SWEET INTOXICATION

SUMMARY: "The reminiscence comes / Of sunless dry geraniums / And dust in crevices…" to quote T.S.Eliot ("Rhapsody on a Windy Night", if you're curious…) - which isn't so much a summary as an overview. On a dark and stormy night, Christine reminisces, and finds herself taking a little journey. Erik composes; she dances. Mildly weird song-piece with no real plot. It's vaguely fluffy in places, but isn't really about fluff; rather, it's about the dark, dangerous, scary nature of love, and a possible outcome of any future they might have that isn't all hugs and puppies. At least, that's what the voices are telling me…

RATING: PG and slightly angsty. It's also E/C, of course, despite how it may appear at the start…

SETTING: It's technically set in canonical alternaverse - it's in the same place as it would be in the show (Act One, the first time Erik takes her to the lake) but with different outcomes. But as you'll see, it's also set at some point in a far-from-happy future, about fifteen years or so after the actual events of the show/book. Confused? You will be =) (The fifteen-year time period proves somewhat problematic given Erik's implied age, however, seeing as he would most likely be dead. Therefore, artistic licence dictates I shall mess with things, and make him only slightly older than Christine…)

DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters. The characterisation is probably unconsciously stolen from Susan Kay. The song belongs to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Hal Prince (I assume…) and Really Useful. (Quite how I managed to get "Moulin Rouge" into this, I don't know - but all Parisian imagery is most likely stolen from Baz Luhrman and his team. Historically, I think it's mostly accurate… geographically, most likely not…)

DEDICATION: Many: Midasgirl, because I owe her part four of the "Freedom…" saga and it's still not written. Angela, because she introduced me to this version of the song and I've finally got a copy. The E/C shippers, in general.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'm ashamed to say that I wrote a songfic, seeing as the genre is notoriously horrendous. However, this is a songfic with a difference, sort of. It's set to a POTO song to begin with. In fact, it's set to the most clichéd song I could possibly set it to - "Music of the Night". Ah, but not just any version. It's set to the Michael Crawford/Barbra Streisand duet version of the song, which has slightly different lyrics to the 1987 OLC original, and completely meltworthy harmonies, and this fic is entirely based on the random and sporadic mental images the song produced. I'm going to chapter this because it's writing itself out of control. Should only be about three or four parts, though.

Those who remember my being around this section a couple of years back may notice a slight change in my style (commonly known as "being generally better") - which is what writing "Farscape", "Buffy" and "Sunset Boulevard" fics will do for you. Three very different, but equally tricky-to-characterise fandoms, all of which prodded my Muses and helped to expand my style. (And yes, examples are in my profile; and no, it's not a plug :P)

Also: I finally got to see the Opera! Well, the outside of it. It was closed when I was there, but it's probably just as well. I walked around the edge of it in a state of stunned awe and I think being inside would have made my brain explode. If anyone wants to see pictures, they can be found on . Enjoy =)

Sweet Intoxication

PART ONE

Nobody in their right mind would have been out in such weather as this. The sky was a dark, ominous shade of black, tumultuous grey clouds swirling across the night and obliterating the stars. The end of the world, indeed, if one believed the world would end in a splashing torrent of water and rolling thunder. Lightning streaked across the sky with a loud crackle, momentarily lighting up previously dark corners, and sending frightened and mangy stray cats running for cover. The downpour beat tiny pock holes into the surface of the roads and pavements, tiny craters appearing on the slick, tar-like surfaces, as the staccato rattle of the raindrops continued.

The city's many grand achievements in architecture - its towers of steel, and its gargantuan buildings of stone and marble - all loomed oppressively in the night. Most were shrouded in darkness, abandoned for the evening. Some sheltered smaller buildings from the battering wind. In residential areas, occasional apartments and houses were lit up, as families sat by the fire, or impoverished writers struggled to finish their latest masterpiece before morning.

The inclement weather had driven most sensible people indoors several hours before, when the storm had started getting stronger. The rain had been pouring for two nights, now, but the storm itself had started only that afternoon. It had become progressively worse as the night wore on. A few still wandered the mostly-empty streets, trying to find lodgings, or attempting to flag down passing carriages. Such wanderers were few and far between, however, as the majority of sane (and sober) citizens were making the most of their warm houses.

Christine de Chagny stood at the French doors of the library, on the second floor of the Vicomte's city chateau. Part of her wished she'd taken up his offer of going to the country estate for a few days; but, of course, it had been a glorious Parisian afternoon when he'd asked her, and she'd planned on strolling in the sunshine. Raoul had finally conceded, and then the rainstorm had started. She told him to wait, being adamant it would pass soon enough. That had been two days ago, and she was still waiting, and Raoul had given up trying to argue with her optimism; he'd disappeared to his study to do God only knew what, leaving her to her thoughts. Hence, she had planned on spending this particular evening reading, and had come to the library for just that purpose. She'd picked a novel at random, positioned herself comfortably by the fire, and started reading. The rain pelting against the windows had proved too much, however, disrupting her concentration entirely, so she'd gotten up to draw the curtains in an attempt to block it out. As she'd caught a glimpse of the view, though, her thoughts were instantly lost.

