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my_daroga ([personal profile] my_daroga) wrote2011-11-04 01:54 pm

Fanfiction: Like Everybody Else (6/11) - Phantom of the Opera

Title: Like Everybody Else (6/11)
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.
Warnings: The sex in this chapter contains elements of force and dubious/non-consent.
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 five



Where that day ended and the next began and ended again, I could not precisely say. I lived in a sort of spell cast by her body and her voice and every once in awhile I ate or told her stories or watched her sleep. I felt as if Christine was seeping through osmosis into my very being, her compliant presence filling me with something I had never had before. Was it contentment? Was it that simple? Or was it that physical acceptance I had craved for so long and craved even now unless my skin touched hers? Christine floated through it all, serene and angelic and warm and alive, like a dream I still could not admit was real, despite the ample evidence of my senses. It was everything I had wanted. Everything…

“Where are my papers?” I asked Christine. She was looking over yet another score.

“Papers?”

“Yes. They were in my study. Have you been in my study?”

She hesitated a moment, as if I was likely to hurt her if she said the wrong thing. Which, I supposed, the man I had been might have given her reason to think. “I cleaned up,” she said defensively.

“By ‘cleaned up’ do you actually mean ‘threw away your papers’?”

“I don’t know,” she said helplessly. “Perhaps. I… they made no sense, there was nothing on them. Just scribbles. I thought they were trash.” There was suddenly a sort of pain in my head, behind my left eye. My “scribbles” were actually plans and ideas and things I was working on, like a stove that used electricity instead of gas and new lights and extra rooms, not to mention abandoned, currently unnecessary plans for a lifelike automaton. “I’m sorry, Erik. I thought I was helping. I can go find them.”

“Do not go through my things, Christine. Haven’t you learned that much yet? Don’t mess with things you don’t understand. It probably means they’re important.”

“Erik!” She looked on the verge of tears, and I knew because I was standing over her, hovering like a hunting falcon. Or perhaps a circling vulture was more apt. “I’ll go get them—“

As suddenly as it had arrived, my anger dispersed, flowing backwards into whatever place I kept it and I fell to my knees in front of her, grasping her hand. “Christine, please forgive me. I had no right to say such things to you. They’re nothing, really. I can get them; I won’t have you going through the garbage. Can’t allow that. My temper… I let it get away from me at times.”

She nodded, still tearful but not in immediate danger of overflow. “I… I understand, Erik. I shouldn’t have done it. I thought I could help.”

“You do help, my love. Every day. I would have died without you, Christine.” Suddenly I wasn’t certain we were still talking about the papers. Was it supposed to be a work in progress, this business of redemption? Beauty had saved the beast with a kiss. No one ever talked about what happened after the two were married. Did she have to train him to use his silver again instead of wolfing down chunks of raw meat from a plate on the floor? His grooming habits must have been appalling, but at least he’d been given a form worth taking care of.

Well, the Opera had not been built in a day, or even a year. I had changed, I knew that much. I could feel it in the pressure of her fingers as they rested on my shoulder, the electric charge of her touch that had nothing to do with pain or humiliation or death. Not the permanent kind, anyway. “I’m not going to hurt you,” I promised her. “I’m not like that anymore.”

She smiled finally. “I know,” she said, and I thought I detected a hint of pride in her voice. In the end, I dug through the garbage myself and managed to find most of what she’d put there.

That was an isolated interlude in an otherwise idyllic honeymoon. I had never—never!—been cared for, and I basked in her regard like a homeless dog by a fire. All I had needed, I said to myself, was someone who thought of me as a man. I devoted myself to her. I wanted to know her inside and outside, though I knew the former was less practical, since I found I liked her alive. Most of our time was spent in music, recalling her first days with me. Except that then I’d been so confused, so at a loss as to how to deal with her presence or what she would want or need. Now I could spend companionable evenings at her side, reading to her from books I thought she might like. I started with Poe, hoping the short, atmospheric poetry and stories would engage her. And every so often I left her alone for a few hours at a time to attend to my own work.

“Erik?”

I barely glanced up from my desk where I was scratching furiously away at some new design. “Christine, can’t you see I’m busy? Please, leave me be until I’m finished, won’t you?” Some things did not change, I mused. I could not concentrate with her around.

