Author´s note: sigh That´s the last chapter... Do read the A/N at the end, please!

25) Rest your head close to my heart

There was a second of breathless silence during which Meg´s still slightly dizzy mind tried to comprehend. "Erik!", she cried, and he rushed to her. "Meg, my dear, dear Meg!", Erik muttered. As there was no chair he could sit on he knelt down on the floor, taking her hands in his. They were so absorbed in gazing at each other, both asking themselves how they could have missed each other so much in such a short time, that they only looked up when Raoul cleared his throat.

"I know this is a special moment, and I don´t want to disturb you, but… Meg, what if your mother comes home and finds the two of you together? I doubt she´d be pleased.", he said. He couldn´t help noticing that for some strange reason they were a nice couple: the blond girl in her white nightdress and the man dressed in black. Still, he had told Mme.Giry he´d take care of her daughter. "You don´t have to worry, M. le Vicomte.", Erik assured him. "Christine and I saw here in the opera when we were about to leave, and Christine agreed to distract her for a while, so that I could get to Meg." He gave her hands a little squeeze, and Meg felt a wave of affection rise in her.

Erik turned his head slightly to address Raoul. "There are some private matters we have to talk about. Could you…?" He gestured towards the door. He didn´t want to sound rude, but certain things couldn´t be discussed in front of others. "I promised not to let anyone in…", Raoul started. Seeing the disappointment on Meg´s face – the mask Erik wore didn´t allow such a display of emotions – he had an idea which made him smile. "But come to think of it, I haven´t noticed you were here at all.", he went on. "I was just downstairs, making… some tea when you sneaked up to her room." With these words he left for the kitchen.

"I start having the impression that I might have misjudged the boy.", Erik muttered. He was more than surprised about his willingness to give them time to talk alone. "Don´t you want to sit down?", Meg, who hadn´t heard his mumble, asked. "You cannot seriously suggest that I should let go of your hand. The last time I did so I merely turned around and you were gone.", he replied. "But I didn´t want it! If I hadn´t been sleeping, I´d have never-" "I was only trying to make a joke, Meg.", he explained hastily. He straightened up and moved a little closer, so that his hand could caress her cheek. Meg pressed her face against his palm, her worries vanished as quickly as they had come. "This obviously wasn´t the right moment for my first joke ever.", Erik remarked dryly.

"However, there is something very important I have to tell you, the reason why I´m here.", he went on. "But we have to hurry. Mme.Giry will be here soon, and she´ll be-" "- furious?", a voice coming from the door finished coldly. At once they stared in the direction the voice had come from and spotted Mme.Giry standing there. "Maman, we didn´t want to…", "Madame, this is entirely my fault…", they both tried to explain at the same time.

Meg´s mother silenced them with one impatient movement of her hand. "Meeting secretly behind my back – I cannot believe it.", she muttered. Erik rose to his feet, hoping that his rather imposing height made up for his lack of arguments. Mme.Giry was right: Coming to a girl in her bedroom this late at night was highly indecent. "As I´ve already told you: I´m the one to blame for this. If you want, you can throw me out of your house in a minute, but first I have to say something to Meg."

When the ballet teacher didn´t reply he felt encouraged enough to address Meg again. "I should have told you earlier, right after we had… you know. But you were sleeping… and then you weren´t there anymore… and I was frightened I might never get the chance to say it… " He looked into her eyes before uttering the one phrase he had come for. "I love you."

Meg kept gazing up at him, transfixed. She remained like this, seemingly not reacting at all. Yet after about a minute Erik noticed a single tear gliding down her cheek. He wiped it away with his thumb and asked timidly: "Why are you crying, Meg? Have I said something wrong?". He was a bit confused. He had wanted to make her smile, but had apparently achieved the exact opposite. Meg tried to pull herself together. "You´ve said everything wonderfully right. It´s just… I´ve waited for this to happen for such a long time. I love you, too.", she whispered.

None of them paid the slightest attention to Mme.Giry, who pulled a lace handkerchief out of her handbag and discreetly dabbed at her eyes. When she spoke her voice had lost its usual matter-of-factness. "I´m not sure what to say about all this. But Meg, I… more than everything else I want you to have a content life. And if you think you can forgive him what he has done to you and become happy with him…" Meg nodded enthusiastically. "Then I can forgive him as well." She gave them a short nod. "I´ll better leave now. But I have to remind you that my daughter is still weak. So don´t stay too long." For a split-second Meg could have sworn she had seen her mother wink at them.

When she was gone Meg asked: "Am I maybe dreaming all this?". It seemed so unreal that all their problems had vanished. "In this case I´d like to add something to your dream.", Erik said, rummaging in the pocket of his jacket. Eventually he found what he had been looking for. "Close your eyes!", he muttered, and Meg obeyed. When she opened them again she wore a beautiful silver bracelet set with tiny sapphires. "Oh!", she breathed.

