Always and Forever

In Kay's book, what if Erik hadn't died, and Christine had been able to stay with him?

Disclaimer: I only own Arilda, and Arabelle, Phillipe, and Zarifa, who will be seen later in the story.

As It Should Be
XxX

Christine smiled slightly, and scooped Ayesha into her arms. The little cat growled softly, worried, rather than angry. She wanted to stay with her master, to curl beside him, and impart what little warmth her small body could, like she had other times when he was hurting. She wanted to help.

But Christine did not let her go. Much as Ayesha meant well, the feline would more than likely wake Erik, and he desperately needed his rest if he was to survive. Their love-making only an hour ago had spent the majority of what little energy he'd had left.

Nadir looked up when Christine walked out of the bedroom with Ayesha, and his eyes turned sad.

"He is gone, then?" the Persian asked softly, sorrow in his heart. His friend had deserved so much more than he'd gotten.

Raoul made to move from where he stood by the fireplace, but stopped when Christine shook her head, smiling slightly.

"Erik is resting, Nadir," she said quietly. "God willing, he'll live."

"Without you, mademoiselle," Nadir replied. "I doubt he would want to."

Christine shook her head, a slightly scandalized look on her face.

"I couldn't leave him!" she gasped. "Not now! I've hurt him so much! I will stay with him. I love him."

"Christine, you can't mean that!" Raoul whispered, shocked and hurt.

Christine looked into his eyes, and sighed sadly.

"I do, Raoul," she said softly. "I love Erik. Oh, I love you, too, of course, dear Raoul. But not as I love Erik."

Raoul shook his head, then wrapped his arms tightly around Christine.

"As soon as he dies," the viscount instructed, "write to me, and I will come for you. Then we will be married."

Christine shook her head, pulling back.

"Dear Raoul," she sighed. "I love him. I don't want him to die. Erik must live, Raoul. And I will be at his side." The young soprano hugged her childhood friend, then; her one-time sweetheart. "Take care, Raoul. Take care, and goodbye. I only hope it is not forever."

"It won't be," Raoul promised. "I will wait for you, Christine, love. I will wait for as long as I must."

Christine pulled away swiftly, tears welling in her eyes as she shook her head.

"No, Raoul!" she pleaded. "You must find someone who will love you; who can love you with all their heart and soul. Find someone who can belong to you completely, with no one else who holds her true love. Find someone worthy of you, my sweet Raoul."

Tears stung Raoul's eyes, but when Nadir stepped forward to lead him away, the viscount did not protest. He did not like the thought of leaving Christine alone with a monster like Erik, but he could not force Christine away. She'd realize the truth herself, in time.

But Raoul didn't understand. He could not grasp the concept of Christine's love for Erik. He had never seen how gentle Erik could be with Christine, how the young soprano was never afraid for herself, only others', when Erik was angry.

The moment Nadir and Raoul left the house, Christine returned to her room, and Erik. She sat on the edge of the bed, and took his hand, gently smoothing back his hair.

Erik's eyes flickered opened slowly, and rolled over to Christine's form sitting beside him. His vision was slightly blurred from pain and exhaustion, but he could still see her face, and she was smiling warmly at him.

He moved to sit up, but hissed when a stab of pain flashed though his chest. Christine gasped, then gently pushed him back down against the pillows, pulling the blankets up over his shoulders.

"You must rest, love," she soothed, stroking his forehead. "You are still ill. I will be here when you wake up. Sleep, now."

"Sing?" Erik requested hoarsely. Christine's smile widened, and she leaned down to gently kiss his lips.

"Of course," she breathed, breaking into a quiet song.

"I will make you broaches,

and toys for your delight,

of bird-song at morning,

and star-shine at night.

I will build a palace,

fit for you and me.

Of green days in forests,

and blue days at sea."

As she started the chorus, a tiny smile spread over Erik's lips.

"Mmmmph, music..." he whispered, barely awake. " 's nice..."

Christine smiled brightly, and continued to sing, still stroking his hair.

"And this shall be for music

when no on else is near.

The fine song for singing,

the rare to hear.

That only I remember,

that only you admire.

Of the broad road before us,

and the roadside fire.

I will bring you gifts of gold

with the autumn leaves,

precious gems and treasure troves,

with the buds of spring.

