This is a purely romantic story, turning the tragedy into a more satisfying ending for those of us who want to see Christine and Erik together and happy. It is almost totally based on ALW's movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, and I am grateful to him, Emmy Rossum, and Gerard Butler for giving us all such rich characters to work with and phantasize over. If you don't like the thought of a "gentler, wiser" Erik, and a more mature Christine, this isn't for you.

"Madame, I have come to say goodbye for a time."

Antoinette Giry sat calmly as the voice in the darkened corner of the room addressed her; over the years, she had become accustomed to Erik's sudden appearances and it no longer startled her. "You are leaving us?" she quietly asked.

He came out of the shadows toward her. "Yes, I should have gone long ago. I will sing tonight, as Don Juan opposite Christine's Aminta, and then I am leaving the opera house, and the city. The strain of unrequited love has grown too great for any man to bear, even a Phantom," and he gave a short, mocking laugh.

"You will sing tonight? How is that possible?" she asked, puzzled.

"Don't worry; I don't plan to hurt Signor Piangi, just tie the fat fool up until after this first performance. This is MY opera, and for once in my life I WILL be heard." He paced as he began to rant. "It is I who am the real fool, breaking my heart over Christine, but I will share this triumph with her, and then carry away the memory to torture myself with in the years to come." He stopped, considering, "She won't mean the words she sings, the ones I wrote with her in mind, but I can pretend, and continue to live on my dreams." He grimaced in pain as he pierced himself with the words.

"Oh, my dear, I hate to hear you speak this way," she said in sympathy, concerned for her friend. "And to leave here….why, where will you go? How will you live? Isn't there some other way?" she pleaded with him. He had lived in the cellars of the opera for so long now that she couldn't imagine him existing in the outside world.

Erik replied, "I have taken a house in the country, not far from here, where I can write my music in peace. The landlord and his wife are simple people, but willing to assist me without asking too many questions. It will be better this way," he sadly told her. "I will send you the address, so that we can keep in touch, if you wish. I have enough saved from my years of bullying the theatre owners, and I believe I can make a living selling my work now."

The determination and resignation in his voice kept her from pressing for more detail; he had always made up his own mind and seldom sought her counsel. "Yes, please let me know how to contact you, I would like to continue our friendship. And I am glad you are here now, it saves me from trying to find you to tell you my news. I heard rumors today of a plot to find the "Phantom of the Opera" and arrest him as a criminal," Antoinette warned grimly. "They are sure that you will not miss the performance of your opera, and will have police stationed everywhere on the watch for you. I believe young Raoul is behind this plot, and is attempting to force Christine to participate in trapping you. Please, Erik, be careful!"

He answered with a sneer which mocked their attempts, "Madame, you know they cannot find me unless I wish them to, though if Christine reveals me at the performance, I may have to exert myself to get away. You said he was forcing her….does that mean she is not willing? We have not spoken since just after the masquerade, when she refused my tutelage." He winced at the memory of that conversation, which had been the last straw for him. She had rejected him after his conceited behavior, refused to even be his pupil, and that was when he knew he must leave or go mad.

Christine has become very withdrawn in the past months," she shared with him, "and has not spoken with me about this, but I have heard her crying in her room at night, and she has dropped hints to Meg that all is not well between she and Raoul. When they are together, she keeps a smile on her face, but he seems to treat her with disdain instead of affection, as if she were only a possession."

She shook her head sadly. "I'm afraid she has had her eyes opened, and can see the truth, that her handsome lover is a spoiled rich boy who does not know the value of a good woman." She saw the hope in Erik's face, and continued, "Erik, talk to her. You were so important to her, and I think her fear, both of Raoul and of you, is the only thing keeping her from you. And I know she does not wish to betray you," she insisted.

"If I thought she really cared….." he mused, "I could not leave here, especially if I thought she needed protection from that cad!" His cold anger was beginning to show now. "He does not deserve her!" He paused, gathering his control. "But then neither do I, frightening her as I did with my temper, and this hideous monstrosity of a face!"

"No, he does not deserve her, but you have always had her best interest at heart." was the sincere reply. "My dear, I have tried not to meddle in your affairs, being content to simply be your messenger to Christine on occasion, and your confidante when you needed one, but I feel I must speak now. Go to her, talk to her. She is confused, and I fear that your fit of temper on the night she unmasked you, combined with certain other events, has frightened her. I have not been allowed any time with her to offer explanations, either, since Raoul dominates her shamelessly." He could hear the quiet fury in her voice at the count's attitude.

"If you will allow me to speak plainly?" she asked, and at his nod, continued, "You have learned some restraint in the past months which will work in your favor, and have lost much of your arrogance. She hasn't forgotten the gentleness and caring of her Angel, and needs only to be reminded. And as I've repeatedly told you over the years, physical beauty is not as important as what is inside a man, and you have a beautiful soul. She was not afraid of your face that night, but of your anger."

"I wish I could really believe that. And what do you mean by certain other events…my ridding the world of that scum, Joseph Buquet?" he said with scorn, remembering that event with disgust.

"Yes, the gossip is that the Phantom killed him because Joseph would not keep silent about him. You and I know the truth, that he deserved to die for a much greater reason, but I have not been able to share that truth with Christine" she enlightened him, "Raoul does not allow her much time alone for old friends, especially those he considers beneath her new station in life. I think if you would come to her again like you used to, catch her alone in her room, she might be ready to listen to you now." She was almost pleading with him, feeling that this was the last chance for these two who were so dear to her to reconcile with each other.

He sighed and shook his head. "I don't know if I can handle another rejection. Even though I attempted an apology about the boorish manner in which I publicly asked to be her teacher again for Don Juan, she still refused me, and I have left her alone since then." Erik was resolute. "She doesn't want to talk to me, I know it. And I plan to leave tomorrow."

"Then try today, Erik," she implored. "Just try."