my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
my_daroga ([personal profile] my_daroga) wrote2010-12-17 06:33 am

Fanfiction: Like Everybody Else (4/11) - Phantom of the Opera

Title: Like Everybody Else (4/11)
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera (Leroux)
Rating: Mature (sexual content)
Summary: A sequel to the events of the novel, Christine returns to Erik to live as his wife. But the promises Erik made are difficult to keep, and a kiss is not enough.
Notes: Thanks to [personal profile] stefanie_bean for her editing help and [personal profile] lettered for her support and inspiration. Also available at the AO3 and The Fifth Cellar.

Chapter three

I could not sleep. Christine, always more trusting than she ought, had fallen asleep almost immediately after kissing me goodnight. It was a wonder, really. How could she be so easy in bed with me? How could this make so little difference to her, when I lay awake in confusion and wonder and gratitude? I could see her even now, even in the dark and under the covers I could watch the quilt move with her breath. I wanted to soak up every inch of her. I wanted to be filled with her, with her scent, which to my confounded olfactory sense mostly brought up phantom memories of my mother’s rose garden after dark, the only time I was allowed outside. I hated those roses then for looking lovely and hiding their sins, which was the same reason that I envied them.

I was beyond such envy now. Or so I told myself. Why should I feel envious when I had everything I’d always wanted? Well, within reason, at any rate. Perhaps in another hundred years medical science would progress to the point where I could have been fixed, or not born at all, for that matter.

Reason! Nothing about Christine and me and the whole situation had anything to do with reason. I didn’t know why she had come back, not really, but I didn’t care and I didn’t question it. My love for her was not reasonable. Nothing about how I felt for her was, except perhaps her training, and even that had fallen by the wayside. But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she was here with me and that she would stay forever. Like mummies, entombed in a sort of underworld heaven in eternal (somewhat) youthful damnation. I wanted to enter into her and never have to leave. If she were to devour me there would be no telling where one of us ended and the other began. Perhaps the only way to be made beautiful by her kiss, like the cursed princes in stories, was to become her. I had never been allowed to take communion but I imagined my flesh transubstantiating into hers, or vice versa. It really didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she was here and that nothing, nothing would separate us.

Never had mind and body been so in tune, I thought. Never had my thoughts and my physical needs been so exactly the same. I hungered for her now, restraint all the more difficult with her lying, so trusting, next to me. I had hungered before, but now it was the hunger of a feral cat who had tasted cream and could no longer subsist on water. And once you feed a cat, you know, it is yours forever. Nothing you can do will rid you of it.

I watched her breathe, not dead, not a ghost or a phantom but mine all the same. Didn’t that make restraint unnecessary? A foolish, gentlemanly gesture of the sort I had no claim to. And no reason to regain, either, since we were married. I could watch her all I wanted. I could lift the quilt from her body and examine her curves as they swelled under her nightdress, a frothy, insubstantial thing that I could rip without even waking her. I could trace her body with my eyes, hands, mouth, as rude and unpleasant as they were. There were none to stop me, least of all her, who had given her word, given her self to me. I wanted to give myself to her again. My body, whose newly awakened state had taught me to consider my previous condition as mere sleepwalking, ached for her. “Lust” would have to be redefined in my personal dictionary.

She turned slightly away from me, as if sensible of my gaze, and I was treated with a view of the slight, boyish curve of her hip tapering to leg. Legs. As much as they might try to deny it, women had legs, and skin and buttocks and breasts and other, more secret things, hidden even when all else was laid bare. Even those lovely trouser roles I’d seen her perform were no comparison to this. Through some inhuman effort I made myself merely watch her, falling, eventually, into a restful sleep that was nonetheless filled with visions of her. My imagination had been given more to work with, and where before my dreams had been abstract and basic now my architect’s mind had the materials for more advanced projects, and she did things to me I feared I would only ever encounter while asleep.

I awoke with a start, my body straining for her but the object of my passion lying, for all intents and purposes, dead to the world. There was a furious knocking coming from somewhere in the house and my first frantic thought was that her little hero had come flouncing down here to see if his luck would hold a second time. So be it, I thought. I’d given him fair warning, which was actually more than he should expect from a monster like me, wasn’t it? I glanced back at Christine, sleeping oblivious through the racket, and smiled. Not a monster. Not anymore. She would wake to find me gone, but I wondered if, for an instant, she might think me an invisible, godly lover. Would she bring a lamp to bed tonight, and would she shudder at what its light revealed?

