"You try my patience. Make your choice." He yanked the rope the encircled Raoul's neck. He choked and coughed in futile attempts to breathe. The few breaths he did manage to get were shallow and sounded incredibly pained. Oh God. Has it really come to this? I looked at the man, no not a man, the monster standing before me. He had the smallest smirk on his face. He knew he had me trapped, there was no choice. How could I choose to send the man I loved to his death? There would be no freedom for me. How had I ever thought that this man was an angel?

I looked back at Raoul. My beloved Raoul. His eyes continued to plead with me. They begged me to say no to the Phantom. They told me that having the last words he ever heard be words of love from my lips would mean more than countless years without me. But it was the one thing that I could not concede to him. I remembered our time spent upon the roof, spent singing our love for each other. I hoped that he would always remember that time. I hoped that he knew that I was doing this for him. Please God let him know. I had to tell him. One last time.

"I love you," I mouthed. My lips barely moved. I couldn't risk the Phantom seeing. Raoul went limp in the ropes that bound him. His eyes kept up his desperate plea even as his body admitted defeat. But I knew that he had understood. I kept my eyes fixed upon him for a long moment. I tried hard to fix everything about him in my memory. So I would have a glimpse of heaven while in the depths of hell. His eyes, oh God, I would miss his eyes, I would miss everything about him. I loved him so much. My mouth curved into a small, sad smile. A single tear fell as I turned to the monster that I was doomed to spend the rest of my life with. He stood very still, waiting. I bit back my sobs and opened my mouth.

Pitiful creature of darkness

What kind of life have you known?

God give me courage to show you

You are not alone

I slipped his ring on my finger and, with a heavy heart, reached up to kiss him. Despite the fact that my body, my mind, my heart, everything was screaming at me to pull away I resisted. Instead I continued kissed him with a passion I don't think I had even had the chance to show Raoul. I heard as Angel of Music reached a dramatic crescendo around me.

'No…Raoul….,' I thought. I tried to recall the soft melody of our song. I managed to hear a few notes in the distance. It was enough to pull me out of my nightmare. I pulled away, searching for some, any, sign of emotion. Finding none I did the only thing I could think of. With Raoul's breathing still coming in shallow gasps and the sounds of the mob getting closer I kissed him again. I felt tears on my cheek. I was surprised to find that the tears were not mine, but his. I gave an inward sigh of relief as I heard Raoul breath a little more easily when the Phantom's hand lowered, relinquishing his hold on the rope slightly. What does he want? The mob was closer now. Please let him stay calm. What does he want? He was still crying. Completely at a loss I leaned in slightly to kiss him again but he turned his head away slightly.

"Take her. Forget me. Forget all of this." He pushed me away towards Raoul. Was he really doing this? After all of that? He was going to let us go free?

"Leave me alone." This was all of the encouragement I needed. I waded as fast as my dress would allow through the murky waters towards my love.

"Go now. Don't let them find you." I quickly pulled the noose from over his head. His first breath came in a grateful gasp. My fingers lingered for a second on his neck. I pang of sympathy mixed with guilt hit me as I saw the abrasions that the noose had caused. I wanted nothing more then to pull him close but I could not be sure whether or not the Phantom would change his mind. If he did it would certainly be better if Raoul was untied.

Take the boat

Swear to me never to tell

The secrets you know

Of the angel in hell

I untied the last knot and he slipped from underneath the final rope the tied him down. We fell into each other's warm, loving embrace. He buried his head in the crook of my neck.

"I love you too," he whispered. A smile crept onto my face.

Go now!

Go now!

And leave me!

The Phantom's harsh voice pulled me out of my reverie. Raoul stood up a little straighter, lifting his head off my shoulder, but he kept his arm firmly wrapped around my waist. I kept my arms around his neck and glanced up at the retreating form of the Phantom. My stomach twisted. What? I couldn't be feeling anything for him. Raoul gently pulled me towards the boat. He led me through the water as I wrestled with my emotions. What was I feeling? I couldn't quite name the emotion that was forcing my stomach to tie itself into knots. Raoul stepped into the boat and reached up to help me down.

"Wait," I whispered, "It can't end like this." He gave me a confused look. My eyes pleaded with him to understand. He gave the smallest of nods to show his assent. I turned slowly but as I turned towards the Phantom memories of the kiss cam flooding back to me. My lips tingled unpleasantly at the thought. Doing the only thing I could think of to remedy the situation, I quickly spun around and leaned down to kiss my fiancé. At first his lips were stiff against mine as I had taken him by surprise, but after a split second he softened to me. I felt his big hands lock securely underneath my arms to lower me to his level. Once we were closer I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my tongue dart out. It dragged lazily across his lower lip requesting access to his mouth. Access which he readily supplied. He pulled me flush against his body as our tongues danced around each other. I didn't want to end it. It was too perfect, but my body was screaming at me to breathe. We pulled away simultaneously, both sucking in oxygen greedily. I kept my eyes closed hoping, praying, that when I opened them we wouldn't be down here. We would be back up on the roof. We would be singing our song. All thoughts of the Phantom of the Opera would be far, far away. I hoped we would be anywhere but here. His fingers gently traced the delicate features of my face. I reluctantly opened my eyes and met the gaze of his soft blue ones.

