Disclaimer: I own nothing that you recognize from Phantom; it belongs to RUG and ALW and Kay and Leroux… you know the drill. I am making no profit from this story.

Author's Notes: I've done my fair share of Raoul-bashing in the past – Project Phantom, anyone? – but since the "sequel" has effectively done the ultimate Raoul-bashing, I think it would just be cruel for me to do so here. But, to make sure I don't succumb to temptation, he won't even make an appearance in this story; just in conversations of him.

But most important, perhaps, is the rating. Those of you familiar with my writing (perhaps in other fandoms) have known me to write some pretty detailed love scenes. At this point in time that is not going to be the case, though it IS rated M for a reason. There will be intimate scenes, but not full on lovemaking, and the reason will become clear later. I just didn't want a breathless audience waiting for a drawn out love scene, because there are no plans for it at this time. (As I write this first chapter I am debating now, lol. It's become second nature to me to include a love scene… I had only planned for five chapters in this tale but perhaps a sixth with a love scene would do quite nicely. Reviewers, let it be your choice!)

Finally, I want to thank the U.S. Tour cast of Phantom of the Opera, for giving me the inspiration to write a Phantom phic for the first time in a long time! Namely, Tim Martin Gleason, whose Phantom left me breathless and awe-inspired, and Trista Maldovan's Christine whose voice was pure and clear, and whose character was fragile yet determined. I left the Theatre with make-up utterly ruined, my friends!

C~E~C~E

The nightmares had lasted throughout the night. In that place between as she rose through layers of sleep, Christine could see the violent images of her dreams. None of them were vague, more like startling alternate versions of reality. She'd dreamed of choosing her Phantom, her Angel. Of kissing his surprisingly soft lips again and again, until Raoul dragged her away against her will and threw her into the boat. She dreamed of Raoul calling for the angry mob of the opera, calling them in until they surrounded Erik, and she was forced to watch him being shot over and over. All of them consisted of Raoul hurting Erik in some fatal way, leaving her arms empty of her Angel of Music. As the streaming sunlight hit her eyes, she tried to remember what was truth and what was just a nightmare to be chased away.

Groggily, she opened her eyes; her eyelashes fluttered in the bright sunshine. Just a thin beam of the light hit her face, entering through a small window. She frowned in confusion. The circular window was… moving, in some barely discernable way. Her eyes widened as she saw the wood paneling around the window. A fresh smell hit her nostrils. Fresh like… the ocean.

Heart pounding, she whipped her head around to see her surroundings. Her heart stopped completely when she noticed Erik standing in the shadows of the small room they were in. It had to be a cabin on a ship. But she couldn't make sense of how they'd come to be here.

"Where are we?" she asked carefully. She shielded her eyes from the sun in an attempt to see him clearly.

He regarded her steadily for a few moments, and she could see his jaw was clenched taut. "We are on The Seafarer; our passage is to England." His voice was tight, his posture stiff.

Gingerly, she pushed herself into a sitting position. Her long brown curls cascaded over her shoulder and fell into her face, and she pushed them back impatiently. His eyes followed the movement, but he seemed angry. The previous night, after she'd chosen to stay with him, he'd discreetly taken her to an inn in Paris, where he'd held her, sang to her until she'd fallen asleep. Now he was stiff, cut off from her. She didn't understand.

"Why would we sail to England?" Her eyes widened. "Surely you don't think they would try to run us out of France!" She would follow Erik anywhere, but she would miss Paris. She would miss his lovingly decorated home underneath the opera house – even the opera house itself. And of course her friends, Meg and Madame Giry. But if it was necessary for them to leave for good, she would; as long as she was with Erik.

"We are sailing to England," he bit out, fury rolling off him in waves, "so that I may return you to your precious Vicomte de Chagny."

Christine's mouth fell open, and she quickly shut it. Raoul had barely been able to leave her with Erik, but at her insistent urging, he had finally gone. Before he'd left, he'd revealed plans to sail for England. In a burst of panic, she asked in a pinched voice, "But Erik, why?"

"You are like an incorrigible child!" he said angrily, stepping toward the bed with menace.

Christine came up to her knees on the bed, her eyes stormy as she faced him down. "You have no right to speak to me in such a way! I, however, have a right to simply ask you why you intend to do this thing." Her voice lowered as she stared at him, pain now in her lovely blue eyes. "Last night you sang me to sleep, Erik. I want to be in your arms every night, as your wife. It's why I chose you. Why would you take me back to Raoul?"

Erik was impressed by her show of spirit; his heart leapt at the progress she was making as a woman, standing up for herself. But his heart was already aching, and he doubted he could stand the pain much longer. He stepped back and away from the light falling across the bed, back into the shadows where he'd been all of his life. She was so beautiful to him there on the bed, hair wild from her slumber, eyes brimming with tears, arms outstretched to him as sunlight hit her face. He couldn't do this to her; he couldn't doom her to a life in the shadows with him.

He didn't meet her eyes as he revealed, "You were calling the Victome's name all night." Drawing in a deep breath, leaning against the wall for support, he continued in a carefully neutral voice, "I had the opportunity to ponder much over the long hours, watching you struggle in nightmares of being pulled away from your young beau. I want you to be happy in life, even if it means a never-ending hell for myself." He turned his face so that she would only be able to see his mask; let that wall shield him and his misery.

Christine rose gracefully from the bed, clutching at her full skirt. He watched out of his periphery as she reached for him so slowly, as if afraid how he would react.

"I cannot believe you would surrender me so easily," she whispered, her voice filled with pain, tears slipping from her beautiful eyes.

Erik swirled away, stalking to the door and exiting in waves of anger.