Three days went by since that night, only once more Erik had a high fever. All though the shifts continued, Christine was the one spending more time at Erik's bedside so sometimes she took his mask to let his skin breath and taking the opportunity to get herself used and familiar the sight of his deformity. Amazingly it wasn't as frightening as it looked when he was furious.
It had been a tiring day for the young soprano. She had left Nadir's apartment early in the morning to go to La Madeleine's church, the second of the only two places where she went to light a candle for her father. This was the first time in two weeks that she turned to her father asking for guidance. Hopefully, as soon as Erik was alright again they would be able to go together, but she was eluding herself. The French guard was still looking for him.
La Madeleine was an amazing building, with tall white marble columns and walls with niches where statues of saints stood tall and proud, many showing their own martyrdom. The building itself looked more like a Roman or Greek temple like those that she used to find in some of Erik's historic books, than with the usual churches like Notre Dame which was immensely tall, reaching to the skies, grey and with stained glass. 'You are being foolish Christine. Erik would say to you that no church is like any other. Do what you have to do and return.' She thought to herself passing the large bronze doors.
Christine looked around in awe. As many time's as she entered that church she knew she would always be amazed by the wonder before her eyes it had no natural light except from the windows above their heads on the domes, and the golden light from the collection of candelabra made the all church, statues and any kind of carvings alike, look like they were made of gold. Behind the high altar a behind a crucifix stood a enormous marble statue of Mary Magdalene being carried by angels to the heavens. Above it stood a mosaic of classical influence of Christ and the apostles and above it was the dome with a fresco of Jesus Christ in all his majesty surrounded by his apostles and Mary Magdalene blessing the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Once the astonishment faded away, Christine kneeled on the back of the furthest bench from the altar and crossed herself. With her head down she brought her rosary to her lips and started to pray.
"Father I know it's been a long time since I last sought your guidance and thanks to the angel you sent me I never been lost like this before, but I need you now more than ever. He needs you, although in his pride he would never admit it. Papa I fell in love with this man and if I was to lose him… my life would be… my life wouldn't be at all. What kind of life would a soulless woman have?" Christine was close to tears as she looked as the empty air in front of her and her voice was but a whisper. "I know I shouldn't ask for this from you but you are my only chance. I know that he is a criminal and for what he did, all the lives he took, he should be arrested for life or killed or worse. Sent to an asylum and that would be the end of him as I know him, as you knew him. I believe a man like you can only be with God so please ask Him to spare my angel and let him have a second chance."
"My Swedish is a little rusty, but was it just me or you just asked for a second chance?" A voice coming from behind her asked. Oh! That voice was far too familiar for Christine to not recognise it. Soft, strong r's, annoyingly posh… that had to be Raoul.
Christine dried her tears, crossed herself, before getting up she put her rosary inside her pocket and then she looked over her shoulder. There he was, tall, handsome and proud with that usual annoying smug smile upon his lips.
"You should know. It's rude to eavesdrop on others, especially when they are praying." Christine said getting up and walking to the door.
"Well sue me for missing my bride." Raoul said walking close behind her. Christine almost choked up. 'Bride? I almost forgot! He must have taken my decision as a moment of lunacy.' Christine thought to herself trying not to have a panic attack. 'Ok, play with it. Pretend that you still are entranced with him. Kiss him if you need to. Oh God, but that makes me no better than a harlot. Dear God, what am I to do?'
"I'm sorry, Raoul. It's been just a rough time." Christine answered giving him a tired smile.
"I understand. Why don't you come with me and we could have a nice long talk over breakfast." Before Christine could even answer Raoul had already taken her harm and was pulling her along the Rue Royal.
"Raoul, thanks, but I'm not hungry and Madame Giry is already waiting for me." Christine protested as gently as she could.
"Nonsense my dear. It has been weeks since I last saw you. She will most certainly understand the people that are about to merry should have some time together to catch up." He said continuing to pull her along. Thanking God that Raoul could not see her; Christine rolled her eyes with impatience. What had she been expecting? Ever since Raoul had found her he had been quite charming and yet quite forceful, never taking a no as an answer, forcing her to oblige and bend herself to his every wish. That wasn't the life she wanted. Why hadn't she recognised it before that fateful kiss?
"Raoul, please…" She tried once more appealing to his once good nature.
"I'm afraid I must insist." He cut her off stopping in front of her to look her in the eyes. Not wanting Raoul to suspect her or her family, Christine gave him her best smile, entwined her arm in his and accepted his offer then they walked arm in arm through the streets of Paris to the Seine's bank where they found a very charming Café. Raoul pulled Christine's chair and helped her sit then he asked the waiter for tea, coffee and some croissants.
"So, tell me everything." Raoul asked with a smile in his eyes before he sipped from his hot morning coffee.
