Erik let himself go. Nothing mattered anymore except Christine, nothing had ever mattered except Christine, his muse, his angel, his wife. Now, he had something she wanted and he could give it to her and, he decided, he would give it to her right. He kissed her again and this time she kissed him back immediately, letting their lips fall together and their bodies intertwine, as they had always wanted. Her hand ran along his face, driving him mad with longing. No one had ever touched him like that before, absolutely no one and he loved it. He only wished he could share a little of the feelings she was giving to him and make her understand somehow how much he loved her. He felt that no matter what he did, he could never share with her the true depths of his emotions, whether it be through music or words or touch, she would never truly know just how much she had done for him. She had saved him when he was at his worst and for that alone he loved her. But not only had she saved him once, she continued to save him every day with her love which he never in a million years could have deserved.
She wanted to get closer to him. The space between them felt too great for Christine, although there was hardly any room between them. She wanted to be a part of him; she wanted to know him. She wanted to hear every secret he had ever held, every thought he had ever dreamed, every word he had ever spoken- she wanted nothing between them. She wanted to see both his best and his worst; she wanted him to feel free and safe with her. She wanted him to truly understand that she loved him but first, she had to get rid of that pesky mask. She wanted all of him and that included his deformed face, no matter how ugly it might be. The mask was just another barrier between her and her infinitely deep husband, another thing hiding him from her. Slowly, she let her hand drift to the bottom of the mask and he, as if sensing what she was going to do, broke their kiss, reaching up to grab her hand.
“Christine,” he murmured, letting his head rest against hers. He held her hand gently, stopping it from wandering farther but not from breaking loose, if she so desired it. “Don’t do this.” He sighed, sounding tired, velvet voice stretched thin. “You don’t want to see this.”
“I want to see all of you, Erik. I don’t care anymore.” She pulled her hand from his grasp and back to his mask, pausing only for a second to look at him. His amber eyes practically glowed in the soft light, making them look like liquid gold. He did have beautiful eyes, unlike any eyes she had ever seen before, the color of honey, with just the faintest flecks of brown mixed in. He gave her a faltering look before inclined his head, only ever so slightly but it conveyed the message clearly: he wanted her to see him, too, as he was, not as he wished he could be. In one single, swift motion before he could change his mind, Christine flung the mask off of him. It clattered to the floor, the sound of it resounding clearly through their little house on the lake. There was no going back now.
The moment he felt his mask torn from his skin, Erik grabbed Christine and scooped her off the ground, holding her in his arms like a bride so that she faced his good side. She gasped at the sudden motion and clung to him for support, looping her arms around his neck.
“What are you doing?” She questioned nervously, trying to get him to face her so she could truly see him but he refused, pulling his face from her delicate hands with more force than required. His mood swings scared her; one second he was shy and resigned, letting her remove his mask and expose him, the next he was sweeping her off her feet forcefully and without speaking. She did trust him but trust was a frail thing and it could be shattered in a second with just one wrong move.
He began to walk down the hallway, to his room she presumed, still turning his deformity away from her. He stroked her hair gently, letting his thin fingers tangle in her already unkempt curls.
“Don’t worry,” He said reassuringly. “Just trust me, Christine. You can do that for me, can’t you?” He glanced at her with imploring eyes, searching in her own for an answer. He looked so sad, so helpless, as if he thought she would leave him like all the rest, rejecting him at the moment he gave her everything, and therefore breaking him beyond repair.
“Of course.” She replied gently and immediately his features sharpened, losing their hopeless demeanor and gaining some sorely needed confidence. “Of course I trust you. But you need to trust me too, darling. I am not leaving you again, I swear it.”
He weaved his fingers tighter into her hair, pulling her head to rest on his chest, just at the base of his neck as he stopped in front of his door. She could feel his heart fluttering as he opened the door to his room which, Christine realized with a jolt, she had never stepped foot in before. He had been in her room once or twice, on one occasion she had let him snuggle up in her bed with her, after a particularly bad nightmare of his. She still remember that night: how she had found him on the couch, screaming and moaning due to whatever horrid dream was plaguing him. After waking him, she had held him and rocked him until his shaking subsided and he had let her. He had seemed so vulnerable then and Christine, feeling her heart reach out to him, had not been able to leave him alone so, doing the only thing that would allow the both of them to get some well-deserved rest, she had taken him into her bed and he had followed her willingly, albeit somewhat shyly. The whole night through, they slept together, the music of their beating hearts lulling the other back to sleep. It had been nice, she thought, cuddling up with her husband. He was thin and often squeamish but they fit together nicely and she quite liked finding warmth and comfort in his arms. There, she felt as if she were safe from the world, wrapped in their own little cocoon of love, in which no fear or harm could reach them. He was, after all, her guardian angel.
