charleygirl: (Phantom|Christine|Kiss)
[personal profile] charleygirl
Title: The Garish Light of Day 54/?
Author: charleygirl
Word Count: 4092
Rating: PG
Genre: General, Drama
Characters Involved: Erik the Phantom, Christine Daae
Disclaimer: The Phantom of the Opera is the creation of Gaston Leroux but probably these days copyright to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Summary: Man and wife together.



NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS



“I thought they’d never leave!” Christine exclaimed, dropping gratefully onto the sofa. “I know they are our friends, and I love them dearly, but it is a relief to finally be alone!”

“Alone, yes.” Erik turned, holding a glass of wine in each hand. He offered one to her; as she took it their fingers brushed and she realised he was trembling as much as she had been doing all day. For a long moment they just looked at each other, and he downed the contents of his glass in a gulp. A determined gleam appeared in his eye, and Christine barely had time to put her claret down on the table at her elbow before she was caught between him and the sofa back, his fingers tangled in her hair and his lips locked on hers with such fervour that they both almost tumbled to the floor. Their hearts were beating frantically, desperate rhythm almost in concert through the silk of her bodice and the fine linen of his shirt.

“I suppose...” she began breathlessly when they came up for air, “I suppose we should really go... upstairs...”

Erik nuzzled at her neck, sending delightful shivers down her spine as his delicate butterfly kisses made the sensitive nerves there tingle, before sighing and resting his forehead against her shoulder; the porcelain of his mask was hard and uncomfortable pressing on her skin so she reached up to remove it, setting it down on the cushions beside them. He tensed as the air brushed his warped flesh, and said quietly, “Christine... I am... that is to say... I am not very... skilled at...”

Turning her head slightly, she cupped his ravaged cheek with one hand. “Don’t worry. We will find our way together.”

“I don’t want to disappoint you.” His voice was barely more than a whisper, his gaze directed at a point just beyond her right ear.

“Erik.” Christine gently touched his chin, forcing him to look at her. “You could never, ever disappoint me.”

There was hunger in those mismatched eyes, as well as self-consciousness. She felt something stirring deep within her, but before she could utter another word he had scooped her up and was bearing her off towards the stairs. Christine shrieked, laughing as she was swung around, her head just missing the lintel; her elaborate skirts trailed behind them, the lace flowing over Erik’s arm like the magnificent froth on a wave as it crashed towards the shore. She lost one of her shoes halfway up the stairs, and the other followed before they reached the landing; relieved, she wiggled her aching feet like a child. Now all she needed to be comfortable was to remove the whalebone corset that was digging painfully into her skin after so many hours of wear, and she realised that through it she could feel the heat in Erik’s normally cool fingers, splayed as they were across her abdomen as he lifted her higher to clear the last step.

“Oh, by the way,” she murmured in his ear, a wicked, wanton part of her that she had barely known existed coming to the fore, “I visited that boutique Teddy recommended and bought some of those silk under things...”

She cried out again and clung on tight as Erik stumbled and nearly dropped her. He quickly recovered himself, cheeks burning, and continued down the landing into their bedroom, setting her down carefully upon the sheets as though she were made of the most precious eggshell china. Christine watched as he firmly closed the door behind them, turning in the key in the lock, before he returned, slipping onto the bed beside her and taking her in his arms.

There were no more words, no need now for speech, no more waiting and wondering when they two would become one.

They were finally, gloriously, past the point of no return.

________________________________________

It was the sunlight streaming through the open curtains that woke Christine the next morning.

For several moments she lay still, staring at the room around her and wondering where on earth she was before the unfamiliar aching of her body and the sight of her wedding dress pooled on the polished wooden floor beside the bed, the pearls that decorated the bodice gleaming dully against the satin, reminded her. The events of the previous day had been real, then; lifting her left hand she regarded the plain gold band that adorned her third finger, nestling there with the ruby and diamonds of her engagement ring. A smile turned up her bee-stung lips and she turned onto her side, a rush of affection sweeping through her chest as she beheld Erik’s sleeping face on the pillow beside her, the gentle sigh of his breathing distorted slightly by its passage though the undeveloped side of his nose and sounding rather like the contented purring of a cat. Though she had never awoken next to anyone like this before there was no awkwardness; to be lying here together felt natural, it felt right.

