Full Summary: On the night of the Bal Masque, lost in a sea of blurry yet brilliant colors and shapes, she spins, powerless against the captivating music, spun into the strong arms of her Hussar soldier… but things are never what they seem. She is haunted by the image of a skeleton, cloaked in crimson, soon consumed by nightmares of a man she had longed to resist… and the immortal being of a god she had tried so hard not to love.

Author's Notes: I decided to write a final "Phantom" fic to finish off the year... and lo and behold, it is R/C! In a nutshell, this is my (belated) Christmas and New Years present to all R/C 'shippers. And as a general note, this fic is based off the stage musical, NOT the ALW 2004 film - and just to clariy, my Erik is John Cudia, Christine is Sarah Lawrence and my Raoul is Jim Weitzer (because having a "cast" for your story is fun ). Also, I do not own The Phantom of the Opera or any of its characters. They all belong to Gaston Leroux.

Happy New Year, everyone. :-)

Requiem's End

The music danced, the music swept. Notes so captivating spiraled through the fading silence, accompanied by the merry burst of song which echoed loudly throughout the auditorium… resonating beneath the dark tunnels below, swift and steady. The frolicking crowd of chorus performers quickly assembled upon the ivory stairs, directly on cue, their arms swaying.

And she, clad in a sparkling, beautiful blush gown and silver mask and tiara, rushed to the bottom of the stairway and lifted her long, slender arms, laughing quietly. She cast a cheerful yet slightly embarrassed glance to her beloved, beside her, who returned her simple stare with a dashing smile…

She laughed once again, the warm glow of the gaslights and sparkle of crystal diamonds glistening from above, flickering in her deep brown eyes.

Captured by the enigmatic music, she and the man's voices melded with the powerful boom of the trumpets…

Masquerade! Paper faces on parade—Masquerade!

Hide your face so the world will never find you

Masquerade! Every face a different shade—Masquerade!

Look around, there's another mask behind you

Lost in the festive dance, devoured by the strange music's power and sway, she strode about the stairs, so fascinated and entranced, occasionally meeting the joyous eyes of her fiancé.

All about them voices of the chorus rose, singing in perfect unison, shimmering, bejeweled bodies moving with the music. Muffled laughter seeped from behind their painted masks and the room throbbed to the tempo of the breathtaking music…

Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads—Masquerade!

Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you

Masquerade! Grinning yellows, spinning reds—Masquerade!

Take your fill; let the spectacle astound you…

A gasp, a groan. The music slowly faded, dying as a terrible darkness descended the radiant hall.

Christine slowly lowered her arms, her unsure, petrified eyes staring into a blank abyss. Raoul glimpsed at her intently, concern etched across his regal face. He gently rested his hand on the small of her back, his brow furrowed in confusion.

A tall, skeletal figure cloaked in crimson instantly appeared at the top of the grand staircase, disrupting the bewildered silence. He glared down defiantly at the frightened crowd, raising his chin. He swept his insolent gaze around the terrified performers and audience.

Horrified gasps and cries erupted. And Christine, at last freed from her deep trance, dared a glance towards the top of the stairs and flinched terribly as the black, hollow eyes of the Red Death stared so intensely into hers. Her beautiful brown eyes went wide with horror and she backed away like a frightened animal. She was relieved when she instantly felt Raoul's strong arms protectively embrace her from behind, his hands sliding along her shoulders, holding her. She leaned against his chest, trembling so fiercely, her moist eyes never leaving the ghastly scarlet skeleton atop the stairs.

The skeleton chuckled quietly and with consciously slow, heavy steps, he descended the glimmering stairs, the audience cringing at every stride. He glared so boldly about the hall, his eyes drifting over the terror-stricken audience, whom gaped in sickened fascination and fear at the crimson carcass which stalked aboard…

A triumphant grin curled onto his lips, cleverly hidden beneath the gray skull mask. He stifled an amused chuckle, his powerful voice soon breaking the awful silence…

Why so silent, good messieurs?

Did you think that I had left you for good?

A glimpse to the quaking, terrified managers illustrated the answer perfectly. He sung directly to them, his gaze piercing. The managers' faces molded into expressions of tremendous fear and for a fleeting moment Erik doubted that he could stifle his laughter any longer - but somehow, he managed his descent of the stairs with ultimate poise and steadiness, twisting his head to glare murderously at the scattered audience members and performers who had moved against the balustrade of the stairs, out of his way, clutching the banister fearfully.

Have you missed me, good messieurs?

I have written you an opera!

He drew from his cloak the leather-bound opera, entitled "Don Juan Triumphant!" and raised it towards the audience for inspection, his eyes impudently roaming the room. He briefly glimpsed at the Vicomte, whose wretched, vile arms were encircled around his Angel, his Christine, a sheltering, amorous embrace. Erik frowned as he saw the boy's sky blue eyes darken challengingly. Erik slowly rolled his eyes in annoyance, and shifted his gaze, turning back to the managers.

