Whoa, this chapter turned out WAY different than I thought it would.. I'm not gonna say anything else.

Thank you to all my reviewers! MWAH! I love you all so much! -offers brownies made by obsessedbyerik- hey you get some of your own brownies! -hands brownies- hehe.

-hands brownies to rest of reviewers-

Okay I want to ask this now, now that I'm nearing the end. .sequel or no? Because I'm planning to do a modern-day as well, which I want to know about that as well! Do you think I could do it? -shifts eyes-. And anyone who happens to be reading "Love's Saving Light", I'm sorry but, I don't think that it's going to make it. I've suddenly turned into an ENORMOUS Raoul fan overnight, and now I can't write anything bad about him. -sighs, then wonders why everyone is looking at me strangely-. . .OH! NO! I MEANT I LIKE RAOUL, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS ERIK! -cowers-

Geez...anyways, sorry for the long author's note! Here's my newest chapter!

Chapter 19: Hearts and Friendship

What Raoul, Madame Giry, and little Meg found on the other side of the door could only be described as a surprise of unbelievable proportions, which threw the whole room into complete and utter chaos. As soon as the door to the study opened and Raoul stepped through first, Meg and Mme. Giry had a split second to realize something was horribly wrong by Raoul's shocked expression and pale face, and the way he began stuttering incoherent phrases, before they too entered the room. They followed Raoul's shocked and unbelieving eyes to the couch, where they were shocked-to say the least- to find a certain blue-eyed brunette and an unmistakably familiar masked man locked in a. .rather intimate embrace. Erik's cravat was laying on the floor, along with his waist coat and shirt.

The couple didn't separate, even with Raoul's rather annoying and repetitive mutterings, until Meg let out a high-pitched squeal, followed by a similar squeal that resembled Christine's name.

The couple instantly broke apart, Christine still sitting on his lap. They were both breathing heavily, and Christine's face was flushed and Erik's equally so, and his a little bewildered, as well. Christine smiled broadly as she saw her best friend, who was blushing furiously and looking away, and her mother, and she even gave a small smile to the man who had now collapsed in Erik's chair, still muttering to himself.

The silence was murderous, but no one could find the bravery to break it.

"You- you came to visit!" Christine said half-heartedly, still slightly exhausted from her. . .previous exertions, but anxious to break the uncomfortable shocked silence.

"Chrissy! When did you start to. .Oh, God, you're wearing his ring, still! Please tell me he forced you into it!" Meg screamed from behind her mother's form, slightly over the aftershock of seeing her best friend acting so scandalously. Christine started to say something, but Madame Giry's cane coming down hard and strong against the stone floor made everyone in the room, including Erik, jump.

"Christine! What, exactly, were you doing? We were actually coming down here to make sure you were alright, but obviously we no longer need to ask!"

Christine had the decency to look embarrassed, a light blush tinging her cheeks, and she looked to Erik as if for confirmation to speak, but he was staring at the ceiling, dazed and five million miles away.

"Christine!" Christine turned away from Erik with a start as she saw Raoul coming towards her, his face sweaty and pale. He looked absolutely devastated, and Christine couldn't help but feel a twinge of remorse. That is, until she felt Erik's grip around her waist tighten. Raoul looked ready to say something, but all he could do was open his mouth repeatedly, before closing it again.

"Christine, answer me!" Christine looked away from Raoul, and saw his eyes cloud in disappointment. Christine figured he was shamed beyond belief, and she felt rather raunchy and vile now that her plan had played out.

Madame Giry's tone was unbelievably fierce, pulling her from her thoughts, and Christine couldn't help but be reminded of when Meg had gotten caught with Robert, the stage hand, in the storage closet, and had gotten a severe tongue-lashing from her mother, followed by a few hundred excruciatingly painful ballet barre exercises. Maybe her idea wasn't the best after all. .though Raoul's reaction was exactly what she had desired. Somehow it wasn't as gratifying as she had hoped. Why could she feel nothing but sympathy for the man who had called her a whore? Maybe it wasn't his fault. .he was simply stunned by her proclamations of love for another man. He was only human, after all. God only knew what she would do if she ever caught Erik with another woman. .She shuddered at the thought, though she knew she would have nothing to worry about. Not because of his face, but looking at his eyes, she knew she was his only one. It was a warm feeling that she never wanted to lose.

Sighing, she looked back up to Madame Giry. She felt Erik's eyes on her, and she could tell he was as anxious to know her answer as Madame Giry was, and no doubt everyone else in the room. What could she say now that she felt such pity for the very boy she had done this for to cause pain on his behalf? She guessed she could only tell the truth.

