my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
my_daroga ([personal profile] my_daroga) wrote2011-11-10 04:35 pm

Fanfiction: Like Everybody Else (7/11) - Phantom of the Opera

Title: Like Everybody Else (7/11)
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 six

I made her write out a schedule of when she had rehearsal. She tried to soothe me with protestations of her trustworthiness but it didn’t matter what I believed or what she promised; I was incapable of letting her out of my sight. There was one scheduled for the next day and I let her go, although not without following behind and watching from the box as she breezed her way through Marguerite again. She was so beautiful it hurt to think about the hundreds of people who would see her shining up there like their own personal salvation—hundreds, thousands!—of potential temptations for her, night after night, of which I was but one. Flowers in her dressing room, boys with scarves: it would all begin again, wouldn’t it, my idyll broken for a second time. I had not come so far only to be thwarted by another young pup.

As before, I awaited her in her dressing room. This time, however, I lingered in the room itself rather than behind the mirror. Perhaps I could surprise her. Perhaps, as my eyes took in the divan, the room held other possibilities. The thought excited me, although I needed no further excitement. Apprehension and desire twisted within me frantically every time I thought of her on that stage. Possibilities flew through my mind with the speed and erratic flight of bats catching their supper, until at last I heard feet on the passageway outside, only the footfalls were too heavy, and—

“They’re coming,” he said. I stared in surprise at the daroga, who had appeared like magic though I knew it was my own mental disarray rather than his prowess which had caused the breach in security. I noticed that he did not look terribly old in the light, not as old as on that night I pulled him from the torture chamber and sent him home. His incongruous green eyes were as keen as ever and his black hair was only just starting to streak with silver. Like mine. “She’s not alone. There are some girls with her. She won’t shake them off before she gets here and you ought to be out of the way.”

I nodded, hearing the truth of his words coming down the corridor, and I touched the hidden switch which slid the mirror into the pocket inside the wall. He stared at me and I realized that I’d given myself away, but it didn’t really matter. We were both well aware that he’d already found and used it. “Are you coming?” I asked tersely, and he followed, both of us turning to watch as Christine entered the room, surrounded by a flesh-and-tulle concoction of uncertain proportions.

“No really, Christine,” one of them continued. “You left him? Just like that? Are you mad?”

She smiled. “No, Meg. I just thought about what was important to me and realized it was all here.” She glanced surreptitiously at the mirror but it wasn’t a look of apprehension or dread and I sensed the man next to me turn his head in my direction.

“You’re not going to turn me in, are you?” I asked dryly, knowing how softly I had to speak to be unheard on the other side of the wall.

“Turn you in? Why would I risk my life saving you in Persia only to hand you over to the Suerté? For that I could be warm and comfortable and surrounded by four wives and innumerable children.” He sounded genuinely perplexed by this, and it surprised me because I thought he had been threatening such all along.

“But Christine! He was so rich! I would die to have a man like that wish to marry me! Who cares about the blasted ballet? I want servants and children and carriages.” The girl paused, tilted her head. “Would you mind if I attempted to comfort him in his time of need? Or maybe he wasn’t so good in bed. Never thought you’d sample the wares before buying, Mademoiselle Prude.”

Christine blushed furiously but ignored the last comment as the giggles rose around her, while the blood rising in my face seemed to be all before my eyes. I had to restrain myself from wringing that stupid scrawny slut’s neck. “There are more important things than marriage, Cécile. Music. Love. And I want them to go together.” She smiled again secretively, and I wondered if it was meant for me, if she was even conscious of it. “In the meantime, I’m going to be a great singer.”

“I thought you loved him,” the little Giry girl said. I wished they’d all go away. Why did they have to talk to her? Why did she have to talk back? Rehearsal was over and the conversation was making me nervous.

“I did too, Meg. But…” and she frowned slightly “…I’m not sure it was enough. Not when there are things I want to do. He loved me for what I was ten years ago. I want someone who loves me for what I am. What I could be.”