Here I bring the finished score:

"Don Juan Triumphant!"

Erik swiftly tossed the heavy, musical manuscript in Andre and Firmin's direction. An audience member promptly caught the thick booklet before it could hit the floor and quickly handed it to Firmin.

The managers stared perplexedly at the opera for a fleeting moment before returning their gazes back upon the Red Death once more, eyes wide.

Erik strode with confidence, continuing his descend. He scoffed lightly, his head dipping in a small, civil nod, opening his arms.

I advise you to comply,

My instructions should be clear.

Erik glared uncouthly at Andre and Firmin and his gaze soon swept the entire foyer, warningly eyeing its exquisite occupants. A nameless terror rippled from the shadowed depths of his heart and soul. He clenched his hands into fists and stepped onto the polished marble floor.

And he raised his hands, casting a deep, entrenched glance above at the beautiful, new, shimmering chandelier. The fine, glass crystals jangled against the golden arcs and chains, his voice a forewarning echo…

Remember there are worse things

Than a shattered chandelier!

Erik glowered audaciously about the petrified audience, eyeing the managers, concealing his laughter. The deadly silence that he forced himself to keep burned his lungs.

His eyes drifted over Christine, and he snarled inwardly. She was clinging to her hideously charming fiancée, her beautiful face an expression of fear. The radiant sparkle had vanished from her kind, beloved brown eyes, replaced by such dim dread, wide with terror. She winced, intimidated and frightened by the thickly cloaked crimson skeleton who stood before her, and clutched the Vicomte's arms. Erik noticed that she had dropped her silver mask, for it now lay at her feet, glittering in the brilliant candlelight.

Erik sneered as Raoul slightly tightened his grip on the horrified, trembling Angel in his arms, stroking her hair, softly kissing her temple and forehead.

Yet Christine's fearful expression and demeanor slowly changed entirely, her quiet breaths becoming so shallow and low. Slowly, silently, she pulled gently out of her beloved's arms, and took a hesitant step closer, her eyes soft and imploring. "Christine?" the Vicomte asked incredulously, a quiet whisper.

The boy's voice faded into nothingness as Erik stared into the depths of her wide, brown eyes. Such indecision and yet fascination shone within those radiant pools, bleak traces of fear had dissolved. Lost in her yearning eyes, he became enthralled, simply staring in amazement, yet in hesitation, as his student willingly stepped closer to him, her steps quiet and light. The deep, worried frown slowly disappeared from her lips as she drew nearer. She soon stood close enough to touch, unflinching as his lustful eyes searched her totally… for he was quite eager for her angelic figure, desperately longing to quench his hunger for such desire, as he gaped at her perfect, curvaceous form.

In the back of his mind Erik could sense the inaudible protests of the Vicomte nearby, muttering silent prayers, his brow furrowed in great concern and worry stretched across his face. But Erik dared not break precious eye contact with his love, so lost was he in her deep gaze.

His eyes left hers at last and roamed her pale face. The soft flesh of her creamy shoulders was smooth, her long curls cascading down her back. Her silver tiara firmly sat atop her halo of chestnut curls, fastened perfectly, unable to be shoved about her head despite the swift, elaborate movements of the dance. Her skin was cool, the arc of her lovely neck delicate and fine. Curiosity conquered intrigue as his eyes slowly drifted downwards. A golden chain was clasped around her neck, the flickering gold molding perfectly against her elegant collarbone. His eyes dimmed as he spied a large, glittering diamond ring, gleaming in the gaslights, resting in the gentle dip between her full breasts.

Anger suddenly flared within him, furious disappointment and scorn so powerful. Erik scowled, his temper swelling, a friend suddenly turned to foe… a beast so terribly enraged. He reached up and grasped the chain and ripped it from her throat in a single, harsh yank.

Your chains are still mine!

In surprise and alarm Christine instantly lowered her wounded eyes and brought her hand to her throat. She stumbled backwards, swaying unsteadily, as if her spirit had suddenly leapt from her, collapsing into Raoul's arms. Raoul held her close, whispering so quietly to her, gazing at her anxiously.

And ignoring the brief yet vehement glare he received from the boy, Erik cast a last quick, angry glimpse to the couple, and the terrified audience all about him. He raised his hand, the gold chain dangling from in between his fingers as he sang triumphantly:

You will sing for me!

The ghost gave a single, downward arc of his arm and there came a flash, a blast of smoke and flame, and he disappeared entirely.

You will be mine, he vowed as he plunged into the ominous darkness. You will forever be mine.

