PACTA SUNT SERVANDA
Summary: What if Christine decided not to sing but to run away with Raoul and Gustave at the end of LND? Erik doesn't like it, of course, and tries to stop them. Based on the 2004 movie and the Australian version of LND. Not related to any of my other stories.
Christine asked Gustave to wait outside her dressingroom.
"No, Gustave, please stay," Raoul asked the boy. Gustave smiled happily, he loved it so much when his father did not send him away - and now he asked him to stay! When Christine turned in her seat to look at her husband, he went to her side and knelt down. "My dearest wife," he began, kissing her hand, "I am so very sorry for my behavior yesterday and this morning. I really am. For the last months I was not the husband you deserved..."
"O Raoul... we both know you had a rough time. It is..."
"No, please, hear me out. I have tickets for a ship that leaves tonight. We have to leave Coney Island now, we have to leave Now York! We have to get away from America as soon as possible!"
Christine drew back a bit from her husband. She could sense his despair in a way she had only once before - when he was in the noose of the Phantom's dreaded lasso! "Raoul, you scare me..." she whispered.
"And you ought to be scared, but not of me, my darling!" Raoul exclaimed passionately, "I have vital new informations. You have to know that Mr. Y, the Phantom, plans to keep you for himself for the rest of your life. And not only you, even Gustave! He wants both of you and you will have to stay as long as you - or he - lives!"
Christine shuddered. She had heard that before - ten years ago. "But... but he promised that I only have to sing one song and he will leave me in peace afterwards."
"He's a liar! He told me that if you sing, you will be his for all time - and Gustave too!" Raoul felt slightly guilty for not telling the whole truth.
"He told you? Why would he?" Christine couldn't understand why the Phantom would tell Raoul of all people of his plans.
"He mocked me. I was... not sober. He boasted that you loved him and in truth wanted to be his, that I am not worthy of you - which I can't fully negate - but I will improve! I swear! I will do everything to become the man you fell in love with again!"
"O Raoul, who said I would love you less now? I loved you then, I love you now. And I will come with you. He... is not to be trusted. He lied to me from the beginning, I do not trust him to keep his promise, especially when he told you that he won't! Gustave, come, we get our luggage!"
"Forget the luggage. Clothes can be replaced, you and Gutave can't! Come!" Raoul asked them to hurry up.
A carriage waited before the vaudeville theater. Around them people were coming to the theater, which was to be expected. No one, not even Mr. Y, would pay such a sum for a private performance. They got into the carriage, Raoul ordered the driver to take them to the harbor. Coney Island was a peninsula, not a real island. There were ships departing from Coney Island but these were small ships. The large steamships that crossed the ocean departed from another harbor that was large enough for them. The carriage was first driving slowly to make sure it would not make anyone suspicious, then took up speed.
It was a very rough ride as the carriage drove through the streets, sometimes taking sharp turns. "Mama, I feel sick!" Gustave complained. Too late for his parents to react. He was sick on the carriage floor, the mess splashing on all of their shoes, Raoul's and Gustave's trousers and Christine's skirt.
It seemed an endless carriage ride at tremendous speed through dark streets and far too many corners until the carriage came to a halt. The three passengers - all of them feeling lightheaded and nauseous - glad to get out. Gustave hopped out of the carriage first and fell to hands and knees because he was too dizzy to stand upright. Christine, with the support of her husband, did better, but she too felt like she might fall any moment now.
Raoul was steady on his feet, well, not entirely steady but much better than the other two. So he was the one to look around, realizing it was by far too dark for the harbor, the harbor had streetlights everywhere, the ships had lights, the harbor would be buzzing with activity of passengers boarding the ship and workers loading the cargo. They were between some dark buildings that looked like stables and storage buildings, they were close to the sea, but there was no harbor, no pier, no ship.
"Where are we?" he asked the driver.
That moment they were blinded by electric light flashing on before them. The electric lights of a car, he realized.
"Right where you belong," the voice of the Phantom thundered as the masked man strode into the light - obviously he had been hidden in the black car until now. Now he stood before the car, the lights of the car to his right and left so he was visible, but only as a tall menancing black silhouette. Mr. Y wore a long black cloak and a wide-brimmed hat. He must be wearing a mask too, but that was not visible in the blinding light of the headlights.
"You!" Raoul cried out, "What is the meaning of this?"
