Hannibal stood in his hiding place hoping today he'd catch a glimpse of Christine. It had been weeks since he'd seen her. He wasn't concerned, though. Quite the contrary, he assumed due to her size when last he observed her that she had had the baby by now. Enough time had gone by, though, that she shouldn't be bedridden any longer. So he'd returned to his observing place.
It was close to sunset, the time she had normally taken to walking. Sure enough, she came into view and he watched, pleased that he had been right. She had obviously had the baby. He wondered what it had been. He hoped it had been a boy, curious why he cared so much. She had obviously made her decision, and that decision did not include Hannibal Lecter.
Lecter made his way closer, careful in his step to avoid stepping on any twigs or rubbish on the ground. Her figure had filled out as he thought it might have with childbirth and the elements that went with it. But she looked tired and worn, even more so than he'd have imagined from a rough delivery. Was she not well? He grew concerned and it was that concern that led him to approach her.
He hadn't intended on approaching her and knew he would startle her, but if there was something wrong he could at least provide medical attention without anyone else knowing. Of course, she'd be indebted to him for his kindness, but he'd come up with a way for her to repay him that was suitable to all involved.
"Mademoiselle Daae," he said politely as he walked towards her. He was just a man out for a late evening stroll. He enjoyed attending the Opera, so his presence here shouldn't come to her as a great surprise. He saw her visibly jump at his calling her name, and couldn't help but laugh to himself.
"Monsieur Lecter," she spun around to face him, clutching her cloak to her throat.
"I am not here to hurt you, Mademoiselle. I was surprised to see you. The Opera management told me you'd left town. I presume that was just a tale you told to aid you in having your child." He gestured with his hand to her abdominal area. "I trust you've had it and all is well."
"Ye-Yes," she stammered.
Lecter knew he had shocked her. Men not married to a woman didn't go around asking that woman about their pregnancies and babies. "You look well. A little worn perhaps, newborns can cause one to lose out on sleep."
"How did you know when I'd had him?"
So it had been a boy. "I'm not a fool, Christine. I deduced some things and took your absence from the Opera to mean you were unable to go on stage anymore without your condition being obvious. And you're slight enough that I imagined it might have been a little sooner than some."
Christine flushed deeply. "We're doing well Comte, both of us. Thank you for asking."
"You're welcome," he said though his attention was no longer on her. His keen sense of smell had picked up on a familiar scent. One he had smelled often while near the Opera here. He had no idea what it was, but as he saw a man dressed in black emerge from what he assumed was a cave of some sort the unfamiliar scent grew more intense and Lecter realized it must be this man. Though he smelled like no man Hannibal Lecter had encountered before.
"Christine," he spoke not having seen Lecter yet.
"Yes, I was on my way in."
"You," Erik said unable to hide the possessiveness and ferociousness in his voice even with only a one word utterance. He reached for his Punjab lasso, but regretfully the damned thing wasn't there. Of course it wasn't because he had stopped carrying it at some point during the last few months. Christine, though she didn't know exactly how deadly the item was, had requested he stop carrying it with him. Unable to deny her much of anything, he had abided by her request.
Lecter was legitimately confused. This man knew who he was? But of course it made sense, he must have been watching as Lecter watched Christine. The smell, he should have known, but he had never imagined it had belonged to another person. The mask was a little odd. Was he hiding from something or hiding something from others? He'd be curious to find out.
"You know this man, Christine," Lecter asked.
"You'd do well to address her properly, Comte," Erik said bitingly. He honestly could barely stomach this man's presence let alone address him by his title.
"I would, would I? She's never had a problem with my addressing her by her given name before now. You have me at an advantage, for you know me but I don't know you."
"Comte. Erik. Please," Christine pleaded. "Comte, please just go. You shouldn't have come here. You shouldn't have talked to me."
"Is this man so uncertain of your loyalty that he forbids you to associate with anyone but him," he asked bitingly before turning his attentions to Erik. "Erik, is it. I've noticed over the months no wedding band on her marriage finger. You would ruin her to save from tying yourself down. Is that it?"
"Comte, please don't," Christine pleaded. "You don't know what you are you saying."
"And you," Lecter said, glaring at her now. His maroon eyes flickered briefly with rage, the only part of him that depicted his mood. "I offered to marry you, to give you a name, and to save your child from bastardization. And you turn me down to merely be someone's lover? So much for that propriety I thought you followed to the letter."
"No," she demanded. "I do. I mean I'm not." She looked to Erik pleadingly to come to her rescue.