The scarlet flames of the gaslights darkened, terrified screams erupted. Masked guests darted frantically about the dark foyer, madly hurrying towards the entryway of the Opera, searching, fumbling for any possible exit. Christine glanced fearfully about the foyer as the darkness descended, shadows veiling the beautiful theatre. And suddenly a mad, wicked, piercing laughter echoed long and loud, rising over the high-pitched screams and grumbles of the guests. Sheltered in her precious fiancé's embrace, she clung to him and closed her eyes tightly, softly sobbing against his chest. Raoul gazed worriedly into the darkness, holding Christine so near, bravely eyeing the shadows.

"No, no," Christine sobbed, burying her face in his crisp navy jacket. "Oh, Raoul…"

"Shh," he murmured. His hand smoothed against her back reassuringly, helpless yet undefeated, whispering into her hair. He stared in suspended horror at the many blurry, dark-tinted figures hastening about in the eerie darkness, guests tumbling to the floor amongst the confusion, the screaming… the frightened, anguished screaming…

"Come," Raoul said immediately, gently drawing away from her and attempting to lead her to a long, back corridor, towards the western side of the foyer, out of sight. But as his hold loosened and his hands trailed from her arms, she shook her head, her eyes widening. Clutching his hands, she sobbed tremulously, "no, Raoul, you mustn't leave me, please! Not now…"

He gently took her in his arms once more and pressed her to his chest. "I will never leave you," he promised. He rested his hand on her wet cheek and she glanced up, her tears soaking his palm as he said quickly, "but you must trust me. Come away with me."

She gazed at him, such incredible concern in his eyes, compassion emanating from his very pores.

Be brave, her conscience told her. Trust him.

Christine sucked in a quivering breath. She nodded vehemently, fresh, warm tears flooding her eyes.

Raoul smiled and led her by the hand across the chaotic foyer, quietly guiding her through the darkness. They veered and bended through the alarmed crowd, past shrieking performers and musicians, winding around frightened couples and guests, accidentally bumping into bewildered Parisians. Swiftly they dashed across the crowded, dark entrance hall.

As they ventured into the long, dark corridor, far from the foyer, Christine leaned against the wall and bowed her head, her face scrunched, quietly sobbing. Raoul hurried to her side and touched her shoulders, and the moment the contact was made, Christine turned and collapsed in his arms, exhausted, burying her face in his shoulder. He enveloped her in his embrace, stroking her hair, silently soothing her trembling form. "I am here, Christine," he kept murmuring, kissing her hair. "You needn't fear." he paused and felt her shoulders, his hands moving to her arms, feeling the goose bumps which had sprouted on her skin. "Mon Dieu, Christine, you're so cold…" he immediately withdrew and began to undo the buttons on his jacket, but Christine, suddenly lost to his embrace, clutched his arm with both hands.

"No, Raoul… please… I… I'm fine, you…" she pleaded, but Raoul ignored her and proceeded to take off his jacket. "No… Raoul…"

"You're shivering," he said, and slung the jacket about her shoulders. After a moment he took her in his arms again, rubbing her back, warming her shoulders. He tried to calm her, as if she were a frightened child who had just awoken from an awful nightmare, soothing her, until he felt her relax and lean totally against him.

He held her, and she cried.

"Raoul… it is my fault… I could have… I should have…"

"No, it's not. There was nothing you could have done."

"I-It's all my fault…" she sobbed brokenly. "My fault…"

"None of this is your fault," Raoul assured her. She shook her head and pressed her face against his chest, her arms moving under his shoulders, moaning miserably. Raoul gently drew away and placed his hand on her cheek, slowly, tenderly caressing her wet face, her tears dripping onto his fingers. "Christine, please look at me," he said, for her head was still bowed, and her eyes were squeezed shut. His eyes beseeched her, his brow furrowed in concern. "Please…"

She finally did. He stared deeply into her beautiful eyes, noting her pale, sopping cheeks, her quivering lips, the unbreakable sadness hanging in her eyes sprout from a deception long ago, a memory of gray which had become the first of many lies. His fingers slid lightly along the sweep of her cheekbone and she closed her eyes and smiled softly, leaning into his touch, nuzzling his palm with her cheek as he sang, I'm here, with you, beside you, to guard you and to guide you.

She opened her eyes and stared lovingly into his, yet was there - dare he think it? - hints of regret buried with her broken gaze?

"Raoul…" she murmured, her voice slightly wavering. "Oh, my dear Raoul…" She shook her head, and with trembling lips she whispered so quiet and low, "thank you." She sniffled and clung to Raoul as he gathered her into his arms once more, holding her so near, so warmly. "I'm so sorry…"

"Christine," he said benignly. "Christine…"

Christine, a mysterious voice echoed, a soft hum drifting about the hall.

Christine instantly lifted her head, her eyes frantically roaming the hall. She looked up at Raoul fearfully, meeting his restless gaze. "What was that?" she wondered.

