Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or ideals from Phantom of the Opera. Andrew Lloyd Weber is the genius, not I.

Author's Notes: Takes place after the play or movie, it does not matter which. Whatever the case, it happens before Christine and Raoul supposedly marry. I also want to take this time to dedicate this love story to my new squeeze, Chris, who has taught me the meaning of true love. He is my muse.

Blessed Beloved

"Erik," she breathed, looking up at him with wide, hopeful eyes. "You've finally come for me." On her balcony, she could see down into the gardens of the de Chagny estate, the gleaming water in the fountains as the moonlight shone from high above. It was a beautiful night, and very special, for he had come at last, come to rescue her and whisk her away into the night.

He thought about acknowledging her words, but he found himself unable to speak at all. Christine Daae, his only reason for living, was standing in front of him, smiling, her dark brown curls swaying toward him with the breeze, and clad only in a pale blue peignoir that sent a shiver through him. He'd been watching her—what else could he do?—and he'd found her often singing to him, of him, calling out to him desperately. Now, finally, he had come to her aid, to do her bidding, whatever that might be.

"I've come to you, Christine, at your insistence. What can I do for you, my dear?" Part of his words came out bitterly, but after all that had happened, he couldn't help himself. He did not actually blame her, could never do that, and he understood her childlike ways. But the Christine in front of him now was no longer a child; he could recognize that fact in the depths of her glittering eyes. This Christine understood far more than the child he had set out coaching did.

Christine nibbled at her lower lip hesitantly, and then, meeting his dark eyes, she pleaded softly, "Hold me, Erik."

The Phantom was only too happy to comply. She seemed lost; she seemed as if she truly needed him, and he took perverse pleasure in that fact. Though, at the same time, he knew: Whatever Christine asked of him, he could not refuse.

"Oh, Erik…I hate it here. Raoul's family hates me… and sometimes you can tell he wishes I'd be more like them. I'm not comfortable here. Raoul refuses to let me sing. He tells me of his visions for the future and I do not agree with them, do not want them. When I tried to tell him…" Her delicate hand came up to rest on her jaw, which was shadowed in the night. Erik had barely noticed, but rage poured through his veins when he tipped her chin up and found the evidence of de Chagny's anger. She shook her head sadly and covered his hand with her own. "I do not want to be here with him… but not only because of those reasons I've already mentioned to you."

The way she was looking at him sent a shiver of pure delight running down his spine, and Erik's grip unconsciously tightened on her. "Why then, Christine?" He stroked her cheek lovingly, his dark eyes boring into her lighter ones.

Gathering all her gumption, Christine reached up to place her hand over his mask. "I want to be with you."

Erik's breath hitched in his throat, and he felt as if the Punjab lasso were around his neck. An image of Joseph Buquet flashed in his mind. "When did you come to this… conclusion, my dear?" He managed to choke the words out, and he vaguely wondered if she knew of the shock overcoming him.

She thought for a while before she spoke, and daintily her head tilted to the side, her long curls tumbling further down her back to rest into Erik's hands.

"When you are about to marry someone, you put your life into perspective. You weigh the pros and cons. I took into account the fact that I couldn't stop thinking of you, seeing you in my head, craving to hear your voice once more. I thought about what my life would be like with you… and I found the idea incredibly outweighing anything I had ever envisioned for myself. Your love… it is so strong, Erik, it humbles me, and I know that no matter what happens, or how old or ugly I become in the years to follow, you will always have that passionate love for me. I see us reading together by the fire the way we used to. I see us on the rooftop watching the snowfall, watching all of Paris. I see our children, bright and intelligent." Her voice had taken a wistful tone and her eyes were dreamy. Erik didn't know what to think. "But mostly, I think of the life I could give you. There is so much love inside of me Erik, and I only want to share it with you. I want to bring you from the darkness and show you what compassion and understanding is. I want to always be your angel."

Erik was, for once, utterly speechless. Her words had moved him, and he didn't know if he dared believe in this miracle that God had given him, after so many years of believing the Almighty had forgotten him. To give him this angel, his angel, was more than he could fathom. Dropping to his knees, he held tight to Christine's hips and nuzzled her stomach, his eyes closed reverently.

"Oh, Christine," he breathed, "Tell me you are not a dream. Tell me all of this is real." When he felt her hands twine in his short, dark hair, he looked up at her with tears in his eyes. "Tell me you'll be mine forever," he added hopefully, a silly grin forming on his face.

Christine smiled down at him and held him to her stomach. She pulled off his mask, gently, and before he could react, she leaned down and kissed every scar, every deformed area. She cupped his face in her hands and slowly lowered to her knees, joining him. "I love you, Erik."

Erik's face was drenched with tears now, however hard he tried to keep them in. He couldn't believe his good fortune. He brought her tightly against him, his head lowering to nuzzle in her glorious hair. "Oh Christine… I love you, my angel. I love you. I love you." He couldn't stop saying the words, and soon she was chanting with them, both overcome with the beauty of their new life.

The ominous sound of a gun click came from behind Christine, whose body sheltered Erik's.

"Let her go, you beast. Christine, move away from him." Raoul's face was contorted with rage, and he glared menacingly at his ex-fiancé before turning the glower to Erik. "I said, 'Let her go!' Perhaps the monster does not comprehend?" He stepped closer, the pistol unerringly finding the direction of Erik's heart.

Christine's whole body was shaking, and she could feel Erik stiffen. They rose together and he carefully shoved her behind his back, never taking his eyes off Chagny.

"So, Monsieur, we meet again. Perhaps you do not remember our last meeting, but I clearly recall your neck in a lasso. I would think it would only be prudent to keep your hand at the level of your eyes now." Erik's eyes glittered dangerously, and underneath his cloak, his hand found the lasso, while his other arm kept Christine locked safely behind him. To taunt him further, he grinned as a predator would, and added, "I advise you to comply."

Raoul growled and pulled the trigger, but not before Erik, faster than Christine had ever seen, threw his angel to the ground, out of harm's way, and jumped toward the Vicomte with his hands outstretched. This boy would suffer for what he had made Christine endure.

Christine watched as the two men struggled, and, remembering the sword fight they'd become engaged in not too long ago, she gasped and called out fruitlessly, "Please… stop! Don't do this!" But they would not listen.

Raoul was able to backhand Erik twice before Erik was able to ensure the lasso around his neck. He pulled it tight and snarled down at the fallen Vicomte, now gasping desperately for breath.

Christine ran towards them and laid a hand on his arm. "Please, Erik… let's not attract more trouble than we already have. If you murder him, we will be fugitives forever."

Usually helpless when she used that pleading voice, this time was not the same. He tightened the Punjab lasso until Raoul's eyes were bulging and he was as red as an apple. "No… this time, he dies. He hurt you… he will do so again."

Christine grabbed Erik's hands and looked up into his eyes. "For me, Erik. Let him go. We must get away from here."

Unable to resist her a second time, the lasso fell slack and Erik moved away from the pitiful sight in front of him. "I sincerely hope, Monsieur, that we never meet again. And should you come after Christine…" He grinned and lowered his voice an octave, and Christine shivered. "A disaster beyond your imagination will occur."

To be continued…