Later in the day Christine sat herself on the floor next to Erik's bed. She was so exhausted and worn up by Raoul's chattering that she fell asleep between prayer's with her head on the mattress and her hand holding Erik's. She sat up in the bed feeling her heart being crushed in her chest, going mute with sobs and her eyes tearing up. She stroked his hair and looked to his closed eyes, yearning to see those beautiful, warm yellowish-brown eyes. She missed him so much. She missed his smile, his warm husky voice, the warmth of his arms around her, his music. She just wanted him to open his eyes and return to her.
"Erik, please don't leave me." She begged caressing his face. "I love you. I can't go through this without you."
He gave her no reaction at first. He had been gaining colour but he remained still and deaf to her pleas. Little by little Christine's sorrows and desperations started to slip away in the cold form of tears. For the first time during this turmoil she was breaking down and the only thing she could do was laying her head upon his chest to hear his heartbeat.
Felling the pressure upon his chest and hearing Christine's sobs, Erik opened his eyes and raised his hand to gently stroke her hair.
"Angel, don't cry." He begged in a weak voice.
"Erik." She called still in disbelieve but afraid of looking to him, afraid to break the illusion. "Thank God, my prayers have been answered. For moments there I thought I'd lost you."
"For moments you did, but the thought of you alone… was far too painful." Erik said confessed continuing his caress. "But aren't truly alone, are you? You have your betrothed. Does he know where you are?"
Christine sat up straight sensing the scorn in Erik's voice as he spat the word 'betrothed', and looked right into his eyes. He could only see the fierceness in her eyes, which made him think where did it came from and how many days had gone by since the fire.
"As far as Raoul is concerned I'm fine and living with Madame Giry and I would appreciate that you wouldn't refer to him as being my betrothed." Christine warned impatiently.
"Why the change of heart?" He asked never looking away from Christine's eyes.
"He's not the man I thought he was. No doubt he is charming, but he is a noble and ignores everything that strays for his plans. If I relied on that idiot I would have lost the most important thing in my life." She answered sighing. "I love him like a brother. What kind of life could I expect, especially when I love another?"
"I see. I won't keep you here against your will." Erik looked away as his heart broke inside is chest. "You are free to leave if you wish."
Christine got up feeling her eyes well up once more and trying to hide them she turned her back to him. Her heart was twigging with what Erik had just said. He wasn't exactly sending her away, but was giving her a freedom that she didn't wanted. She had imagined that once he woke up and saw her there, that he would hug her and kip her close to his heart and tell how much he had missed her, but he was confused or at the very least taking what she had just said. Before she could prevent it a sob escaped her lips.
Fighting against the sharp pains on his shoulder, and against his weak legs, Erik got up and warped his arms around her shaking body, then gently, he turned her to him and let her head rest on his good shoulder. He could feel pyjama's shirt go damp from Christine's tears as he caressed her hair.
"Easy, easy" Erik warned as Christine's arms went about his body. "What happened?"
"What happened? Everyone has been bossing me around, telling me what I should be doing. For two weeks I've been trying to prove how I feel about you as I fought to keep my mind clear to take care of you. I can't stand being close to that posh, egotistically deaf, stubborn buffoon, knowing that he would leave you to your own luck." Christine answered backing away from him. "I couldn't handle this and finally broke down only to see you finally wake up and when I think that my life finally regained its sense, when I think that we are both willing to give us a chance, you seem more willing to send my away. And what are you doing out of bed? Go back to bed before you catch your death!"
Seeing how Christine was truly upset and almost out of control, Erik returned to bed rearranging his pillow so he could be sitting up straight. He had never seen her like this. Her eyes were red from tears and fatigue and had black circles around them. She was thinner than what he remembered and paler, sick pale. She clearly seemed exhausted and he was clearly confused. Two weeks? He had been out for two weeks? And apparently Christine had been caring for him all this time. Erik cursed himself for been so inconsiderate.
"Forgive me, Christine. I never…" Erik raised his right hand to his brow. "Don't blame your boy. He was trying to free you of me."
"Well, guess what! I didn't wanted to leave. I didn't wanted to leave when you sent me away, I didn't wanted to leave when Raoul put me inside that damned boat, and most definitely won't leave you now." Christine protested looking right into his eyes. "Erik, I love you with all my heart, with all that I am. I just wished that you would believe me."
"I want to believe you, my darling girl." He sighed rising his hand to touch her check and quitting the moment before he could feel his fingertips brush her skin. "I'm deadly afraid that I wake up tomorrow to find that this was nothing but a dream."
"Don't flinch." Christine asked caressing his check and slowly coming closer to him. Her heart was pounding on her chest and her throat went dry with the anticipation. She didn't wanted to feel the barrier of the mask against her lips, but she had to make him trust her and if she needed to kiss him with that thing to convince him, she would. Seeing Erik so nervous made her smile. He had a very heavy breathing and Christine could almost bet that she could hear his heart beside her own. Finally their lips met in a loving kiss and this time Erik joined in as his eyes were filled with tears. Soon the tears started to stream down his face and mixing in their lips but none stopped until both were out of breath.