"I could ask you the same," the Phantom replied calmly, "We have a deal, don't we? Christine, the audience is waiting for you. I keep them distracted with a ballet but they are here to hear you."
"Mama, I'm scared," Gustave complained, turning to his mother as she put her arms around him protectively. Raoul stood between his wife and son and the Phantom. He knew it was a futile attempt, but if that man wanted his family he would only get them over his dead body.
Raoul took a step towards the Phantom, knowing the other man had staged this brillantly: While the Vicomte was shaken from the rough carriage ride the Phantom was well-rested and as the Vicomte was blinded by light the Phantom could see very well with the lights in his back. Only now Raoul realized that one could hide something in bright light as well as in darkness.
The sound of hooves approaching made Raoul shudder. "You said you would let us go!" he accused the Phantom.
The masked man laughed. "Monsieur, no one is a prisoner here. We have a contract, don't we? Isn't it your signature under the contract that your wife will sing in my show? For an exorbitant fee, if I have to remind you!"
"We made another deal!" Raoul disagreed, standing his ground as the Phantom approached him, "We made a different deal this morning - you promised to let us go!"
The Phantom shrugged casually. "Of course. You are not my prisoner, you are my guests and we have a deal, I will honor our agreement. I do not keep anyone prisoner. There is no need for that! You are here of your own free will and you agreed that Christine will sing in my show one song - for double the money any opera would ever pay her for singing an entire concert."
"We made another deal! This morning, in the bar! You said you would let her chose between us - if she sings, she's your's, if she doesn't, she's mine! It was your idea! You promised to let us go if she so chose and pay her nevertheless!" Raoul yelled, furious that the Phantom pretended to know nothing of their dishonorable bet.
"Why would I ever do such thing?" Mr. Y asked with so much astonishment in his voice and stance that even Raoul wondered for a moment if Mr. Y really had no idea what this was about. "You, as her husband, signed her contract - she is to sing one song for me. In case you haven't read this contract: there is penalty for breach of contract that would pauperize you if you weren't already in serious financial troubles."
"You lie! You are a liar! This morning it was you who lured me into accepting the bargain! It was you who suggested that bet!" The Vicomte yelled.
Christine's head shot up in surprise. "A bet? What bet?" she asked alarmed.
"I was drunk! If I had been sober, I would never have agreed to that! He suggested it! It was his idea!" Raoul defended himself, slightly panicked.
Mr. Y cocked his head. "A bet? I am not known for being a gambler. Enlighten me, what is it that I suggested?"
"You hypocrite! You know perfectly well! The bet was that if she sings she is your's and if she doesn't I take her away and you pay all my debts!"
Christine stared at her husband. "You... you did what? Why?"
"Why indeed," the Phantom agreed, coming closer, his arms crossed before his chest. "Why would I make such stupid bet? The contract was already signed, my dear Christine, you already agreed to sing for me - there was absolutely no reason to make such a bet and risk losing my only chance to hear you sing again."
"You... you suggested it! It was your idea!" Raoul pointed his finger accusingly at the masked man whom he could now see clearly.
"I never did," Mr. Y snapped.
Raoul didn't trust his ears. There was this masked man, pretending to know absolutely nothing about their bet - a bet he had suggested in the first place! "This morning in the bar! Ask your barman! Ask Meg!"
Mr. Y shook his head. "My barman informed me that you were stinking drunk. Meg said nothing about meeting you and this morning I was asleep in my bed. Sir, I have a business to run, I don't have time to drink and gamble all night long. Please - it has been a long day for all of us. Just come back to the hotel, have a bath and then Christine sings - or we send the audience away and promise an alternate date for the concert. Christine, you don't look well enough to sing tonight. Maybe tomorrow?"
Christine looked from one man to the other. She was unsure what to make of this - she certainly did not trust the former Phantom, she knew he was a gifted liar, a master of manipulation, illusions and half-truths. And she knew he was a murderer, kidnapper and extortionist. He had even blackmailed her, threatening to take her son hostage if she did not sing. She knew he was capable of luring Raoul into a trap. On the other hand she also knew that Raoul was likely to do something extremely stupid when he was drunk. When he was sober, Raoul was still the loving, sweet man he always was - but even ten years ago he had that terrible tendency to act without thinking. She remembered her shock when the Vicomte arrived at the Phantom's lair unarmed and drenched only to be caught in a trap immediately. Raoul had plunged headfirst into the Phantom's trap then - it was possible that he would do so again. But it was also possible that Raoul mistook some nightmare in his drunken slumber for being real. They had been through this before - after a binge Raoul sometimes could not really tell her what was just a dream and what had really happened.
