking. If she had a serious problem, he would listen but other than that, Erik's need for control prevailed and Margot had not seen the living room in the same lay out twice over the past few days.
She was almost ready to traipse over to the Le Pont household and nurse Phillipe back to health herself, if only so Erik would go back to work and take out his creativity on something other than their home!
As they neared the front gate, she hoped he would not see Dmitri and come to the wrong conclusion but she saw no way of viewing the scene in a good light, given their situation. As the front door swung open, Margot caught the last of Dmitri's sentence: "...town again?" He followed with an expectant look.
"I-I am sorry, Dmitri, my head is elsewhere. What were we speaking of?" she asked, embarrassed, though a large part of her attention was concentrated on the empty doorway she knew Erik lurked near.
Far from being offended, Dmitri laughed. "I can see I haven't your full attention this evening but it is no matter. I was asking if you would do me the honour of letting me escort you around town again?" the words were deceptively simple but there was purpose in his blue eyes.
Margot felt as though she had swallowed a kettle. She knew what such words meant. It was one of those signs the ballerinas had always delighted in gossiping about. One escort might be a coincidence but two escorts and courtship is not far behind! They'd giggled rambunctiously.
But she had no legitimate reason to say 'no'. Dmitri was a kind, good tempered, funny young man with a steady job and no immediate vices. There was no reason for her to deny him the opportunity and yet it was the last thing Margot wanted to accept, not only for her and Erik's sake but because she didn't want to string Dmitri along with no hope of a future for them.
On impulse, her fingers wrapped around the rose carving Erik had given her, the good fortune ridden pendant she had yet to take off for any reason, as she thought over how to phrase her rejection. Dmitri's eyes followed to the necklace and it seemed to give him pause.
"I remember this." He murmured with a small frown. "You wore it to the dance."
"I did." Margot agreed, simultaneously confused and slightly relieved that the topic had changed.
"I thought it was old then but the glaze looks new." He added, thoughtfully and then paused. "It was a gift then?"
"From a man?" Dmitri asked the question without accusation but she still felt embarrassment at her answer.
Dmitri sighed and cast her a small, disappointed smile. "A man does not carve a pendant like this for a woman he does not love."
Margot didn't know how to respond and so kept silent, though her heart broke a fraction for the poor man before her.
"I had hoped I was the first to see your beauty, Margot but I suppose that was arrogant of me." He sighed. "Do you love him in return?"
Margot bit her lip and tried to fight the tears beading at the corners of her eyes lest she give him the wrong impression. "With my soul." She replied, quietly but with no less fervour.
Dmitri could not help but betray his disappointment as he nodded and smiled weakly at her, reaching out just a moment to brush Margot's cheek. "Then I wish you both the best of luck, Margot." He said with a sincere, unimaginably decent tone before departing with a slightly heavy tread. Margot bit her lip as he left, knowing without a doubt, she would not have had the strength to behave so gracefully.
As she let herself past the gate, she cried a little at the guilt of having injured a dear friend and passed through the doorway, having almost forgotten that Erik waited for her there as the door closed. Without a word, he had wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her so close against him there was simply no other option but to kiss him.
When she finally managed to gather enough restraint to pull away, Margot found herself scowling breathlessly. "You were eavesdropping again, weren't you?" she muttered, irritably but unable to muster much resentment.
"Of course I was." Erik didn't even care to deny. "I don't like the way he looks at you."
"That's your problem with Dmitri." Margot suddenly pieced together, feeling foolish as she blushed pink. "Well, you needn't worry any longer, I think I've crushed his spirits enough that he won't visit me anymore." She added in a morose tone.
Erik rolled his eyes at her exaggeration. "He read the signs cherie, there was nothing to be done. Would you rather he continues courting you?"
"We weren't courting," Margot denied, tucking her head beneath his chin and indulging in the strength of his arms. "And of course not. Not only do I have you but I've no wish to see Dmitri dead."
"I wouldn't have killed him." Erik muttered, petulantly. "Maybe just maimed a little."
Margot chuckled lightly, knowing it was all in play. The deaths inside the Populaire still haunted him but she was pleased he could accept the joke where it lay. "Well don't. He wishes us the best of luck which is admirable considering he was just rejected."
"Admirable." Erik scoffed, tightening his grip a touch more. Though they continued on with their evening undisturbed, Margot felt as though she hadn't seen the last of this problem.
A/N: -i'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi 'msorryi'msorryi'msorryi'msorry-
Forgive me yet? D: You're all amazing if you're still reading!
Please review, if only to tell me how much I suck for not updating in millenia!
gosse – French word for 'brat'
Les Rayons et Les Ombres – 'The Sunrays and the Shadows' by Victor Hugo is a collection of poetry. (I find parts of it a little morbid and broody myself by I figured hell, what else would Erik want to read? And side note, quite by accident, both Hugo and Verne are French authors who published in the period I'm writing in!)
petit fours – a small French pastry and absolutely delicious