"Why are you crying? Was it something I did?" She asked worriedly at Erik. Erik could only look at her with a mix of surprise and doubt and for a few moments they chose to keep silence as Christine swiped away his tears from his eyes.
"How can you love someone you barely know?" Erik asked looking away.
"I know you were there when I needed you the most. I know about how you were treated like a freak, whipped like a slave and forced to sing for the crowds. I know how you escaped and Madame Giry helped you to get into the Opera House. I know how and why you became my Angel Music, how my father looked after you and love you like a son." She answered with a light smile.
"That's a small part of who I am. I can't believe that Roxanne told you this." He protested scratching his unshaved chin.
"Erik I saw the scars. Madame Giry thought that I should know and thank God she did. I always believed that you were and extraordinary man." Christine's voice was shaky with emotion as she recalled the marks on his chest as she touched it.
"I don't want you to pity me." He almost screamed.
"Hell with pity. I admire you. As far as Roxanne told me you were broken when you returned and yet you were able to look at me and care enough to keep a promise you made to a dead man. You are the bravest, most maddening man I will ever know and that is one of the many reasons I love you." Erik's face was both endearing and hilarious as he decided if he should smiled, look surprised, look shocked or simply nod. For the first time in many years he dared to hope for a normal life and he couldn't help that his eyes shown exactly that, that small flame almost forgotten in this broken man's heart. Christine could see that he was speechless and in pain as he tried to get straighter in bed.
"Can I get something for you pains? Nadir should have some Laudanum here, somewhere." Christine said getting up. Erik got hold of her hand before she could get further away from him.
"More information about myself. For years I was addicted to opium, so a nice glass of Brandy should serve just fine." He said gently before letting Christine leave.
With Christine out of the room, Erik removed his mask and took a deep breath trying to organize is mind. In one night… hell, in few hours or maybe minutes, his life had had a complete turn. In one moment he was dying and in the next Christine was trying to prove him how much she love him and for a split second he thought that she would swear on her father's soul. 'Thank God she didn't. I will never take her love for certain, but God give me strength to give her reasons to continue loving me.' He thought with relieve. 'Gustave, I know I don't deserve her, but I promise to you, I'll will do my very best to turn my life around and give our angel the life she deserves.'
Finally in power of his own mind and sanity, Erik could think straight for the very first time in months. Did Christine just realized who Raoul truly was or had he changed because of what Erik had done? Why did he doubt himself? He saw the way the boy treated her. Never listening, never truly caring, using her hard earned fame to boost his own and ignoring many of her own wishes and desires. Even now, when the boy could fairly gain advantage over him, he opted to behave like a spoiled brat, clearly ignoring a Christine's present tired nature. How could someone so pure of heart, like Christine, fall for someone like the Vicomte?
Before Erik could answer is own question he heard steps on the corridor and looking at the clock on his night stand he found it was close to four in the morning, so besides Christine there shouldn't be no one up and about. Just as Christine opened the door, Erik brushed his hair with his fingers and put back his mask.
"Do you love me Erik?" Christine asked noticing her flustered demeanor.
"With all my heart" He answered as she placed the glass on his night stand.
"Then trust me." She asked touching the edge of his mask. "I won't run if you remove your mask?"
"I will promise nothing about the mask." Erik said getting the glass of Brandy. HE raised the glass to his lips and soon as the amber liquid touched his lips, Erik sighed. Having not eaten the effect of the alcoholic drink was almost instantaneous.
"There is one thing that I need to ask of you." Christine confessed keeping her eyes low.
"What is it? You seem worried." Erik was clearly concern. It wasn't like her to fuss around so much.
"Promise me that once you are completely cured that we will leave this place." She asked taking his hand and kissing it. "Every time I go out in the street I fear that someone might follow me and alert the guards. If they caught you because of me I would never forgive myself."
"My dear, we are beneath a Daroga's roof. Nadir is an honorable guard and if he hasn't give into custody, is highly unlikely that he will." He explained caressing Christine's check comfortingly. "There is no way that these half-wits will ever get me on their own."
Christine looked at Erik in shock. Nadir? A guard? Was that why he knew that the Parisian guard was after Erik? Was friendship more important for this man than his vow? Seeing how Christine was clearly confused, Erik smiled and got straighter so he could kiss her temple.
"Relax, breath and rest your head. You are tired and I imagine it's been a rocky day. A good night of rest should serve you right and tomorrow I'll answer any questions you might have." Erik promise placing a lock of hair behind her ear.
"Here I am exhausting you and you are more worried about me than with your aches and pains. Where would I be without you?" She asked with a loving smile.
"Let's pray to God that you never have to find out, but for now you'll lay on this bed and sleep."
Christine knew that that was highly improper but she knew if she slept one more night on that dreadful armchair her back pain would be her own undoing for a week so she just gave up and lay on the bed as far as she could from Erik, trying to maintain a certain degree of propriety and then fell asleep. Erik smiled to himself. She had to be tired; Christine wasn't one to fall asleep so easily. Then he closed his eyes and drift off to a very restful sleep.