"Where are we?" she asked, trembling with cold and a feeling she didn't even want to analyze.
"In Phantasma, my dear," Erik replied smoothly, "I could not allow that drunken fool to force you to break our contract. It would dishonor you and cost you lots of money - money you do not have."
"Maybe - maybe not. Depends. Legally I can already demand that you pay punitive damages for failing to sing tonight. But I am not a man without mercy. If you sing tomorrow, I will consider the contract properly fulfilled and pay what I am due." He sounded so calm, so sincere. His voice caused her to trust him, but Christine already knew that he had this ability. His voice could make everyone trust his words - no matter how obvious the lie. But now his words made sense. He just demanded that she fulfilled her promise. And he fulfilled his - he seemed to ignore the boy, not giving the slightest indication that he considered this boy his son.
"I can't sing tonight," she whispered.
Mr. Y seemed to wrinkle his nose as he looked at the strained clothing of the de Chagny family. "Of course. And I apologize for the rough ride. I instructed the driver to bring you here as fast as possible."
"This... can't be true. I hired a carriage from an independend driver! Not one of Phantasma's carriages! And... we drove far too long for being in Phantasma!" Raoul, being sober and perfectly able to think logical reasoned.
"Ah, yes. You did. But did you really think my men wouldn't inform me? That an independend driver would not accept a better offer if he got one? And we are in Phantasma, in the part for stables and storerooms. No customer comes here. Now, Monsieur, Madame - please. Come with me. Have a good night in the hotel, tomorrow is another day and then you will see reason. I just want you to sing, Christine, that's all. And maybe Gustave wants to see more of the park?"
"No! No I don't!" the boy hadn't forgotten the shock of what had happened at his last private tour - and he was still afraid of Mr. Y. He did not understand what the adults were talking about, but he strongly disliked the dark masked man.
Mr. Y turned away. He needed a moment to control himself. The rejection hurt him, very much so. Had he boasted that he would accept to have to hide from his son but love him nevertheless, it hurt so much to hear it. He could afford that moment of weakness now, his men were there - men on horses, well armed. The Vicomte would not be able to attack from behind. "Come with me," he offered, "Let's go back and have a nice meal and a good night's rest. The concert will be tomorrow. Monsieur de Chagny - please." He turned round and offered his hand. "Neither one of you is my prisoner. Fulfill the contract, take the money and then you can go wherever you want to."
"Do you... swear it?" Raoul asked, wondering why the former Phantom still tried to get them to trust him - even after he had lied so much.
"No need. You have a copy of the contract - signed and legally binding. Whatever you think you remember from the bar - do you have it in writing? My good man, you really didn't read the contract, did you? Any additions or alterations have to be in writing and signed by both of us to be legally binding." Mr. Y's smile was by far too triumphant for the Vicomte's taste, but what could he do? The Vicomte had not forgotten the riders around them and he was sure Mr. Y had more helpers somewhere close.
The Vicomte nodded in defeat. "Alright. You win. Take us to the hotel."
"I knew you would see reason!"
With much satisfaction the Vicomte noticed the disgust that showed plainly on the visible part of the masked man's face as they got into his car, their shoes, trousers and Christine's skirt still strained. The sour smell spread in the car. Mr. Y was forced to open the window and shuddered as he took his place behind the wheel and started the engine.
When they reached the hotel, Raoul made sure he held Christine's hand in his right hand, Gustave's with his left. He would not let go of one of them before the door to their suite in the hotel was closed, no matter how furious Mr. Y glared at him, no matter Christine begged him to let go of her, she feared for their reputation.
Raoul only released his wife and son to lock the door. As he turned round he noticed a fine selection of bottles on the table. He stiffly walked over to the table, holding onto it with one hand, with the other picking up one bottle after the other to read the labels. "O my God!" he gasped in shock to find that each of the small bottles contained a sort of alcohol he was fond of. His ten most favorite liquors. Ten. Without any error, all of them. "This sick bastard!"
"Raoul! Not before Gustave!" Christine rebuked him, then turned to her son. "Come on, Gustave, go to the bathroom and take a bath, will you?" As soon as the boy disappeared in the bathroom, she turned to her husband. "What is it?"
"This!" Raoul pointed to the table accusingly. "This... this!" He gestured wildly.
