Tremulous and Tender

BY : NataliaV
Category: M through R > Phantom of the Opera
Dragon prints: 7330
Disclaimer: I do not own The Phantom of the Opera movie(s), nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Part: 12/?
Thanks: To Sarah for her ever awesome beta-ing.

Don Juan does indeed triumph, Erik thought, watching his fiancée sleeping peacefully. His fiancée! She was curled against him, her sweet face pressed against his chest... right over his heart. Her left arm was draped across his middle. He lifted her hand, pleased with how well the ring looked there.

Madeline had never worn it. At least she never had in front of him. Sneaking into her room once when he was four, he'd seen it, stuffed in the back of her dresser. It had been in a small box with other keepsakes of his father. That box had been one of the few things he'd managed to recover from his childhood home when held returned several years earlier. After Madeline's death, the house had fallen into disrepair, nature doing its best to reclaim the land. Erik had been glad to see it so. That accursed place of his childhood loneliness and abuse; he had suffered more in the six years there than with his time at the carnival.

Erik's thoughts turned from darkness to light when Christine shifted against him. She was more than enough to make up for all he had been through. There was nothing he could have been given that would have had the ability to make him feel as complete and content as Christine did. Perhaps Madeline showing some sign that she did love him, that she did care... but it was too late. His mother was dead and there was no way of knowing now, or brooding about all the might have beens.

Christine made a soft noise. It took him a moment to realize that it was his name so reverently sighed, even as sleep gripped her. Erik kissed the palm of her hand before placing it on his cheek. It felt so painfully good to be touched after so many years of denial of that one basic human need. She would never really understand the bliss he would always feel at the slightest of her touches... at the most innocent of gazes she gave him. And truthfully, he preferred it that way.

To understand would mean she would have to know of his childhood and the circus. She would have to know of the looks of horror he'd seen on so many faces; the laughter directed at him for something he could not control.

Her fingers moved slowly before cupping his cheek. He looked at her to see she that was awake, a slight, blushing smile on her face as she nuzzled closer to him. He moved his hand from hers, trailing it down her neck. Her eyes, still heavy with sleep, turned up to him. "Is it morning?"

Confused as he was by the question and its timing, he glanced at the little clock. It was a bit after eight in the morning. "Yes," he answered simply, grazing his fingers over her shoulders.

Grinning now, she pulled from him, stretching languidly, her modesty from before forgotten as the sheets slipped down to pool at her hips. She raised her arms above her head, arching her back slightly. Erik leaned up, running his mouth over the smooth, taut skin. Christine looked at him, smiling before she yawned and a little whimper noise escaped her. She tilted her head to look at him before she slid her body against his, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She pressed her lips against his. "Good morning then," she said, donning a silly grin.

Erik's heart swelled with love for his beautiful, little diva. His hands fell on the small of her back to still her slight wriggling. Her chocolate curls hung from her head, falling around them like a curtain.

"Good morning," he replied after he was silent for sometime. He raised himself up so that their lips met in a sweet, passionate kiss.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Christine's voice rang out sweet and pure as she sang, standing at center stage. Erik was cloaked in the darkness of Box Five, watching her. He flinched as a cellist struck a sour cord. He'd been neglecting his duties so! Monsieur Reyer would not have allowed that to happen if he'd of kept up with his Opera Ghost duties. He would have to let Monsieur Reyer know that he would not accept anything but perfection to accompany Christine’s voice. In that instant, Ubaldo Piangi stepped out on stage, belting his lines. Erik hung his head, deeply shamed. If he wanted perfection to accompany Christine, a new male lead would have to be hired. One who was younger and could actually sing from his diaphragm, not his gut.

Oh, Piangi had been good… many, many years ago… like Carlotta had once been good. Both were performing far past their primes, but no one held that draw, the ability to fill seats as they did. Not until his Christine, that is. Tickets were selling faster than ever with Christine as the lead soprano. Gossip and Opera Ghost rumors might have been the draw at first, but once she had been seen, people had fallen in love with Christine for her talent and beauty.