Even after all this time, she had never been in his room. She could hardly believe it. They had been married for almost two weeks now and she had never been in her own husband’s room. She was not sure what she suspected, perhaps an elegant but simple room, with black walls and unfinished musical scores littering the floor, as well as some of his clothes. The room, however, was not what she suspected at all. She took it all in silently, somewhat surprised at how overwhelmingly different it was from her preconceived ideas. The walls were covered in wall paper (she had no idea how Erik had managed to buy or install it) with a white background and green and purple flowers weaving all around it. His bed was large, as she had imagined, but not elegant nor darkly colored. It had a simple brass frame with a light blue quilt, which matched nothing else in the room, altogether adding to the cozy atmosphere, as did the overflowing bookshelves that lined the walls and the large Persian style red rug, so thick and fuzzy that she wanted to jump out of Erik’s arms and dig her toes into it. The walls were also lined with pictures, sketchy and poorly drawn, making Christine think that it was most likely he who had drawn them. The room, despite the clashing colors, was immaculately clean, not a composition nor article of clothing in sight.
“Erik, I must admit, your room is far nicer than I expected.” Christine smiled up at him and, although he continued to stare resolutely forward, she saw his mouth quirk slightly, as well.
“Yes, well, I needed at least one room in my house not to be hopelessly dreary and I just so happened to choose this one. I had hoped it would bring me brighter dreams if I slept in a brighter room but, unfortunately, this was not the case.” Christine felt herself beginning to slip out of Erik’s arms, as he must have too, because he walked over to his bed and tipped her somewhat unceremoniously onto it before sliding on himself, turning his face away from her once again, looking fixatedly at the walls. “It reminds me of a real home,” He continued wistfully. “Sometimes it almost seems if I were to open my door, I would find myself in house with real windows, letting in the sunlight and giving me a nice view over the city. It almost seems possible sometimes that instead of this house on the lake, I should exit my room to find a happy, bright place and a wife and children waiting for me. It seems so real, especially in the darkness, that I almost dare to let myself believe it. But, when I leave, I find myself alone, surrounded only by my music and darkness and empty longing. Then, you came to me, Christine.”
Christine blushed, hoping he would not see how overwhelmed she was at his confession. Erik often made her out to be something she was not, more like a goddess than a mere woman. It was sometimes too much responsibility for her to bear, for she often felt like the entirety of Erik’s happiness depended on her, a thought which both frightened and annoyed her. She wished he wouldn’t speak as he did, making it sound as if her presence was the key to solving all his problems when it simply was not, although it did rather flatter her to think that he thought of her so highly. However, she was not a miracle-worker, nor was she perfect. In fact, she was far from it. Almost every day, some new habit of Erik’s, which he thought perfectly natural, would set her off and drive her mad until she could not stand to even be near him any longer.
One time, just a few days after their marriage, she noticed the first of Erik’s many oddities. He could not stop humming. He often did not even know he was doing it. When she had first confronted him about it, he had apologized, swearing to quit immediately if his bride so desired it. At first, she had been content and accepted his answer. However, little more than an hour later, as they read separately on their couches, he had started up again. Grinding her teeth in annoyance, she had reminded him as calmly as possible to please stop humming and he had, again, apologized sincerely and stopped. It was not really an unpleasant thing, Erik had a perfect voice and his humming was very nice to listen to but, for whatever reason, it annoyed Christine to no end and he could not seem to consciously stop. After the fifth time reminding him that same day, she had grown so flustered that she had left him and gone to her room for the rest of the night, leaving a very confused and regretful Erik in the living room alone. He still often hummed, despite her requests, but she had learn to deal with it and move on, although occasionally, she did still have to leave the room to escape the soft noise of his incessant music.
With gentle hands, her husband leaned over and brushed a strand of her hair back behind her ear, letting her for the first time catch a glimpse of his ruined face. Turning his face from her once more, he closed his eyes and sighed. “If you want to see me, all of me, then I shall show you what you want. However, if you do want me to put the mask back on then I most certainly will.”
Never in his life had Erik been more nervous than he was at this moment. He could hardly bear to look at himself; how could Christine, his sweet, innocent, Christine, bear to look at such a horror when even he himself could not? He already knew what would happen: he would turn and show himself to Christine and she would gasp, her eyes filling with clear revulsion, and she would no longer want him. She would make excuses, of course, telling him that she did not think him hideous and loved him for his soul but then she would leave and retire to her room for the night, no longer wishing to feel the touch of a man so twisted and deformed she could not even look upon his face with love. And then he would spend the night alone, curled in ball for warmth under his thin blanket, hating himself for what he was.