Christine looked at the labels of the bottles. She did not miss that these were her husband's ten favorite brands. With a cry of outrage Raoul swept the bottles from the table with his arm, they shattered at the floor and the fine alcohol spilled and oozed away in the thick carpet. Christine sank down on the settee, her face white.
"Mama! Mama! I can't take off my shoes!" Gustave called from the bathroom.
Christine tried to get up.
"No, stay seated. I take care of this. Just... do not open any door or any window or whatever! I leave the bathroom door open!" He took a deep shuddering breath and carefully checked if every door and every window was locked before going to help their son. Of course Gustave could not touch his shoes - Raoul knew that the boy was so disgusted by the mere thought of vomit he would never be able to touch his shoes now. The joys of being a father...
Erik was furious. This did not go as planned, on the contrary, this was all wrong, wrong, wrong! He had been so sure Christine would sing, he had left her no choice - at first he had threatened to hold her son hostage, even managed to lure him away from his mother. The only thing that had stopped him from really taking the boy hostage was when he realized that the boy might be his own son and not his rival's. The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that Gustave was his son. The boy was very talented, he was very clever. Only that he was beautiful... well, maybe he came after his mother, thank goodness! He could not harm his own son, he just could not. Not even if it would secure that Christine would stay with him forever.
That was what he had intended from the beginning: He wanted her at his side. Erik locked himself in his flat. He had to be alone now because whoever would dare to disturb him now might not survive.
"Christine..." Erik moaned as he sank to his knees before her portrait he had put up in his music room. He had tried to persuade her, to lay all he had at her feet, had lowered himself to grovelling before her, begging for her sympathy. There had been moments when he thought that she swayed, that she might sink into his arms as she had done once so long ago. But in the end she had refused him. Rejected the money he offered and he knew just how badly she needed that. He cringed as he realized that she had only given in when he threatened her son, like any good mother would. Her son - his son - their son. Their son he had planned to hold hostage. But when he had allowed the boy to go, had allowed her to go, only then had she agreed to sing for him one last time freely.
He tore off mask and wig, his disguise seemd to burn him now. Christine's portrait seemed to smile at him. The picture could not flinch at his sight.
"Why? Why can't you just allow me to love you? I don't even ask for your love... just stay with me. Just stay here and let me love you, let me lie everything I have at your feet? Why can't you just allow me to love you?" he whined, looking up at the picture. "At least sing for me... one last time. Please. Christine, sing for me, one last time!"
Well... one last time. That was what he always thought about, but... would he be able to endure her absence another ten years? He wasn't young, but he knew he would not die the day after her performance. With his wealth and what good medical care he could buy for that he had a good chance to live another ten years, maybe longer. Another ten years being alone, only keeping track of her through newspaper articles and the regular reports of a private detective he had hired to spy on her? Another ten years without hearing her sing? He shuddered. He would not - could not go through this agony again. No. He would do everything to keep her, literally everything! And if all his attempts failed...
He pushed himself to his feet and sat behind his large desk that was stacked with papers. He took a piece of vat paper, the paper he only used for the most important letters and documents, and document-quality black ink. He smiled as he looked at his pen. When he had come into the light, finding that in the bright electric light of the stage he could hide as perfectly as in the darkness of the catacombs, he had stopped using red ink and used only black now. Black ink. How fitting.
Madame Giry went to inform her master of the most important news that evening. Most people in the audience had accepted the tickets for the show next day to compensate for the diva not showing up. They had to refund some, but only very few and even they had shown some understanding - they just did not have time the next day.
She knocked at Erik's door. It opened like it was opened by an unseen butler. It was just one of Erik's inventions - if he sat behind his desk he could just pull a lever to let her in. And he knew it was her because of a mirror and a lens that showed him who was standing before his door even if the visitor barely noticed the lens.
"What now?" Erik asked, annoyed at the disturbance but knowing he had to hear what his right hand woman had to tell him. As much as he hated her nagging, he knew that he needed her because she did all the necessary tasks to keep Phantasma running so he could concentrate on his schemes, his music, his inventions - even his socializing. Yes, he was quite good at socializing with the right kind of men.
Madame Giry stopped abpruptely as she saw the paper on his desk. It was not unusal that he was writing something, but this... it began with "Testament".
"What?" Erik demanded, unaware that she had been able to read it without her glasses. With astonishing speed the old woman snatched the paper and read it. "Give that back!" Erik had to go around his desk to retrieve the paper. It was too late, she already knew what this was about.
