***Part Ten***

The baby was due any day now. Erik had arranged for his friend's son to deliver the baby at his home. Erik had paid for the young man's education so he called in a favor, something Erik rarely ever did, but needed to in this instance. It wasn't a long carriage ride from the Opera House, so Erik knew all would be cared for and that he would get Christine aid quickly.

He had stuck to his silent vow to be more consistent for Christine then he had been her first couple of months with him. He had rarely left home other than to tend to necessary errands. He walked with her outdoors when he knew it was safe for her. He was ever on the watch for Comte Lecter, but if the man was watching them he kept himself hidden well enough that Erik was unaware of his presence save for a handful of times. The man was as patient as Erik was and Erik was, for once, grateful for his mask. Of course, Lecter would know who Erik was by the mask but without the mask, Lecter would have no way of knowing that man and the masked man he saw Christine with were one and the same.

The snares and traps leading from the Opera House to his lair were increased in number since Christine had come live with him. He wanted no one mistakenly stumbling upon his lair. He didn't want her witnessing the death box he had created for any Opera personnel who happened to trip the switches and so forth to make their way near his lair. Few had dared venture so low in the bowels of the Opera, and even fewer had stumbled into his death box. Erik had enjoyed beyond belief watching as they slowly, painfully died.

The snares he had by the lake, however, he had had to disable for fear Christine would one day walk somewhere she shouldn't and get harmed.

Now, however, it seemed so petty, so foolish to have existed in such a fashion. He was too old to change, he certainly didn't hold the beliefs Christine did regarding her God. With Christine and their child he thought he had been given a chance for somewhat normal life and he was trying to walk the path presented him. Decreasing his dependence on the morphine had been difficult. At first, it had been unbearable, decades of reliance on the substance had made his system immune to small amounts. He had imbibed in more liquor at first to help ease the pain, but slowly and surely he had eased his dependence on the drug. He wasn't totally free of its hold on him, but he was getting there.

Today, however, Christine was not feeling well. Erik was tending to her as best as he could. He had been out once already to speak with the doctor. He wanted to ensure that a fever with no other symptoms beyond that of a light case of influenza so close to her due date was no cause for alarm. Assured only if her symptoms worsened was there cause to worry he had returned to care for and read to her while she rested.

Despite the intimacy they shared, Christine was still inhibited to a point. He had all he could do to convince her to sit in the parlor area with just her shift on. But he needed to sponge her off and could not do it if she had layers and layers of clothes on. It was so far the only form of therapy he could offer her to aid in keeping her comfortable.

She was sleeping at the moment in Erik's arms as they both reclined on his sofa. The cloth he had been wiping her down with was clutched in her hand so he knew she wasn't dead asleep yet. She hadn't slept at all the night before, so he didn't dare move for fear of waking her. He watched almost transfixed as he saw the visible signs through the thin material of her shift of his baby moving. It looked comical in her tiny frame. All he could do was hope the delivery went smoothly for her.

Tonight, the child was very active, more active than it had been for the past week or so. He had grown worried for a while, though he was careful not to voice his concern to Christine. The child had become so still it seemed that he had thought something was wrong. He knew he was worrying needlessly. He also knew that he more than likely should not be reproducing. But he couldn't hide the excitement either at the thought that inside of his beloved Christine was a part of each of them growing. He had seen pregnant women before, of course, but he had never been this close to them before. He had never been able to touch the mother's stomach as the baby moved. He had never been able to sing to the unborn child.

And sing to both Christine and the child Erik loved to do. He hadn't had occasion in years to sing for any sized audience, so it was odd for him at first to sing to Christine. She so obviously loved it, though, that it was hard for him to refuse and she stated that it was good for the baby. She said she could tell that his music calmed the baby already. He had no idea if that was true or not, but she seemed convinced of it and so he continued. Rarely a night or time for nap went by without his singing at least one song for her to sleep by.