He felt her hands on him gently re-positioning him to where she could see him yet he kept his eyes closed tightly, then, at least, he would not be able to see the disgust in her eyes when she left him. He was not sure if he would be able to bear it if she left again. It was hard enough for him to know that he would never be good enough for her; she was so perfect and he was hardly an acceptable excuse for a man. All he wanted was to feel her touch and her love. He had missed out on the two for so long his whole body was aching for them. No matter how little was given to him, he would accept it eager and treasure every second of it. He would not force her though, he had learned that the hard way. Love was not forced but came naturally, although sometimes against one’s better interest. Love was not controllable; it was a force of its own, a force no man could reckon with. Love had made him into a slave, for he would do anything just for a taste of some of its all-consuming power, even if it meant showing Christine the side of himself that even he was afraid to look upon. He felt her hands cease their motion and knew he must at last be facing his angel, and she was now gazing at his deformity. Breathlessly, he awaited her reaction.
His face was horrible. Christine had to will herself not to gasp when he had turned toward her, revealing what he had always kept so carefully hidden beneath the mask. It was unlike anything she had ever seen, so unnatural and twisted it hardly looked human. The differences between the two halves of his face were striking, one normal and whole, with smooth, soft skin, alike to anyone else’s; the other was horrible and hideous, the inflamed skin stretched taut over already prominent cheekbones, patchy muscle showing through in some areas and on his forehead, a chunk of skin was complete amiss, revealing the bone beneath. Around his jawline, the discolored skin gradually faded back into his normal pale shade, as it did towards the side of his face and hairline as well, creating such clear boundaries as to where the monster began and man ended, it almost looked as if he was made to wear a mask. Gingerly, she reached out with a shaking hand and touched his horrible face, brushing her fingers lightly over the deformed cheek, making Erik shudder violently with eyes still squeezed shut and recoil back against the bed frame. He let out a wretched, shaking breath causing Christine to quickly yank away her hand, in fear that she might be causing him pain.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped, pulling away from him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t realize…” It had never occurred to her that his deformity might be more sensitive than the rest of his face. She had never thought about it before. Yet it made sense- perhaps the mask was for protectoral purposes as well as concealment.
With a shake of his head, Erik explained, “No… It’s just no one has ever touched my face before. Not with love, anyway. I… It is just a new sensation for me.” He paused and when he did not again feel the reassuring pressure of her hands, whispered, “Please don’t stop.”
Hearing the clear longing in his voice, Christine granted his wish and hesitantly brushed her thumb along the side of his jaw, causing him to draw in a sharp breath but nothing more. It pained her to see how desirous he was for love, having not been shown any his whole life. No one deserved to live like that, not even the worst criminals. Love is what makes one human and to deny someone that would make them live a cruel existence, wherein they would be drawing breath and, in all the most general terms, surviving but not truly living. To truly live, one must feel love and hate and anger and pain and joy, for emotion is what makes one human. For so long, Erik had lived with only hate, pain, and anger, without anyone to show him love. Now, she was here and was willing to do just that. Together, their two lonely souls would become one and perhaps, through this, they would both get to experience true love, Erik for the first time and Christine when she thought never to feel it again.
Taking his head in her hands, she leaned across him and kissed him gently, right on his hideously deformed forehead. The moment her lips brushed his skin, Erik felt warmth cascade throughout his entire body, originating for the place her lips touched him. It was the most wonderful feeling he had ever experienced. Never in a thousand years would he have ever dreamt that anyone, much less Christine, would ever kiss his horrid face yet now he felt her lips meet just over his brow, causing him so much ecstasy he could hardly breathe. The kisses tickled on his tender skin but it felt so amazing, so sweet that he never would have asked for more.
Christine had resolved to leave no part of his face untouched by her kisses. She could tell how much he longed for physical love and she was going to give it to him. His face really was not so terrible, either. Although it was twisted and strange, it was somehow fascinating to look at, to see how all the muscles warped together and how tender the pink skin was in some places. It was not so much ugly as it was unusual, especially the difference between to two sides of his face, which, although being of the same owner, were so entirely unlike. The only thing that remain concrete was his golden eyes, which were still closed. In an effort to get closer to him, she climbed onto his lap, still holding his face with her hands as she bent to kiss him again, this time on his chin. He sighed and she pulled away, next dropping a lingering kiss on his thin lips, to which he responded eagerly. He pulled her closer and the world around him faded away; nothing mattered except for Christine and the taste of her lips, the feeling of her body pressed against his, the way her soft hands ran over his face.
