Disclaimer: As soon as I own this, I will let you all know =p

A/N: Huzzah! A post at last! See, my stories aren't forgotten, just terribly slow to update u.u I do apologize for this, I really do. On the positive note, one of my other fanfics only has an epilogue left, and therefore my attention will no longer be split between so many projects, lol. Anyways, I wanted to thank you all for reading my humble little tale of 'childhood sweethearts'. Please enjoy it, and may it bring you warm fuzzies and sunshine to your darkest nights!

Eagerly Christine pressed her little nose up against the cottage window, leaving smudges. She had been doing this on and off for an hour now, impatient as children often are, much to the amused frustration of her father. "Lottie, move away from the window, you're fogging it up. He'll come when he comes, and you keeping watch won't hurry him up at all, I'm sad to say." Pouting slightly, Christine moved to where her father sat and half-flopped onto the settee next to him, which caused him in turn to sigh and pull her upright, so she was sitting straight. "Really dear we must work on your manners...what would your dear mother say if she could see you now?" Naturally Christine didn't answer that, too heavily focused on the current theme of her thoughts. "But he promised! He said he'd bring them…." "And I'm sure he shall. Now go on and fetch your tablet Christine, and let's go over your French some more." She looked up at him, slightly aghast. "Now?! But papa, it's my birthday! You're not really going to make me study on my birthday, are you?" M. Daae gave her a sympathetic, yet firm look. "It is for the best. You may be living here for many years Christine, so I want your reading to improve." While I can still teach you myself....He shook his head, dispelling the thought from his mind. "No arguments, little one. Go on, and we shall stop for the day when your friend is here." Sighing, Christine stood and did as she was told, spending the next twenty minutes in anxious anticipation, hardly able to concentrate on her father's words as she listened for any tell-tale signs of Raoul's approach.

Finally, just when M. Daae was thinking that it was absolute folly to keep her for any longer, the distant sound of a horse's trot could be heard with increasing distinction. With a little cry Christine leapt to her feet and dashed to the door, knocking her tablet and stylus over, and M. Daae did not even try to stop her. There was a certain sadness to his eye, but happiness too, in the idea that she was so well-comforted while he could do so little to care for her as he ought. For a moment Christine struggled to open the door, her little hands pulling at the handle, and then it came unstuck to reveal the pretty picture of a young man alone on his horse, save for the dozen bright blooms tucked carefully into the crook of his arm.

"Raoul, Raoul, you remembered your promise!" Laughing gleefully Christine ran out to meet him, yet kept close to the door to avoid the horse's hooves, so much larger than her own little feet. Grinning at her Raoul dismounted (having to jump an extra foot or so, until he was full grown) before he kneeled down and presented her with the much awaited bouquet. "Of course I remembered Lottie...a gentleman always keeps his word. Happy birthday." She giggled, her innocent blush nearly the same hue as the pink roses she now held in her arms, before she spun around and held them up for her papa to see. "Papa, papa look! Flowers!" M. Daae smiled warmly at his little girl, seeing in her sweet face a great beauty which only time would reveal, as lovely and renowned as her mother's had been. "Delightful, my dear. I dare say that it is only the first of many that you shall receive, when you have suitors lined up outside your door." Raoul looked concerned, not liking the sudden realization that one day someone might come and take his playmate away from him; Christine was just confused. "What's a suitor?" Chuckling, her father placed a hand on top of her curls. "Never you mind, you'll see. Now come back inside and let's put those in water...and papa has his own present for you, you know."

Beaming, Christine started to hurry inside the house before she turned and grasped Raoul's hand, pulling him along behind her. "You got me a present, papa?" M. Daae nodded, moving slowly towards the kitchen and finding an old milk pitcher to serve as a vase. "Christine, take this out to the pump and fill it for your roses, would you?" She nodded and took it from him, hugging the pitcher to her as she left. M. Daae waited until she was gone before he moved to one of the taller cabinets, opening it and pulling out a small, rectangular object tied with brown paper. "So Raoul, how is your family? I believe I saw your mother last week, walking near the shore."

Raoul nodded, taking the liberty of pulling out one of the wooden chairs and seating himself...the Daae's did not stand on ceremony the way his own family did. "Yes, 'for her health.' Although really I doubt she takes much benefit from it, since she must be cajoled and pleaded by her maids, and makes a hasty retreat as soon as feels a hint of mist. My mother always preferred to discuss the merits of nature, rather than experience them herself. I do hope though sir, that the sea air has continued to do you good." He added hastily. M. Daae sighed.