"I was, uh,. .well. I was kissing him." That was obvious, but she didn't know what else she was expected to say. She blushed, and she could swear she felt Erik smirk from beside her.

"But Chrissy, why? He's the one who locked you up in this dreadful place in the first place, don't you remember? Madame Giry told me she saw you two in the café, but I honestly thought he had forced you into getting engaged with him! I mean honestly, what in the world would you want do with someone who lives down in a cold old cellar! Because I'll have you know, I would never-. ."

Christine felt Erik's arms tighten once again, as if challenging her to defend him. She started to speak to interrupt Meg, but was thankful when Mme. Giry cut her off herself.

"That is enough, Megan. Thank you." Meg blushed as her mother cut her off. She was rambling, but what was she supposed to do? She had just caught her best friend kissing-quite passionately, to make it worse- the very man who had killed poor Piangi, and Buquet as well! The Opera Ghost, for drat's sake! And plus, he was a lying, deceitful mastermind who deserved to be locked up forever! Why couldn't Christine see that? Did she not remember the fact that he had remorselessly harmed the diva just so she could win the starring role? Not that that was totally horrid. . Meg turned to her mother as she spoke again. Poor Christine! Madame Giry had never taken it upon herself to reprimand Christine in the entire time they had known each other, as much as it made Meg green with envy.

"Christine, I am ashamed! And Erik, you as well! Christine, you are barely eighteen! And Erik you are, what, thirty six?"

"Thirty seven, . ." he muttered irritably.

"Thirty seven! And you do not even have the decency to wait until you are married? Christine I thought I raised you to be more civil than this! You're acting worse than Meg!"

At this Meg gave an indignant squeal, and Christine had to stifle a laugh.

Madame Giry sighed. She was baffled, and with good reason to be. Christine had always been the most innocent, quiet, respectful, and introverted person Madame Giry had ever known. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with that- in fact, she often wished that Meg would be a tad bit more 'quiet and respectful', herself- but her behavior now was absolutely out of character!

"I guess you will be happy, then? With Erik?" she asked resignedly. No reason to argue with the child now; one look in the girl's eyes told them all what they needed to know: she loved him.

Christine nodded, and Madame Giry, after a few seconds of studying Christine tenderly, nodded as well.

"At least someone finally will show him the love he always deserved, . ." Christine beamed, and she looked to Erik as Meg and Madame Giry began talking amongst themselves to see him hardly paying attention to the conversation, obviously too entertained watching Raoul. What could be entertaining him so. .?

XxXxXx

Raoul was oblivious to the conversation going on in front of him. He didn't want to be here, but he didn't have the strength in his body to leave. Right now, he just wanted to scream and shout and throw as many heavy objects as he could find. He couldn't believe it! How was he supposed to react to seeing such a scene? He shouldn't have come here. He should have abandoned his title, and left for Rome or Naples or even America! He could have let Meg and Madame Giry find Erik and Christine on their own. How in the world would he ever be able to get the sight of Christine and that wretched beast kissing? Not that he hadn't seen it before, but the last time it had been to protect him! At least, he had thought. .

Raoul sighed. He had truly been, without even realizing it, clinging onto one tiny thread of hope that Christine would still love him, and that thread had been broken, neatly cut in two just like his freshly shattered heart. Why was it that no one felt anything more than pity for him, now? He remembered the days when he had been respected in society, and well-liked by many women of the nobility. If he had simply decided to marry one of them,-. .but no. He would only love Christine. Even Meg Giry, as delightful, charming, beautiful, and light-hearted as she was, would probably never be able to tempt him. . .

He glanced up at Meg's horrified yet still gorgeous face as she spoke swiftly to her suddenly-scandalous best friend, her long blonde locks tied back loosely with a silk ribbon, brown eyes glittering with shock and curiosity. He couldn't help but smile softly at her.

"Ah, so you've moved on from Christine already?"

Raoul whipped his head towards the back of the room, behind his chair, where he had heard the voice. The voice resembled Erik's, but how would he. .?

There was nothing but a small wooden desk and the stone floors. What in the world. .?

"You are such an imbecile sometimes. I truly enjoy taunting you. Hopefully this will drive you mad enough too realize that not only can you not have Christine, but you can't be better than me!"

Raoul reflexively looked toward the ceiling, then the space underneath the couch that Erik and Christine were sitting on, and then the empty doorway. The voice was everywhere! He looked to Erik, knowing it was him but wondering if it were truly him. The voice made it obvious that he was going madso maybe hearing his voice was the first step? He studied Erik's expression. His face was calm and placid as stone, and he seemed to be fidgeting his lower body(which Christine was still positioned on, much to Raoul's chagrin)He wasn't paying the least bit of attention to Raoul, obviously uncomfortable with the conversation going on in front of him.