“I have to tell you—“

“Can’t it wait? Go on, will you?” I had to get these thoughts down; experience told me that my mind turned rapidly and did not always accurately save what it created. It had to be recorded before I went on to some new idea, or I’d lament the first one’s loss, however trivial it may end up being. I eventually registered her absence, and went on working. I’d noticed a hum in certain electric devices, like arc lights, and I was trying to work out if one could alter the pitch of the hum by using different materials. Or was it the amount of current? I had heard of recent developments which made possible the faithful reproduction of sound by means marking down on foil or wax the vibrations made while speaking which was then able to infinitely replicate the original event. And the telephone, as it was called, which could transmit the voice through wires the way electricity was carried. My head was full of things like this, all vying for attention, all claiming some connection to one another. If I attempted to shut them off, I might be able to ignore them but then I would miss something, something important. I had to at least set down these germs of ideas so that I could better organize them later and better know how to implement them. As it was, my brain was flying from one improbable fantasy to the next, from amplification of one’s voice to simultaneous transmission of a live event, such as opera, to a remote location to instruments that worked not on the principle of vibrations in the air but vibrations in current that one could control entirely by means of switches.

It must have been some time later that I roused myself from my work-induced trance. Christine must be lonely. She’d said something, I really didn’t remember what about, but it behooved me to find out, I decided. The house was strangely quiet as I moved from the study into the parlor. I wondered if she’d fallen asleep. I never really knew what time it was, anymore. I ate when she grew hungry, although not as often; I slept when she grew tired, though not as long. I was about to move into the bedroom when a knock came, startling me. Damn him if he woke her up, I thought furiously as I looked through the door to see the little busybody standing there as if he had every right to come calling like a favored suitor.

“I hope this isn’t becoming a pattern with you,” I growled, wrenching open the door and shutting it behind me.

“Is this a bad time?” the ex-policeman asked mildly.

“Yes. If I’d known you were coming, I’d have tidied the place up a bit. Reset the traps, perhaps.” That earned me a half smile, though I couldn’t fathom when my efforts to intimidate had become so comical. I supposed I was losing my touch. Marriage had made me soft, and the thought gave me a mingled satisfaction and panic. Not a combination which made for easy digestion. “Did you risk your fragile health for a reason, or is my ability to amuse you sufficient?”

“I came to apologize, in fact,” he said.

“For what?”

“For my lack of faith. Of course I had no reason to trust you, but I ought to have given you the benefit of the doubt. For that, I am sorry.”

“What are you talking about?” I wondered where my impatience came from. Perhaps to counteract the treacherous glimmer of pleasure I felt at seeing the nosy little man again.

“When I accused you of spiriting Mademoiselle Daae away again. You denied it and I have come to learn that you were telling the truth.”

That only made me suspicious. What could he have learned to contradict the truth? From whom? “What?” I wasn’t even sure what I was asking, but it was all that came out.

“She seems to be in excellent health and spirits; or so she was four days ago, when I saw her conferring with the managers.” He eyed me suddenly. “It is extremely unwise for her to come back, after all you’ve done to her. All you’ve done to each other, rather. You did know she was back, didn’t you? You aren’t thinking of trying anything again? I intend to warn her against arousing your ire, but I felt I owed you the apology nevertheless.”

“Tell me what she said,” I demanded in a tone that usually brooked no opposition and substantially weakened one’s desire to oppose.

He still had the gall to look incredulous. I wondered if my voice was broken. “Erik, surely you know she’s been signed on by the managers. Her disappearance caused quite a stir in the papers; they think they can profit from her notoriety. Apparently so can she. Especially now that she’s broken off with her fiancé: ‘to devote herself to her career,’ she said. She’s asked for her old dressing room back as well.” He paused while I seethed in silent, volcanic fury. “Erik… do you have any part in this? You haven’t seen the girl, have you?”

“Excuse me. I have urgent business to attend to,” I said coldly. Which involved seeing the girl, most definitely. Beyond that, I would not think.

“Erik, let me in. Let me speak with you.”

“What makes you think I would do any such thing?”

“For old time’s sake. Don’t do anything rash; I should not have said anything. Let me come with you.”

“What part of ‘no’ are you incapable of translating, old man? Now. Go. Away. By God, I really will kill you this time!” I would kill someone, of that I felt certain. The palms of my hands itched with it. But he probably didn’t deserve it. Not for this, anyway. I slammed back into the house. “Christine!” I didn’t care if he heard me; he could do nothing anyway. I tore the bedroom door nearly from its frame and stepped inside, a tower of black rage, only to find the bed and the room empty. I blew through the room into the bathroom, then out again and through the rest of the house in a maelstrom of righteous wrath. “Dammit, woman, where are you?” There was only one thing for it. She’d gone above. The daroga had been speaking the truth, as ill-advised as such practices usually were. He held onto his honesty like a drowning man did a sinking ship.