"Yes...yes it is. For now." Raoul frowned at the implication. "Do you not think your recovery is permanent, sir?" For a moment M. Daae regarded the lad, not as a neighboring boy who came to play, but as a young man who cared for his daughter. Someone who might have a vested interest in caring for her, and one day could possibly even see that her future was secure. Did he tell the boy the truth, that deep in his soul he knew he was soon to abandon the child in a foreign land, with few friends and fewer prospects? Could he put that sort of weight on a boy so young he still had no need for a straight-edge? No, he could not.

"With God's grace, it will be permanent." It was obvious that Raoul was not entirely satisfied by this answer, but at that moment Christine returned with her heavy burden and he hurried to take it from her, setting it down on the weathered but clean wooden table as M. Daae arranged the roses. They added a cheeriness to the room which he himself struggled to feel as Christine wrapped her arms around his waist, looking up at him expectantly. "Papa, where's my present?" Smiling for her sake he produced the small wrapped package, he and Raoul watching on as Christine revealed the elegant cloth doll inside. She was simple but beautifully constructed, with a delicately painted face and a bit of black horse's mane for hair. Tenderly Christine stroked the doll's blue flowered gown, her face an expression of reverenced awe, and in that gesture Raoul saw more care and affection then he had ever held for any of his expensive, store bought toys. "She's charming. What will you call her, Christine?" Happily, Christine turned her gaze up to him. "Lucy."

"Lucy?" Raoul looked perplexed, so M. Daae turned to him with a chuckle. "St. Lucile's is Christine's favorite holiday. It's something we celebrate in Sweden, just before Christmas." "Ah." For a little while the two men sat in companionable silence as Christine bonded with her new treasure; one merely happy to be with his family, the other away from his. After a time however M. Daae became very still, his face somewhat pale. "Raoul, perhaps you could take Lottie out to the garden to play, for a while?" Both the children gave concerned and questioning looks, but Raoul at least was old enough to recognize when an adult meant more than they said, yet kept quiet for the child's sake. This worried him, however he stood and reached for Christine's hand, smiling brightly. "Come Lottie, Lucy hasn't even seen the light of day! Let's go and show her the sun, shall we?" Nodding, Christine took the offered hand before following Raoul outside, although she still cast glances over her shoulder as they left.

"Raoul, what's wrong with Papa? He sounded strange." Raoul hesitated- he had his suspicions, and yet hoped very much that they would not be confirmed. "I don't know Lottie...maybe he has something else he wanted to get ready for you. Or maybe he was just tired for a little bit, or wanted to be alone. Adults do that."

"Not my papa." Said Christine stubbornly, refusing to believe that there might be a time when her father would not wish to see her. Anxiously Raoul searched for a means to distract her...unless he was mistaken, there was a very faint sound of violent coughing coming from somewhere in the house. His eyes alighted on the horse he had tethered there, and his face brightened. "Christine, have you ever rode a horse before?" Looking up at him with great wide eyes, Christine shook her head, curls rustling. "No...they're so tall! Isn't it scary?" Smiling, Raoul went and untied the dappled Anglo-Arab, leading him over. "Only a little, at first, but there is nothing in the world finer then being up high and rushing with the wind. Hold tight to me Christine, and you'll see. His name is Clovis...go on, pet him a bit while I check the saddle." She did so, marveling at how grand the animal seemed, and even introducing Lucy to Clovis, and Clovis to Lucy, until Raoul was quite certain that there would be no mishaps with his little charge. He led horse and girl to a boulder left in the dune several yards away and mounted, before having Christine stand on it and then pulling her up behind him after, deciding that he would have to steal one of his mother's side saddles so she could sit properly next time. "Put your arms around my waist Christine so you won't fall. Don't worry, we'll go slowly."