He felt her abdomen under his hand tighten before he realized she had come awake. Her cry of pain made him realize what it was he had felt. He had felt a baby pain, whatever it was, he had felt it. How utterly amazing. He was going to be able to see the workings of the delivery process, and soon it seemed since the pain that she had experienced wasn't from her fever. Erik was always one that liked to experiment and tinker. Not that there was anything regarding Christine or their baby he would choose to experiment or tinker with, but it would be fascinating to watch and learn about the process. He had grown fond of the process of creating the baby over the months, he wasn't overly certain how fond of the process of birthing it he'd be. He certainly wasn't averse to blood and gore, he'd caused it more times then he could count and basked in the glory of that blood and gore when his kill had been an especially good one.

She fell back asleep after the pain had subsided much to his amazement. The way she had called out and clutched his hand he was surprised sleep would come to her again. He was glad though. He suspected somehow that hers would not be an easy or quick delivery. She was so small, he felt incredibly selfish at times for not having ridden her of the baby without her knowledge. Herbs could have been administered, but at the risk of losing her as well. And that was a risk he was not willing to take.

Did Erik realize that the baby could live and its mother might not survive childbirth? Yes, of course, but he wasn't fully conscious of the ramifications, the consequences of such a thing becoming reality. Christine would outlive him by decades. She was barely twenty, and he was double that and then some.

What Erik expected to take a short amount of time ended up taking hours. It was hours before her labor pains started coming close enough together to warrant getting her to the doctor. He dressed her with care, ensuring she was suitably warm without being too warm. She still hadn't broken her fever, he didn't want her to pass out from exhaustion. Though that might be a blessing, for them both, if that were to occur.

Hours turned into the next day and Erik lost track of time as yet a second day broke and the baby still had not delivered. He was assured this was normal, and though she was obviously in pain and frightened Christine herself tried to assure him that it was indeed normal. How she had knowledge of this fact he didn't know and didn't want to know. Now was not the time to discuss what Comte Lecter had discussed with her.

Finally, near the end of her second day of labor, the baby made its appearance into the world. The doctor had to use some light forceps to aid the head's delivery but after that it went rather easily. Erik had walked to the window at the word she was crowning, not wanting to see the baby now. He had grown fond of it inside of its mother's womb, as crazy as that sounded. Yet he vowed to himself, for his own peace of mind that if the baby looked anything like him he would leave it to die. He heard Christine's cries as she pushed with the labor pains, the squalls of the child, but heard no sound of horror or panic from the doctor. Perhaps he was just being kind since this was Erik's child. Erik couldn't help but turn and look.

The baby was rather wrinkled looking, but was a nice pink color with a thick deep red coating that Erik recognized as blood covering its skin. He stepped closer, frightened and hopeful at the same time.

"It's a boy," the doctor exclaimed in time for Christine to hear him and then pass out.

Erik was not surprised she did. Though the afterbirth still needed to be delivered, the doctor could help it out without her assistance. Erik looked at the baby in the private nurse's arms and let out an uncontrolled sigh of relief. He was normal. Not a patch of missing or decomposed appearing skin anywhere that he could see. His nose was intact and complete, his lips were pink and full, his eyes were bright blue and the most beautiful pair of eyes he'd ever looked into besides those belonging to Christine.

But this was different. Christine wasn't his. This baby, this boy was his son. He, somebody people had for years deemed a monster, had helped produce this beautiful and healthy baby. The doctor asked him if he wanted to hold his son once the umbilical cord had been severed, but truthfully Erik knew nothing about babies and was afraid he'd drop the boy. The babies he had seen before now were quite a bit bigger than this newly born one.

"I'll wait to hold him until Christine comes to."

"She'll need to be woken up soon, Monsieur," the nurse was speaking now as Erik watched her clean up his son for the first time.

"What for," he asked dumbly.

"Well, to feed him of course." She smiled at him, seeming to understand his nervousness and lack of knowledge on the subject.

"Oh yes of course, sustenance, he will need to eat, won't he?"

"Do you have a name picked out yet, Monsieur?"

"Nay, we had not thought of any yet," he admitted. "Anything but Erik," he added as an after thought.

"You don't like the name Erik Monsieur. I think that's a very strong name for a strong boy."

"One would think, wouldn't they," he replied dryly. "Nay, Erik is not a suitable name for any boy of mine."

