Christine's eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room before her. She had no idea how long or far they had walked, but she knew they had descended lower in the Opera House. They had certainly gone lower than she had ever dared venture before. Knowing Erik was the Opera Ghost did little to ease her apprehension as they walked. With darkened corridors came rats and bugs and other such things she'd rather not think on.
She heard the sounds of water nearby and wondered just where they were and what the source of the water was. She wasn't sure she wanted to know. Water wasn't something she cared much for, at least water that exceeded the dimensions of a bathtub.
There was no natural light in the room, and even with the fire stoked there was a constant chill in the air. "This is where you live," she asked hesitantly. She was afraid to make him cross, that he would think she was snubbing her nose at him.
Erik regarded Christine quietly as he placed the poker on the stand with the other fire tending accessories. "Yes, it is. I made it while I oversaw the construction of the Opera House itself. I stole, I guess you could say, to make it, but it suits me. I can have my privacy, which I require, yet I'm just a short boat ride to where I dock the boat and can be out from under the Opera House."
"You built all this yourself," she asked incredulously. "I assumed it was already here and you just found it."
"Nay, my child. I can do more than simply sing, I'm what most would call gifted. Gifted with a plethora of talents, talents unfortunately no one will allow me to perform because I hide my face. They think it means I'm shifty or crooked, that I will cheat them. And demands to show my face send me very much in the other direction."
"I wish you wouldn't call me that."
"What," he asked frowning, a gesture even with the mask on he could not hide.
Christine recoiled slightly, afraid she had angered him. "Well, I'm having your child, it seems a little inappropriate to address me as your child."
"Ah yes, it's just habit. Of course you're right I'm just not sure what else to call you. I will do my best."
"You can call me by my name."
"That almost seems too easy," he laughed lightly, a sound somewhat foreign to him. Normally, laughter was not something heard from him, at least not this type of genuine laughter.
"My room is there. Yours is through that doorway there," he said simply, gesturing to a door that would offer her privacy. It came complete with a lock. He wasn't sure how wise that was, including a lock on the door, but he didn't want to frighten her.
"Well, until recently it was empty, I admit, but I've spent some time preparing it for you, yes."
"You knew I was going to come to you then."
"No. I hoped, I admit. But no, I knew nothing. I cannot see the future, Christine."
Erik watched as Christine stood and walked to the room he had indicated was hers. He had gone through great pains to make it as complete as possible, he hoped he thought of everything she could need and even some things she'd simply want. He grew curious when he watched her return to the main room, her head bowed looking very ashamed. Had he done something wrong? Had he misjudged her sizes on the gowns he'd arranged to be made for her? He didn't think so.
"I do not deserve such luxury, Erik. I came to you out of anger, and you give me such a gift. A gift I cannot possibly ever hope to repay."
He walked to her quickly, his movements quick and catlike despite his size. "I think you deserve such things. Is it not to your liking? Is there something I should change? I do not understand."
"No, no," she said, biting back tears. She looked frightened of him just then. "It's beautiful, perfection. And I don't deserve it."
"Christine. Isn't it up to me to decide whether or not I believe you deserve it? Regardless of why you came to me, you came to me, just as I'd hoped for all these months. I dreamt of this day, thought I was torturing and punishing myself for being as foolish as to believe you'd actually choose to be with me. You could have any man in Paris if you set your mind to it."
Christine blushed deeply at his words, unable to look him fully in the eye. "I don't believe that's true, Erik. And you're not foolish."
"No," he asked somewhat menacingly. "If you weren't pregnant, would you be here?"
"Well, no but."
"But nothing. If you were pregnant and had known what lay beneath my mask prior to this evening when you came to tell me of your condition would you be here?"
"I," she paused. "I don't know," she admitted, her shoulders slumping in defeat.
"I highly doubt you would have come. You would have jumped at the chance to marry le Comte. Or perhaps not since you have no way of knowing what the child will look like when it's born. It could look like you, it could look like me, or it could look like some horrific version of the two of us. Either way, I doubt you'd have come here to me."
"Stop speaking for me. You're the one who has told me that I'm not a simple minded child, so let me think and speak for myself. I said I didn't know, because I don't know. I was not presented with that situation. I'm here with you now, aren't I," she demanded. "Aren't I?"
Erik stammered briefly for an answer. "Well, yes."
"I could have fled from the Opera stage when you revealed yourself to me. Couldn't I have? I could have run from you, but I didn't."
Erik's eyes fell closed, though in the dimly lit room she would be unable to see through the eyeholes of his mask, as she reached out to touch his exposed cheek. He breathed in sharply, holding the breath not sure what to say. "Yes," he finally managed to say.
"I knew what you looked like when I decided to stay. I touched you knowing what you looked like."
"Yes," he managed to choke out. Her hand at his cheek was so soft and smooth, it was one of the few times he'd been touched and it was rather humbling. Such a basic need he had, to be accepted, and she seemed to do just that. He wasn't sure it was that easy, though. Somehow he thought it would not be. Comte Lecter would not be so quick to let her go, Erik was sure of that. There was also that meddlesome Vicomte, but Erik didn't think he posed as much a threat as Lecter did.
Her hand at his cheek pushed on the mask, moving it out of the way so she could kiss him. He noticed she had to close her eyes to do it, but perhaps all people closed their eyes when they kissed someone else. Perhaps it wasn't an action of revulsion but a natural instinct one has. He didn't have the experience or the knowledge to know for certain, but he kissed her back. The kiss was too brief for his liking.
"Please don't speak for me, Erik. Don't decide for me. And don't assume you know what I'm thinking."
"Sometimes I do."
"Yes, I know you do," she smiled slightly, a little embarrassed at that thought. "I don't want you to do that often though, to get into my mind."
"I will try," he acquiesced.
"The clothes in the closet, were those for me?"
"Yes," he said with a nod of his head. "I imagine we'll need to get new ones made before long."
"Yes, I imagine so."
"It is late, Christine. Perhaps it would do you well to rest."
"You don't mind?"
"Not at all. I will be either out here or in my room should you need anything. I will try and keep the fire going as best as I can during the night."
She shivered instinctively as he spoke of it. "Thank you," she said. "Don't you get cold here?"
He laughed lightly. "I'm always cold, Christine. I mean, no, I don't feel it. Not as you do. I feel your warmth though, when I touch you. I could lose myself in it if I allowed myself to."
She blushed a deep crimson. "I," she stammered. "Thank you. I think," she added.
"You're welcome. If you need anything let me know, but I think you will find I took all things into consideration when furnishing your room."
"Except a fireplace."
"Yes, except that." Was she angry with him for that oversight? He hoped not. He wasn't perfect. She should know that just by looking at him. What more a reminder did she need as to the fact he was far from perfect then the blasted mask he wore.
"Good night," she hesitated, "Erik."
"Good night, Christine," he replied offhandedly. He was already seated at the piano, busy scrawling on a piece of music paper. Ideas flowing through his mind at the moment, he had to at least write them down.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com