And this shall be for music

when no one else is near.

The fine song, for singing,

the rare song to hear.

That only I remember,

that only you admire.

Of the broad rode before us,

and the roadside fire.

This shall be

for music..."

Tenderly, careful not to wake him, Christine kissed his forehead. It was slightly warm, and she worried; it would do him no good to get sick now. In fact, it could kill him.

Standing, she crossed to the bathroom, and wet a washcloth, then returned to Erik's side, and placed the compress on his forehead.

In his sleep, Erik shifted, frowning as a slight shiver traveled through him from the cold cloth, but then he smiled as it soothed his temperature, and he muttered Christine's name faintly.

Smiling fondly, Christine stroked his hair back one last time, then walked back out into the sitting room to wait for Nadir. He'd be back soon, certainly, and she could ask him then how to make Erik's tea. She chided herself for having never thought to ask Erik about it before. But it couldn't be helped.

Just as she sat down, the front door opened, and Nadir stepped in. Jumping up again, she quickly made her way over to the daroga, Erik's long-time friend.

"How is he?" Nadir asked with a quiet dread, as though expecting Erik only to have lasted through the morning to die in the early after noon.

"Erik is still asleep," Christine answered. "I was wondering, Nadir, if you might be able to show me how to make that tea of his that helps this?"

Nadir nodded, smiling.

"Of course, mademoiselle."

Nadir led Christine into the kitchen to teach her to prepare Erik's tea for if ever the Persian wasn't around.

Nadir gathered the ingredients from around the kitchen, and brought them together on one counter space, then grabbed a teapot, and filled it with water.

"You see how I do it?" he asked Christine, adding the first of the ingredients. "It's much stronger in this order. That way, the chemicals in the ingredients have a better chance of fusing. Makes it stronger."

Christine smiled gratefully, and when the tea was ready, she took a cup of it, and returned to Erik's room.

Perching lightly on the edge of the bed, Christine gently shook Erik's shoulder. He groaned, turning away. Christine frowned, and tried a bit harder.

"Erik," she called gently. "Wake up, now. Pleae. Wake up, Erik."

At last, Erik's gold eyes flickered open, and he looked up at Christine bemusedly.

"Y-you're still here?"

Christine frowned.

"I said I would be, my Erik," she reminded him lightly. "How are you feeling?"

Erik groaned, closing his eyes.

"Tired," he muttered wryly. He tried to sit up, but gasped when a bolt of pain hit him, and he fell back against the pillows, eyes shut, breath unsteady.

Christine cringed, and reached for him, tenderly pulling him into her arms as she set the teacup down on the nightstand. After a moment, she pulled back, so that she was supporting his shoulders with one arm, and picked the cup back up.

"You need to drink this, love," she said softly. "Here." Christine tilted the cup against his lips, pouring the warm liquid into his mouth, and giving Erik an encouraging smile when he swallowed.

After a moment, he turned his head and coughed, half-choking on the tea. Christine gently pounded his back until he could breathe again.

When he stopped coughing, Erik pressed a hand against his chest in pain, whimpering weakly.

Christine held him in her arms, stroking his back as he gasped for breath.

"Stay calm, Erik," she whispered soothingly. "I'm here. And I will stay here."

Erik's breath remained laboured, and he kept a hand pressed over his spasming heart.

"Erik?" Christine asked worriedly. "Do you need your medicine? Nadir!" she called, worried about leaving Erik herself. Nadir's head poked through the door a moment later.

"What is it?" he asked, looking from Christine to Erik.

Christine looked imploringly at Nadir, eyes starting to tear.

"Erik needs his medicine, but I don't know where it is. Can you get it for me, please Nadir?"

The Persian nodded, eyes flickering to a shaking, panting Erik with concern, and left the room, returning a moment later with a little vial of liquid.

"Make sure he drinks all of it," the daroga instructed. Christine nodded, and uncorked the bottle, pressing the rim to Erik's pale lips. Erik's hand came up and took the bottle from Christine. He tilted his head far back, swallowing it all, then collapsing against Christine, gasping and panting. But at least the sharpe ache in his chest was fading finally. Maybe he'd survive, now that he had Christine with him.

"C-christine," Erik whispered tiredly. "H-how long... will you s-stay?"

