Beneath A Moonless Sky – Erik/Christine

Six months after the events at the Opera Populaire

Brisk air swirled around the cloaked figure, which wound their way between the moss-covered headstones; long dead spirits the only witness to their movements. In their hands was clasped a single blood red rose, tied with a black ribbon; it was the only invitation they had needed.

The wind shook leaves from trees and knocked back the wanderer’s hood, revealing curling auburn hair, high cheekbones, and endless blue eyes; Christine Daae was as lovely as ever.

Her teeth worried her lip, as her fingers toyed with the silk-wrapped rose. Anxiety rolled from her in waves. Each step came with such monumental effort, and yet, as she moved closer to the mausoleum everything seemed to simply drop away.

Behind that door was what she hoped would be the passion that had been missing from her life. Barely six months had passed since the opera had burned, and yet Christine felt as though she had aged years. How naïve, how strung along and easily manipulated she had been; not only by her soon-to-be husband, Raoul, but also by the man hiding behind that door. Pulled in every direction, twisted this way and that, with no thought to her wants, her passions.

Since the opera burned, she had been left to believe that her Angel of Music had perished in the flames. Raoul had noticed her mourning, of course, and had taken them swiftly away from Paris, thinking it would alleviate her sorrows. Christine put on a brave face for him, went along with all of his wedding plans, but her heart was empty. How could it be, that losing the man in the mask had only made her realise just how much she had loved him?

But then word had been muttered into her ear, gossip and lore, just whispered nothings. Raoul had laughed aloud when he had heard, but not Christine. When she had heard of the cemetery, long since abandoned, and the music that had been heard whispering from the ancient gates, she had known that is was him. As soon as she had heard, she had slipped from Raoul’s tight grasp, to drop a single white rose upon the steps of the largest mausoleum, hidden way in the back. The stem clasped in her hands had been delivered the very next day.

Her decision to venture into the cemetery, back into his shadowy world, had not been made in haste. The events at the opera could not be forgotten, no matter how much her fiancé had wished them so. She remembered every second of her singing lessons with the mystery tutor, she remembered the feel of his hands on her face, and as they wrapped around her waist to control her diaphragm, and how they shook with such poorly controlled need. She remembered the Buquet, hanging by his neck over the dancers. How he had threatened Raoul, but then let them leave. She remembered Madame Giry’s betrayal, the explanation of who he was; simply a man named Erik, nothing at all like a phantom.

Her dreams were filled with images of the face behind the mask; the dual coloured eyes, oversized lip, and such horrible scars across only one side of his face. Yet they were not nightmares, she did not wake in a cold sweat from fear, but from anguish. What she wouldn’t give to look upon that face but one last time.

She knew that in coming here she had made her choice, but there was still the chance that he would send her away. If so, then when she awoke the following morning, she would don the white dress that hung upon her armoire, walk down the aisle, and vow herself to the man she had promised herself to. Their marriage would be simple, it would be easy. She would never be alone, but neither shall she have that raw, unbridled passion that she had felt with Erik in the Opera; that would be gone, forever.

Finally, she reached the mausoleum door, pausing with her hand upon the brass handle. This was it, no looking back. This is your choice, she thought, steeling herself before pushing through and into the glowing room.

Lit candles littered every surface surrounding the hole in the floor, where a stone tomb once stood. Stairs led down into the dim world beyond, and this time, she did not hesitate to traverse them.

More candles lit the space beneath the vault; it seemed an almost natural formation, though she knew it was anything but. To her right a mattress laid upon the floor, sheets rumpled and covered in music sheets. On her left was a bank of mirrors, which reflected the light back into the room, and straight before her, was an upright piano, a melancholic melody trilling through its chords. Her masked man’s back was to her, but from the wisps of hair spilling to his shirt collar, she knew that this time he was not hiding behind porcelain.

“You came.” Christine gasped at the sound of his voice. The tone, so deep and rough, sent shivers through her.