"I bought this years and years ago on a small market without even knowing why. It lay there on its cushion of blue velvet, looking as charming as a piece of jewellery possibly can. And when you lay in my bed you reminded me of it." Erik gave a small chuckle, hoping that Meg wouldn´t mind being compared to a bracelet. But she beamed at him, dangerously close to shedding more tears. "Thank you!", she whispered. She came to her feet, her body shaking slightly. He wrapped his arms around her protectively. They stood quite still, listening to the other´s breathing. None of them even thought about kissing. The moment was perfect, just like it was.


Meanwhile Christine, who had arrived with Mme.Giry, and Raoul sat side by side in the kitchen, drinking their third cup of tea and filling each other in on the parts of the story they had missed. The ballet teacher had been with them for a little while, informing them what was happening upstairs and telling them that she was angry at neither of them. Then she had gone to bed.

Christine had just finished talking about her conversation with Erik. On the way here she had made the decision not to ask Raoul about the possibility of continuing their relationship. She didn´t love him, and it wouldn´t be right to tell him otherwise – not even if he had been stupid enough to believe it.

"So Erik and you found out that your feelings don´t go beyond friendship?", Raoul asked. Christine nodded, wondering whether she hadn´t made herself clear enough. "Why did you lie to him?" His question took her by surprise. "But… but I didn´t… I…", she stammered. "Christine", Raoul said softly, covering her small hand with his larger one. "you don´t want him as a friend. You long to be with him for the rest of your life. You love him, Christine. Trust me, I know all the signs of unfulfilled love…" He gave a little sigh.

"For a few seconds I actually believed it.", Christine told him, not meeting his eye. She was ashamed about herself. "Then I realised I had lied because I love him. He shouldn´t be worried about me. He deserves a happy life more than anyone else, and when he´s happy in the arms of another woman…" She was unable to go on as her voice was thick with suppressed tears. After a moment she asked barely audibly: "Is it the same what I´m putting you through?".

"I don´t know.", he replied quietly. "Every time I see you my heart stops beating because it´s unworthy to disturb the rhythm of yours, and I can hardly look away from you, afraid I could miss something you say or do. At night I lie awake, recalling nothing but the feeling of your hand or the scent of your hair…" By now tears ran down Christine´s face, and Raoul´s eyes were suspiciously moist as well.

Christine swallowed hard. "Raoul, if I asked you to kiss me now, just to make me feel better, would it be terribly selfish?" He cupped her face with his hands. "Yes, it would. But I´d do it because… I love you, Little Lotte.", he whispered. Gently he brought his lips to hers while his fingers stroked her hair. Both of them felt the same pain, the pain of loving someone who didn´t love you back. But in this one moment they found comfort in each other.

The End

Author´s note:

Well, it´s over... and I even managed to get a happy end for two of the characters. Somehow I´m sad now, and not only because of the melancholy at the end of the chapter. But I´m glad I had such wonderful and interested people to write for. I appreciated your reviews - thank you very much for them once more! So please tell me what you think about this chapter, the story in general... and the possibility of a sequel. I have some nice ideas in store... If you have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail! I guess we´ll see each other around. Bye, Jenny Wren

In case some of your were wondering where this or that chapter title came from:

A wish your heart makes: "A dream is a wish your heart makes" (Snow-white and the seven dwarfs)

Some day my prince will come: "Some day my prince will come" (Cinderella)

There´s a time for everyone, An enchanted moment, And with all this romantic atmosphere…, …disaster´s in the air: "Can you feel the love tonight" (The Lion King)

Barely even friends, Learning you were wrong: "Beauty and the Beast" (Beauty and the Beast)

I love to laugh: "I love to laugh" (Mary Poppins)

Someone is waiting to love you, You´re sure to see the light: "Someone´s waiting for you" (The Rescuers)

There may be something there that wasn´t there before: "Something there" (Beauty and the Beast)

A guy like you, Her heart is also alight: "A guy like you" (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

This burning desire…, …is turning me to sin, Why I see her dancing there, No face as hideous as my face…, …was every meant for heaven´s light: "Heaven´s light/Hellfire (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

The wisdom to be wise, Though there´s no one there to guide you: "Son of man" (Tarzan)

On days where the sun is gone: "Someday" (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

What an unusual view: "Pink elephants on parade" (Dumbo)

Oh, these emotions I never knew: "Strangers like me" (Tarzan)

Every turn a surprise: "A whole new world" (Aladdin)

Rest your head close to my heart: "Baby mine" (Dumbo)