My mind was wandering again, but I collected myself and my clothes and went out to kill the gallant knight. The torture chamber was a bit slow for my taste now, and didn’t give me the pleasure of being the actual instrument of death. Perhaps, this time, I should resort to my bare hands. True, it had been many years since I’d sunk so low, but this was a personal matter. Strangling was so much more intimate when you could feel your victim convulsing for air under your fingers.

I wouldn’t kill him in my own house. It might upset Christine, and besides, it hadn’t been easy to buy and steal all of those rugs and things and I may find that a certain amount of blood was necessary. I flicked the complicated locking mechanism without thinking and glanced through the one-way spy-hole.

The daroga. That foolish old man. My disappointment was almost crushing. I supposed I could kill him, but it seemed a little indecent, despite all the threats I’d made to him over the years. Or perhaps because of them. One could only threaten a painful death so many times before it became something of an endearment. I opened the door just wide enough to slip through and the door was closed again before he could raise his arm to knock.

“I thought I told you not to come back.”

“And I thought you were dead,” he said with that infuriating equanimity. You’d think the man had no emotions at all, that he was constructed entirely of moral scruples. “I was going to come back and bury you, but a funny thing happened.”

“I lived,” I suggested. And for the first time in as long as I could remember, I rejoiced in that fact. I’d felt such kinship with death for so long that I had forgotten that life, too, could bring power.

“No,” he replied, and fixed me with a look that said my living was about to become anything but a laughing matter. “I’ll go along with your pose of ignorance for a moment, if it amuses you. Christine’s disappeared.”

Damn him. Of course he’d notice a thing like that. He was worse than an old woman. “That’s hardly surprising. She’s engaged to that heroic little example of petty nobility, isn’t she? Perhaps they got tired of waiting and ran off.”

“That would most likely require the groom’s presence. I don’t suppose I need tell you he has not disappeared. And before you ask, I did not bring him with me.” I wondered how he was able to read a blank mask so well. It was disconcerting. I really ought to have killed him years ago. “I knew how you’d react.”

“What makes you think I won’t kill you?” I asked.

“Leave off, Erik. I know you have her. She disappeared the night before last, after a quarrel with the boy. He won’t tell me about what, only that he’s convinced you’re dead but still haunting her somehow. I convinced him not to come down here. I told him I only knew the one way, and that last I knew it was sealed for good, because of the water. I don’t know how long it will hold him.” He paused, and when he spoke again his voice was lower, pained. “I thought better of you, Erik. After she… after you let them go. I thought I could expect better of you.”

“Better, daroga? Such as laying down my life for love like a poor dog in the street? Finally redeeming my blackened soul with my broken heart? I expected better from you, daroga. Though you always did have more imagination than was good for a policeman. Either that, or you’ve seen too many operas.”

“You lost, Erik. Chagny won. You’ve tried this once, it didn’t work. Give it up. Give her up. It will be better for both of you if you let her live her own life and let her out of yours. Stop torturing yourself.”

I wanted to scream my triumph in his face. I wanted to tell him that he was right, she was here, but of her own free will. That she had chosen and chosen me, my living bride, my own Aida. That I had won and I was saved and he ought to think better of me, because I was a changed man, whole, human, good, insofar as was in my power. Her power. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The hell you don’t!” he exclaimed, surprising me. He hardly ever swore. “How many times must we have this conversation? I don’t even know why I bother, Erik. I should let him just come down here and do what he will, except I know it would end in his death and this time someone might notice. Let me see her, at least. Let me talk to her.”

“She’s not here. Leave me alone.” I wanted to tell him she was sleeping, describe to him how beautiful she was in repose, unmoving, barely breathing. I wanted to tell him what had happened yesterday, what she’d given to me. I had so many questions. “You’re not welcome anymore, daroga. You betrayed me to him.”

“You tried to kill me!”

“By your vigorous knocking I’d say you’ve recovered. I’ve nothing more to say to you. You should have known, anyway, daroga. Your faith in me has always been a bit insane, if you ask me. Wishful thinking at best.” Oh but his faith was completely vindicated now, and I couldn’t even tell him.

“As you should have known what I would do, Erik. You should have seen it coming. I’m not blind, and neither are you. Neither of us has any illusions about the other.” Then why wasn’t one of us dead? I wanted to ask. If we were both so perceptive, why had neither of us foreseen Christine coming back? If that could happen, anything could, and I knew nothing at all.

“Then be grateful for the insanity that keeps me from killing you,” said, and slipped back inside, locking the door.

“You wouldn’t have to if you had nothing to hide!” he called through the door. I watched him as he gazed speculatively at the door, his eyes unerringly finding the hidden spy-hole. His lantern illuminated him from below, deepening the lines on his face, so it may have been my imagination that supplied the tiny, brief smile on his face as he turned away.

Chapter five

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