"I thought you above what you've done, De Chagny."

Raoul clamped his sweaty hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut, as if it could block out the taunting voice that wouldn't leave him alone. But now, it was in his head, and he knew he was truly going insane. Thank goodness no one pays attention to me anymore, he thought.

" You've fallen for a woman who is your previous 'love''s best friend. You certainly are one low, heartless creature. And you call me a monster. Look around, Monsieur. Are any of these people on your side?"

Raoul slowly brought his hands from his ears and opened his eyes, and did as the voice instructed. First he looked to Madame Giry, and strongly recalled the many times he had spoken inconsiderately to her simply because she sided with Erik. And he had always demanded he tell her things, and what gave him the right to speak to her that way? No doubt the voice was right about her never being on his side. He then looked to little Meg, who had just given a particularly shrill squeak at something her mother had said, and Raoul had never seen such a small action look so. .endearing. What was the matter with him? Meg had the attention of nearly every male dancer and stage hand that had ever worked in the opera house, and yet Raoul had no doubt that she loathed him with a fierce intensity. Who didn't these days? Besides his brother, whom he hadn't seen in quite a while. . .

He shook himself mentally, and looked to Christine. Why he felt the need to look at her when she only made him want to clutch his broken heart and hold it out to her, no matter how broken it was, was beyond him. She was studying Erik curiously now, as Meg and Madame Giry had begun talking quietly about something amongst themselves. Even through her curious expression, he could see the love in her cerulean eyes, a love that he had thought Christine had held for him, but obviously, he had been mistaken all along. What a fool he was, he even called her a whore. . .! He winced, then pushed the memory from his mind. If Christine could forget it, so could he. And plus, sure Erik killed a few people, and had almost murdered him as well but they were all for Christine's sake, and maybe they had threatened his life in some way. What did he know, anyway? Erik was simply misunderstood, and he obviously loved Christine. .

He really wasn't all that bad. Rather good-mannered and kind, actually. .

Suddenly Erik's expression caused Raoul to lock eyes with the masked man. He saw the corner of Erik's mouth turn up as the voice came back into his head:

"Well, you look rather chipper. Might I ask why?"

That bastard! Raoul's mouth fell open as he saw Erik's lips curl into a cruel sneer as he fought to contain his laughter. It was him all along! He should have known. .He was more sane than that! He clenched the arms of the couch in his fists, and looked at his lap, avoiding contact with Erik's gleeful eyes, trying to fight back the string of curses that were fighting their way up his throat. How dare he. .how dare he make him question his sanity?

"Ah, Vicomte, something seems to be bothering you." All eyes went to Erik as he spoke for the first time since their unexpected confrontation, besides the muttered mention of his age. Then, all eyes shifted to Raoul, who was sitting tensely in his chair, hands gripping the armrests until his knuckles were white, and his jaw clenched severely.

"Care to tell us why you are so bothered?" To everyone in the room but Christine, Erik's voice was cool and calm, but Christine could hear the pure joy in Erik's voice at finally getting his opportunity for revenge. Christine only hoped he didn't take it too far.

Raoul finally looked up at Erik, and Christine had never seen his pale blue eyes so incredibly angry. He glared icily at Erik, and his words were coated with loathing so thick Christine swallowed nervously and tried to look away from the two, as if she felt like she were interfering.

Raoul wasn't sure what to say. He was trying to tell himself that he had given up, that he understood the people in this room wanted nothing to do with him, and that he should leave it at that. But his aristocratic pride that had been instilled in him since birth rose to Erik's challenging tone.

"A smart man like you would have been able to tell we were coming. So was this just a show to make me believe that you two are truly happy? Oh, don't get me wrong, I can tell that you are. . .perfectly comfortable. Was this all planned to trick poor Raoul? Well, fine then. So be it. Christine, I offer you one last chance." His voice broke before he could finish, and Meg looked at him in sympathy. How could Christine do this to him?

Christine looked at him in confusion. What did he mean? He cleared his throat, trying to find his strength again. Raoul mentally slapped himself. He added a kick to that as well. What in the world was he doing? But he couldn't stop now, the words were out before he could stop them.

"One last chance, to be with me. To leave this- to leave this Erik behind, and all the dreariness and sadness with it. I can give you everything, Christine! You've ripped my heart out several times now," Christine flinched, as if he had hit her, but Raoul continued as if he had not seen her. "But I'm still as willing as I ever was to give it up again, no matter the consequences, no matter how tattered it is. Please Christine, because no one else can ever mend it."