"I'll be right back," I breathed, "I promise." He nodded and helped me out of the boat. I could feel his tension even after he let go of me. I wanted nothing more then to run back to him, but I was right. Things could not end like this.


Paper faces on parade

His voice was not the commanding one I was used to hearing. Instead, it was weak, small, and even pitiful. Was that what I felt for him? Pity?

Hide your face

So the world will never find you

My stomach jerked. Yes, there was pity but there was something more than just that. I looked into the eyes of my old teacher, former angel, recent devil, and…...what was he now? I realized it then. He had only ever been two things to me. He had at one time been my teacher, but he had only obtained that status by posing as my promised Angel of Music. I knew better now. I knew that he was not an angel, he was not my father. More recently he was seduction itself. To me, he seemed a bodiless voice that professed false messages of undying love and devotion. I believed him then, but not now. For now, he cannot hide behind his mask. Now I see what he truly is. He is exactly what I called before in song, a pitiful creature of darkness. I knew that I loved him. Perhaps I always would, but I did not love him the way I loved Raoul. No. Not at all the way that I loved my Raoul. I would always think of him as my teacher. He would always be the one who gave my voice its wings, but it was Raoul who set it free. It was Raoul who set me free.

Christine, I love you

I walked towards him with nothing but pity in my heart. I slipped his ring off my finger. At one time it symbolized the love I shared with Raoul. Now it was simply a memento of the waking nightmare. Besides in giving it to him I hoped that he would understand that I couldn't love that way that he wanted me to. I hoped that he would understand that despite that I did, in some small way, love him. I closed his fist around it and backed away. The look on his face was indescrible, so full of love and amazement. I suppose that he didn't believe that I could still care about him after all that he did. To be perfectly honest, I was also surprised to find myself caring. I turned away from him, away from my past, and towards my future, towards Raoul. He was waiting faithfully where I had left him. I smiled slightly as I watched him fidget nervously. He saw me and rushed forward. His hands rested lightly on my shoulders, checking me for injury. I smiled at him fondly and lifted my left hand to his cheek. He covered my hand with his. He gave me a quizzical look and pulled my hand off of his face. He inspected my fingers. At first I couldn't think of what he was looking for, but then it hit me. My heart leapt to my throat. My ring was gone, the ring I had just given up. Though the ring had a totally new meaning now it was still the ring he gave me. My eyes widened with fear, no not fear. I was not afraid of Raoul. He would understand. He had to. He stared at me for a long moment. I was about to open my mouth to offer some explanation but in was unnecessary. He slowly raised my hand to his mouth and, without breaking eye contact, placed a small loving kiss on the spot where the ring should have been. His lips lingered on my skin. My heart that had only moments ago been in my throat now fluttered wildly. I felt my face flush slightly.

"Come, Little Lotte," he said, gently pulling me towards the boat. I followed, more than ready to leave this place. He stepped into the boat and reached up to help me down. Once he was sure I was steady on my feet he turned to grab the oar. He spun back.

"You can sit."

"I'm fine," I smiled. I wrapped my arms around his shoulder. I held him as close as I could without hindering his rowing. He smiled and focused on moving the odd gondola through the underground caverns of the Opera Populiere.

Say you'll share with me

One love, one lifetime

I sung the words without thinking. They were amplified by the echoing of the cavern walls. I waited for Raoul to respond. He didn't disappoint me.

Say the word

And I will follow you

While he was singing I glanced back at the Phantom. He was standing alone watching us move away from him. I couldn't make out the features of his face but the sight of him, even from afar, sent chills down my spine. I pulled Raoul closer. The last note left my lover's lips. It was my turn.

Share each day with me

Each night

Each morning

As I sang any doubts that might have lingered vanished. I knew I had made the right choice. I had found peace, freedom, and love. I only hoped that the Phantom could find the same peace in his lifetime.

Say you love me

Raoul's response was desperate. He needed badly to hear those words again.

You know I do

I hoped that it was enough to assuage all of his fears. We opened our mouths to finish in unison.

Love me…that's all…

Our harmony was cut short as another voice came booming through the caverns just as we were turning the corner. It was his voice. Once again it was loud and strong, but I no longer heard the voice of an angel. Just the voice of a man.

It's over now

The music of the night!

I felt Raoul's shoulder tense beneath my hand. I gently massaged it in attempts to calm him down. The sound of breaking glass came drifted to our ears. The smallest of smiles found its way to my lips. Somehow I knew. I just knew. He had found his peace.

"It's all right, my love," I assured Raoul and myself, "We're all going to be okay."