Breathlessly, she broke their kiss, forcing Erik back into reality. With nimble fingers, she began to undo the buttons on his shirt, causing his eyes to open once more in surprise. “What are you doing?” He mumbled confusedly, trying to stop her hands from wandering farther.
Christine made no reply but finished unbuttoning his shirt and pulled it off his thin shoulders with ease, letting it hang loosely about his arms.
For the first time, she stared at Erik's bare chest and was shocked at what she found. His bony torso was covered in thin, pale scars. She let out a gasp before she could stop herself; what had happened to him? Who had done this to her angel? Who had caused him so much pain?
"I'm sorry." Erik murmured, pulling her close to him so she would no longer have to see all his horrible scares. "I am not beautiful. You don't have to see this, you know." He ran his hand gently through her curls as if he were trying to comfort her, yet his voice sounded so full of pain. "Close your eyes and I can guide you. You can pretend I am beautiful, if that would make you feel better. It does not matter to me, as long as you are here."
His voice was so persuasive as he whispered the words into her ear, so rich, so full, so perfectly pleasing that for a second she almost believed that he truly did not care. Yet she could hear the pain and longing laced into the beautiful tone, trying so hard to stay hidden but evident to her nevertheless. Erik wanted to be loved like a normal man- looked at and accepted just like anyone else but he knew he could never be. He dreamed that perhaps somehow Christine would be able to look at him and see beauty where even he himself could not, where the world could not. Alas, as much as he dreamed this, he knew it could never happen. So he told himself he would have to be content with what he got- love but never true acceptance. One could come without the other, he supposed, but it would be hard for both him and Christine. As long as Christine loved him, he would be happy, for that was a miracle in and of itself. Christine, however, would be forced to love a man whom she could hardly lay eyes on, thus creating the need for a miracle.
Christine shook her head, disentangling herself from his arms as she did so. "Beauty does not lie in the flesh but the soul and you, my darling, have a beautiful soul.”
She gave him a sweet smile and continued, “Aside from that, you have the most breathtaking eyes I have ever seen. They are the color of pure gold and honey and fire and I have never seen anyone with eyes anything alike to yours. I always did find you rather attractive…” She ran her hand over the unblemished side of his face, letting her touch speak for her: “…The good side of your face, at least.” But Erik did not mind. The fact that she did was enough for him.
"There is no one else in the world like you, my love. The scars are not so bad, either. I just... Didn't know. And I am not going to shut my eyes and imagine something else, either. I don't want anything else." She sat up straighter and, eyes fixed with resolve, pulled his shirt entirely off of him, revealing yet another set of scars on his inner forearm. She let out another little gasp, covering her mouth as she did so, shocked and pained to see the number of visible marks of abusive covering him. Looking up at him with eyes full of sorrow, for him no less, she said in a quavering voice, "Who did this to you?"
In reply, he turned so she could see his back which was just as, if not more, mutilated as the rest of him. She let out a little sob as she saw this, for she felt as if each scar on him left a twin on her heart, cutting her just as deeply and painfully as it had him at the moment of its birth. With a trembling hand, she reached out and traced the scars on his back. "Who...?" She whispered tearfully.
"These came from a whip," Erik answered, his voice bereft of all emotion. "I do not remember who exactly but they are from my childhood, back when I traveled with the gypsies. Every time I did something wrong, they would whip me. Usually, it would attract quite a crowd. I suppose the gypsies enjoyed watching small, disfigured boys cry and beg for mercy..." He trailed off as he heard Christine choke back a sob. "I am sorry. That was insensitive of me. I did not realize..." He did not finish the sentence. "I did not realize that you would truly feel pity for me."
"I am so, so sorry, Erik." Unrestrained tears feel from her eyes as she wrapped him in a hug, her face pressed against his back, tears running over his bare skin. After a few moments, her crying ceased and she moved back to face him again, although he seemed set on refusing to meet her gaze. Gently, she reached down and took his hands in her own, pressing her lips to each of the marks on his forearm in turn. This time, she did not ask the origin of them, for which Erik was grateful, as he had made them himself. There had been times when he felt so utterly beyond any realm of feeling or love, any realm of humanity, it seemed the only way to prove that he was, in fact, still living was with his own lifeblood. Now he had a permanent mark from each of those times, forever reminding him that he would never be like the rest of the world. But, as he felt his angel's gentle lips brush over each of them, he felt, in a way, redeemed, as if her love could revoke what the world had made him to be, changing him from a monster to a man.