My companion looked my direction again, though light was limited. “Besides, Erik, I’m not sure what I could charge you with. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t believe that’s your business.”

“Perhaps not.” He looked back at the group of girls, resolving finally into four separate bodies. “I wish you luck, my friend. Perhaps one day you will tell me how it all happened.”

“I can’t imagine why you think I should have to, with you snooping around all the time.”

“I can’t believe you came back,” Cécile was saying. “After everything… Aren’t you frightened?”

“Of course not,” Christine said breezily, and I wondered at the change in her from when I had first laid eyes on her. Shrinking away from the inane chatter of the chorus girls, afraid of everything, in constant need of guidance. Now she held court, evading their inquiries easily. She was confident.

“What if he comes back?” Meg eyed the corners of the room warily, as if expecting me to leap out from behind a hat rack.

“That’s over,” she said. “He won’t trouble you any more.”

“Aren’t you going to accuse me of hypnotizing her? Of holding her captive with my mysterious powers of persuasion?” I whispered.

The daroga snorted lightly. “Please, Erik. I don’t think even you are that good. I told you before I wanted only to be sure she was not a hostage. If she’s come back of her own free will, I am pleased for you. I’m not sure if spying on the girl is the proper way to ensure her continued attentions, but that’s between the two of you. But when I spoke to her—“

“You what?” He might as well have replaced my blood with ice water.

“She stopped me in the hallway yesterday, after rehearsal. She thanked me for saving the young man’s life. When I asked her why she thought I was responsible, she hesitated and told me a friend had told her.” I knew him well enough to sense the raised eyebrow even in the near-dark. “I know quite well that she has not spoken to Chagny in weeks. Neither has she been home. In fact, the place is let to someone else. The girl is quite talented and could have a career anywhere. So I told her I understood that congratulations were in order. She said ‘he told you then’ and then said that she supposed he would tell his friends. I am honored to be so counted, Erik. Although she doesn’t like me very much, does she?”

“I don’t like you very much either, but that doesn’t seem to stand in your way when you wish to annoy me. Now that you know, you can stop poking your nose into my business.” Christine had started herding the girls out, and I was getting anxious for him to be gone.

“It’s not likely to be any fun anymore, since you’ve renounced your life of crime. You clearly wish me absent, so I will take my leave. Be careful, old man. I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“And I hope you know what’s best for you,” I growled. He was mocking me, I could sense it, but I wasn’t sure how and it disturbed me. I grabbed his arm as he turned to go. “I will not have you saying anything against her, do you hear me? She gave everything up for me, to be my wife. She rescued me.”

He held up his hands. “I can say nothing against her character, Erik. She is obviously a fine and worthy young lady; but she did not give everything up.” I followed his gaze to where she sat before the mirror, brushing her hair and humming an aria from Faust. “Women are complicated. I wished to warn you.”

I’m complicated.” Purity was the absence of complication, and Christine was an angel. “She’s everything I need, now. And I don’t need you to tell me what to do. Have you given up detecting to become my mother?” Her movements distracted me, desire rising past the pre-established high-tide lines. Her face in the mirror at her table, reflected into infinity by the one behind which I crouched night after night, an endless loop that touched off something in me that I couldn’t turn off.

The Persian shrugged. “I didn’t think you had one. But you are complicated, I will grant
you that.” How different things were now. Now, instead of sitting back here like a lecherous spider I had only to touch a spring and I could go to her as myself, as a man, and be received by a living, breathing woman, not that dead fantasy of my torturous dreams. All those nights watching her unknown, unseen, unfulfilled, were over.

And now the unsavory little foreigner knew where to look, too. “If I ever catch you here, daroga, if I catch you near her, so help me—“

“Erik. I will not ask you to trust me, since that is asking too much, but in this matter I can safely say that I have no discourteous intentions towards your… towards the young lady. I could go to Cécile Jammes for that. I only wish your continued happiness. You make things so difficult when you aren’t.” He looked down at where my long, pale fingers gripped his forearm, practically the only things visible in that light, and I let go. With a last look at the girl behind the mirror, he slid into the shadows, but I could hear him for quite some distance.