Monsieur Reyer began to chide Piangi and his little shadow. Christine turned her face in the direction of Box Five, fingering the chain that hung from her neck. Beneath her dress, snuggled enviably between her breasts, dangling from the chain was his ring. He’d put it there that morning before escorting her back above, explaining to her that wearing it on her finger would only bring up questions she was not ready to, and could not altogether answer. She winked before turning her attention to Monsieur Reyer and Piangi.

Erik left Box Five, using a small handful of hidden corridors, stealthily making his way to the catwalk above the stage… above Christine. He felt a possessive anger chill the blood in his veins as he looked down to see the Vicomte de Changy walk across the stage, forcing rehearsals to halt. The managers were behind him, simpering and scraping. Erik shook his head.

The boy broke away from the two men, approaching Christine. He reached inside his cloak, his fingers resting on the Punjab lasso. It would be so satisfying to wrap the rope around that arrogant boy's neck, pull it tight and watch the light slowly fade from his eyes.

He moved along so he was directly above them. Christine nervously played with the chain on her neck. "I am sorry Raoul,” he heard her say, “but I did tell you I could not have supper with you."

"Little Lotte," Raoul reached for her hands, coming irritatingly close to touching her chest in the process, but she pulled back from him. "Christine? Have I done something to upset you?"

"Raoul, you were very dear to me when we were children. I should like better than anything to remain friends with you..."

"And if I should like to be more?" Erik clenched his teeth to the point of pain.

"It cannot be." She gave him a small smile. The Vicomte seemed terribly taken aback by her words… by her refusal. It must have been quite the blow to his ego. It was only fair, Erik thought, that the handsome man, who had probably been denied nothing in his entire life, be denied Christine. The fates had been kind, giving her to him.

"Is there someone who holds your heart, Little Lotte?" It was an arrogant assumption that she should deny him only because of another man, not because she simply did not want him.

"It would not change my feelings if there was," she echoed Erik's thoughts. "But, yes, there is someone. I… we are engaged, Raoul." Her face was a wash of happiness as she made the announcement. She gazed dreamily out across the theater.

"Well," the Vicomte de Chagny scratched his head nervously, stepping a few feet from Christine. "I had no idea. You had not mentioned it before"

"He only just asked for my hand."

"Last night?" She nodded her head. "I suppose congratulations are in order then. I should like to take you and your fiancé out." He forced a smile. "I should like very much to meet the man who's so captured my Little Lotte's heart."

"She was never yours," Erik seethed silently. "She has been mine since she first stepped into this building. Mine."

"I don't think that's altogether possible. He is a very private person."

"Christine, you must understand, I am very concerned about all this."

"There is no reason for you to be. He is the best of men, I assure you. He is everything I could possibly want in a husband."

"For the sake of our… friendship," he said the word as if it were something very distasteful. "I will trust your judgment." He pulled Christine into his arms. Erik’s hand fisted around the Punjab lasso. It was merely a friendly hug, he forced himself to remember. The boy was nothing to Christine. He was her fiancé and they would be married and the Vicomte would never know the joys of her kisses… the feel of her flesh.

"Thank you." She moved from his arms, but he kept a firm grasp on her hands.

"Perhaps if you tell him I am an old friend and--"

"No, Raoul." She graced him with one sweet, soft smile before rejoining the cast. The Vicomte's eyes never left her form, even as he left the theater with Messieurs Firmin and Andre.

Monsieur Reyer released some of the performers, keeping only the principals behind. Christine was stunning, decked in stage jewels and the ostentatious pink gown of The Countess. Erik could not wait to see her fully made up, standing under full light. She would be a vision.

He left the catwalk, heading to the managers office. While the cats were away... Erik entered the darkened room, sitting at Firmin's desk. He pulled out a sheet of paper and took a pen, dipping it in ink.

