"Christine," Hannibal said his surprise evident, a rare occurrence for him that he should display his thoughts so clearly. She looked distraught, enough that perhaps she hadn't noticed the length of time it took him to come to the door.
Christine stared at him, her doe eyes wide and focused intently on his face yet it seemed surreal and out of focus to her at the same time.
"I'm sorry for the unexpected visit, Comte as well as the lateness of said visit," she paused, lowering her gaze clutching at her gloved hands. "But I have no one else to turn to. You're the only person who's shown me kindness in this city." That wasn't entirely true and Christine knew it, and mentally she kicked herself.
Her Angel, Erik, had for some unknown reason taken it upon himself to help her. He was after all, she knew now, not an angel at all but a man. A man. A man who could talk through walls. A man who when she found him tonight had been seated in Box 5. This was all becoming dreadfully clear to her and she felt as though she might faint.
Hannibal caught her as she began to teeter towards him. He was, admittedly confused. He really couldn't risk her roaming around his home, not tonight at any rate. As he felt her go limp in his arms, though, he realized he had little choice unless he was going to bring her home. That would mean leaving his home for a good amount of time before he had finished cleaning up from his activities.
Thankfully, she didn't have his keen sense of smell. Or so it seemed. The smell of freshly shed blood was overwhelming to him. He wondered briefly how she could miss it. Perhaps it contributed to her fainting.
Lecter picked Christine up with ease, taking her into his arms and up to one of his guest rooms. He didn't normally have overnight guests, but the rooms were always prepared. He set her on the bed and afterward lit the lamp that was bedside. He drew the curtains closed, though the clouds in the sky seemed to prevent the moon from shining too brightly this evening.
He could have used smelling salts to bring her back around, but decided instead to let her come to on her own. He took the time to finish cleaning up from his evening meal. Luckily he was a relatively neat person and tended to clean up after himself as he went, so there wasn't an overwhelming mess to tend to. What he would have done had Christine walked in on him tonight to the view she could have seen he wasn't sure.
He hated to think about killing her, but he knew if it came down to it he would. She was after all only an opera singer. Yes, she would be missed, but she would be replaced and in a matter of time forgotten.
He turned the key in the door leading to the room he had placed her in, surprised to find that she was awake.
"I see you're awake," he said matter of factly. If she noticed he had locked her in her room, he couldn't tell. Perhaps she had just woken up.
"I am," Christine said, brushing some disheveled curls from her face. "You locked me in," she said a hint of question in her voice.
"I didn't want you to come to afraid of where you were. My house is rather large, and one could get lost rather easily. So knowing I would only be a few minutes I decided it was better for me to come to you than for you to come to me and get lost."
She smiled gently. It made sense, though at the same time it didn't. No house was that large that she'd get lost.
"Are you feeling all right then, Christine? I'm not used to women fainting on my doorstep. So I hope you'll excuse my being presumptuous enough to place you in a bedroom."
She struggled inwardly with how to answer him, her fingers toying with the bedspread which was luxurious. She couldn't help but admire it.
"I'm all right, I imagine. Nothing women haven't been going through for years." She chanced looking up at him, afraid to see the disappointment and scorn in his eyes. But instead she saw compassion, a willingness to hear her out.
"I'm with child. And I don't know what to do. I have no one to turn to. Not that anyone will be surprised given my occupation."
"And what of the father of the child, Christine," Lecter said carefully. He couldn't help but wonder just who the man was. If the woman were anyone but Miss Daae, he would be prone to congratulate the man. But Christine wasn't the type of woman to fall into bed with just anyone. Lecter didn't have to know her overwell to realize this about her.
"I," she paused slightly, her eyes clamping shut as she fought to get control over her thoughts. "I haven't told him yet. He doesn't know," she whispered.
"I see," he said simply. Of course he didn't really. She didn't strike him as the type who would deceive someone. Not when it came to something like this. "Are you afraid of how he'll take the news?"
"No," she said, her dark eyes wide as they regarded him. How would her Angel, Erik, react to the news? He had said that it had been for her benefit, her protection, that he had stayed away since that night. But suppose it was something else entirely. "I don't know how to tell him."
"I don't really know who he is," she admitted hesitantly. She shook her head quickly to correct herself. "That is to say, he's not who I thought he was. I've known him a number of months, but until tonight didn't know who he was. And even now I don't know that I know who he truly is."
"I'm not sure I understand why it is you've come to me, Mademoiselle Daae, and not this man. Surely you're not somehow implying that it is my child you're carrying."
"No, of course not, Comte," she said not missing the fact he addressed her formally. "I just have no idea what to do. You must find me incredibly stupid, but it didn't even dawn on me until tonight that that is what has been troubling me of late. I didn't even realize there was the chance I was with child, you see."
Was he supposed to understand what she was talking about? Was she implying this man, whoever he was, had taken her against her will? But surely even out of such a coupling she would have to realize there came the possibility of pregnancy. "Again, Mademoiselle, I ask you why you came here to me."
"Because you're the only honorable person I know who might be prone to help me," she said finally, tossing back the blankets that covered her and standing from the bed. She walked the short distance from the bed to the chair he sat on and knelt before him, her tiny hands clutching his.
He was silent for a moment, regarding her as she clutched his hand with hers. Touching wasn't a strong point of his, and he somehow imagined it wasn't one of Christine's either. He could have very easily crushed her hand, both of them, with just one of his. She was so delicate, and he had no doubt she would break with only the slightest amount of force. "You don't wish to have the child. Is that what you're suggesting, Christine? I would need to know more before I aided you in ridding yourself of a child."
She shook her head, she hadn't even thought of that as a possibility. That was a vile thought, though she imagined there were plenty of women who found themselves in such a predicament who did just that. "No, I don't want to rid myself of it. I was hoping for your protection, your help, and your assistance. I know no one else in Paris save you. I know of no doctors, save you."