"Your testament? You are leaving everything to the boy? Erik! How could you?"
"That is none of your business!" he hissed, put the paper in the cash box in his drawer. He made a mental note to bring this document to his lawyer, just in case. He was quite sure Madame Giry would burn it, because she had an older document where Erik appointed Meg his heir. In a moment of weakness and gratitude he had written and signed it about three years ago.
"It is! Why, Erik, why? Meg and I were always at your side, we gave up everything, we..."
"I'm so sick of that whining! Either you stop that now and never say a word about it again or I will dismiss you. Meg can stay. She is less nuisance!"
The next day brought no relief for Christine and Raoul. They agreed that they should leave but soon found they could not. They were high up in the sixth floor or the hotel. There were two men dressed as butlers on the floor. They did not hinder Raoul when they tried to leave the suite, they just asked what he wanted and if they might help. No matter what excuse he used - like he wanted a paper, a book or a fresh orange juice - they always told him not to worry and served whatever he asked. When the family decided to go for a walk they soon found themselves surrounded by "helpful servants". Despite everything Erik had promised - they could not leave for when they "accidentally" came close to one of the entrance doors to Phantasma, they met Mr. Y "such a coincidence" who reminded them of the contract and the penalty clause.
So they found themselves in Mr. Y's office soon after that, it was just a friendly invitation to discuss the terms of the agreement if they wanted to change something. As sweet as it sounded, they knew it was a dangerous situation. It was unlikely that the Phantom would do anything in broad daylight before the eyes of his customers - but he held another threat. The contract. If he would sue them for failing to fulfill their part of the bargain, this would be in all newspapers - and no opera house or concert hall would ever hire Christine again. But without her income as world-renowned soprano they would have nothing. There was no other income for the family now. She needed the tour and to sing in various cities or they would suffer the indignity many impoverished aristocrats suffered. Seeing their house and whatever they had left being auctioned. They would need to find work, but with both of them never having been trained for an ordinary job they would not find a job easily, even if they would suffer the humiliation of a Vicomte or Vicomtesse asking for an ordinary job. Singing on the stages of the most famous opera houses and concert halls was by far less humiliating.
And now the three of them sat on the large couch in Mr. Y's office, Gustave between his parents.
Mr. Y brought a large box for Gustave. It was a marble run system made of various interlocking pieces made of metal. If the marble ran over one of the tracks it set a miniature barrel organ in motion. If one put together the pieces in a different way it would play different melodies. Gustave was fascinated by the marble run, but he was too scared of Mr. Y to accept it no matter how much the masked man tried to be friendly and assured him there was absolutely no reason to be afraid of him.
Finally Mr. Y gave up with a weary sigh, accepting that the boy would not reconcile with him so easily. "Maybe you want to go with Meg to the fun-rides while I discuss boring administratory stuff with your parents?" he offered.
Christine was about to agree when Raoul grabbed Gustave's arm. "No. Gustave wants to stay. We don't have any secrets here, do we?"
"Suit yourself," Mr. Y shrugged, placing the marble run on the floor before Gustave and handed him a bag of marbles. He was sure the boy would eventually try it, he could see that Gustave was fascinated by the toy and his hands itched to take it apart and put it together in another way.
The masked man took his place behind his desk again. "I take it you are much better, Madame de Chagny?" he asked as formally as possible, but did not wait for an answer, he went on immediately: "Wonderful. Then you can sing this evening. And... I do have a business proposal for you. I know whom you owe money and I even know the sums - not precisely but I know enough. With the money I am paying for this one concert - which is one song - you won't be able to pay off all debts. You will still have to tour from one city to the next, singing here and there... and the older you become the harder it will be to find an engagement. So... you might want some... more reliable income than a few concerts here and there and then you have to look for the next engagement."
He leaned back in his chair, waiting for an answer.
"No. Thank you, but no. My wife is, as you said, a world-famous soprano. She won't sing in a vaudeville show regularly!" the Vicomte refused before anyone could say anything.
"Well... Madame de Chagny, it seems your husband has some demands. Well, I understand him very well. What do you think of an engagement in New York? We have very good concert halls here. I'm absolutely sure Hammerstein would love to have you under contract permanently." Mr. Y had a quite tempting offer because singing for Hammerstein was nothing that would disgrace her. "I would of course provide a nice flat in a good area. And I am sure I could provide enough entertainment for Monsieur de Chagny. Unlimited credit in a gambling saloon, at the horse-racing and as much wine and whiskey as a man can drink?"