They had fallen asleep entwined around one another like two twisted vines but at some point since then they had moved, perhaps unconsciously seeking the cooler edges of the bed in the warmth of the sticky summer night. Erik’s right hand lay on the sheets between them and Christine moved closer, taking it in hers and lacing her fingers through his long ones; with her free hand she reached up to smooth back a lock of dark hair that hung temptingly over his forehead, almost touching his elegantly-arched eyebrow.

The light caress was enough to make him stir. As his eyes opened, lashes fluttering, panic flared in their depths for a moment before they focussed on her face and he smiled, his beautiful voice full of love as he breathed one word: “Christine.”

“Good morning,” she said, stroking his good cheek. He lifted his arm and she snuggled into his embrace, resting her head on his chest. “Did you sleep well?”

She felt the ridges of his deformity brush the crown of her head as he buried his face in her tangled curls. “I have never had a better night’s sleep in my life,” he replied with a happy sigh. There was a pause, and then he asked hesitantly, “And you? I hope I didn’t... hurt you last night..? There was blood - ”

“I’m a little sore, but I believe that is to be expected.” Christine looked up and touched her lips to his. “It will pass.”

There was concern etched into his furrowed brow. “You’re sure about that?”

“I’m sure.” She laid her head back down, listening to his heartbeat. After a few long moments of consideration she said softly, “Erik... was that... I mean, was I... your first..?”

He didn’t respond for some time, fingers wandering absently up and down her bare arm. Eventually he whispered, “Yes.” Another pause. “Do you think me pathetic, never to have intimately touched a woman before?”

“No.” Christine shook her head. “I think it makes what happened between us last night even more special.”

Erik gave a husky laugh, the sound rumbling in his chest, and his arms tightened around her. “Oh, my darling girl... whatever did I do to deserve a blessing such as you?”

“You came to me first, my Angel; you answered my prayers.”

“No, Christine, don’t say that,” he begged, and she propped herself up on one elbow so she could see his face properly. His eyes were wide, his expression distressed, and he sat up, pulling away from her and running an agitated hand through his hair, mood changed in an instant. “You were vulnerable and I took opportunist advantage of your distress. It was reprehensible of me.”

“Your motives may not have been pure to begin with, I know that,” she told him, tugging the sheet around her as she climbed onto her knees, laying a gentle hand on his scarred back. The old marks were hard and lumpy under her palm. “But you helped me so much... I had no one else to turn to, and I would never have made it through my grief without you. You were there when I needed a friend and words can never express how grateful I was to find someone who cared.”

“Even though he pretended to be a celestial guardian sent by your father?” he asked bitterly.

“I admit, it was wrong of you, but then I was foolish and naive enough to believe you. We both know better now, and you have made it clear many times that you are truly sorry for any hurt you have caused.” Christine wrapped her arms about his shoulders from behind, holding him close, and kissed the nape of his neck. “There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents...”

A great shudder ran through him, and he covered her clasped hands with his own. “The priest said much the same thing.”

“Then you should listen to him,” she said firmly. “The past is behind us, Erik; let it go. Look to the future; our future, together.”

Abruptly, he turned, rolling and trapping her beneath him. The sheet fell away and her stomach twisted in a wave of delight as she felt his desire rising once more. His lips brushed her forehead and she closed her eyes, savouring the sensation as he trailed feather-light kisses across her eyelids, down her cheek and along her jaw, gaining confidence all the time. “I love you... wife,” he murmured.

Christine struggled to find her voice. “And I love you, husband,” she gasped. Somewhere below them she heard the drawing room clock strike ten. “Would you not like some breakfast?”