She nodded nervously and wrapped her arms around him, Lucy tucked between them snugly. Raoul waited until it seemed that she had a good grasp before he clicked his tongue and kicked his heels into Clovis' flank, setting them off on a leisurely walk towards the shore. At first Christine was just a bit frightened, but when she saw how gentle the rocking of the horse was she sat up a little more, gazing back at the hoof prints Clovis was leaving in the damp sand with awe. "Raoul, we can go a little faster, if Clovis wants..." The boy smiled to himself, recognizing the shy request hidden in her statement. "I'm sure he'd like that very much. Hold on now." With another little push Clovis picked up speed until he had reached a trot; quite a comfortable pace for him, yet quite a bumpy one for his inexperienced rider. If Christine's giggles were any indication however, she didn't seem to mind very much. Encouraged by this, Raoul let the horse continue to accelerate, sand scattering as they went.

He should have kept things gentle and calm- it was only her first ride after all, and despite the happy thrill she was receiving Christine was young and small and for her pleasure could become fear quite quickly. However Raoul (like most young men his age) wanted to impress, and did not have the sense to stop and think about what may happen. They raced along the shore, Raoul at least restraining Clovis from a full gallop as Christine hid her face from the wind against his back. She was ready to slow down now, the jarring and bucking of the horse was becoming painful, and it was hard to hold on. She didn't know how to tell him this though above the sound of the wind, and was instead reduced to silently praying that it would stop. Unfortunately, Raoul was enjoying himself immensely, and imagining that Christine was as well. When he spied a bit of driftwood then lying in the sand, he thought nothing of leading Clovis towards it. "Hang on Lottie! We're going to jump!" Eyes widening for a moment Christine clutched onto Raoul's coat with a whimper not to be heard through the rush of wind and waves, the shifting of her arms causing her precious cloth doll to slip from its grasp. "Lucy!" Without thought Christine let go of her already tenuous hold as she reached for the doll, sliding from Clovis' back with a scream and falling onto the sand far below.

Raoul twisted in the saddle in time to see her fall, sheer horror washing over him, but it was too late to reach out and grasp her- Clovis was already pushing from the ground with his powerful hind legs, forcing Raoul to face forward again and complete the jump before he reared the animal, bringing him about and making all haste to the tiny still form alone on the sand. His heart was pounding in terror as he reached her, dismounting so fast he nearly fell himself and hardly even noticing, scrambling to her side and slipping in the sand. "Christine! Christine!!" What if she were hurt? What if she were cut and bleeding, or what if....

What if her neck had snapped? What if she was dead?

Swallowing thickly, trying in vain to suppress the panic he felt, Raoul reached the little girl and turned her towards him, praying to high Heaven for a clear sign of life. The Lord answered his prayers. She was crying. "R-Raoul..." She spoke to him in between her sobs, but the poor lad, both relieved and heart-broken, guilt eating at him, couldn't understand a word. "French Christine, French please, I'm begging you....are you hurt?" Gently, carefully he looked over her, searching for broken bones or other injuries, but he hardly knew what to look for: he didn't see any blood, but what if she were bleeding from the inside? Any number of things could be wrong, but he was no doctor, he'd never know. Raoul tried to decipher what she was saying, but Christine was so shaken the foreign words came to her with difficulty.

"So...scared. R-Raoul, no more r-riding, please? No more riding." He swallowed again and nodded, moving hair and sand away from her face. "No more riding. Next time we go somewhere far away, I'll bring a carriage. And if one day we do ride somewhere together on a horse again, then I will have you sit in front of me, and I'll hold you, so you don't fall. Alright, little Lottie? Is that alright? Are you hurt?" Trembling weakly Christine shook her head before reaching out and wrapping her small arms around his neck, wanting to be comforted. Raoul gathered her and the doll in his arms and picked both up, struggling a little with the weight but refusing to make her walk after such a scare, and certainly not about to try and reconcile her to Clovis. He moved slowly through the sand, walking where the waves lapped at his feet to make it easier, Clovis following his master with the confused air of an animal intelligent enough to know that something was amiss, but not clever enough to know what.

It took them some time to reach the cottage at this pace, and with every step an air of impending doom hung thicker over Raoul's head. It seemed (Holy Mother of God let it be so) Christine was not actually injured...but that wouldn't stop her father from being furious with him. After all, were Raoul a father (a very odd thought, but it was true nonetheless) and some stupid boy put his daughter in danger, he'd be tempted to have the fool flogged. Anything M. Daae did to him he deserved...but what if he wouldn't let him see Christine again? He couldn't stand it, to not have her sweet smile and innocent affection when all around him were people living in strict regulation and formal rigermoral... it would be as though the sun were permanently covered by clouds or night.