I tried to shake off the uneasiness I always felt after our little conversations. I didn’t know what he wanted anymore. Things used to be so simple; we were on opposing sides, hunter and hunted but now I couldn’t remember which was which and the lines had gotten tangled somewhere. Now I didn’t know where he stood, or why he kept showing up, or why I could not pinpoint the purpose of his interest. It made me nervous, not the least because I felt I had to keep myself from spilling out my secrets to him in a way I never had to worry about otherwise. Or perhaps the feeling was due to the woman I saw behind the glass now. Certainly my insides seemed to form themselves into unnatural shapes when I looked at her. A mingled pleasure and pain, anxiety and lust, I wanted her all to myself and wanted her even more when she gave herself to others. Wanted to mark her once and for all as mine and mine alone, so that she could never forget it.

This time when I opened the mirror she seemed to be waiting, and her resistance to the pressure I exerted on her hand was minimal. The anger from the day before had dissipated, but the violence of my feelings had not. I could not read her face during the journey down but we said nothing to each other and when we reached her bedroom she wordlessly began unbuttoning her dress.

“Not fast enough,” I said softly, low in my throat. “You are not anxious to meet me after your rehearsals, I see. Not at all anxious to come back to me.” She shook her head, about to protest. “I was watching, Christine. I heard you speaking to those shameless little ballet strumpets. Telling them about me, were you?” She shook her head again as her fingers moved more quickly and I knew it was the truth, that she had very wisely kept her whereabouts a secret, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t help it. The fear inside me was like another voice, another mind. “They’re not good enough for you. They’re common little deviants and I will not have you listening to their stupid perverted gossip.” I walked towards her. Her chest was laid bare to me now. “You’re so beautiful, Christine. So perfect. You can’t let anyone mar that.” She gasped as I laid a hand on her breast and her response, whether from fear or the cold of my flesh or, God help me, desire, goaded me further. “You left me waiting,” I said, and I knew it was pathetic, that I was pleading now. I was losing control again and I didn’t care. She was responsible for it. I was nothing next to her, powerless. Anything I did now, she had made me do.

“What…” She swallowed. “What do you want, Erik?” Was it fear? Was that what I saw in her eyes? Or did she really want to know? Impossible—the images in my head would drive her away, if not into madness.

“Touch me, Christine. Now.” I needed her, needed to feel her against me again, to prove to myself she was here still, that she hadn’t left. She slowly drew off my shirt, not looking at my face even as she untied the mask and let it fall. Her hands hesitated and my own fingers tore like talons at the buttons of my trousers. When I was unclothed I began to direct her hands to my skin, conducting her like a concerto for two hands but something was missing, she still wasn’t looking at me and by God I would not have her imagining that perfect modern Adonis she’d given up. She had made her choice and I would make her face every last consequence.

I moved her with me until the edge of the bed met her legs and she stumbled back upon it. I pulled her dress down the rest of the way and it lay on the floor like a snake’s discarded skin. “Look at me,” I ordered. “Look at me, all of me. It’s what you wanted, isn’t it? It’s what you’ve taken and now you have to keep it.” I held my body over hers, not touching but for the hand that held her wrists above her head. “I am not your perfect vicomte. I am not young and beautiful and carved from marble but flesh and blood and I’m yours. Just as you are mine. All of you, forever. Don’t ever imagine otherwise. And look at me when I’m talking to you.” My hand snaked down her body, as velvety smooth as my voice, and her eyes flew open when I reached the place her legs joined. My mouth followed to where other parts of me wanted so desperately to be, but then mother had always said I had clever fingers and the devil’s own tongue and no one could say that of that boy, no. She could not escape me this way. The bed began to tremble with her and I briefly wondered if I was hurting her but she had hurt me so many times and now I hurt but she was the only way to make it stop and as I came to rest in her she stiffened and then went silent, staring at me with a doll’s reflective gaze until it was over and I rolled to the side.