Erik raised his head, listening to the chimes for a moment, before drawing the covers over them and returning his attention to her collarbone. “Maybe later. Much, much later...”

________________________________________

“How positively decadent, taking breakfast at three in the afternoon!” Christine giggled, popping the final piece of buttered croissant into her mouth.

Though still in their bedroom, they had moved to the little cane table beside the window, where Erik had provided a repast for them both with a conjurer’s flourish: pastries and coffee, with a single red rose as the centrepiece. It felt quite scandalous to be in such a state of undress at an advanced hour of the day, clad only in a silken robe and slippers, her hair streaming loose down her back. Across from her, wrapped in his oriental dressing gown, Erik perused the morning newspaper; wonderfully, his face was still bare, his mask left downstairs on the sofa and not yet retrieved at her insistence. Christine had made it clear to him that in their home, when they were alone together, he had no need to hide.

“We are on our honeymoon,” he said, amused, glancing up from Le Matin with an indulgent smile. “I think it is allowed.”

“Do you suppose they found it odd, that we decided not to travel abroad?” she wondered, tracing her finger through the crumbs on her plate and remembering the confusion of their friends when there was no going away, no carriage at the door. “It’s what newlyweds usually do, isn’t it?”

He shrugged. “Why waste so much time enduring the discomforts of travel when they could be just enjoying each other’s company?”

“Would you have liked to go somewhere, though, to begin our married life in some exotic foreign land?”

“I am happy to be wherever you are, my dear,” Erik told her, folding the newspaper and putting it aside. “And I did more than enough travelling in my youth. The question really should be: would you have liked to have had a proper honeymoon? You know that we could have gone anywhere you desired.”

Christine rested her head on one hand and gazed out of the window, over their little garden, to the Seine beyond. There were boats travelling lazily down the river, their billowing white sails catching the afternoon breeze. “Papa and I moved about so much I am content simply to stay in one place, especially when that place is ours,” she said. “But, perhaps one day, I would like to see some of the places in the stories you used to tell... London, and Florence, and Venice... particularly Venice.”

He raised his eyebrow, and reached for his coffee cup. “Why Venice especially?” he enquired.

“Because you made it sound so magical, so dark and mysterious, full of canals and gondolas, masks and secret assignations.” She sighed wistfully. “It seemed to me the one place where you might feel yourself to be at home.”

“It seems I have married an incurable romantic,” Erik remarked.

“There are worse things to be,” Christine countered. “Do you think you could have been happy there, had circumstances been different?”

“Oh, Christine.” He leaned back in his chair, eyes now turned to the window and presenting her with his distorted profile, twisted crevices and sunken cheek thrown into a mixture of light and shadow by the lengthening rays of the afternoon sun. “I could say that about so much of my life, but in truth there is only one place on this earth that I have ever truly felt at home, and that place is here, with you.” His hand found hers unerringly, taking it and enfolding it in his. “But one day I shall take you to Venice and we will lose ourselves in the madness of Carnevale.”

Christine squeezed his fingers. “I will look forward to it.”

________________________________________

“Oh, look at this: from James and Teddy.” Christine held up the beautiful electric lamp, its curving stand shaped like a graceful lily, the base a mass of flourishing leaves. A gorgeous blue and green leaded stained glass shade was decorated with dragonflies, their jewel-like wings brilliant as she turned it back and forth before the window. “I think it may be the most exquisite thing I’ve ever seen!”

“Good Lord, I believe that is from Tiffany,” Erik said, taking the piece from her and examining it. Carefully he set it down on the dining table. “I had no idea they spent so much money on us!”

“Oh, my... did they have it sent all the way from New York?” she asked, horrified.

He smiled. “I doubt it; these lamps have just started to be sold in some of the upmarket department stores. Still, I do wish they had not been so extravagant.”

“It’s Teddy’s way; you know what she’s like. It’s just unfortunate that we don’t yet have electricity.”