Of course, she needed a doctor. Not having discussed his prior occupation with her, he hadn't stopped to think that was what she was seeking him out for. "I don't know how much assistance as a doctor I can offer you, Christine. Delivering babies wasn't my chosen specialty."
"I realize that, Comte. But I just don't wish to be gossiped about anymore than is necessary. I realize I won't be able to hide my condition forever, but with your help perhaps I can prolong my exit from the Opera. And perhaps my condition will never have to be known."
"Perhaps you had better speak with the man responsible before deciding to hide your condition from all of Paris, Christine. Perhaps the man will offer you his hand and you will have nothing to worry about."
"I'm already too far along, Comte. A marriage with the proper amount of time between the engagement, when the bans are read and the actual ceremony takes place I would more than likely be showing already."
He frowned slightly. "That far along," he stated simply. Why had she waited until now to do anything about this? Surely she must have realized something was amiss when she was not in receipt of her monthlies. But then again, as a dancer and one as thin as she there was the possibility that she would not miss them from time to time. And if what she said was true, that she did not realize it was a possibility until tonight. Well, he had no reason to disbelieve her. Unlike some people he knew, Christine did not strike him as a dishonest sort.
"Go and talk to the man, Christine. If he disappoints you with his response, if he is rude to you or will not aid you, then you can return to me. And I will marry you. In name only, mind you. I have no need for a wife, truly. I've gone this long without one. But I could use an heir."
"You," she started, her voice quivering as she realized what he had just offered her. "You would do that for me? That isn't why I came here, Comte."
He held up his hand. "I know that, Christine. I do, which is why I make the offer. If it were anyone else I wouldn't believe your story, but I find myself believing you. And I realize that your child will need a father if this man doesn't do the right thing. And as I am unable to have children," he shrugged dismissively.
"It could certainly solve problems for both of us. I could even arrange to have it on paper that we were married before the pregnancy took place. That for whatever reason we chose to keep it secret. Given your occupation that might not be so unreasonable. People will just attribute it to your quest for the limelight, not wanting anyone to know you were married. Keep the male population swarming to the Opera in droves on the chance they'll catch your eye and so on and so forth." He was more serious than he imagined she realized. She didn't realize it though, he knew and that made her all the more appealing.
"But you need to talk to the man first. And if we were to marry and I ever found out that you did not tell the man the truth, did not give him the chance to be responsible for you and his child, I would divorce you. And I would more than likely be able to keep the child that you bring into the world since it would have my name. And I'm sorry, but you don't make enough to fight me on that."
"That's assuming I accept your offer," she said, glancing up at him her hands still grasping his. Once upon a time his offer would have been the answer to her prayers. She could be married, not be expected to have children if what he said was true that he was unable to have them, and work at the Opera. But now, she carried her Angel's child. Erik's child. Could she let another man raise His child? One foul up and she could lose her son or daughter. Not to mention going against the Church if he were to divorce her. No, Erik deserved to know that she was pregnant.
"It is a most generous offer, Comte. One I'm sure you don't make in jest and one I'm sure most women of Paris would throttle me if they knew you'd made it to me. A simpleton."
Lecter leaned forward quickly, taking hold of her hands as he stood bringing her against him. "Don't you dare call yourself a simpleton in my presence again. Regardless of our relationship henceforth, I will not stand for it. There is nothing simple about you, Christine, which is the very reason that I make this offer to you. You are like no other girl I've had the pleasure of meeting before."
Christine was startled by his outburst and found his closeness somewhat alarming. She didn't make it a practice to get so close to people in general, let alone men. She felt herself tremble in his arms from her nervousness. "All right," she said with uncertainty. Surely he couldn't mean what he just said. He was trying to flatter her, she reasoned.
He released her slowly. He wondered if the child she had would look like her. A child could do far worse, even he could acknowledge that. He had seen prettier of course, but there was a beauty about Christine that came from within her that made her rather ordinary appearance somewhat extraordinary.
He placed his hand at her chin, lifting her face to look her in the eye. He kissed her briefly, his lips barely touching hers. It wasn't a kiss of affection, but could perhaps be construed as one of fondness. He wasn't sure what he would do if he found himself being taken up on his offer of marriage. He had to think, had to hope that the man would be a gentleman about the situation and ask for her hand in marriage himself.
Certainly there were rooms of the house he could restrict her coming and going to and from. He sensed, somehow, that she would accept his need for privacy without question. He thought briefly of what she might do should she ever discover his other life. Would she turn him in to the authorities? If they were married, he wasn't sure if she would or not.
"You're welcome to stay the night here if you'd like, Christine. I can offer you some warmed brandy perhaps that will help soothe your nerves a bit. I can assure you that once I bid you adieu for the night that I would not see you again until morning."
"Somehow, Comte, I don't feel that I have anything to fear from you as far as visiting me while I slept. You have proven yourself to be trustworthy and perhaps undeserving of at least some of your reputation," she said coyly. Christine wasn't sure how to interpret his kiss, but she knew that it was not a kiss that was a foreshadowing of a pass to come.
"But I fear that staying here would only do more harm to my reputation. Especially if somehow word got out that I was with child and it was someone else's."
"I understand. Then allow me at least to see you home. I never stopped to consider how you got here to begin with this evening."
"A hired coach," she said simply.
"Ah well. I'll see you home then. No sense in your having to pay twice in one evening when I have the time."
"Actually," she said her voice wavering slightly. "I need to return to the Opera. If you don't mind dropping me there rather than my flat."
He frowned slightly. Did this young woman do nothing but work, even when she had life altering decisions to make? "Of course, wherever you care to go, Christine."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com