"What do you take me for, you..." the Vicomte jumped to his feet and clenched his fists.
"Pride. What a vicious disease," Mr. Y said like a doctor stating a diagnosis, "Fortunately for you I know the cure. Believe me, madam, I do. An empty stomach is guaranteed to cure even the worst infection of pride." He knew that first-hand. An empty stomach for days and being homeless in the harsh winter was enough to make anyone lose his pride, even him. He had been desperate enough to accept to be put on display in a freakshow so he could earn enough money to pay for a small room in a boarding house and at least one meal a day for himself and for the Giry's. If Christine saw her child hungry and cold she would remember his offer.
"An empty...?" Christine's eyes went wide.
"I know gamblers. Even if I paid all his debts, how long until he would be head over heels in debt again? I am offering you a safe haven."
A tempting offer and another singer might have accepted it. Another singer - but not Christine. "You swore to let us go after I sang for you one last time. I hold you to that - if you ever loved me, you will let us go!"
Mr. Y stood up and turned his back to them. She knew his weakness and she knew he could not deny her now. "You may leave right after you sang." His voice was strong and determined. He did not show the slightest weakness. "This was our deal and I hold you to it - you promised to sing for me one last time."
She sang. Christine sang the aria Erik had written especially for her. She saw Raoul and Gustave in the wings to her right, Erik to her left side. She looked to Raoul who was perfectly sober and stood with one hand on their son's shoulder. Both smiled at her, a very proud, loving smile.
When she turned slightly to her left she saw the tall figure in the shadows, his white mask gleaming almost blue in the light behind the stage. Tears glistened on his unmasked cheek and even on the mask, the man was weeping but Christine could not tell if he was weeping from joy or from pain.
When the song ended, Christine did not take the time to bow to the applause, she rushed to her husband and her son. She could not wait to embrace them as she felt the tension from the last days and hours leave her. She rushed to take them into her arms.
"Mama, you sang so wonderful!" Gustave exclaimed.
"I love you two so much," his mother replied. Then she turned around to see where the Phantom was. The masked man stood still like a marble statue in the opposite wing, his unmasked cheek as white as the mask. He turned around abprubtly and left with unusually short steps, his body rigid as if he was clenching all muscles. He had lost once again.
Christine, Raoul and Gustave were on their way to the carriage that would bring them to their ship when they found the staircase in the hotel blocked by Mr. Y and some of his workers.
"Don't go," he began without even waiting for Christine to say anything, "Please. Do not go." He did not sound like the mighty Mr. Y now nor like the dreaded Phantom, his plea reminded Christine of Gustave when he was much younger and afraid of the darkness.
"You promised to let us go," Christine reminded him, but she said it gently, softly, like one would talk to a frightened child.
"I can't let you go with this man!" Mr. Y exclaimed pointing at the Vicomte accusingly, "A man who would gamble you away in his drunken stupor! You can't go with him!"
Christine stared at him unbelivingly, then she turned to Raoul, but she could not find any words to say. "But you said this was just a dream?" she asked, turning pale.
"It wasn't," Mr. Y confessed, lowering his eyes. Since they were standing on the staircase, Christine had to look down on him and he had to look up, even at Gustave. "It was not. It is true that your husband was very willing to bet everything, even you. He is unworthy of you."
"And you are worthy?" the Vicomte snarled, "A man can't make a bet alone. It was your idea."
"To test you, you imbecile! And you failed miserably! My Christine, I beg you, I implore you, stay here with your son, with your family. I am even willing to endure the presence of your husband, but stay here. Christine, we are music, our soul is music and we have only one soul for both of us - without one another we can't live, can't breathe, can't be happy. Surely you must have known this?"
"Not that again!" Christine moaned, "Stop it, before you make a fool of yourself! Please. You promised to let us go if you loved me. Let us pass!"
"At least come back," the masked man tried another approach, "I can arrange a tour through the best opera houses in America. Please. You can have everything."
"I fulfilled my promise, I sang for you one last time. These were your own words: one last time. Not twelve, twenty or a gazillion times. One last time."