"Our relationship is none of your concern, Comte. And while I cannot ask you to leave, as I do not own this property, I can ask you to leave Christine alone." He turned his attentions to Christine. "Go inside, Christine," he demanded.
Erik wielded his dagger once assured Christine was inside, he was used to being on the offensive but this time was different. He would not strike first, but he would certainly be prepared for what Lecter did. And he felt it with every bone in his body that Lecter would strike him. He had come here for a reason, to get Christine, and Erik didn't think Hannibal Lecter would stop until he had gotten her.
Lecter had obviously hit on a nerve with the both of them by bringing up their not being married. "Don't you love her enough to marry her? Or do you enjoy knowing you can turn her into something she's not? As if her reputation isn't ruined enough by her chosen occupation. How is she going to explain a child? You talked her into turning me down, didn't you? And for what?"
"I thought it was in her best interest I not marry her, Hannibal," he said dropping formalities entirely. "As if it's any concern of yours. My family is not your business."
"You should have made her your wife if you want other people to know she's your family."
"Damn it," he swore and in a fit of both anger and guilt struck out at him with the dagger. His aim was good, dead on, but Lecter was quicker and just as strong. He had been prepared for his attempt and blocked the blow. Lecter's forearm connected with Erik's forearm rendering the dagger for that moment useless. He was not successful in jarring the dagger free, but he knew he'd get another opportunity.
"You've been watching me watch her, haven't you? I didn't realize it until now, but I smelled you. Were you fearful she was meeting me? That you don't please her enough?"
"No," Erik countered. That thought had never entered his mind in all the times he'd watched Hannibal. His concern had been for Christine's safety. Erik had believed that the man standing before him would attempt some violent act as revenge for her turning him down. "She loves me. She could never love you. I know what you do, Hannibal," he said distastefully. "I've followed you at night. Apparently, you weren't able to catch my scent those occasions. I'm curious to know just how many victims you have under your belt. More than me I'd wager."
Lecter's gaze faltered briefly, ensuring Christine was not nearby and that she had not heard. He saw her step out of the cave's entrance again holding the baby, but she had not heard. At least Lecter didn't think she'd heard. Lecter was briefly, very briefly, distracted by sight of the baby at last. Not that there weren't other babies to be had, but the type of women that normally came up pregnant weren't the type that would stay out of Lecter's affairs. That was why he wanted the silent, obedient Christine Daae as his wife and mother to his child.
Strength wise this Erik would be a formidable opponent and perhaps in a battle of wits he would be, too. Lecter believed the man to be intelligent, he picked up on it even from their brief encounter here and now. But Erik had a weakness Hannibal Lecter did not, love. Erik loved the girl, Lecter loved no one. Sure he was capable of feeling and of caring, but he would use Erik's love for Christine and evidently hers for him to his advantage. He also had another advantage, Lecter knew Christine was back again watching them. Erik did not know this.
"You think so," Lecter replied rather calmly. If he was worried or frightened at the moment, or uncertain that he would be victorious he hid it well. Instead, he simply smiled at his opponent, one of the only victims Lecter would allow to fight back before he finished him off. And Lecter knew without a doubt that by the end of this Erik would be another one of his victims.
"You don't deserve her. At least I don't mislead people into believing something I'm not."
"Ah, of course you don't, which of course explains why you stand before me as a man and not as the ghost most believe you to be."
"I'd rather kill the child then let you rear him, Comte."
"The child? You cannot even address him by his name? Is that all he is to you? The child. You are such a fool. Do you really think she will stay here with you and remain happy? Once one or two more children come out of it and she can no longer sing because she's no longer the petite diva all have flocked to see perform, she will resent you. She will resent you and the children you give her. You've taken her away from everything she believes in Erik." Lecter sensed by the veins on Erik's neck that were now protruding almost perversely that he was indeed striking a note with the man. "What have you given her? Please tell me what she has given you that she is better off because of it? Her career? She may not have that anymore because of you. So that's not the right response."
It happened so quickly, too quickly. Erik lunged at him and at the same time Lecter drew a pistol from his side and fired. The bullet landed in Erik's shoulder causing him to fall back, dropping the dagger he had been using to attack Lecter, and clutching his shoulder. Lecter knew that Christine had seen Erik as the aggressor. Lecter had, after all, just been talking.