The tension in the room was suffocating, and Christine looked down at Erik's hands entwined with hers. She knew who she loved. But Raoul . .would he really never be able to live without her? She looked at Erik, who was studying her with a cold, calculating eye, but she could see the pain and desperation hidden behind his wall of ice. Looking back at the three people standing-or sitting- rigidly in front of him, Christine saw something strange. Looking at Meg, she saw her best friend studying Raoul with warmth and pity, but also something else, something she knew all too well. Suddenly, she had a feeling Raoul might be able to move on after all.

"I'm sorry Raoul. I am truly happy here, and though it is a little, . .um," She paused, not wanted to offend Erik, for she was rather fond of his home in some ways, but unable to think of a word to describe their home. "Cold," she continued. "I am willing to stay here as long as Erik allows." Raoul nodded at this resignedly, and brought his hands up to his eyes and began rubbing them tiredly.

"Which, . ." Erik started, immediately breaking the uncomfortable silence. "won't be for long, seeing as I plan to move us to Rome to stay with the Giry's, in their home."

Everyone in the room was shocked, except Madame Giry. Meg was simply standing there gaping, terrified of the thought of having a masked murderer living in her home. Madame Giry remained unfazed. She understood now that Erik planned on moving for reasons other than architecture, as she had first believed, though she was rather happy with the idea. Erik was, after all, like a son to her, and Christine was her daughter in every way but blood.

Suddenly the new silence was broken by a squeal of incredible delight from the brunette sitting next to her fiancé as she threw her arms around his neck in pure rapture. Erik, slightly surprised but getting used to this attention, simply squeezed her tighter.

"Do you mean it, Erik? Do you really want to leave all of this behind?" she whispered against his neck, and she felt the tears against her cheeks before she realized she had cried them. She vaguely sensed the sound of three people shuffling uncomfortable toward the door, and quickly turned to them before they could leave.

"Wait!" she called, and the three turned to her in surprise. "Uhm, do you, do you all-including Raoul-, do you want to come to our wedding?" Meg eagerly agreed, thrilled at the idea of a wedding, temporarily forgetting who's wedding she would be attending. Madame Giry nodded her consent, smiling softly at her. They all looked to Raoul expectantly, and Christine felt her heart tear a little more as she saw his pained expression, which he quickly tried to mask with a strained smile.

Smiling softly, she did the only thing she could do to make him feel better. She stood, turned to Erik and gave him a look that meant for him to let her be- to which he warily nodded- and everyone was silent as she stood and walked to Raoul. She put her hands on his tense shoulders, and nervously leaned in towards his face. She felt his intake of breath as her lips met his trembling ones, and she felt his salty tears on her lips. This felt so familiar. . She felt Erik's indignant growl from the couch, but she was pleased to know that he remained seated. She made the kiss a little firmer, allowing him to open her mouth slightly but not enough to make it truly intimate. They both knew the difference.

The kiss was a goodbye kiss, and a way of telling him to move on from her and live. Raoul had never hurt so much in his life. When she finally pulled back and looked into his eyes, her eyes widened as she took in his appearance. His tears had left salty tracks down his tired, now gaunt face, and his hair was messy and unkempt. With his soaking wet ruffled shirt and black boots, he looked so much like. .

She gave a gasp for air as tears started streaming down her own cheeks, and she paid no heed to the others in the room as she brought him in for one more kiss, before wrapping her arms around his trembling torso. He buried his face in her hair, breathing in the scent that was so familiar to him, yet was now slightly reminiscent of him. .He tightened his arms, choking on his sobs as he tried to force himself to release the girl in his arms and let her go to her new lover. But, oh, how he wanted to hold her forever. .

Christine finally pulled back, but leaning in one more time and whispering in his ear "She loves you, Raoul. Trust me on this." Raoul furrowed his brow in confusion. Surely she didn't mean. .

"And please, Raoul," she continued "Let us still be friends. We used to be so happy, all the time,. ." her voice cracked as she thought back to their days in Brittany, playing along the beach. . .she couldn't think of that now. She was happy now, but she would always need Raoul. He was her best friend! He knew her better than anyone, besides Erik, of course. As stubborn and conceited as he could be sometimes, he was still practically family. She only hoped he would agree to remain her friend.

She gave a sigh of relief as he smiled slightly and nodded. He embraced her on his own this time, knowing this was the last time he would be allowed to do so for a long time, before releasing her.