By the time I made it to the second cellar, making my way hastily and without much care although managing to avoid my Persian nemesis, I could hear her. She was trilling away at the Jewel Song, sounding for all the world like a greedy little hussy without a care in the world. I didn’t know whether it was worse for it to be all acting or not. Although I had to admit; she sounded exquisite. That permeated even through my thoughts of violence.

Oh, I did feel the violence, felt it rising within me like the tide. She had deceived me, betrayed me, cuckolded me again. Used my good faith against me. She had all of me, every bit of blood and bone and sinew. Why was it not enough? My soul, even, such as it was, was at her disposal, not to mention my heart, which was full to bursting now that I had added betrayal and rage to the love which had sat there before, still sat there now. I was in my box now and the auditorium was dark. It was not a full rehearsal, but the rest of the principals milled about while she sang, some of them watching her, and I wanted to kill them for laying eyes on her, my own, my love, lover, beloved. How dare they? How dare she, when I had claimed her, when she knew she belonged to me and me alone?

I did not wait for the rest of the rehearsal. Nothing could be done now, not without drawing undue attention to myself, of which I’d had more than enough to last me some time. I would wait, and she’d told me exactly where I would find her. I had no illusions that her request for the old dressing room had any basis in sentiment. No, she’d planned this. Thought she could flit between two worlds like some kind of amphibious diva of the underworld, like Persephone in spring, like I was some hell-god who had entrapped her. Entrapped her! She had ensnared me from the beginning, and I was still caught in her spell. Even now I didn’t really believe any of the things I was thinking. Or rather, the thoughts existed alongside the certainty of her complete and utter innocence. Is it possible to describe how the two contradictory concepts existed within me? How at the sight of her entering her dressing room, the blood showing pinkish through her skin from her exertion, made me want to kill her and simply want her at the same time?

I laughed softly, and the peculiar acoustics of the bricks on either side of the mirror amplified my voice so that it took on a god-like resonance. Her head whipped around, only to meet her own reflection, but she knew it was me, of course.

“Erik, I tried to tell you. You wouldn’t listen.”

“It is your turn to listen, my dove.” My voice was vicious, a wounded tiger of a voice, but I had lost all finesse. I sprung the mechanism of the mirror and pulled her through bodily. Before, I would have needed only sound. She protested on the way down, her voice becoming more supplicating and timid the longer I met her with silence. I didn’t know what to say to her, what to do with her, but I could not do it here. It had to be home.

The bedroom. I threw her down on the bed, where she rubbed one wrist with her other hand. Her face was white as death, though two little spots of color hovered on her cheeks. Anger, was it? Like wearing red in a bull ring. And her picadors had been at me already.

“Erik, why are you doing this?” She made an effort to keep her voice firm, but it was falling around the edges.

“Shut up. You had your chance up there, on stage. Did you enjoy it? Showing off in front of all of them. Oh I’ve heard all about it, lover. Think you can cash in on your borrowed fame without paying for it? Fame, I needn’t add, you borrowed from me.”

She shook her head and opened her mouth. “I’m yours, Erik, I only—“ I shut it with my own, kissing her roughly. I didn’t want her excuses and I didn’t want my own inadequate verbal artillery. I only wanted her. Seeing her on stage, hearing her sing to all those people had made me desire her more than ever but I didn’t want the tender worshiping of the past week. It wasn’t enough, it simply wasn’t, I couldn’t keep her here with tenderness alone though I’d tried so hard. I put my hand to her throat and she gasped but I only pulled downwards on her dress, ripping the thing to shreds before I could remove it fully. My hands were everywhere, kneading, pulling, claiming, my mouth tasting and testing and devouring. She squirmed against me in protest, her eyes pleading though she was wisely silent. Her eyes… they matched the sky of the painting behind her, the only sky I would ever walk under without fear, and I didn’t want to see them now.

“Turn over,” I ordered, my voice reduced to an ugly, lust-filled growl. In her confusion she hesitated so I did it for her and she stifled a groan as she landed on her arm. She lay spread before me, an entire unexplored continent I had only begun to map. Not enough, it hadn’t been enough, but when I drove forward in my role as intrepid explorer I realized that it hadn’t been enough for me either only I hadn’t known it, that this was like nothing I’d ever felt and I pulled her up against me, possessing her entirely.

