A/N: Hello, and welcome to the first chapter of what is going to be a heavily E/C story! I'm hoping you don't mind that I start off with that dreadfully R/C scene on the roof of the Opera House, but never mind, Christine actually shows some compassion in this story. Please read and review, because as this is a serious fic, I really want to hear how I can improve my writing, or the story. Thanks guys! Here's to a new story- cheers.
He killed that man. He killed that man. He killed that man for me.
The terrible mantra beat out an endless, pitiless tattoo in Christine's head until she almost buckled over. The high, terrified screams from the stage, from the audience were almost completely overwhelmed by this single thought, all surrounding sounds and sights all blurring into one whirling, nauseating stream of colour.
Her small face was white as the snow outside, gliding along its meandering paths, then dropping gently to rest on the eaves. Her body was utterly still, like the resting snowflakes, but her tumultuous thoughts held none of their peaceful serenity.
She started, as a man's rough hand gripped her shoulder, and jerked backwards, still unseeing, wrapped up in the slowly dawning comprehension of her part in this terrible play.
"Christine, come with me!" he yelled harshly, voice full of bravado and suppressed fear.
It was Raoul.
She blinked, and the world slowly, sickeningly, fell back into focus. She didn't protest as he dragged her out of the general confusion backstage, but ran along behind him. She wrenched her arm out of her grasp once they had finally exited the wings, and directed him up to the roof, wanting to gain some control of herself. Christine needed some control, over something. She had no control over the dreadful situation, the realisation that she was facing.
Her angel… the man who had pretended to be an angel… the Phantom… the strange, horrifying, angry, lost, heartbroken, pitiful man, full of love for her and no one else. He had done this.
What horrors have driven this misguided soul to commit such an act? What utter desperation? And am I to blame for the death of the stagehand?
Christine could not rest her chaotic mind on any conclusion, in the least about her angel of the past lonely years. He had never harmed her in any physical way, or caused her to believe that he was some kind of heartless devil, a murderer.
But a murderer he was! Christine had been brought up a Catholic; she knew the ten Commandments by heart, she believed in Hell; she knew the sins which once committed paved a fiery path for their sinners.
Was it pity? Was it pity she was feeling for this evil devil hiding behind a cold white mask? A mask of death?
Christine clapped her hands to her ears violently, desperately trying to claw the mess away. What was she to think? Was he a monster after all? Did he deserve eternal damnation? She didn't even know the man!
As she finally burst through the small wooden door at the top of the highest staircase, a small, rickety, hardly ever used exit onto the roof of the Opera House, she inhaled heavy breaths of the bitterly cold air, needing to clear her head, to escape the fearful, deafening atmosphere of the Opera House.
She leant back a little, eyes closed, soaking in the stillness, the blessed relief of the cold. Surely the Phantom, a dweller of all places dark, dank and cavernous, Master of Trapdoors, would not dare come out to such an open place, so close to the Heaven which must have rejected him, so far from the Hell which he had created…
As she relaxed, and silenced her overwrought mind, she suddenly remembered Raoul, and began to hear his words, realise what he was trying to tell her.
"Forget the Phantom of the Opera!" The man breathed heavily, earnestly trying to reassure her, his eyes pleading for her to regain some of the sanity which she must have lost to be entertaining such wild notions.
Raoul was an aristocrat, brought up in a warm, rich household with all that he ever asked for, surrounded by love, pampered by his aunts and sisters. Although his parents had died when Raoul was young, he had always had others watching over him, filling the empty parental roles and showering him with love.
Christine suddenly hated the Viscomte for it, for all the things that he had taken for granted during childhood. How could this sheltered young man ever begin to comprehend the horrors that other, less fortunate people had suffered?
Her eyes widened slightly as she noted her own hypocrisy. How did her own suffering compare to the Phantom's life of loneliness? What could drive a man to seek solace, or acceptance, from a young girl? The Phantom's very life must have been dictated by her; planning her lessons, keeping up the appearance of an angel, writing songs for her…. He wasted his genius on her.
But as Christine stood there, glaring at Raoul, she forcedly thrust her compassion to the back of her mind. The look on Raoul's face reminded her of the blind horror that the general populace felt for the murderer with the broken wings of an angel. Murder was not acceptable, not even for those deserving of such pity that Christine felt for them. Murderers do not have excuses! Not even lonely, abandoned geniuses full of desperate love…
The woman could not bring herself to voice any verdict on her opinion of the Phantom. She focussed on the one thing that she could prove to another, that she could prove to herself.
"Raoul, I've been there! To his world of unending night. To a world where the daylight dissolves into darkness… darkness. Raoul, I've seen him! Can I ever forget that sight? Can I ever escape from that face? So distorted, deformed, it was hardly a face, in that darkness… darkness."
She closed her eyes briefly and blinked away tears.
What monster was she, how shallow had she become during her years amongst the ballet rats, that she judged others by their outward appearances? But it was a point that she knew Raoul would understand, and she needed to be believed by someone else, someone stable.
Christine almost felt a whisper of sorrow caressing her curls, the stunted, unbelieving gasp of the betrayed.
