OK, so the story's melodramatic. That's because I WANT it to be. Tell me if you guessed the pair! *grins*

Disclaimer: Yes, I do support Raoul's death. I think he should spontaneously combust. HAH! He's make a lovely corpse… Okay, okay, maybe he doesn't deserve to die, but at the very least, to be known as the dumbest man alive. I think Carlotta would get the part of dumbest WOMAN… They should get married!!! Hey, read Lady Persephone's Phantom stories! *grins*

ANYway, I do not own Christine. Alas, I have not yet kidnapped Erik. Maybe I can bid on him on E-bay? Hmm… *grin* I do NOT own Raoul, Carlotta, André, or Firmin, THANK YOU very much. Meg and Madame Giry I also do not own, and Iphigénie en Tauride is by Gluck, the one Firmin told to go to Hell. J . Read the story! Tell me if you guessed, PLEASE????


Christine wakes crying from a dream of hands: pale, delicate, bony. Beckoning hands. The hands of her beloved. Forbidden hands.

Her tears blossom dark on the white linen pillowcase, leave salty trails on her cheeks. She'd long since perfected the art of silent crying, leaving behind those harsh, loud, animal pain-screams to fade into the monotony of what was Past.

It's been too many years, she thinks, staring outwards. So many years and I'm still unwrinkled. There was a time, once, when I would have been- when I was content with only the fetching of a wind-blown scarf from the sea. That's all gone now, though…

Christine sits up, looking at herself in the mirror. Her eyes are red, swollen, and the makeup she hadn't bothered to remove last night is smeared. Standing, she washes her face out of the fine china basin, scrubbing color into her face with the washcloth. "Marguerite?" she calls, fixing a slight smile onto her face as the maid peers in.

"Your makeup, ma'am?"

"Yes, please. And haven't I told you? I'm not a ma'am!"

"The managers said I'm to call you that, ma'am," Marguerite replies, confused.

"André and Firmin are almost as brainless as you are," Christine mutters, submitting to the ministrations of the woman. After Carlotta's breakdown, they'd begun trying to woo her as they had the former prima donna, unaware of the fact that Christine does not want a tribe of idiot devotees disintegrating her privacy at every moment of the day and night. Unlike some she could name…

Marguerite powders her face, applies her makeup, dresses her and arranges her hair, all as if Christine could not do this perfectly well herself, and had been for several years. She fidgets, envious of the girl she once had been, the one without jewels or frills, without those damnable hands haunting her sleep. Three nights now she'd dreamed of them, the call welling up from some hidden ground deep within her, from some dark labyrinth previously buried from all prying eyes. And then there was the voice, musical, calling. Calling me to Hell…

To Hell. So this all was hopeless. She would not, would not damn herself to that profaned darkness. I will not!

Oh, God help me…

Help me.

* * *

She endures mechanically the rehearsal of Iphigénie en Tauride, singing the part of Iphigenia as beautifully as always, but vacantly. Carlotta glares at her through the performance, singing with jealous gusto the part of the Greek woman. Her lips are large, almost obscene, and Christine reflexively distances herself from the woman. And then it's done. The stage rings with soaring voices, practicing again and again their parts for tonight's grand opening, but Christine is silent.

Backstage, it is quieter, the noise muffled by layers of velvet curtains. Christine sits huddled in the darkest corner, tracing her veins again and again, those blue lifelines just below the skin. Last night, she held a dagger to them, the knife that Pylades used to kill the blood-hungry king, but she found it was dull, much too dull, and when the world spun at a single bead of blood lost, she knew she could not do this. She could neither die nor live with Hell closing in on her, and it was this limbo between the two that hurt.

Blood-hungry. And who was to say that she, too, the innocent Iphigenia, was not blood-hungry, too? That she, too, would not be hunted down and killed for her sins? Blood-hungry. So she sits, now, stroking the slight roughness in the silk of her wrist, listening to the king die and die again, stabbed by his own intended sacrifice.


The Gala night. The curtains are still closed, billowing ever so slightly as patrons enter, the rustle of their voices seeping through the velvet. Christine closes her eyes, breathes, pretends this is just another performance, just another day, that she's never met the Phantom, or Raoul, that she's never dreamed of hands in the darkness. That her faith in God is not seeping away. It's easy, almost, surrounded by the familiar noise and pre-Opera chatter, by the half-light and the creaking of sets being adjusted, one last time, before the curtain rises and they're swept away into the formless ecstasy of music. She delights in the familiarity of the butterflies in her stomach, the twisting emptiness of her belly. She hadn't eaten, of course, and that left her center empty and easy to find. She concentrates on that spot, and all else fades.

She wears her engagement ring tonight, as sharply as it contrasts with Iphigenia's stark black dress, André's idea of the garb of a Greek priestess. Raoul's to watch tonight; he's been in London for the past two weeks, on business. Two weeks, and it feels like forever. She's hoping the sight of him will trigger something, some of that love she used to feel for him, or at least summon up its ghost, but something in that hidden labyrinth is scaring her. The hands of her dreams were not his.

Down in the orchestra pit, the tuning of the instruments has just ended, and the music starts. Christine Daaé and the other players take their places on the stage, Christine's above the hidden seam of a trap door, and with a swell of sound, the opera begins.

It's not until the last act, the stabbing of the wicked king, that Christine looks out at the audience and sees that Raoul, her lover, is not there.

* * *

"Raoul isn't dead!" she screams, her voice rising until the policeman winces and draws away. "Raoul isn't dead! He can't be dead! My fiancé is not dead!"

"We're quite sorry, mademoiselle. It's a tragedy, we know. But the Vicomte de Chagny is, indeed, departed. Now, why don't we have some-"

"We! Who is this we! I see only one person, a liar! Your cruelty is great, monsieur, great!"

"Mme. Daaé, I am afraid you are disturbing the rest of the cast members. Come away, please. There were other victims of the crash besides your fiancé. Money does not buy invincibility, madam," the policeman says, taking a hysterical Christine firmly by the elbow. Her face is flushed and her cheeks wet from crying. On the other end of the stage, the chorus watches wide-eyed, surrounded by a gossip-hungry collection of patrons.

"He's not dead! The train did not crash. Nothing happened, nothing at all!"

"Mme. Daaé, the best you can do is stay quiet and trust in God."

"God! God! What God would allow these lies! What God would kill Raoul, my fiancé, my best friend! What God? Tell me, genius, tell me! There is no God, no God at all!"

* * *

"Christine?" There's a tentative knock on the door, the first interruption in weeks. Christine's flat is neat again, the shards of the china bowl in the trash and a new, silver one in its place. Christine is curled up cat-like in the chair in her tiny library, spent from the rage and sadness of the past month. "Christine? May I come in?"

She closes her eyes, opens her mouth, shuts it again. Seems to come to a decision. "Yes, come in please," Christine calls back, and the door creaks open, revealing a tiny face peeking in.

"Christine?" Meg asks tentatively, stepping into the room. "How are you?" Encouraged by the slight smile Christine replies with, she continues. "I'm sorry about- all of that. You're better now though, aren't you?"

"You could say so," Christine says, smiling tightly. "Meg… Have you ever- doubted- the presence of God?"

Meg looks down, examining those fine, small hands of hers, turning them this way and that. "Never doubted Him," she says nervously, biting her lip. "But maybe- maybe everything they say He says isn't true. Maybe how you live doesn't matter, as long as you are good…" She looks up out without moving her head to see that Christine's eyes are wide, staring at her in surprise. "You…" she breathes, showing a little smile. She sits up, takes Meg's hands in hers. "You!"

"Meg, I love you… beloved…

"I love you."