Christine screamed out, petrified, clutching Andre to her chest as if to hide him from the sight being played out before them. Somehow, she had no idea where she got the strength to do it, Christine ran toward both men. She saw the look in Comte Lecter's eyes. He was going to shoot him a second time. Christine knew nothing about guns, but she knew that the wound to his shoulder might not be fatal. "Please, Hannibal, Comte. Please don't kill him. Please you'd be killing a part of me as well. Please I beg of you, don't do this to us."
"You love this man who won't marry you so much you'd plead with me for his life?"
Christine's lower lip trembled slightly, but otherwise she showed no sign of wavering. Her grip on his forearm tightened. "Yes, I do. I don't need the vows spoken in a church to believe he will do as a husband would for any wife. A father to any child of his." She lifted her chin defiantly, daring Comte to challenge her.
"Then come with me."
"What," she cried out.
"You heard me. Come with me, or I'll shoot him again. And then you're on your own."
"You wouldn't dare!"
Two sets of eyes met, one maroon and one blue. Neither said anything, the sound of the hammer on the gun being pulled back again. "Don't test me, Christine. I'll marry you. I'll arrange it so that it will appear we were married a year ago. You can still work at the Opera. You will be treated well and fairly, Christine, as well as your son. You will be Comtesse. Who would dare ridicule you then?"
Christine faltered first. Her eyes closed tightly as she turned her head in Erik's direction. She opened her eyes and looked at him, lying on the ground obviously in pain. Would he die anyway? She did not know. But surely a second bullet perfectly aimed would mean he definitely would not survive. "I," she stammered. Even through the mask she could see the fear in his eyes. She had never seen that emotion there in his eyes before now and it startled her. Humbled her. "I'll do anything to spare him, Hannibal. But you must promise me to send a doctor here for him. Or you can shoot me here and now as well. I won't leave him here to die. He," she started trembling and her eyes filled with tears she was unable to prevent from spilling over onto her pale cheeks. "He wouldn't want people to see him, Hannibal. Please."
"Christine," Erik said weakly, his voice barely a whisper. "No."
"What other choice do I have, Erik," she asked, kneeling before him. "I cannot live without you. Where would I go? What would I do?" The tears were falling quickly and in abundance now. She kissed him boldly on the mouth. "Remember your promise, Erik," she whispered against his ear. "I cannot sleep without you. I need you here. At least knowing you're alive will be some solace to me."
Erik forced his eyes closed, the pain in his shoulder was unbearable but he'd live. The pain from knowing she would choose that man, that animal, to save his life was more than he could bear. His life wasn't worth saving, didn't she realize this? Obviously she did not, she believed she needed him. And when she kissed him like that, spoke to him so passionately, it was difficult for him to say no to her. Even if it was her wanting to leave him. He knew she was going to leave one day, it was inevitable, but it didn't mean he liked it. He'd rather never have experienced any of the past few months then to have to experience this moment. He turned his head away from her. "Go," he whispered. "Go!"
"I love you," she whispered not caring that she was not only getting blood on her but on Andre from Erik's shoulder wound. "Please know that."
He couldn't bear it and he didn't want to hear her words of love, not when she was agreeing to be someone else's wife. Anyone but Comte. Anyone else and Erik could perhaps have dealt with it. "Be careful," he whispered hoarsely. "Please be careful, but go. Do not worry about me, Christine. Whether I live or die, I will never leave you. You have our son, take strength in him. And give him your strength."
Christine wasn't about to argue with him about whether she possessed strength or not. She stood, clutching Andre to her and faced Lecter, her cheeks stained from the tears. Her eyes were red and swollen. "You will have a doctor come for him, yes?"
"Yes, Christine, I am not a murderer. I will come back myself and tend his wound."
If Christine heard the light laugh that came from Erik at Lecter's words she did not give any indication. She was too deep in thought as to just what she was agreeing to. What other choice did she have? She could never live with herself knowing that she was responsible for Erik's dying. Or anyone else dying for that matter, but certainly not Erik. She didn't want to marry Comte. She certainly didn't want to be a wife to Comte. That was something she had come to enjoy with Erik, but never with anyone else.
She lifted her skirt with one hand and nodded her head. She had no idea what else there was to do. Demand she wait there until Lecter return with what ever he needed to tend the wound? She wasn't sure she could bear to sit with Erik, not knowing if each breath was to be his last. Knowing she'd only have to leave him when it was all said and done. No, it was better she go now. She would surely know, in her heart and in her head both if Erik died.