Christine smiled down at Erik, gently stroking his cheek.

"Always and forever, if you wish," she replied, bending forward to press her lips gently to Erik's. Erik responded by wrapping his arms around her neck, and pulling her down next to him on the bed, deepening the kiss, and growing passionate.

Christine pulled away at once, tucking a stray strand of Erik's hair, and rested her hand on Erik's cheek.

"Not yet, love," she sighed. "Not again, until you are well. You must rest."

Erik shook his head.

"I cannot die..." he replied. "N-not with you... here."

He tried to sit up, and pull her to him, but Christine pushed him back down, then lay beside him, pulling the blankets over them both.

"Go to sleep, Erik, love," she crooned, pulling him into her arms. "I will be here when you wake. I promise."

Erik nodded tiredly, weakly, eyes sliding closed almost instantly. Christine smiled, and let sleep take over her, too.

She woke some time later, feeling cold. Reaching out for Erik, she snapped fully awake when she felt only sheets. Gasping, she bolted up, and looked around.

Erik was curled in around himself as tightly as he could, trembling, at the edge of the bed. Christine reached out and gently touched his shoulder. His skin was burning.

Erik started when Christine touched him, then yanked back. Oh, God! he thought desperately, cloudy mind instantly locking onto the fact that he wasn't wearing his mask. His hands flew to cover his face, and he curled up even tighter.

"M-my mask!" he gasped, sounding frightened and desperate. "Christine, my mask! D-don't look -"

"Erik, hush," Christine said firmly, pulling his hands away from his face, and pulling him into her arms. "I am simply concerned. You're feverish." Gently, she laid him down and pulled the blankets over him, then kissed his forehead.

Erik frowned when she stood up, reaching for her, and weakly grasping her wrist.

"Christine, where...?"

"It's alright, Erik," she assured him. "I'm not leaving. I'm just getting a cloth from the bathroom to help your fever. I'll be back in a moment, I promise."

Erik nodded tiredly, letting Christine go, and watching through heavy eyes as she went into the washroom.

By the time Christine returned, Erik was asleep once more. She realized that, until he regained some of his strength, he was not likely to be able to do much. She'd seen how even staying awake for any length of time exhausted him. With a fever now, as well, she would have to be extra careful to keep Erik calm and still.

Smiling sadly, Christine pressed the compress to his forehead, then walked out of the room to the drawing room, looking for the time. It was nearly dawn. Sighing, the soprano wandered back into the room with Erik, sitting beside him, and holding his hand.

Ayesha wandered into the room then, glaring at Christine. But when the woman made no move to shoo away the cat, the little Siamese jumped onto the bed, and curled up next to Erik, her small head on his chest, purring softly.

Christine smiled, and reached out to pet her. Ayesha regarded Christine's hand warily, but did not move, for Erik's sake. She knew he needed to sleep. That had always helped her master before when he was hurting.

But when Christine scratched behind her ears, Ayesha melted. She purred happily; that was her favorite spot to be scratched.

Hours later, Erik woke to a pleasant warmth beside him, and a weight on his stomach. Opening his eyes, he saw Ayesha, sleeping on his abdomen, and when he turned his head, he was met with a bunch of curling brown hair right in his face. He frowned involuntarily, and turned away from the tickling strands.

Then he realized who it was that was lying there next to him.

"Christine?" he whispered, voice surprisingly hoarse. He hardly remembered anything recent. What was the last thing he could see clearly? Oh, yes. That last attack that had nearly killed him. Nadir had been there. He'd gotten Erik into bed, and after that, he couldn't remember much of anything. Which was why Christine's presences both surprised and confused him.

Christine's eyes snapped open at Erik's quiet voice, and she looked worriedly into his eyes. Erik realized absently that he wasn't wearing his mask. But it didn't bother him. He knew it should, but for some reason, he felt something had happened, something he couldn't remember, that had taken away his fear of letting Christine see him.

"Erik? What is it? Are you alright?" She reached up worriedly, and touched his forehead, finding it cool as usual. The fever was gone, thank Heaven. She pulled him against her chest, smiling in relief. "Thank God," she breathed.

"Christine?"

Christine smiled fondly down at him. "Don't you remember, love? You were quite feverish in the night. I was worried."