“It will happen eventually. I would have arranged for the house to have the wiring in situ but apparently there are as yet no plans to extend the necessary network of cables this far out of Paris.” Erik picked up another of the presents piled on the tablecloth and peered at the card attached to the box. “I did hear a rumour that the managers are considering having the Opera wired for the electric light, but I’m sure that when Monsieur Marigny discovers the likely cost the scheme will be delayed for a few years more.”

“That’s a shame,” Christine said. “Imagine how impressive the chandelier would look!”

“I can certainly imagine the resulting headache from having to replace all the lamps with glass bulbs,” he retorted with a grimace. “You’re right, though; the effect would be quite magical.”

“What’s in that one?” she asked, picking up another brightly-wrapped package.

Erik lifted the lid. “Candied fruits, from the corps de ballet.”

“I’m sure they all contributed extremely reluctantly, probably hoping we choke on them.” Christine pulled a face when he looked at her in surprise; she had almost shocked herself, for she was not normally so catty. “I’m sorry, but you know they don’t like either of us.”

“In that case, perhaps I should check to make sure they aren’t poisoned,” he said lightly, adding with a nod towards the huge wicker hamper that sat on the floor in the corner, its handles decorated with satin ribbon, “What the devil is in there?”

“It’s from Madame Giry and Meg. There’s a whole pile of table linen and monogrammed handkerchiefs for us both: Madame must have spent weeks embroidering it all.”

Erik frowned, staring so hard at the basket that Christine thought it might suddenly burst into flame. “Exactly how much linen does Annie think we need?”

“Oh, it’s also full of food,” she told him, grinning at the affronted look on his face. “I don’t think she trusts you not to let me starve.”

He rolled his eyes. “That woman will be the death of me. Just wait until I see her next!”

She could not help laughing, the sound of which got him chuckling too, and they spent a pleasant couple of hours going through the rest of the gifts. There were engraved napkin rings from Eugène and Henriette Reyer, Marie, Alphonse and the rest of the chorus had sent a magnificent silver coffee pot, and Messieurs Marigny and Fontaine a set of cut lead crystal wine glasses, the fine craftsmanship of which caused an impressed Erik to whistle in appreciation. There was even something from Raoul: a beautiful Sevres porcelain figurine of two songbirds, accompanied by a note saying that as they were quite clearly besotted with one another he had no choice but to give them his blessing. The parcel was postmarked Paris but the letter had come from Iceland; Christine remembered sadly that he would have embarked upon his tour of duty in the Arctic Circle by now. As they unwrapped each present she made careful note of the item given and by whom so they could thank each person properly. Neither had ever received so many gifts; in fact, Erik had been so surprised and startled by the sight of the pile of boxes on the table when he entered the room that Christine was convinced he had probably never been given a present before in his life. When told that all the gifts were for them he was almost overcome, and it had taken him some minutes to recover his composure.

“It rather looks as though our friends and colleagues are expecting us to do some entertaining,” Christine remarked, surveying their little haul with her hands on her hips. “We have everything we need for a dinner party!”

Erik looked slightly baffled by it all. Madame Michon and the ladies of the costume department had provided them with two thick afghans, apparently imagining that they would have no blankets in their home. “It seems that wedding guests believe the newly-married couple will begin their life together in an empty house.”

“I suppose that many of them do.” She wound her arms around his waist and held him close; he rested his chin on the top of her head. “I am very lucky, I know that.”

He said nothing, apparently just enjoying the feeling of holding her. After a while he began to hum softly and she recognised the waltz he had written after she had accepted his proposal of marriage, the beautiful tune that with Reyer’s assistance had become the glorious ballet that opened Act II of Die Fledermaus. The piece was an instant success, and Christine knew that James Patterson-Smythe was negotiating with the music publishers of Paris on the part of the composers, but she had to admit that she preferred the original, the one that was for her alone, written by a man elated by love and acceptance. Before long they were moving around the room, dancing to the invisible orchestra created by his voice, just as they had done that night below the Opera House. How much had changed since then!