Heart heavy, Raoul finally reached the door of the cottage, calling out to the windows, which were now silent. "M. Daae! M. Daae! Let me in, if you can, please...Christine fell!" There was silence for a moment, interrupted only by Christine's occasional sniffles, and then a sudden scrapping sound before the door was wrenched open from the inside, the ashen faced man on the other side -still weak from his fit- pulling them inside.

"Lay her on the couch...what happened?" Raoul did so, his arms aching terribly and his stomach fluttering in anticipatory dread, but Christine spoke first, her Swedish punctuated with sobs- "Pappa! Som jag föll från hästen!" M. Daae's eyes widened. "Hästen?" He turned to face Raoul, and for a moment the boy hung his head in shame. But no, he was a Chagney, and a gentleman besides. He would take this like a man. Steeling himself he raised his head to await his sentence, heart hammering, prepared to be struck, or worse, banished. For a long agonizing moment M. Daae watched him as he sat on the couch by Christine, who was calming down now that she was in her father's arms. Finally, he spoke: "Am I right in assuming Raoul, that you took her for a ride on your horse?"

Raoul swallowed and nodded; guilt, shame, and worry etched on the youthful face. "Oui monsieur...I am sorry sir, I was so sure that she would enjoy herself, and that it would be alright..." M. Daae nodded before turning to look over Christine as Raoul had done earlier. She had some small scrapes on her hands, and most probably her knees too, but really was more scared than anything else. He sighed, voice soft. "There are truly some accidents which cannot be prevented. But Raoul, more often than not, they can be. Do not forget it. Do not let tragedy strike because you did not think things through." Raoul nodded again, the words echoing in his mind, jumping when there was a sudden knock at the door. He turned to it uncertainly, but M. Daae shook his head and stood, moving towards it. "Sit with Christine, Raoul...I shall see to the visitor."

Hardly daring to believe that nothing worse was to come, the chastened boy moved and took M. Daae's place at Christine's side, taking her hand and holding it gently. Christine sniffled and reached up to place her other hand on his cheek. "Raoul, you're upset...are you mad at me?" Aghast, he shook his head vehemently, wondering how she had come to such a conclusion. 'No, Lottie no, not at all...I'm angry with myself. I could have hurt you." Christine swallowed and smiled bravely. "Don't be mad, it was my fault, I let go...and besides, next time I won't fall because you'll hold me, remember?" Raoul grinned weakly and nodded. "Yes Lottie, I remember."

The children turned their heads as M. Daae re-entered the room, an envelope in his grasp. "Raoul, your man-servant is here, apparently your mother requests your presence at home...please send her our regards." The lad nodded, heart-heavy once more at the dismissal, still scared that it would be his last time in the small house. "Of course monsieur, I will let her know." He sighed and then smiled, resting one hand on Christine's head before kissing her temple. "Happy birthday, little Lottie...I hope you feel better soon." She watched with large, sorry eyes as Raoul gathered his gloves and headed towards the door, pausing when M. Daae called his name. "Raoul? I do hope you'll come by in a day or two. I'm quite certain Christine will be feeling better by then and will be anxious to see you." Startled, the boy blinked a few times before a wide grin spread over his face. "Oui, monsieur...of course. I shall return in a few days. Good night." Cheered immensely he exited, not even Bernard's stern face able to dampen the euphoria he felt at being forgiven. He would not fail to protect her again.

Christine watched him go sadly, yet she too was comforted with the knowledge that he would not be away for long. Curled up on the couch she tilted her face back to her father, regarding the bit of fine paper he held and its elegant calligraphy with some curiosity. "Papa? What's that?"

"This? Just a note which was delivered to me Christine, do not fret about it now." So saying, he dropped the paper on the table and went to sit next to her again, smiling. There it would sit for the rest of the evening, until M. Daae had decided what he wished to do about it-

An invitation to Mme. Chagney's Garden Party.

A/N: Yay! That's all for now, boys and girls…I do very much hope you enjoyed it. I wonder whatever happened to poor Lucy…perhaps she was lost over the years, as beloved childhood toys often are. I also hope that you catch many (if not all) of the references made to both book and movie within this story; Raoul seems to have an excellent memory. Well, if you enjoyed it, then please review!! It only takes a minute, and you may win a two-night stay at the Chagney seaside house besides (if I can ever find the place.)

A tout a l'heure!