As the languor took hold of me so did the guilt, and once again I took her in my arms and held her, but she wasn’t crying. She just looked at me, puzzled. “I can be whatever you want,” I promised. “Just give me time. I’m no good at this. I just need the chance.”

“I understand, Erik,” she said, but she couldn’t, really. She couldn’t know what it felt like, to be with her. To be threatened with losing her. To want her so badly that I wanted to cut her open so I could climb inside and stay forever. “Can we sing?”

I hesitated, bending to retrieve the mask before I spoke. “Of course, my darling, if that is what you want. I’ll be in the other room. Take your time.”

She sang, and I corrected her like I was the pupil, a trained monkey convinced his dancing, and not the organ grinder, is responsible for the music. When the lesson ground futilely to a halt she bent and kissed my forehead.

“I’m going to make us some supper. I know how much you like to work on your machines and things. I’ve been using the books you showed me. Did you know?”

“You’re doing very well, my dear.” In truth I had no idea what she’d been cooking because I barely tasted it. Between my distraction thinking about her and the fear churning in my stomach food had become even less of a priority, though I dutifully tried everything she put before me.

I walked into my workroom and looked around at the shelves and tables full of complicated little nothings. It was all just another way to waste time, to fill the hours and days before she arrived to fill me. I remembered the plans and visions I’d had, the intense desire for creation, as if they belonged to someone else. The blueprints and notes I pawed through might have been written in a foreign language, and when I took up a pencil to make an attempt I found myself sketching her again and again in the margins of some plan for a system to keep rooms cool in summer. When would I ever need that? I lived underground. Much more useful to try to catch in these thin lines the curve of her body. But that was futile as well. I might as well attempt to imitate her voice, a project as inadequate as it was impossible.

My thoughts drifted as I waited for her to deliver me from the purposelessness of time spent away from her. I wondered what the daroga had meant by wishing me luck and asking if I knew what I was doing. Christine wasn’t complicated. Her simplicity had drawn me to her. That, and her innocence. Even her body was innocent, slender and forever trapped in that stage before true womanhood. She’d never be a matronly figure. She would never grow up. She would never cease to be exactly what she was now.

But then I remembered the blood. The blood which had first made her real to me, a woman. She was a woman, which meant she was mortal. It seemed impossible that I had not thought of it before, but with that realization the full weight of her eventual death descended upon me. She was already leaving me piece by piece and all too soon she’d leave me forever. Nothing would remain of her in this world. A few moldering newspaper clippings, perhaps, in her ex-fiancés bottom drawer. I had somehow assumed that my victory, once granted, was irrevocable, but it seemed I had lost anyway. I tried to push the thoughts, the fear, away. Perhaps that was what the daroga meant, I thought. It had to be, because if he’d ever showed any amount of interest in the girl he’d be dead already.

I say that, but I knew I wasn’t going to kill him. Perhaps I had lost my taste for death. Or perhaps I had never really wanted to kill him. He seemed to belong where he was. Two days later, when I crept into Box 5, it seemed almost inevitable that he be waiting for me there, in my favorite chair, book in hand. Not welcome; inevitable. Thought I had a nagging thought that if I wasn’t careful, I’d come to expect him everywhere and be disappointed when he didn’t show up.

“Taking over my old job? Or are you more of a personal ghost?” I asked to mitigate the treachery of my silent conclusions.

He looked up. “I presume the position is open since your reformation. I thought it might be a good career change for me. Who better to turn to crime than a policeman?”

I walked over and pulled the book from his hand. Notre Dame de Paris. “I suppose you find yourself very funny,” I said darkly.