She turned sharply to look behind her, splaying her brown hair across her back, sprinkling snowflakes to the soft banks of snow already formed on the roof. She squeezed her fingers to her palm in nervous anticipation, and suddenly realised that she still held a rose from the Phantom in her hand. She brought her trembling hand to her breast, and lowered her head, breathing in the proof of her former angel's love, and existence. What was she doing to him? And was he even here, watching her now, abandoned once more by his solitary comfort?
She wished it were not so. Squeezing her eyes shut, she sent a prayer of forgiveness to the Phantom, wherever he was now. She did not mean what she was saying to Raoul, she was just saying it, like the Phantom hadn't really been full of malicious intent while he murdered Buquet above the stage.
Both of them were simply desperate, hanging on for some form of understanding from another human being. She opened her eyes slowly and gazed out from the sparkling roof to the dark streets below. Wishing he was here for her now. Wishing he'd emerge from his shadows and tiptoe once more into the light of acceptance and love. Light which she was willing to provide.
She felt she finally understood the poor phantom of a man.
As Christine felt arms encircle her from behind, she shut her eyes with an overjoyed expectancy. But she felt none of the magic, the warmth, or the passion that her angel always provided for her. Distraught, she opened her eyes and gazed back upon the man she knew must be behind her. It was with a fond sadness that she looked back at Raoul. She turned around to face him, and winced gently as she heard his tender, comforting reassurances. His eyes held promises of safety in years to come, of security and family and society and, yes, money.
Christine could feel no anger towards her companion now. They had indeed been childhood sweethearts, in as innocent terms as could be, but they had grown apart over years of separation, and separate heartbreaks. Perhaps Raoul could not understand what had changed between them, but Christine could. When they had met, and created their friendship, all those long years ago, Christine had had a father, his stories and his music.
She had lost all of these now, except for the music. Raoul was in probability precisely the man he was going to become on the path his brother, the Comte de Chagny, had laid out for him. Christine had changed entirely after her father's death, and her future was still uncertain. The only certainty she had about the years to come was that they would be full of music.
Christine's eyes filled with compassion and friendship as she gazed upon her friend. She loved this man with all her heart, but only as a brother. She needed more than comfort and security to fill her life. She needed passion that Raoul simply couldn't provide her with. She needed the inspiration and magic in her music that only one person could give her.
As Christine leant forward, towards Raoul and his eager face, her sharply acute ears detected a muffled moan of agony from behind a nearby golden statue of Apollo. She cringed inwardly at the pain she must be causing to her nearby observer, but she knew that what she was about to do was the right thing for all of them.
Her lips gently met with Raoul's cheek in a fond, friendly kiss. She reached up and grasped his arm with the hand not occupied by the treasured rose. She looked solidly into the young man's disappointed, questioning eyes.
"I'll always love you, my friend. But I have changed over these years. I am no longer just a lost little girl who needs protection. I have found my anchor, and I'm safe enough knowing that."
In those few sentences, Christine truly grew up, and in accepting responsibility for herself, became a woman. The formerly shy, timid girl, full of worry and self-doubt had disappeared forever.
Raoul cleared his throat in surprise, and shook his head with confusion. The man was not used to such forward rejection.
"Christine, you do not expect me to just leave you here alone with all the dangers you face? Surely you would welcome protection from that monster, who has already tried once to claim you for himself?"
A smile briefly lit Christine's serious face, and she squeezed Raoul's arm a little tighter.
"Of course not, my friend. I expect you to protect me as much as any friend would. But I also expect you to let me make my own decisions." She paused, completely serious now. "Find a girl who's made for society, Raoul." She laughed humourlessly. "I've been living in an Opera House for years. I sing on a stage and entertain crowds. What kind of wife would I make for the brother of the Comte de Chagny?"
"But Christine… I love you!" he pleaded desperately, not accepting her reasoning. He grabbed her face and looked earnestly into her averted eyes, willing her to understand.
But she understood more than he did.
"Raoul, we have not seen each other since we were children. You do not love me! How could you? You have only truly known me for a few days! You think you love me, but you love an idea, a memory."
Christine stopped, turned from Raoul and ground her nails deep into her palm in dreaded realisation of her own duplicity. She stared blankly at the statue of Apollo before her, and slowly filled with self-doubt. She herself had only known the truth behind her 'angel' for the same length of time that Raoul had known her. Did she love him?
She stopped her thoughts before they went any further, shocked by her use of the word 'love'. This masked stranger murdered a man mere minutes ago. How could she ever consider the concept of love connecting her and her terrible deceiver?
She turned quickly as she heard the wooden door leading back into the hectic warmth of the Opera House slam; Raoul had left her there, alone on the roof. But Christine knew she wasn't alone.
She leant against the base of another statue facing Apollo and waited, folding her warm cape more securely around her. Her fingers unconsciously plucked first one petal, then another from the rose in her hand. Her downcast eyes noted the blood-red petals scattered upon the snow-spattered roof, and she stopped her busy fingers immediately.
She wanted to know the terrible secrets behind the mysterious man in the mask.
She wanted to cure them both of eternal loneliness.