Disclaimer: Not mine... in the legal sense of the word.

Erik and Christine are celebrating her newfound success at the opera. A very very different sort of "sequel" to Booze Hounds Raid the Opera. They get drunk but the outcome and sort of story are very different!

Erik popped the cork from the bottle of vintage champagne and poured it carefully into two flute glasses. Handing one of the glasses to Christine with a carefully gloved hand, he smiled down at his protégé where she sat on the couch in front of him.

"A toast," he said softly, "To the most lovely woman in all of Paris and to her success on the stage. He clinked the edge of his glass to hers and thought for the thousandth time that evening how beautiful she was as she sipped the wine daintily.

"Thank you so much for everything Erik. I couldn't have done it without you," Christine replied.

Erik smiled at her feeling the blood rush to his face. He had so rarely blushed in his life he found the sensation of it exhilarating.

Erik cleared his throat and nervously found his way to the other end of the couch under her adoring gaze. How can she look at me like that after knowing what lies beneath my mask, he wondered? He watched her play with the glass in her hands, rolling it back and forth. "Is the wine not good?" he asked.

"Oh, no, it's delicious really. I was just thinking about things," she took another few sips.

"What sort of things?" Erik asked with a feeling of dread. 'She is going to leave me now that she has her fame' his brain screamed at him.

"Oh, nothing bad," she replied at seeing the fearful look in his eyes. "I was just imagining where I would have been if you had not lied to me."

Erik hung his head down low at that, "I told you so many times how sorry I was for deceiving..."

"No, Erik. Please don't apologize anymore. I wasn't trying to accuse you again and you know I've long since forgiven you for that. I understand why you pretended to be the Angel of Music and if anybody's to blame, it's me for being so naïve."

"Christine," Erik began, "You are not naïve. You just chose to grow up later than most do and you loved your father's fairy tales and legends so much that you clung to them after he died as a way to remind yourself of him."

Erik went to take another drink to discover that his glass was empty. He filled it again and went to top off Christine's glass which was only about halfway full.

"Erik, perhaps I shouldn't have too much to drink."

"Nonsense, you've just finished a wonderful production and there is much to be celebrated! Besides there is not another production for a month and rehearsals are on break for a week, so drink up!" he lifted his glass to her and downed quite a bit of it as she did the same with a smile.

Erik put his glass down on top of the piano and started to play a light tune on the keys. Christine came up behind him to listen to him play. Her eyes closed and she swayed to the beautiful music that sounded from the black lacquered wood and ivory keys as his hands caressed them. Erik felt her dress brush against his back as she moved to the music, causing him to play with even more emotion than before. In his mind through the music, he was touching her hand, holding her and caressing the soft skin of her neck. Every note played out that scene in his head, until his thoughts were interrupted by her body bumping against his rather clumsily.

Christine's eyes shot open and she gave an apologetic glance to Erik when he stopped playing and turned to look at her with concern.

"I'm sorry," she stammered, "I just got a little dizzy from the wine."

Erik stood and gently took her wrists to guide her into the chair that sat nearby. He returned to the piano without saying a word to her to save her from embarrassment. Although he could hold his liquor quite well, he had not had anything to eat that day and was already feeling the familiar lightheadedness and burning ears that preceded the inevitable.

Christine reached for her own glass and finished off the last bit before reaching for the bottle to fill her own glass as well as Erik's. As Erik began to play again, he asked her, "You were saying before, you wondered where you would be if I had not intervened to help you?"

She nodded, "Yes. I definitely would never have a chance to sing as prima donna on the Paris Opera stage for one. But secondly, I would still be missing my father. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still miss him terribly, but you showed me that there is so much more to life than grieving for the past."

Erik smiled at her sadly. If only he could believe her. "That is true Christine, but if I hadn't gotten involved in your life, you could be happily married to your Vicomte by now."

Christine made a scoffing sound, "Don't be so sure Erik." She drank more of her wine, as if to swallow the thought. "Raoul and I have been friends for a long time, but things change."

"Yes, things change, and in this case, the change is that you two have grown up and become more than friends."

"Erik, we have become better friends but I do not think it is much more than that. Please try to understand."

"What is there to understand?" he stopped playing and turned on the bench to look at her, "The way I see it, the two of you have made quite the handsome couple around the opera lately. I hardly think that there is anything less than what is obvious to the naked eye."

"Then you are blind, Erik" Christine retorted a little more sharply than she intended. "I'm sorry, but the truth is, there is nothing there that I did not feel for him when we were children together."

Erik stared back at her for a moment, then turned to his musical scores to thumb through them and drained the last of his wine, not even realizing that she had filled his glass once again. He beckoned her to come and stand by the piano and sing with him. She slowly got up out of the chair as the blood seemed to drain from her head. She felt light and fuzzy all over like someone was rubbing her with a hot wad of cotton. She giggled slightly as she walked over to the piano.

"What's so funny?" Erik inquired, eyeing her suspiciously.

"Oh nothing, I just feel incredibly relaxed right now." She giggled again, "I do believe I have had too much wine tonight and you sir, have had twice as much as me."

"That much is true, but it is common knowledge that alcohol tolerance deals greatly with body type and size, and my dear, if you will forgive me for saying so, you are much smaller than I."

Christine laughed again, "Is that why you've chosen to read a score that is upside down?" She pointed her finger to the manuscript that sat atop the lyre of the piano.