She looked once more at Erik. "I'm sorry," she said softly. And she was sorry. More than she believed he could ever understand. As much as she had wanted him to marry her she would have stayed here with him. She was good for him, she believed that. And he helped her in ways no one else ever would or could. There was no sense dwelling on it now. She sighed softly and followed Comte to his coach.
She sat quietly, not loosening her tight grasp on Andre the entire ride to Lecter's estate. She was nervous and frightened. She was shown to her bedroom, a different one from the one she had slept in one night months and months ago. She panicked when she heard the sound of a lock falling into place after Lecter had left the room. She rushed to the door just as Lecter opened the door, nearly hitting her in the face with the door. "I thought you'd locked me in," she said.
Lecter laughed lightly. "No, I'm afraid not. Should I do that? Would that make you feel more at home, Christine?"
"No, Comte, it would not. But I am not here necessarily of my free will."
"I suppose not. I," he said, holding the key up before placing it in the palm of her hand. "I just wanted you to know that you can lock me out."
"Oh," she said softly. "I didn't realize. Thank you," she said clearly relieved.
"I will go see to your lover now. It's late enough in the season no one should have stumbled across him accidentally."
"Please don't call him that. You make it sound so," she paused searching for the right word.
Christine blushed deeply. "Yes," she said simply knowing it was indeed sinful what she had been doing.
"It is what it is, Christine. I'm not a pious person, don't get me wrong. But don't lie about it." Lecter laughed heartily knowing he had shocked her and turned, leaving the room. He turned again briefly once he had stepped across the threshold to the hallway. "All rooms you're allowed to enter are open. Any locked, I will expect you to respect my work and stay out of."
"Of course, Comte," she whispered and despite herself followed the words by a polite curtsey even though he couldn't see her.
In Lecter's absence, Christine was approached by servant after servant welcoming her to his home and telling her who they were. There were so many, Christine wasn't sure she'd ever know for sure who was who. The most important seemed to be her maidservant, Lecter's manservant, the servant for Andre who indicated that she would arrange for a wet nurse, and the cook. Christine wasn't so sure she wanted a wet nurse for Andre, she would have to talk to Lecter about that later. Beyond that there were house servants who cleaned, gardeners, and servants to help servants.
Christine hadn't realized Comte would have all of this! She did not deserve all of this, and she wondered yet again what on earth she had done to get this. The fact that she had basically sold herself, and Erik, to get it wasn't lost on her. She could only hope that le Comte would help Erik as he said he would. Christine had no reason to believe he would not keep his word on that. She was standing out on her balcony enjoying the view of Hannibal's gardens.
It seemed like hours had gone by when her maidservant came into the room. "Comtesse," she said with a curtsey.
"Christine," Christine said softly as she walked from the balcony into the room. "Please call me Christine, Bella." Christine offered her what she hoped was a polite smile, a nice smile and waited for what Bella had come to tell her. Perhaps Hannibal had returned home and wished to see her. Was Erik dead? She could only pray he was not, unaware if at this point her prayers would even be answered.
"If you say so, Lady Christine," Bella smiled a small smile. "The dressmaker has come to call for you, should I send her up here?"
"Yes, Miss, dressmaker. To fit you for the clothes you'll be needing, of course."
"Of course," Christine said with an authoritative nod as if she had a clue as to why she'd need more clothes. She had plenty of clothes at Erik's home, her home, that she could bring with her. Hannibal hadn't given her any time to collect anything, not even for Andre.
"She also has clothes for the baby, Milady."
"Oh," she exclaimed. He had thought of everything hadn't he? And why was Bella already referring to her as Comtesse? Did she believe they were already married? Oh dear Lord, was Hannibal going to come to her tonight expecting favors? Surely he wouldn't. She couldn't do it. She'd just assume run away then have to do that.
"Yes, I'm fine, Bella. Thank you. I just got lost in thought," she said with a slight shrug of her shoulders.
"Should I send the dressmaker up here then?"
"Yes, please do, Bella. Thank you. And she has things for Andre, you say?"
"Yes. Most unfortunate your trunks being lost as they were, but Comte will ensure all is replaced soon enough."
"I know he will," Christine smiled dismissively. Did his staff not find it strange he'd come home with her so suddenly and unexpectedly? Where had the servants been the night she had dinner with him months ago? Had he given them all the night off in the hopes that they would end up in bed together? She shuddered at that thought. Not that Hannibal was unattractive. He was indeed a handsome man, a gentle man. Christine knew she could do far worse in such an arrangement then being here.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com