"Dear Andre," he began the first. "While I am delighted to see Christine as Countess, I am very displeased that she would receive the role only after that toad, La Carlotta, fell ill. Should Carlotta receive a leading role that Mademoiselle Daaé auditions for, I guarantee that you and Monsieur Firmin will be grievously sorry.

Your obedient servant,
O. G."

He examined the letter for a moment, debating whether or not he was being too severe. He decided that he wasn’t; after all, they had brought the threat upon themselves by not obeying him to begin with.

He grabbed another sheet of paper, preparing his second letter. "Dear Firmin,” he wrote swiftly. “I look forward to the final performance of the season. You will, of course, leave Box Five empty. I was beyond displeased upon seeing my box inhabited by le Vicomte de Chagny. Patron or not, it is my box. You would do well to remember that.

Also, my salary is still due. Was the junk business not as lucrative as all say that you easily squandered all your fortunes purchasing the Opera Populaire and loose women?

As always, your obedient servant,
O.G."

He smirked at that. Yes, that should get his point across nicely. He briefly debated writing one to the Vicomte as well, warning him off Christine, but thought better of it. Christine had let the boy know that she was taken and that would have to be enough for him. He sealed the letters with what was available and set them on the manager’s respective desks.

He left their office, making sure no one was about and walked the deserted hallways. He loved walking under the gaslights, where people had been minutes before. He could hear voices for the dormitories. It made him feel almost normal. And here he'd watched Christine hundreds of times, walking these very halls. Sometimes she was with Meg, but more often than not, she was alone.

He reached the private dressing rooms, being more careful. He could hear Joseph Buquet clear at the other end of. That man was an infernal nuisance. Erik was certain Buquet knew of him, so it wouldn't do to have him actually see him. He crept along the shadows, freezing for a millisecond and trembling when he realized just where Buquet’s voice was coming from. He was at Christine's dressing room in an instant.

"... whore!" Buquet shouted. "Trying to ruin my face like your lover’s?"

The door was wide open, the lock and handles were damaged. Inside, Christine had her back to Buquet and was frantically trying to get the mirror open. Buquet was clutching his face, blood seeping from between his fingers. Her dress was rumpled and her hair, neatly pulled back during rehearsal was loose and wild. Her face was red and tears streaked her cheeks. Her lips, her soft, beautiful lips were swollen, looking as they had every time he’d kissed her. Her little hand had blood on it and Erik might have feared it was her blood, had Buquet not been bellowing obscenities in pain.

Erik advanced quickly, entering the room without being seen. He moved to stand between them. Buquet’s eyes widened in horror when he saw him there, as if he’d appeared out of thin air. Erik wanted nothing more in that instant than to reach out and strangle him with his bare hands, but kept perfectly still. Buquet let out an undignified screech and ran from the room.

“Erik?” He looked at Christine, her hands, shaking, still at the mirror, inches from the latch that she’d been unable to find in her fear. She was staring at him through the glass. She lowered her hands, turning and rushing into his arms. Erik held her closely for a moment, kissing her forehead before pulling back to look her over. She looked down, refusing to meet his eyes.

With a sigh, he took her chin in his hand, reaching behind her to open the mirror. “Wait for me at the boat,” he gently pushed her past the threshold. He took a candle from her vanity, handing it to her and closed the mirror. He stared at the mirror for a moment, wondering if she would even move from there. All along the glinting gold frame was blood. He would have to clean that before going through.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Erik had never felt such anger. And, yet, his mind was perfectly clear but for one thought: Joseph Buquet must die. He had dared touch Christine. He meant to do her a most grievous harm… if he had not… Erik’s hands shook at the thought. His angel was so upset, trying so hard to not sob as he could easily see she wanted to. She looked so… broken.

Yes, Buquet would die.

