Christine stared silently out the window, her tearful gaze meeting the powerful, dignified stare of the setting sun. Alas, it was dipping beneath the golden horizon; colors swept through the sky. Darkness was falling upon the earth… Christine knew. And then she would lose everything; her life would close into blackness; fade away into the shadows.

Her heart churned. Hours ago, it had been numbed by pain and overwhelming emotion. Now it seemed to carry a thousand emotions too raw and painful to be touched.

She extended a shaking arm to the score lying on the dressing table in front of her. Through her tears, she could make out the words "Don Juan Triumphant" in blood-colored ink. Her eyes found the emotionless notes inscribed inside the pages and felt her heart close away in dread and fear. Everything came flooding at her painfully.

No! screamed her mind. She couldn't think about it. She couldn't let her terror take her. Somewhere deep inside her, there had to be something—some great courage—that could lead her past this nightmare. Her heart raced. Fear coursed through her veins. If she doesn't battle tonight, she would be taken from Raoul's side forever. Choking back her tears desperately, she turned to her dressing maid.

"Sylvie, send for Raoul. Please," she murmured, unwilling to let the girl see her cry. She wouldn't understand; she didn't want to have to explain.

"Le vicomte, mademoiselle?" she asked, startled. It had been hours since Christine had last spoken. The young woman nodded.

"He's been asking to see you, Mademoiselle Daae,'' she began in her heavy accent. "But the guards wouldn't let him in. They told him that you were tired and disturbed and that you needed rest. " Christine turned her head away instantly to hide her misery.

"Please…I beg you…ask them to let him in! Oh god, Sylvie, I need him. Please…" Her eyes were wide with pleading and a painful passion that the young girl could not feel.

"Y-yes," she answered hastily, throwing the doors open. Christine closed her eyes, barely able to breathe. Her lungs seemed as tight as the crimson sash around her waist.

Moments later, she heard noise by her door. Two angry guards were struggling to hold back a fierce, reckless Raoul.

Suddenly, Christine felt her throat tighten, and tears sprang to her eyes.

"Raoul—"she whispered, standing up. The young man broke free of the guards, slammed the door shut, and in an instant, he was at her side. Gently, he stroked her face, gazing into her eyes. They held an alien darkness that seemed to stretch beyond the point of all endurance. Christine closed her eyes, blinking tears from her lashes. For the first time in her life, Raoul's protective embrace brought her no comfort.

"It's tonight," she managed to gasp out. For a moment, Raoul was silent. The only sound between them was the gentle sound of her falling tears and the him of Raoul's heavy breathing as his chest rose and fell rapidly. At last, she swallowed hard, choking down rising tears from her desert-dry throat.

"He can't take you," Raoul mouthed, his lips barely parting. "Not your heart. He never will." Christine let her eyes open. There seemed nothing left to say. And yet, sorrow gathered in her tense chest.

"Oh Raoul, I almost wish…wish you didn't love me. I wish my heart was never so full, so whole, as it was when I was with you, for if it had never been whole, then it can never break. Say it Raoul, please…say it, so I won't ache so much," she blurted out blindly.

"My dear Christine—"Raoul said, laying a finger on her lips. "Don't ever say that. You know I love you, and I never will stop. I beg you, don't hurt yourself that way.

You have to let yourself believe that you can overcome the Phantom. You have to. I believe you can. You too, must lay trust in yourself; lie trust in our love.

Oh god, Christine; I'm frightened too. Every night, since you first told me of this horrifying Phantom, I've rested every prayer upon you. But now, no prayer or blessing can save you. Nothing, no one, but our love. My dear, please…you have to believe in it. You have to let—"his eyes blinked shut—"have to let it help you, guide you." Tears slid from the sides of his eyes. Christine's slender finger traced his tears and she leaned close to him.

"I believe it, Raoul," she breathed. She couldn't let herself shatter away. She had to remember Raoul's words, trust his undying love. Sighing, she let tears flow down her face, yet somehow, she knew they were not tears of grief.

Gently, she let her fingers intertwine themselves with Raoul's. From the depths of her heart, a feeling rose to her chest suddenly…a feeling she could not comprehend nor force back. Christine let her own gaze meet Raoul's steady one. And suddenly, she felt it—that beautiful feeling of letting light illuminate a pool of darkness. She let her body relax against Raoul's and said nothing as her soul melted into his love. There seemed to be no other way to express her endless gratitude; her feelings that were too strong to have a name. Affection, fondness, appreciation, and even love, now seemed to be only understatements.

With gentle care, Raoul put his hands to her cheeks and rubbed them. A smile played at his lips.

"There! All the stage makeup they had put on you had diminished your beauty. Oh, my beautiful Christine, you'll stay forever gorgeous in heart and spirit and body, to me." He kissed her, gently—softly at first—and then stronger and stronger, with increasing depth. Slowly, his kiss moved beyond her lips, to her neck, then stenciling over to her bare shoulders. She arched herself back ever so slightly to let him explore, entranced, and yet still feeling so safe, so free…so comforted by the warmth of his lips. At last he stopped; drawing her forward for one more embrace. He squeezed her shoulders ever so lightly. "To give you strength," he whispered into her ear. And for the first time in so long, Christine let herself smile.

"That's all I ask of you. Nothing more."