There was a knock at the door; cursing as his wordless song was brought to an abrupt halt Erik slipped on his mask and went to answer it, returning a few moments later with an open envelope in his hand and a frown on his face. Christine settled herself on the sofa, arranging her skirts. “Is something the matter?” she asked, adding when he did not reply, “Erik? Erik, what’s wrong? Who is the letter from?”

In response he held it out to her; when she took it she realised it was a telegram. She read the few typed words once, then again, but even after a third perusal she still could make little sense of it. Glancing up at Erik, she saw that the visible side of his face was troubled. He walked to the window and stood there, staring out over the garden with his hands tightly clasped behind his back.

“’To Monsieur and Madame E Claudin’,” Christine read aloud, “’Congratulations on this day, joined together by God.’ There’s no signature, but the return address is the Carmelite Convent at St Cloud! What does it mean?”

He released a slow breath. “I have absolutely no idea.”

“Do they allow nuns to send telegrams? Why would a nun be sending a telegram to us?” she wondered, confused.

“Two more questions to which I am unable to provide an answer.”

“Do you happen to know any nuns?” She was aware of the ridiculousness of the question; to her relief Erik laughed.

“Funnily enough, I do not,” he said, turning to face her, mouth quirked at the corner. “Perhaps they send telegrams to all newly-wedded couples in neighbouring parishes.”

“To welcome them into the estate of holy matrimony, I suppose.”

“Quite possibly.” Erik took the telegram from her hands and slid it back into the envelope, laying it in the drawer of the bureau with his other correspondence. “Whoever is behind it is eccentric, certainly, but I doubt if it is anything to worry about.”

“So we’re not likely to be accosted by anyone from a religious foundation seeking revenge?” Christine said lightly. “I hope so, because we’ve had quite enough upheaval lately.”

“I can assure you, my dear, I have never had any dealings with nuns, let alone committed any acts for wish they might choose to hunt me down,” he told her, his amusement now quite evident. “But if they should come to our door, I promise to protect you.”

“Good. I feel much safer now.” He sat down beside her and she curled up against him, head pillowed on his chest. Before long their lips found each other’s once more and he was easing her backwards amongst the cushions, long fingers deftly working at the fastenings of her dress. “Erik,” she said breathlessly, “Would you come outside with me? Into the garden?”

“I fear we may be arrested if we continue this in full view of the neighbours,” he murmured, kissing her shoulder as he eased the fabric away.

“I just thought I’d like to walk down to the river and watch the boats. It’s so hot in here - ” His mouth moved lower and she gave a little gasp “ – I thought the cooling breeze would be pleasant.”

Erik groaned. “Christine, have you any idea what you are doing to me?”

“I have an inkling,” she replied with a wicked grin. “You’ll just have to control yourself.”

He glared at her. “You, mon ange, are becoming a positive minx.”

“And you, sir, are insatiable.” Sitting up, she pulled her clothing straight, refastening the buttons he had undone, and kissed the end of his nose, the porcelain cold against her lips. “What have I unleashed upon the world?”

The mismatched eyes sparkled. “Maybe I really am Don Juan, after all,” he growled, wiggling his eyebrow at her.

Laughing, Christine disentangled herself from him and ran up the stairs to fetch her outdoor shoes and a shawl, though the latter was hardly needed. Splashing water on her face and brushing her hair gave her a chance to marvel at the glow that had suddenly appeared in her cheeks and also for Erik to recover himself; by the time she returned he was waiting by the French windows, his jacket replaced and tie straightened, looking the perfect gentleman.

With a bow he offered her his arm and together they strolled down the lawn towards the little wicket gate that led to the riverbank, sitting there on the grass until the shadows began to lengthen and the temperature to drop. When the first tiny shivers shook Christine’s frame they returned to the house, safe in the knowledge and expectation of all that the night would bring.

Man and wife at last, they would never need to be alone again.

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