Erik blinked as memories of the previous two days returned; Christine ariving at his bedside as he lay dying, her saying she would be his wife while he lived, their, ah, intimate moment, and now, this morning, waking up with her hair in his face. Erik smiled.

"Christine..."

He curled in closer to her, hiding his face in her neck, and weakly wrapping his arms around her waist. Though he felt much better than the previous day, he still felt weak, and drained. It was a bit difficult, still, to move his left arm without pain, and there was just the slightest, dying ache in his chest.

"Erik?" Christine asked, as she ran her hands gently through his hair. "Do you think you can sit in the drawing room with me? I don't want you so far away when I go to make breakfast."

Erik thought. He was sure it would hurt, but he could certainly make it, with minimal moving of his left side.

"Of course," he replied with a light smile. Christine helped him up, and he hissed in pain, but refused the suggestion of staying in bed. If it would ease her conscience, he would gladly be closer to her.

Christine supported his halting, shuffling steps to a chair near the fireplace, and she wrapped a thick quilt around him before kneeling to light the fire. When she was done, she returned to Erik long enough to stroke his cheek, then kiss his forehead before she left for the kitchen to make them breakfast, and some of Erik's Russian tea.

She sat on the floor when she returned, pushing the footstool under his feet to make him more comfortable, and pressed a plate into his hands. They were colder than usual, and trembling slightly.

"Erik?" Christine asked, concerned. "Are you feeling alright?"

Erik nodded shakily.

"Just, just tired," he assured quietly.

Christine nodded, and settled herself on the floor beside his chair, smiling at the familiar feeling. If she closed her eyes, she could almost hear him reading a story as she sat at his feet, before she'd so rudely removed his mask and caused him so much pain.

Ayesha wandered into the room, and jumped into Erik's lap, giving him a worried look, and a quiet meow as she gently nudged his chest. Chuckling lightly, he stroked down her back, then rubbed her behind her ears. The little Siamese purred contentedly as she curled up on his lap, happy that her master was out of bed (Ayesha always worried about him, in her kitty-cat way).

Christine leaned her head against his leg, smiling when she felt his hand rest against her head. It moved away when Erik went to pick up his tea, and take a drink. He smiled softly at Christine's thoughtfullness. And Nadir's foresight for showing her.

"Christine?"

Christine turned to look up at Erik, patienly waiting for him to continue. Erik smiled again, and gently cupped her face.

"Thank you, Christine," he whispered. "I don't know what I'd be doing right now without you."

Christine opted to take his words as just sentimentality, despite the slight tremor, and the obvious exhaustion in his voice.

For the rest of that day, they simply sat together, Christine on the floor, her head on Erik's knee, his left hand in her hair, and his right on Ayesha's lithe back.

The fire crackled in the fireplace all that morning, and when noon-time came, Christine made them lunch, and more tea. Erik showed his appreciation with a soft smile - the only way he was really good at, as it was always difficult for him to express his feelings with words.

"Christine," Erik muttered at one point, stroking Christine's hair. "I love you so." His voice became choked as emotions suddenly, and uncharacteristically, took over him, and Christine turned so that she was facing him. He leaned forward, slipping from the chair and clinging to her, as tears rolled down his face. "Stay with me..." he begged weakly, breathing unsteady as he cried. "N-never leave..."

Christine held him close in her arms, realizing that the suddeness of his emotions was from his illness. She pressed his head to her chest, holding him on her lap, and rocking gently back and forth.

"Shhh, my love," she crooned. "I will never leave you. I love you, Erik. I promise I will always be with you." She cradled him gingerly, stroking his hair, hoping to calm him. "And as soon as you are well, we can make the wedding official, and we will live together, like any other normal couple. As you've always wanted. As it should be."

Erik eventually calmed, and lay shaking in Christine's arms. The soprano hummed softly, as she rubbed his back, and ran her fingers through his hair until he fell asleep.

Even in his condition, Erik was too heavy for Christine to lift, so she leaned back against the chair, and held him close as she, too, fell asleep.

XxX
Chapter one done! Lord, I'm falling into the same pattern with Phantom as I did with Avatar; starting more stories than I can finish. Oh well. I'm sure they'll all get done someday. I hope you liked this, anyway, and review, please!