"I have not had too much to drink," Erik defended playfully, "In fact, I did that on purpose!"

"Sure you did!" Christine winked at him. "Now are we going to sing or not?"

"That all depends on whether you can read the music or not!" Erik said. He was slowly letting his guard down and allowing himself to be jovial in her presence rather than his usual formal rigidity.

As they began to sing, Erik once again became intensely aware of how close she was standing to him. His back burned with the knowledge that she was standing mere inches from it, without even realizing it.

As Christine sang, the champagne that had gone straight to her head was now flowing out in a passionate display of song. Never before had she sung so freely and Erik took notice of it at once. He unconsciously dipped back into his fantasies of touching her and making love to her through the music, and as if on command, he presently felt her fingertips come to rest on his shoulders. His body stiffened momentarily but his brain demanded his hands to keep playing as they were so as not to break the reverie they both seemed to be in. She did not seem to be aware of what she was doing but he did not care. She was touching him of her own free will without any suggestion from his behalf.

Christine sank deeper and deeper into the romantic song until she was completely wrapped up in its lovely melody. She became aware of where her hands now rested and in the climax of the song, she had sank them lower around his collarbone, nearly resting on his chest. Part of her now fuzzy brain was telling her somewhere in the recesses of her mind to stop what she was doing. The music made her forget that pale notion easily and she finished the song with a beautifully long and drawn out note that seemed to last forever in her mind.

When at last the silence fell and the vibrations of the piano wires ended, they both remained still. Christine finally realized that she was touching him and Erik was scarcely able to believe that she had not removed her hands. They seemed to burn a deep hole in the cavity of his chest where they lay. Tentatively he reached up and gently clasped one of her hands in his own, then on impulse, turned his good cheek to lay against the softness of her skin. Christine sighed behind him, and although he was absolutely terrified to face her, he directed her by the hand to come and sit beside him on the bench.

Christine looked into his loving softened eyes with a gaze that did not hide her own feelings at the moment. He could not look away from her beautiful face and there was nothing for either of them to say. He had never touched her before in any other way than to take her gently by the hand as a guide, and she had never before initiated any physical contact between them. Now he could see that her defenses had dropped and she now sat in very close proximity to him, staring into his eyes questioningly. He did not know what to say. Instead, he placed his trembling hands back onto the keys to play another tune but his blood froze in his veins as he felt her head drowsily lay against his shoulder and her arm loop into his. His breath caught in his throat, as he looked down at his lovely Angel, resting her head against him with her eyes half closed. She sighed deeply and nuzzled against him closer.

"Sing something for me, Erik," she pleaded softly.

Erik could not reply except for nod his head. He began to play a very tender lullaby, hushing his choked voice to scarcely a whisper. As his voice rocked her on it's waves of beauty, he too began to relax and drop his guard.

When the song ended, she looked up at him, gazing lovingly into his eyes before allowing her eyes to drift to his lips. With her free hand, she carefully caressed the unmasked side of his face as he pressed into her soft palm with a sob. Erik closed his eyes to savor the feeling when to his surprise he felt her lips close over his gently. He refused to breath or move, fearing to wake and find this another of his wonderful dreams. Christine lazily retracted the kiss to lean back and look at him. He was stiff and unmoving and his eyes remained tightly shut.

"Erik," she said softly. His eyes opened to look at her and she smiled at him. "What are you thinking?"

"I...I...I don't know," he stammered.

"Don't you want to kiss me?" Christine asked shyly.

Erik, scarcely able to believe what he was hearing, nodded his head furiously. "Of course I do, but how can you want such a thing?"

Christine just smiled innocently at him.

"No, Christine. This isn't right. You've had too much to drink tonight. Perhaps it's better if you just went to bed."

Christine protested, "No I haven't had too much to drink. I'm just finally beginning to see what I imagined to be true when you first came to me."

"And what is that?" Erik asked taking her hands between his.

"That I was in love with you."

Erik could not think. He could not speak. 'No' his brain reeled. 'This can't be true, she is deceiving you'. Erik rose up quickly from the piano bench and crossed the room to stare into the fireplace.

Christine started after him, "Erik, I would be hurt if I thought that I was wrong and that you don't love me in return, but I know that isn't possible. I know you love me too, and I'm not playing a game with you. I truly do love you, believe it or not."

Erik's broad shoulders rose and fell deeply as his deeply rooted conscious tried to battle with a lifetime of instinctive distrust.

Christine came up behind him and slowly placed her arms around his waist. "Please trust me. I would not lie to you Erik."

After what seemed like an eternity, he turned to face her, enveloping her tightly in his arms. He buried his face into her dark brown hair and cried as she stroked his hair and held him tightly to him. After a long while, his sobs seceded and they simply held each other for a very long time.

Finally, Christine felt his lips touch her cheek, ever so slightly. She pressed her cheek into his advance and that seemed to be enough for him. He gently traced the line of her jaw to her waiting mouth and there covered her lips with his own. She tasted the salt of his tears and the faint afterglow of the wine they had shared. She never wanted this growing feeling inside her to end as she held him tighter to her body.

As the night drifted on, they eventually sank to the floor in front of the fireplace, kissing each other often and holding one another close until long after the flames had died down. They sat for the longest time in the dark, but in that blackness, Erik's heart had never shone so brightly.