Raoul scanned the corridor and clasped Christine's quaking hand, hastily bolting down the passage. His heart broke as Christine burst into frantic sobs once more. Quickly they sprinted to the nearest unlocked room - an unlit, abandoned, simple sitting room - and hurried inside, closing the door behind them. Christine stumbled over the unarranged furniture littered about the room while Raoul lit one of the lamps, the room soon bathed in a golden light.

The glow of the gas lamp cast shadows across the tiny room, which cloaked in shades of red. A faded scarlet settee with gold trim rested against the eastern wall, along with a long, low table situated nearby, chairs, and a bookshelf. Curiosity conquered his mind as he gazed all about the room, the walls, which were covered in brocade curtains, observing it in short, silent speculation.

Suddenly Christine gasped loudly, and his eyes zoomed to settle on her. She had pushed her way past the table and chairs and had collapsed onto the settee. Sobbing, she hugged his jacket around herself, lowering her eyes. Raoul climbed over the simple furnishings and settled beside her on the settee, wrapping his arm around her. She leaned her head against his shoulder, her tiny whimpers filling the gaping silence. He rested his cheek against her hair, his free hand grasping her own.

"Shh, shh," he kept murmuring, yet as the moments crept her sobs grew louder, more intense, until she convulsed and moaned. Her head drooped in bitter exhaustion. She cried out, and Raoul tenderly embraced her, easing her closer. Christine draped her arms around his neck and buried her face in the crook of his neck. She folded her legs beneath her and rested against him, her silky chestnut curls fanned across his chest.

"I love you," she choked amorously. Her entire body shook with sobs, her corseted chest heaved deeply. "Oh, god, I love you…"

"And I love you," he softly whispered in her ear.

Time stretched and bended, seconds interlacing with one another, moments winding in and out. For so long they sat, he clutching her strongly and steadily, and she unwilling to let go. As the long, frightening moments passed, Christine slowly calmed, eased by the affectionate voice of her fiancée as he sang to her, the idyllic, heartfelt melody softly tearing through her wild sobs, reaching her ears, and comforted by the warmth and closeness of his body, molding so perfectly against hers. He smiled faintly, his hands gently rubbing her back to the rhythm of their song. No longer did she hear the voice nor did shadows haunt and pursue her. Christine soon became quiet and still, and drew in deep, even breaths, as if she were sleeping. She allowed the tense, sore muscles of her torso to loosen and rest against him, letting the peaceful silence consume her, safe and secure in his arms.

"Never leave me," Christine mumbled, her cheek brushing against his. Cold tears stained her porcelain cheek. "Please…"

"I would rather die," Raoul whispered. "Than leave you alone."

She slightly drew away, her timid eyes staring deeply into his own. "Do you… promise?" she asked hesitantly, her eyes searching him for any trace of a lie, but could find none.

"On my life," he responded, slowly running his hand up her back, touching the back of her neck. "I will always be here for you. Always."

She smiled, relaxing against his chest. A glistening radiance returned to her eyes, no longer consumed by shadow. She slowly leaned in her, closing her eyes, her lips brushing against Raoul's… a kiss so delicate, so innocent… yet as he gazed at her, her cold yet creamy lips just centimeters apart from his, so wondrously close… he knew, he had decided. And so had she.

He closed his eye and leaned in once more, capturing her lips, silencing her quiet whimper of pleasure. Their lips melded beautifully against one another's, perfect and serene, lost in an unearthly warmth and serene contentedness, flickered to life by a love that had suddenly sparked its first true golden glow.

She smiled faintly against his lips, and her fingers slipped up the back of his neck and entwined with his short blonde hair. She slowly ran her fingers through his hair, and edged so close to him, deepening the kiss. Tingles of warmth coursed through her limbs. Tears she had not realized she had cried dripped from her eyes and trickled down her ivory cheeks, the salty teardrops falling onto their joined lips. The taste of warmth fell upon his lips and he tenderly kissed away her tears…

Hold me, just for this moment, Christine pleaded silently, lovingly shrouded in his embrace, her fingertips tracing the low sweep of his jaw. As long as you're mine.

Entwined in warmth, she lay for so long, nestled in his arms. She closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest and breathed a deep, content sigh, smiling softly. Long moments passed and neither spoke yet when he heard the faint sound of her peaceful breaths, as if she were nearly asleep, he asked, "do you wish to return?"

"No," Christine replied inaudibly and smiled as his fingers slid through her hair. "Do you?"

Raoul chuckled quietly. "No." he lightly kissed her forehead, exhaling a serene breath, of thankfulness, of satisfaction.

Hear me, trust me, a heart's somber voice pleaded. Promise me… abandon me not, nor leave me to live this life of unreal purpose alone…

Just love me, came her silent prayer as he held her so close and murmured inaudibly yet sweetly in her ear, warm, joyful tears flooding her beautiful eyes.

Beyond death, beyond eternity…