Slowly, she made her way from the scars on his arms to the few which covered his chest, bringing Erik healing which he knew nothing else would ever be able to give him. He closed his eyes and let the pressure of her lips calm and entice him, as he felt her kisses flit over his pounding heart and her fingers travel across his prominent ribs. Then, her kisses began to go lower. Lower, he realized with growing desire, than most of his scars. Her kisses no longer seemed healing but greedy and desperate as she ran her lips along the skin just above the hem of his pants.
"Christine," he gasped as she replaced her lips with her fingertips, tracing teasing patterns on his flesh. Upon hearing her name, Christine looked up and met his gaze, the want showing clearly in her eyes, mirroring the desire he felt, as well. In an instant, she climbed back onto his lap, straddling his torso, and kissed him on the lips, rendering him positively breathless. With one hand, she stroked his deformed face, bringing waves of pleasure unequal to anything he had felt before, yet she let the other explore freely beneath the hem of his pants, causing his want for her, which was already clearly evident, grow all the more. His breath hitched and she pulled away from him, withdrawing both hands and turning around, making Erik think, much to his disappointment, that she was perhaps reconsidering his offer of blind love.
"Can you..?" She motioned vaguely to the buttons on her dress and Erik immediately understood what she wanted him to do. Without a pause, he undid her dress, humming as he did so, and pulled it over her head, only to reveal the corset underneath. He groaned inwardly, for he wanted nothing more than to touch her fair skin, as she had his, and to feel her with nothing in between them.
"Do you know how to undo a corset?" She giggled and he blushed, not wanting to admit he had no idea what he was doing.
"I can figure it out. I am a grown man and a more than capable musical and architectural genius. I think I can unlace a woman’s undergarments.After all, how hard can it be?" He said, more to himself than to her.
She let out another sweet laugh, making him smile, as well. "You would be surprised."
He set to work, his skilled fingers undoing the laces in no time, each one causing Christine to exhale deeply as it was removed. Sometimes, he had no idea how women dealt with all the difficulties life presented them with, many of which were not forced upon men, much to his relief. Finally, he undid the last stitch yet he suddenly felt very hesitant. He pressed a few gentle kisses to her neck, caressing her skin, still while humming softly. The last thing he wanted was for her to force herself to love him; he would wait as patiently as he could for her until she was ready whether it be that very day or never.
After waiting a moment and not feeling the stiff corset pulled off of her, Christine asked in confusion, "Did you undo it?"
From behind her she heard Erik's voice, soft and sweet, as always, yet laced with uncertainty. "Yes."
"Erik..." She sighed and turned to face him, blushing as she saw his gaze travel hungrily over her scantily clothed form. "My love, you don't have to be nervous. I promise you, I want this as much as you." When she finished speaking, she took his hands in her own and brought them up to the bottom of her corset, inviting him to pull it off of her once again. This time, he obliged with hands shaking both from nerves and burning desire for the only woman he would ever love.
She was so beautiful. It was the only coherent thought that rushed through his delirious brain. She was the most perfect woman ever to walk to earth. He told her so, too, as he ran his hands over her hips and alone her spine, making her squirm closer to him. He let his hands roam to places he had only ever dreamed of touching her before, causing her to gasp and moan and cry out his name with her angelic voice. He pleasured her with his fingers until she was gasping for breath, begging for more which he gladly gave her. He gave her everything that was his to give until he had to break off, shuddering and murmuring her name into her neck, head swimming with pleasure that he had never before imagined possible. Christine cried his name as he did so, weaving her fingers tight into his hair, her hazy eyes echoing the state of his intoxicated mind. He loved her then, more than he ever thought possible, so much that it hurt.
"I love you," he whispered, as he pulled out of her, not caring how weak he sounded. "I love you so much, my angel. I love you... Christine... More than life itself. You are everything for me. I love you and I will continue loving you until I have breathed my last." He needed her to say it back. He needed to know if she really, truly loved him, despite what they had just done. He needed her.
"I love you, too, Erik." She replied tenderly, placing one last, lingering kiss on his lips. And he could tell with every fiber of her being, she meant it. He smiled as she collapsed beside him, still breathless and blushing from their love, as he was as well. He turned so he could face her and began to trace his fingers over her bare skin as she fit herself against him, her head tucked snugly under his chin and her arms squished between them. The couple was alive in their own happiness, sheltered by their own love. As they slowly fell into sweet sleep, each lulled into it by the love of the other, their small world reached the height of bliss. So this, Erik thought dreamily as sleep overcame him, was love. Nothing ever was so perfect.