“What?” he asked, all feigned innocence. Or stupidity, it was hard to tell which. “I thought I required some assistance with my French. And I don’t see what you have to be sensitive about. You resemble Claude Frollo only superficially.” I’d read it; there was precious little else to do some years, and at the time I had merely pitied the poor stupid fools for falling in love in the first place when it was patently obvious that they’d all come to a bad end. Now, his evocation of Quasimodo’s doomed love seemed obvious and underhanded.

“Your French is as good as mine, as you well know.”

“Thanks to you. A strange coincidence, isn’t it, that I should have taken the trouble to learn any when, at the time, I had every intention of remaining in Persia the rest of my life. It certainly came in handy later.”

“It’s not a coincidence at all. You only came here because you knew the language. Cause and effect are not coincidence. Both of us ending up here, today, perhaps.”

He looked at me for a moment before speaking. “You’re right, of course.” I thought he was going to say more, but the silence lengthened and we both turned to watch the stage. Mephistopheles was warming up.

“Why are you here?” I asked suddenly.

“My continued survival depends on my never returning to Persia, or had you forgotten?” he replied blandly.

“Don’t be a fool. Why are you here, in my box, in her dressing room, at my door… everywhere? Are you waiting for me to stray from the path again? I tell you I’m not going to. I’m finished with that. You had plenty of evidence against me, plenty of chances to try to kill me if you wanted to risk your own life. Why play the spy? I’ve been saved, damn it, I told you!”

“I’m not spying on you, Erik. For one thing, I haven’t made any effort to conceal my presence.”

“You could be a very bad spy.”

“And another thing: if you’ve been saved, why do you still want to kill everyone?”

I opened my mouth, then shut it. Opened again. “I—“

“It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point.”

“Do tell me you have one.”

He paused, shifting in his chair to face me, his gaze taking on a glittering, green-eyed intensity. “I’m not young anymore, Erik. I’m getting old, and far from home and family and everything I knew. It doesn’t matter that that’s been true for fifteen years; there comes a time when you look back and wonder what you’re doing, what you’ve got to show for it. I have nothing. And these past months I’d felt I found a purpose—“

“In bringing me down.”

He shook his head. “That was never the point. Erik, we used to be friends. Well, as much as the Shah’s wife would allow you to be friends with anyone. Don’t you remember? Remember when we made up our own rules for chess? When we’d trade stories in the evenings when it was cool enough to sit outside? We weren’t enemies.” I did remember; the warm air coming in off the hot sand as the sun went down, the evenings of lemonade and talk, devising ever-more-complicated varieties of games, trading bilingual witticisms. Companionship of a tenuous kind, so unfamiliar I hadn’t ever thought to name it. Was it enough? Were sugar-water and checkmates reason not to have killed him on sight?

“I’m afraid I’m still missing the point of this enlightening little litany of meaningless reminiscence. If we weren’t enemies, why did you give that pretty imbecile the grand tour? What do you want?”

“A truce.”

I laughed. “A truce? Are we at war then after all? I fear I must I remind you, daroga, that I’m hardly the exemplar of chivalry.”

He smiled, a strange, secret smile that I could very well imagine had led Christine to her “odd” and “mad” conclusions about him. “I know better than to believe that, Erik, no matter how amoral you make yourself out to be. You’re an honest villain. And you have ample evidence that I keep my word, whatever you think of the word itself.”

I nodded, after a moment. The bastard saw through me, and always had. I hated him for it, even as it tickled my vanity to be so scrutinized, so regarded. But in the spirit of honesty, I had to recall my defense of him to Christine. An old friend. Not that I had expected him to hear about that. “And what would our truce consist of? What makes you think I care one way or the other? I have things to do. I have Christine. I have a home and a wife and I don’t need you anymore.”

He smiled sadly and produced a little box from his pocket. “Chess?”

I sighed and dropped into the seat next to him. “Only until she comes on.” I beat him three games in a row.

Chapter eight

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