Don't Want to Forget

Disclaimer: Sadly, I own nothing to do with Phantom of the Opera.

Author's note: Since this is ALW-based, I've tried to refrain from calling the Phantom 'Erik'. I consider the fact that he remains nameless aspart of ALW's characterisation and is separate from Leroux and other literary works. Just to clarify.

You alone can make my song take flight ... it's over now, the music of the night!

The further away the gondola glided, the louderhis voice seemed to reverberate around the catacombs. I clung desperately to Raoul as he poled us across the lake, leavingthe Phantomalone. As the crashing sound of breaking glass reached my ears, a wave of mixed emotions crashed down on me: relief, guilt, fear, hope and regret all mixed into one huge knot in the pit of my stomach. I buried my head against Raoul's neck as that knot quickly rose up my throat and spilled out over my cheeks in choking sobs. His response was to pole faster, but I could tell that beneath his strong façade, he was just as overwhelmed as me. His breath was erratic and his hands gripped the pole as if his life depended on putting as much distance between ourselves andhim as possible. In actual fact, he wasn't so wrong.

I released one of Raoul's shoulders from my vicelike grip and gently traced the angry red marks on his neck where the rope had burned him. Fresh tears welled in my eyes as I thought of whathad nearly happened.My Angel– how foolish I had been. He had had me completely under that strange power of his, and I had believed myself happy to be so. I had believed him to be a spirit from Papa, an angel sent for me. And I had even, for a time, believed myself in love with him.

To everybody else,the OperaGhostwas a murderer – the scum of the earth. But to me,he was something more. Over the years, he had been like a father, albeit a strange one. I always thought that he would watch over me and protect me, but no. Instead, I walked straight into his lustful, obsessive world of madnesswith all the trusting naivety of the young child I was.

Somehow, as I rode on that gondola, I felt older than my years. It was a scary feeling – as if I'd been ripped out of my old world and into a new one where danger is no longer simply fanciful. But the fear was not so great, as I had somebody to walk beside me as I made a fresh start in this new world.

Darling Raoul! I could not have asked for a more loving and sincere person. When I accepted his proposal, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to spend my life with him. I knew that I had been called a tart and accused of flirting with social status, but the gossips could not have been further from the truth. I love Raoul – my heart will always be his.

But even so, I could not give everything to Raoul, even if I wanted to. For my Angel, as much as he scared me, would always be in the back of my mind, always a lingering memory of what was. Raoul may have had my heart, butthe Opera Ghosthad my soul.

Lord help me, I care forthePhantomdeeply. When I kissed him, I meant it. I would have stayed with him; a small part of me was almost delighting in the thought. After he released me, I cannot deny that I did not feel a tinge of disappointment. But as I stood with Raoul, I knew that things were as they should be. I knew that I would be happy until the end of my days – which is much more than what I could say of a lifetime with the Phantom, being controlled like a marionette. I wanted light in my life;he could offer nothing but darkness.

The gentle jolt of the gondola reaching dry land shook me out of my rather troubled thoughts. Glancing back at me, Raoul took my hand firmly and we ran; ran away from the burning opera house. Out into the streets, we ran, my feet scraping against the rough cobblestones and most of my energy spent focusing on not tripping over the sodden wedding dress.

It was a beautiful dress – expensive fabric with the most intricate and exquisite beading I had ever seen, even if it was, perhaps, a little low-cut for my liking. I felt so guilty when I looked down to see the hemming loose and smeared with dirt and grime; I was leaving a trail of beads behind me.

Before I could let my thoughts run away with me again, Raoul led me to a simple wrought-iron park bench, where we both sat, panting heavily. He hastily lifted a hand to his face and brushed away what I can only assume were tears on his cheeks. Taking his hand, I pulled him into a firm embrace. There was no safer place for me, it seemed, than in Raoul's arms.

"I love you, Christine," he murmured against my tangled hair. "More than anything."

"I love you, too," I repeated, inwardly rejoicing. There cannot possibly be a greater feeling on this earth than being loved.

Raoul sighed, then broke the embrace. Taking my hands in his and looking me earnestly in the eye, he began to speak.

"Christine," he said, "we'll leave. Go to England. Anywhere you want. We'll start a new life together and you can forget all about this."

As he gestured towards the thick, black smoke rising above the Opera Populaire, I felt the smile that had been growing on my face begin to slip.

"No, Raoul," I whispered. "I can't."

"You can," Raoul insisted, his eyes full of concern. "I will help you. Don't ever feel that you have to think about ... that monster ... again. Ever again."

I paused slightly, before forming my next words carefully. "Raoul – I don't want to forget."

"What do you mean?"

"It does not matter where I go, or what I do – he'll always be a part of me," I said, hesitantly. "Nothing will change that."

"But, Christine –"

"And I don't want to change that," I continued, firmly.

Raoul's eyes widened in surprise. "Oh," he said, as if defeated, before taking a deep breath and turning his head so not to look at me. "If you love him, then go to him. Don't worry about me. Go, Christine!"

I would have laughed at his assumption had I not heard the crack in his voice and seen tears welling in his eyes. I could not believe that he was willing to let me go back, but at the same time, it was pure Raoul – a completely selfless act.

"Raoul," I said, trying to catch his eye. "I don't love him."

"You don't?"

"No," I repeated, before pausing and then continuing. "Well, I suppose perhaps a tiny part of me will always be drawn to him. But it is not any kind of love that would draw me away from you. I love you, Raoul. I want to spend my life with you."

He did not look entirely convinced. "Then why not forget him, Christine? He will bring you nothing but misery if you cling to memories." He sounded like he was pleading.

"Raoul, after Papa died, I had nobody," I replied, still trying to find the best way to put my emotions into words. "I was just a grieving little orphan girl. But he saw past that. He saw me. Raoul, he taught me to sing. I don't love him, and I don't want to love him. But I don't want to hate him, either."

Raoul sighed again, before pulling me into another embrace. "I think I understand, Christine. It's difficult, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I like it, but I think I understand. I just want you to promise me one thing."

"Anything," I replied.

"Promise me that, wherever you go, you will remember me as you remember him."

"I won't need to," I said, smiling again. "You'll be right beside me."