One Love, One Lifetime

Summary: Christine has chosen Erik instead of Raoul. Now two fragile, emotional people must resolve their differences, work through their problems and learn to live and love together while escaping from Paris and their past. This is based off the movie, with tons of book influence and details, especially from Susan Kay's Phantom. However, even if you haven't read the book, this story will still make sense.

Keep in mind, this story is not just fluff. It does have some, of course, as it is a romance, but Christine and Erik won't be falling into each other's arms and calling each other "darling" and "honey" in the first three chapters. The only reason he calls her "dear" in this story is because he does it in both the Leroux and Kay books. :D It just doesn't sound so sappy when he does it.

So, if you're anxious for some E/C fluff, and are frustrated not to find any in the first few chapters, don't be discouraged! Keep going, dear readers. Fluff is on the way.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Phantom of the Opera. :sigh:

Chapter 1

Their lips parted from the searing kiss, and Erik stared into Christine's shining blue eyes, wide open and staring at him.

She loved him – in some way or another, she loved him. He wanted to weep for the beauty of it. And he wanted to weep for guilt. He wanted her love; he wanted her passion and beauty, her sweetness and innocence, he wanted everything that was Christine. Yes, she loved him, he knew it now and it was the sweetest thought that had ever entered his mind – but she could not love him as much as she loved that boy.

Tears streamed down his face as he remembered her words:

"The tears I might have shed for your dark fate

Grow cold, and turn to tears of hate!"

Christine must hate him; hate him for trying to force her to love him. But there was no other way, his mind cried, other than by force how else would she have loved the monster that hid in the dark and shadowy cellars five levels below the splendor of the grandiose and glittering Opera Populaire?

She was staring at him now in bewilderment, staring at the tears that coursed down his face. He could hear the mob coming, hear their angry yells and tramping feet. He couldn't let them find Christine here. No, not his Christine.

Almost choking on his anguish, he pushed past her, gesturing wildly to the Vicomte, still bound to the portcullis.

"Take her, forgive me, forget all of this…"

Erik's feet were heavy under the water as he dragged them to the shore, tears blinding him. He nearly stumbled as he stepped onto the gravelly land.

"Leave me alone - forget all you've seen..."

He whirled around, venting his sorrow the only way he knew how – through anger.

"Go now - don't let them find you!" he shouted, his features twisting into rage in an attempt to disguise his grief.

Christine was still standing in the water, her hair slightly mussed, the confused expression still on her face, staring at Erik.

"Christine," she heard Raoul say, "Christine, help me…" Automatically she moved towards him, sloshing through the water, her gown beginning to sink. She untied the ropes that bound him almost mechanically, her brain still processing what had happened only moments before. When Raoul was free he grabbed her and clung to her, and she let him; but his touch was different than it had been ever before.

No, Raoul's touch was not different, she realized as he shed the last of his ropes, she was different. In the past few minutes, she had changed, had been altered irrevocably.

She heard Erik cry out again. "Go now, and leave me!" She heard the harsh clank of lever, and the grate began to rise, raining water down on both her and Raoul.

Raoul was tugging at her arm, but she couldn't move. She seemed rooted to the spot, staring at Erik, frozen in time with her heart pounding in her throat.

"Erik…" she whispered. Their gazes met, and her heart wrenched at the pain she saw burning in his eyes.

"Go," he replied brokenly, "Just go…"

"Erik," she repeated. Raoul pulled at her arm again, but she was already moving away from him through the water, tugging at her sodden gown.

She stumbled up onto the shore, the dress dragging on the ground, the sodden fabric clinging to her skin and seeming to weigh a hundred pounds.

Erik was standing up the small flight of steps, chest heaving, staring down at her hopelessly. "Leave me, Christine."

"Please?" she whispered plaintively. Erik waved his arm in Raoul's direction. "Go, go with him!"

"No!" she cried, tears welling up in her eyes. She heard Raoul's gasp of incredulity, heard Erik's sharp intake of breath. She felt childish, knew her tone sounded juvenile. But there was nothing else to say.

"Christine!" Raoul shouted. "Come, we must go now!"

She shook her head, staring at the ground, her damp hair hanging in her face. "No, Raoul… no…" She couldn't form a coherent sentence – her chest was ripping in two, her pulse drumming in her head, breath seeming almost painful. She forced her head up and met Raoul's eyes. He stared at her for a moment before glancing in the direction of the mob's voices, gazing at Christine once more, then plunging away through the water with a cry of anger.

She gazed after Raoul for just a heartbeat before she turned to meet Erik's gaze. He was staring at her in disbelief, raw emotions etched on his face. They stared at each other for a moment longer before Erik shook his head and whirled away.

He ran down the steps and pushed the lever, the grate grinding closed just as the flickers of torchlight began to glow at the very backs of the caverns.