The guilt descended almost immediately afterwards. I lay beside her, catching my breath, my body still caught in the afterthoughts of passion, and I noticed the red mark on her wrist, the tangle of former garments clinging to her legs. I remembered as if in one of my horrible dreams of deeds long gone that I had lost control with her, that I had done something I’d never before allowed myself, even in my most violent, lustful rages. I’d subjected her to the monster within me.

The monster I thought she had vanquished. That was the true horror for me: had it all been a lie? I had to make it better. I had to or she would leave me, as she already had. But how? Sorry did not begin to address it. It was an empty word, devoid of future. It could only touch things past.

I hazarded a look to my right, expecting her to be gone or at the least crying and attempting to cover herself. She was only watching me with a strange, glassy intensity, tears of pain in the corners of her eyes but none falling. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment.

I almost choked on my response. “Sorry? Christine, my darling, my love… you’ve nothing to be sorry for, it’s me—“

“I should not have gone above without your permission,” she said slowly, almost deliberately.

“Oh Christine…” I moaned, hardly listening. “Christine, please forgive me. I know I don’t deserve it, I know that, but I’m trying, please believe me. I’ll make it up to you, just say it and it’s yours. I’m your slave, you know that… your dog… do what you like with me.” Nothing, nothing could make me clean again, not even her, because I did not deserve forgiveness. She’d leave me and I would surely die again and I didn’t want that, not when I’d learned so recently what I’d been missing from life.

She sat up then and turned to me, her disarranged hair spilling over bare skin like a shower of sunlight on marble. “I want to sing, Erik,” she said quietly, her eyes fixing me with their intensity even as the threatened tears began to leak from them.

“Sing? Now? Christine, we need to talk about this.” I didn’t want to talk, I wanted to die, to dissolve, to evaporate into the air so I would never have to face this.

“I am. I mean… I want my job back. At the Opera. I can’t live without that.”

Something began to permeate the guilt-ridden fog obscuring my brain from view. “Is that what your dearly-rejected fiancé demanded? Is that why you left him?”

“This has nothing to do with him,” she said angrily, but she took a breath and continued calmly, evenly. “I did it for you. For us. I want to sing. You always said you wanted the world to hear my voice. You can have that, and me too. Isn’t that what you wanted?” She’d wiped the tears from her face and looked earnest and confused. She really had thought this was what I wanted.

I nodded miserably. I had said that. But I had lost track of what was going on. Her hand was cautiously, inexorably snaking its way up my leg. Her first self-initiated touch. I didn’t know whether she intended it to remind me of my grievous sin and my duty to make it up to her or if she was trying to influence me by means of physical rather than emotional persuasion, but it didn’t really matter did it? She was touching me of her own accord and that superseded reason. “I can’t lose you, Christine. I can’t let you go.” It was all I could think, the only excuse I could make even if it was woefully inadequate.

“I’m here, Erik. I told you what I’d decided. Up there,” she waved her free hand, “is just the audience. You understand what music means to me.”

“I hurt you.”

“You were upset, Erik,” she said, looking down. “You didn’t mean it.”

I buried my face in my hands. I didn’t know what to make of this, how she could know what I meant. “I can never be forgiven, Christine. I can never be good enough for you.”

She pulled my hands away and held them in her own. “That’s not true,” she said fiercely, or as close as I’d ever heard her come to it. “You let me go when you thought that was what I wanted. When you knew it would kill you. A monster would not have done so. We both just have to try harder, that’s all.” She gazed at me, really looking at me, and I knew I had lost.

“You’ll be wonderful,” I said, and she offered me a smile, her simple, country, shy smile, and I was swept up again in her. Did she know I’d give her anything she asked for just to see that smile leveled at me? At the same time, however, I felt anxiety tighten its grip on me and I knew this would kill me, because she was leaving me again little by little, even if she came back every day. I should have killed her, I thought wildly. I could have killed her when she was still mine, and mine forever. I should have prevented this from happening. I imagined the blood that had so frightened me that first time as her life blood, myself as the last thing she saw, the last touch she felt, imprinted wholly upon her as she would always be upon me. It would only have been fair. Now it was too late.

I sensed movement and focused on her again as she took my face between her hands. “You’ll be so proud of me, Erik. They’ll all know what I can do; what you taught me. And I’ll be singing for you. Only you. You have to trust me.”

I shook my head. I didn’t trust anyone, I didn’t trust myself, I couldn’t. But it was a lie too, because some part of me had trusted her from the beginning against every bit of better judgment I could muster. Or if trust wasn’t the word, it didn’t matter, because my brain no longer had control over my emotions. They were wholly hers. No amount of suspicion would allow me to alter that.


Chapter seven

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