She was adamant because she knew if she gave him only the slightest hope he would forever try to get her back somehow. She could not even afford to tell him how painful it was to her to be so cruel, how much she pitied him in that moment. He was still the same man who had kidnapped her from the stage, had brought her to his underground lair and tried to force her to marry him, even if he must have known that he could only have her company but could never win her love by making her his prisoner. But he was still the same man, scheming, using all his skills and genius just to make her stay with him. He had all the good cards in this game and she and her family the bad, but he could not win this one because even the best laid schemes could not force love.
"One last time," he whispered and cleared the path for them, leaning with his back against the wall. Christine walked past him, denying herself to turn her head to see him in the eyes, scared he might mistake even this tiny gesture of pity for her truly wanting to be his. She led Gustave by the hand, Raoul followed close behind. Their path was still blocked by the bodyguards. "Let them pass!" Mr. Y commanded, his voice oddly toneless.
The de Chagny family were in time to board the ship to England, there they would take another ship to France. As soon as the cabin door was locked, Christine turned to her husband, demanding sternly: "You have something to tell me?" Her husband flinched at her tone, his guilty conscience already troubling him.
"My Christine, I swear I will be the man you loved before. I know what I did and I swear to you, no bets, no drinking any more. Never again. I was so close to losing you, if you had not fought to stay with me, you would lie in his arms now. I ought to be grateful to him for he opened my eyes and made me see how close to losing you I was. My darling, I won't let this happen! I won't! Even if I always thought this would never be necessary, but in one thing he was right: pride does not fill one's stomach. I will go to the navy commandant's office. I know some men there, maybe they can give me a job. I've always rejected them because logistic to maintain supply is the most boring thing I can think of, but I seem to have a talent for that. Maybe they still want me as Logistics Officer."
"O Raoul, you would do that for me?" Christine blushed and smiled because she knew all too well what great sacrifice that was for the proud Vicomte.
In Phantasma Madame Giry and her daughter Meg had watched carefully, both knowing how important each tiny gesture of Christine was. They knew Erik would never let go of her if she gave him only the tiniest hope. Both women would have loved to applaud the Vicomtesse for her behavior - she had completely ignored Erik after her aria, knowing she was breaking his heart, she had rejected him when he made his last desperate attempt to persuade her to stay.
Christine had broken his heart and now it would be up to them to put him back together somehow. Not the first time in their lives, they had seen him fall apart before. The older Giry took a deep breath, bracing herself for what was to come. She knew she would find Erik a weeping mess, maybe he had already trashed his flat. He would be like a wounded animal, dangerous and frightened at the same time. This would last for weeks, maybe months, in which he would be unable to do anything. They had to make sure he would not use alcohol or drugs to dull his pain, but he would overcome this and after about a year or mourning something would catch his interest and they would go back to normal.
Except for that damned testament. Madame Giry had searched his office and found it gone. He must have sent it to his lawyer already. She would have to persuade him to change that again, to make Meg Giry his heir and not Gustave de Chagny.
To their great surprise the Girys found the door to Erik's flat unlocked. That was highly unusual.
"Erik?" Meg called out. The parlor was as tidy as it always was. The same with the study and the kitchen. Erik was not there.
"Erik, where are you?" her mother called out, but she got no answer. There was a deadly silence. "Erik! Please answer or we have to enter your bedroom!" She was really worried now. She had expected him to cry, to scream, to smash his furniture, she had not expected this silence.
Meg opened the door and her mother pushed past her. Erik was not in his bedroom, the room was tidy, unused.
"Erik?" Meg called out close to panic. Where was he?
Her mother tried to open the door to the bathroom. It was not locked but something heavy blocked it. Together they pushed it open and saw what had blocked the door: Erik lay sprawled out on the floor, still dressed in the same clothes he wore at the concert, his right sleeve pulled up, his wrist bleeding, a syringe lying on the tiles on the floor beside his hand.
"O God!" Meg yelled and threw herself over his lifeless form, not caring about the filth on the floor. Dying was a very messy issue, he lost every control over his body, soiling himself, his body fighting the poisoning causing him to retch. Erik must have chosen the bathroom because it was easier to clean. How considerate of him, he had never shown such consideration for others before.
A shudder ran through his body.
"He's still alive," the older Giry concluded, her face ashen, "Meg, Meg, my girl. You are much faster than I am. Run to the doctor, tell him Erik must have taken an overdose of... something. Call the doctor, hurry!"
Meg ran away as fast as her trained legs could carry her.
Madame Giry picked Erik's lifeless body up in her arms, holding him in a half-sitting position to help him breathe. "You can't die! Please! Erik, don't die on us, please!"