The nurse finished her duties with the as of yet unnamed baby while Erik took a seat next to the bed Christine was laying on. He found her hand and took it, holding onto it tightly almost as if he was the one who had just gone through close to forty-eight hours of labor. But emotionally in some ways he had. He had not been prepared to kill the child. Months ago he had no qualms about doing it, had even thought it a necessity. Now he was not so sure anymore and was glad he didn't have to face the problem.

Christine came to a short while later, sore and generally in bad shape but she smiled when the doctor presented her with her son. He was bathed now, clean and in fresh blankets swaddling him. "He's beautiful," she said simply. "Please leave us, Doctor."

The doctor looked from Christine to Erik, the ultimate decision maker despite her request. He was after all the man, the father. Erik nodded at which the doctor stood and left the room.

"Take off your mask," she said softly.

"What," Erik demanded fiercely. Why of all days would she make such a request of him?

"I want to see you, Erik. I want to truly see you when you look at our son. Please, Erik, for me. I've asked so little of you. Just this once, remove the mask."

"Very well," he said somberly. What if the sight of him sent the baby into fits? He wasn't sure he was prepared to scare to death his own son. Maybe that was what she had in mind, he couldn't be sure. But he slowly removed the mask, his head lowered so she could not see anything but the top of his head and the few wisps of graying hair still visible there.

"Please, Erik. Look at me. Look at your son. And tell me that you're not grateful to at least once look upon him without your mask."

He did as she bid, unable to refuse her much of anything and she knew it. And she was right in what she had said a moment ago, she so rarely asked anything of him. It seemed so simple, to look at her, but she had no idea the inner struggle he experienced before his eyes finally looked into hers.

"You look tired," he admitted softly his large, thin and cold hand reaching out to cup the top of his son's head.

"I am," she said softly with a slight, forced smile. "Be careful of his head, Erik."

"Yes, yes. It's soft here, I know. It will close in time?"

"Yes, in time it will be gone."

"Good," he said relieved to here that this was not an abnormality.

"He's fine, Erik. Healthy, beautiful. He's perfect. Thank you," she whispered softly.

"You are thanking me," he asked incredulously unable to comprehend that as being fact.

"Yes, I am. I wouldn't have him if it weren't for you. I probably would never have had a child if it weren't for you."

"I'm sure your Comte friend would have seen to that."

"Nay, Erik, he couldn't have even if he'd wanted to. That was the reason he was willing to marry me. He can't have children."

"Oh," he said. And suddenly things were much clearer regarding Comte Lecter and his motives. He was looking for an heir. He didn't want a wife, but if marrying a willing and already pregnant Christine was part of the bargain for him to gain his heir he was willing to do it. Of course the man could do far worse for a wife than Christine. She would make a wonderful wife to a man who truly deserved her devotion. Lecter wasn't the man either, but Erik had no control over who she might choose.

"I was thinking of names. Have you any in mind?"

"Nay, Christine, none come to mind. Aside from Christopher, the masculine form of his mother's name I have no suggestions."

"I like Christopher. Or perhaps Christian."

Erik stood, smoothing the palm of his hand over the baby's head gently, slowly feeling the soft tufts of hair on his son's head. He was so tiny, so soft, so defenseless, and so vulnerable and Erik was now responsible for this life. "Whatever you want Christine."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I should leave you so the nurse can go over feeding him with you. For some reason I sensed I was not to be included on such lessons. Silly, isn't it? I can watch as our son is born, I can help in making him, but I can't sit in the same room with you with your breasts exposed while you're feeding the child I helped create."

Christine flushed and dropped her eyes from Erik to their son. "I suppose it is silly. Perhaps."

Erik struggled to place his mask on once again but Christine placed her hand on his forearm to stop him. "What is it, Christine," he asked concerned.

"Thank you for taking it off for me."

He shrugged slightly, shrugging off just how big of an ordeal it was for him to give into her wish on this particular matter. "You're welcome." He leaned down to kiss her lightly, the kiss almost more paternal than husband or lover like. He then left the room, allowing the nurse to enter the room and go about teaching Christine the ins and outs of feeding their son.

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