“I did,” she replied, never ceasing in her slow march towards him. He did not turn to meet her gaze.

“Congratulations are in order, are they not, Vicomtesse de Chagny?”

How she hated that name, a name – if all were not to go well – she planned to take the very next day.

“You are mistaken, no congratulations are needed.” Finally standing beside him, she leaned forward to rest the rose upon the top of the piano, placing a single gloved hand upon his back, before he cringed away from her touch.

“You should not have come,” he muttered, eyes focused upon the music he played.

Christine ignored his words, and instead became lost in the simple melody. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered. His fingers ceased their movements.

He walked briskly towards the stairs leading up into the mausoleum, and Christine almost ran to keep up with his long strides. He stood bracing open the door, face hidden in shadows. The candles had ceased their flickering and the clouds had rolled across the moon, leaving nothing to light their way. She could barely see him in the dark, but she heard him as he spoke.

“You should leave, go back to your fiancé, and live a long, fruitful life in the daylight. I should never have sent you that rose.”

Christine’s heart was pounding a drumbeat inside her chest. The thought that he would discard her had crept upon her, and yet she had always imagined her passions mirrored in him. They were two halves of a coin, or so she had thought.

“You want me to leave?” Silence was her only reply.

She moved but a step away from him, before turning back. He still would not meet her eyes, still wouldn’t acknowledge her except to throw her out. A flash of moonlight broke through the cloud cover, illuminating his hunched figure. He looked despondent before the darkness returned.

How could she go? Give up so easily, when he had always fought so hard for her? He had been possessive, jealous and spiteful, but he had shown her such love in their short time together, more than anything she had felt from Raoul in all the time they had known one another. How could she give up on that?

His face was still tilted to the ground, when her hand crept forward to caress his cheek. His skin was dry, flecked with stubble, as he leaned into her touch. He caught her arm before her other hand could mirror the touch on his disfigurement, but she broke free, and felt the rippling skin under her fingers. How could she have ever cowered away from him, when he really was so beautiful?

“Why did you come here?” His voice was muted in the dark, but the anxiety was palpable in each syllable.

“For you. Cast me out if you must, if you no longer love me. But if you return even a measure of my feelings for you, then please, allow me to stay.”

His hand covered hers in place of words, and she stepped close, until she could feel his breath on her face, and he could hear her heart beating, faster and sharper as time wore on. A shaking hand wrapped about her corseted waist, gripping tight and serving to tug her closer to him. Desire thrummed in the air, as their eyes finally met in the gloom.

“Christine,” Erik whispered reverently, as his thumb caressed her supple cheek, her brow, and her full, plump lips.

How he ached to kiss those lips once more, but in the six months past he knew he had been wrong in the opera. Wrong to try to possess her, to capture her and keep her against her will. While that was still all he wished to do – his heart begged for him to simply take her away from everyone in the world – he couldn’t. If he truly loved her, as he believed he did, then he must be gentle, no matter how difficult that proved to be.

However, Christine’s thoughts did not travel a similar path. She was tired of being careful, of being safe and good with Raoul. Being with Erik would not be easy, but if she had wanted an easy life she would not have come to the cemetery. Without further thought, and as his tentative hand almost burned her skin, she stretched up and pressed her lips to his.

A dam broke within them at the initially chaste union. Each successive kiss was more lust-filled than the one before, as each craved just a touch more, as though each caress would be the last. Erik stepped back, and Christine’s pulse jumped thinking he was pulling away from her; however, he was only pulling them back into the darkness of the mausoleum, and back down the steps.

Black velvet tumbled to the floor as his nimble, pianist fingers made quick work of the clasp on her cloak. In the glow of the candles, with fumbling, naïve fingers and hands, they caressed and exposed one another. Ties were pulled through corset loops, buttons came undone from his shirt, until they lay, bared entirely atop his rumpled sheets.

Between soft touches, whispered words of love and forever, Christine’s fear dropped away, knowing that this was the right choice, and Erik ceased cowering away from the kisses she rained upon his scarred flesh. When her eyes gazed into his, she saw him whole, saw his soul renew in her embrace.