The French windows led out onto a stone balcony, and looked out over the street below. Their house was large, but modestly so, and built in one of the most reputable areas of the city. On the opposite side of the street was a row of smaller, but equally decent, houses, but they didn't know the occupants well, only enough to be able to pass the time of day. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower poked its nose above the city; the lights of the capital shone, brighter over Monmatre, infamous den of artists and whores. She'd heard they were planning to build a club there soon; the ballerinas with whom she no longer associated were gathered in giggling huddles about it, because auditions were due to be held for dancers. Christine hadn't the heart to tell them exactly why the pay was so high, and she was glad Meg was sensible enough - as assistant ballet mistress under her mother - to keep their thoughts occupied elsewhere.

Nearer, behind the row of houses, the familiar outline of the Opera loomed, silhouetted against the sky. Occasionally, lightning would illuminate the roof and its golden angels. Christine sighed, remembering a time long ago, when she and Raoul had fled to the rooftops. The fifteen years that had passed since the events of that time seemed an eternity, and she realised, somewhat sadly, that her life had been completely unworthy of note. Raoul was stable and safe, and loved her unconditionally - when she wasn't being stubborn or headstrong, or trying to run the household her way. As he put it, "You may be the Opera's Prima Donna, but it is an entirely different matter at home." She was the First Lady of the assembled singers and corps du ballet, but only in name, not in temperament; she was kind to her peers, and on a first name basis with nearly all of the dancers, unlike her predecessor. In truth, Raoul disapproved of her career, wanting her to be a dutiful wife and mother to the children they had yet to have, but it was the only issue she defied him on. The Opera was her life, and she refused to give it up.

She hated herself for thinking it, but she'd often wondered, more frequently of late, what her life might have been like if she hadn't ended up with Raoul. The choice she'd been forced to make had been futile, in the end, because even after proving her loyalty, she'd been released to the Vicomte's care. Things would have been very different, she supposed. Not on any monetary level - she would still be the Opera's First Lady, and she would still be leading a comfortable life doing what she adored - but on an emotional level, she knew the guilt that had plagued her for years wouldn't be nearly as strong. Even if she'd never been able to see Raoul again, he knew she loved him. Christine had never been given a chance to tell her false Angel the truth; she'd begged Raoul to let her go back to the house beyond the lake, just so she could say goodbye, but he'd refused. She'd expected nothing less. Sneaking out would do no good, because he would inevitably find out. For fifteen years, her conscience had reminded her of nothing else.

As another fork of lightning streaked across the clouds, Christine's thoughts were jolted abruptly back to the present. Her book lay forgotten on the chair, face-down and open a few pages in, where she'd left it. Ordinarily, she would never treat a book that way, but it hadn't interested her. She placed her palm to the window's surface, shocked at how cold it was, but she didn't pull away. The icy temperature of the glass triggered another deluge of memories. His touch had been as cold as that, no matter how briefly his skin had come into contact with hers: when he'd helped her out of the boat onto the shore; when she'd ripped the mask from his face and brushed her fingers against the flesh beneath; when he'd whisked her from the premiere performance of Don Juan, gripping her wrist in his vice-like fingers; that devastating, Hellish night when he'd forced her to choose between them, and the kiss that had ended it all, changed everything beyond anyone's imaginings. She would remember that kiss to her dying day: the desperation with which she'd eventually clung to him, unwilling to let go, and the sudden sensation of utter helplessness as she felt herself drowning, falling into his world. More than anything else, she'd remember that moment when he'd let her go, at the exact same second she'd let herself fall in love with him.

A clap of thunder broke through her reverie, and with a gasp, she pulled her hand back from the pane, realising it had gone numb. She shook it to get some feeling to return, and wrapped it in the folds of her dress to warm it. She was suddenly very glad to be alone in the room; if Raoul could see her now, he'd wonder what was wrong with her. It was warmer near the fire, but Christine was compelled to remain by the window. She managed to tear her gaze from the distant Opera, watching absently as a light was extinguished in one of the houses opposite. (The carriage clock in the hallway chimed, informing her it was nearly quarter to eleven.) Normally, she would be in bed by now. Raoul had yet to reappear from his study - she suspected he'd fallen asleep at his desk again, and she was in no mood to wake him - and she wasn't tired in the slightest. Going to bed would only mean her rambling thoughts would turn into equally rambling, vivid dreams. No, bed was not an option.

On the street below, she spotted a man walking past their house. He was huddled in his long coat, a fedora on his head, and a thick scarf covering most of his features. He seemed to sense her presence, and stopped for a second, looking up at the balcony. A gloved hand emerged from the folds of his coat, and he tipped his hat politely. A pair of eyes, sharp as steel and bright as a cat's in the dark, met her own; her breath caught; she felt suddenly light-headed. She knew those eyes. She'd thought never to see them again. Their gazes remained locked, until she blinked, and then he was on his way again.

Suddenly, the wind grew stronger, buffeting the windows and rattling the panes to such an extent she felt sure they would break. She took a step back away from the French doors, taking it to be a sign. The wind subsided again, but she barely noticed. She was moving about in a daze, quickly, not entirely sure of her actions, all of her thoughts consumed by the man who was, by now, long gone. She found herself abandoning the library, running down the two flights of stairs to the main hallway, reaching for a warm, hooded cape, and leaving the house. The night was colder than she'd thought; a biting chill cut through her, and she pulled the cape further around herself as she set off into the night.

To be continued...

A/N: Something of a cliffhanger :) Enough reviews will get part two, which is already written. I'm just buying some time so I can get the rest finished... And no, I haven't even got to the song yet. This will teach me not to write fics based on obscure mental images.