"I would be happy to attend the wedding, Little Lotte." His words were still strained, but Christine knew he would be fine. He just had to, or she wouldn't be able to live with herself. .

She watched him curiously as he looked at Meg, briefly glancing at Madame Giry as well, and Christine followed his gaze to find Meg glaring at the ground, irritation evident in this crease along her forehead. Christine sighed, and looked back at Raoul, and was pleased when she saw the light smile on his mouth. Christine's right. I need to. .move on. .and Meg really is such a sweet girl. .

He walked over to Meg, and cleared his throat, making her look up at him in surprise.

Christine quietly walked over to Erik, who was glaring at her every step, but Christine knew he understood. Otherwise Raoul would be wearing a noose around his neck at the moment. Christine sat down on his lap, making him tense ever so slightly before she rested her head against his shoulder, watching her two best friends in the entire world as they stared at each other. Christine entwined her fingers with Erik's, and sighed in contentment as Raoul began to speak. Christine had never seen Meg so red. .

"Mademoiselle," he began shakily. "I was wondering if you would. .be my company to Christine's wedding?. ." He trailed off nervously as Meg continued to stare at him, not understanding. Christine tightened her grip on Erik's hands, praying for Meg to see, just for once, how much this man cared for her.

She smiled as Meg broke into a wide grin, her eyes lighting up with elation.

"Absolutely!" she gasped, but it came out more as a question as she glanced nervously at Christine, as if for permission. Christine's smile was permission enough, and Meg smiled lovingly at the girl who had been her best friend for so long. She looked back to Raoul, smiling confidently, before repeating her answer. Raoul's shoulders dropped in relief, and he smiled awkwardly at the girl in front of him, trying to regain some of his aristocratic charm that he used to possess and be able to use to diligently. It seemed to work, for Meg blushed and giggled as she turned towards her mother, who had been watching the entire exchange from a chair close to Christine and Erik's. She was elated for them, all of them, in fact, and smiled at her daughter.

XxXxXxX

Raoul and Meg had agreed to stay for a few hours longer, and they would leave before nightfall. When Raoul asked how anyone knew when that was, with it being so dark underground, all he needed was a harsh glare from Erik to get his answer.

Christine closed her eyes against Erik's chest as he began stroking her silky curls. This didn't seem real. .how could they all end up so happy?

"You know," she muttered sleepily as she vaguely listened to Raoul and Meg chatter happily in the corner.

Erik looked down at his angel, feeling more at ease than he ever had, despite the fact that she had just kissed his rival. .or ex-rival, since he was obviously going to have to put up with his presence a lot more now that Meg and him were together. Although he was sure he could have more fun torturing the poor boy's mind. . .he smiled wickedly, but forced himself to stop. He would have to be. .tolerable to the boy for Christine and Meg's sake. He sighed, then remembered Christine had said something. He looked down at her, still laying against his chest, and asked: "Hm?"

She took a deep breath, reveling in the feeling of Erik's voice rumbling against her body. It was very soothing.

"Someone should make a book about our lives. I mean, how often does this happen. Honestly!" she insisted as Erik let out a light chuckle.

"Oh, I completely agree, Angel, though I do not believe many would believe it. ." He trailed off, pondering it. It wasn't a totally unreasonable idea.

Christine sighed. He was right, of course. "Yes, you're right. ." she looked up at him, blue eyes glowing. "We're living in a dream. And I never want to wake up." And with that, she kissed him full on the lips, ignoring the others in the room, and wrapped her arms around his neck. Before he could deepen the kiss, however, Christine pulled back.

"Now tell me, Monsieur, do you plan on us marrying in Rome? Because if you do, then I'll have you know right now, I am not sharing a room with Meg until we get married. That woman snores like a fifty-year old drunkard."

Erik chuckled. "It's fine. You snore too, Christine, I've seen you." Christine's eyes widened. "I do not! You are lying!" Erik shook his head. Christine did snore, but he found it absolutely adorable.

Obviously Christine didn't, as she was flaming red and looking at herself in astonishment. Erik put a finger under her chin and brought her gaze to his. "Don't worry," he whispered. "You're snore is absolutely endearing. And I'm not just saying that, because I've heard Meg snore as well, and I do not find 50-year-old drunkards very endearing at all. So you better accept my compliment, mademoiselle." Christine smiled broadly at him, before collapsing into his arms. She soon fell asleep, lulled by the comfort of Erik's steady breathing and soft caresses.

This was certainly a night she would never forget.

XxXxXxX

Told you I like Raoul now! hehe. Review PLEASE.