He reached inside his cloak, pulling out the Punjab lasso. It was comforting as he ran his hands over its length. He stalked through the backstage, looking for his prey. It wasn’t long before he located the fly master. He was up in the catwalk, looking around nervously.

Was the man really so arrogant as to believe that he would have the upper hand there? Erik made his way up, a trek that took him mere seconds. The opera house had been his playground. Buquet had only been working for a handful of years; nothing compared to Erik’s time there.

He approached Buquet from behind, pulling the rope between his hands. Joseph Buquet turned just then, feeling the catwalk shake from movement he was not making. His eyes bugged out in an almost comical way. He stumbled backwards. Erik approached slowly, letting a wicked grin form on his lips.

Buquet jumped to another hanging rafter, running towards a ladder. Erik, much more agile and not at all inebriated, made his way over a few rafters, coming to a stop directly in front of Buquet. The man turned; his fatal mistake. Erik tossed the Punjab lasso, catching Buquet’s neck. Erik gave it a slight tug, pulling the fleeing Buquet back and to his knees. Erik knelt behind him, pulling tight on the rope, but not enough to kill.

He looked down at Buquet’s red face, veins bulging from his neck and forehead, his tongue lolling out as he gasped his few final breaths of air. There were four slashes down his cheek. Blood began oozing once more from the shredded skin at the supreme pressure. The wounds Christine had given him. Erik was certainly proud she’d defended herself, at least to some degree, against this man.

He reached up to the railing, removing a rope, not caring what it was needed for, and quickly made a noose. He slid it over Buquet’s head, making certain it was secured to the edge of the catwalk. He removed the Punjab lasso and shoved Buquet off, watching with extreme pleasure as the man’s body shook and struggled before he stilled; the body swaying slightly even in death. Erik put away his lasso, turning to leave, not sparing the man another glance.

Authors Note: I know, I know… it’s been forever and I’m sorry. I have been sitting on this chapter for a while. It’s kinda weird… I’ve been typing the story in my cell phone whenever I’m not working or in class… and transferring the bits of story from my cell to my computer has not been fun or easy… but I have so little time at home to type stuff up, it’s the only way I’d get anything done. I’ve got 13 with my beta, so, as soon as she gets that back to me I’ll get it posted! Also, I think this is going to turn out a few chapters longer than I anticipated. *shrugs* Maybe I’ll just keep going ‘til I can’t. I dunno. Just depends on my muses, who’ve been wonderful, sticking with me as they have. Anyway, as a peace offering and apology for how long it’s taken, I give you “Atop Apollo’s Lyre”, a one-shot T and T smut interlude. Now I’ll shut up and get cracking on 14! :)

Review Responses:

K-chan
Yay! A Mst-review! lol. I'm glad you liked it! And I'm so flattered you MST-ed any of my story. I can't wait to see what else you've got in store (for mine and other fics!)

Anawye
Raoul would curl up inna little, girly ball and cry if he knew, I'd wager. Lol.

Chicoel
... lol. You make me giggle so much. I might be doing something with PoNR... I haven't decided yet. Depends on if I decide to go longer than I planned or not. I know it's trying when people don't update in forever... and I hope I explained well enough why I haven't in my notes above! I am sorry, though, that anyone should have to wait! :)

angelgirl
Aren't proposal fics the best? I love 'em... love, love. There so aren't enough. lol.

Liz
*blinks* I figured it was implied that my fic would be song-ficcy in nature by the fact that I disclaimed the lyrics. Hummmm. Sorry?

Aisling
Lol. I guess it can be!

Salomé
Yay! Thanks!

Nicole
Thanks! *hugs*

Crystal
Updating now... and will update again soonish, I hope.

opalescence
Yep, still more. ;)

Waikiki Girl
... I hope you haven't been holding your breath this whole time! I don't know CPR!!!!! *cries* lol. Nope... haven't forgotten. How can you forget something you consider your baby? I've just been a busy mommy. *winks*


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