When he took her, with such a need like neither had ever felt, her eyes closed and she relished in the feel of him. Her breath hitched, as he sighed into her neck. They moved as one in the gloom, as candles flickered into nothingness, before they fell into sleep together, just as the last candle died.

It was the lack of Erik’s warmth that awoke Christine, and she shifted, thinking to find him, but he was gone. In her dreams her choice was made, her heart given away to a man in a mask, and as she awoke all she wished for was to swear her love to him. Blinking dreamily to adjust to the flickering candlelight, her eyes scanned his underground lair. Standing before a mirror, the scars on his chest and face exposed, with his hands braced upon the frame, she found him. There was such a look of despair in his eyes, Christine’s blood ran cold.

“What is it?” she asked. He did not reply, only shook his head. Slowly, wrapped in the bed sheet, Christine made her way to stand by his side.

“Erik, please, tell me what’s wrong.”

A sad smile graced his lips, as his fathomless dual coloured eyes met hers in the reflection.

“The first time you speak my name. My Christine.”

“You’re scaring me. Please, come back to bed, we’ll talk.” She tugged lightly on his arm as she spoke, truly worried over the turn in his mood. He could be unpredictable at the best of times.

“Dawn in breaking, don’t you have some place to be?”

Vehemently shaking her head, Christine almost shouted her reply. “No!” Breathing deep she continued, “I am right where I should be.”

Through the mirror he stared at her, she refused to drop her gaze. “We both know that this can become nothing more.”

Christine was shaking her head, ignoring the tightening of his fists on the frame. “You’re wrong-”

“I can offer you nothing! Nothing but darkness and hidden worlds, secret shame, and a masked face.”

“You’re wrong! You give me love, and music and laughter. You’ll give me strength, passion, and a lifetime of operas. Please believe me when I say this.”

His laugh was hollow, almost spiteful as he spun away from the mirror, casting the curtain over it. Unlike at the opera, however, Christine was prepared for his anger, and was determined not to allow him to push her away.

“Foolish girl! What do you suppose our life shall be? As people cower at the sight of me, and you become ashamed to be seen by my side.”

As his arm swung, she captured it in her palms, holding him still and enraptured in her fiery gaze. Little Lottie was long gone, she was Christine Daae, and she would not allow her masked man to escape her once again.

“Our life shall be as we make it! You shall write, and imagine and create, and I shall sing. And if we dwell in the dark, then I shall grow accustomed to it. But I won’t allow you to orchestrate our love. Not anymore.”

It seemed her words, bright and brave as they were, had penetrated his mind, for he stood in silence, simply staring at her. Christine’s chest heaved from the emotions surging through her. She refused to be cast aside, to be pushed away to allow him to wallow in his own self-pity and misery.

“Is this your choice then?” Voice low in the dim light, he was apprehensive and questioning, as though the very idea of hope was frightful.

“I am here, and I am yours. Just say you will have me?”

Their eyes met and held. His determined whether she was truthful, whether she would truly stay with him, or if this was simply some flight of fancy, simply a manifestation of pre-wedding nerves. Hers pleaded with him to believe her, to understand that there was no going back for her. To go back to Raoul would be to sacrifice her very soul, and after spending the night wrapped in his arms, she knew she could no longer return to the life she had once led.

Finally, he strode across to her, capturing her arms in his hands. The sheet was still clutched to her breast, and her white knuckled grip was caught between them as he ravished her lips. His scent was everywhere, and giving no thought to the slight chill within the catacomb, Christine released her grip and buried her hands in his thin hair. Without breaking apart, Erik crouched to clasp the backs of her thighs, hoisting her up and walking with her, back to the abandoned mattress.

What the dawn would bring, they did not know. Whether they would survive in shadows, or find a life above ground was unknown. All that was real was their love and passion. For now they would bask in their reunion, again and again, beneath a moonless sky.

To Be Continued


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