Erik woke in his own bed, his right arm bandaged. He could barely see, the curtains were drawn but he could feel a cool breeze from the ocean drift into the room. He tried to move, but he could not. He was half-sitting in his bed, the only thing that kept him from toppling to a side was the mass of pillows that held his body in place. Again he tried to move but his body did not obey. He wanted to say something but lacked air. Breathing was so hard now, he needed all his strength just to keep breathing.
"Erik, o my God, he will survive?" he heard Madame Giry's piercing shriek.
"I guess he will," Dr. Gangle's grumpy reply told Erik that the tall doctor was exhaused after fighting for his life. What a waste of time, strength and medicine, Erik mused. He wanted to die and tried to tell them, but he couldn't. His tongue did not obey.
It took all of Erik's strength to say something. It came out as an exhausted whisper. "Let me die."
"No, you can't die now!" Madame Giry was close to being hysteric, "You can't die, not with this testament! You can't die leaving all to that boy!"
"For heaven's sake, woman, can't you think of anything but this damned resident circus!" Dr. Gangle berated her frustrated, "Erik is close to death, he's not out of the wood, leave him be!"
"But he can't die! Erik, listen to me - you can't die and leave everything to a boy who is most likely not your son. Did you ever think of that? Gustave comes after his mother. Of course he has some musical talent! Christine always was a great singer, her father a famous violinist. You are the genius here - do the maths. How likely is it that he's your son?"
"Kill me," Erik groaned and smirked. It was not funny that he was about to die, but he had wanted precisely that. "She sang for me one last time. One. Last. Time. Now I have nothing to live for. No music, no Christine, no child. Let me die."
"What makes you so sure Gustave is your son? He can very well be the Vicomte's!" Madame Giry inquired, ignoring the doctor who tried to persuade her to let Erik rest. "You can't leave everything to a son who is most likely not your's and ignore the daughter who is guaranteed to be your's!"
It took some time until Erik's dazed brain registered what she had just said. He chuckled quietly. "And here I thought I had an overdose. It seems you had even more and your drug must have been contamined!"
"Haha, very funny, I'm dying of laughter," Madame Giry snapped, sounding everything but amused, her arms crossed before her breast. She held her breath for a moment, then she grabbed Erik's bare shoulders - he had not realized he was stark naked before she touched him - as she yelled: "Meg is your daughter, you idiot! What did you think when we were young? When I suddenly was pregnant without ever being married? Did you think I was just another slut of a ballerina who spread her legs for some rich patrons? Erik, Meg is your daughter!"
Erik stared at her as time seemed to slow down and speed up at the same time. "This can't be..." he whispered.
"But it is! I never told you or her or anyone because... because both of us were children! I was a minor and you were some years younger than me! You were just a boy and unable to care for yourself, how would you ever be able to care for a baby? I know you think I left you alone when I stopped bringing food and clothing, but I did it for our child. I was just a girl then, I was a child having a baby. I could not care for you and I knew you were not able to be a father, I knew you were just a boy half-mad with fear. When I was forced to grow up far before my time because I had a baby I felt like I had two babies - Meg and you. You were just a toddler in the body of a teenager. How could I have told you? I had to keep her away from you for her own safety! Especially when you grew up to be the Opera Ghost! You and your temper, you would have killed her. And what was I to tell her? That her father is a crazy murderous freak with a terrifying disregard for human life, an egomaniac who can't even spell the word empathy?"
"That's quite enough, Madame!" The doctor felt he had to protect the patient who was still unable to control his body and needed all of his strength to keep breathing.
"Yes, it is! More than enough! I was lucky that he ignored her when she seemed to fall in love with him, both not knowing that they were father and daughter! When I saw what he did with Christine - I was so glad he never was in love with me! You can't believe how happy I was that he had cast me aside and regarded me just as useful tool then because that is the only reason Meg and I are still alive. That's why I kept silent all those years, enduring his lament about him being so very lonely when his family was right there at his side! Our lives we sacrificed for his sake and now he wants to give everything - literally everything - to a boy who might not even be his! And you ask me to keep silent?"
Erik was silent. He could not say anything, but that moment the doctor felt his pulse finally - finally! - quicken, a sign that he was fighting the drug, fighting for his life.
"Good boy," the doctor patted his hand, "Keep fighting and you will recover."
Thank you for reading and please review! I would love to know what you think of this!