A/N: I began this story to explain some curious inconsistencies and contradictions within the movie. The whole tale is told by Christian in retrospect, through his novel, and certain things simply don't add up. With all due respect to our beloved English writer, I believe he misleads his readers, but for a wonderful, many-splendored thing: Love.

This first chapter overlaps with the end of the movie; the next will begin to reveal what Christian did not include in his tale. I strongly recommend listening to "Come What May" from the movie soundtrack before/while reading this chapter.

Thank you, and enjoy! ~Si

A shower of petals melted over all of us. Zidler, Toulouse, all the Diamond Dogs in their exotic Indian sparkles and silk – and most especially Satine, shining and glowing, a star. The air itself became a subtle perfume as petals rained down, brushing their velvet against our faces, catching in our clothes. Satine's fingers clutched mine tightly, our hands a visible link between our bodies as we looked out at the sea of a thousand faces. Her voice – oh, her voice – rose with the music, a tribute for all to hear, a tribute to the triumph of Love. Those many faces flung applause at our feet without knowing how real the triumph was they were witnessing.

Our voices rang out again: I will love you! Light danced on jewels, slid along silk, and crowned my dearest Satine in a glimmering halo. Come what may… For a moment, her shining eyes met mine before we turned to deliver the final line: I will love you, until my dying day! The orchestra soared; around us a fountain of voices rose with it, supporting ours as the petals poured down, flickering white and red as the expanse of the stage's curtains began to enfold us. The wine-colored velvet cloth met in front of us like a kiss to the thunder of thousands of delighted patrons. My heart pounded with a higher happiness than any they knew. Satine's face radiated joy. We panted for breath, the euphoric urge to shout almost irresistible.

The cry went up to prepare for the curtain call. I turned back to Satine, a ridiculous grin still broadening my face.

Through the dimness, I saw her smile fade, the lines of her brows drifting lower. I kissed her, and she responded, but distractedly. The others were taking their places. Satine's hand slipped out of mine as I stepped forward, and she fell behind, her thin gasp cutting through the giddy chaos around us.

"Satine, what is it? What –"

I caught her as she half-fell against me, my hands seeming to keep her upright more than her own strength. Suddenly her breath was rasping in her throat, her hands chilled as they clung to my arms. I heard the air whistling as she tried to gather the breath to speak. I read my name in the shape of her lips and felt the horrifying weakness in her arms as wracking coughs shook her. Like a fading flower, she began to droop to the carpet of petals on the stage floor. Fear filled my lungs like smoke as I cradled her there.

"No, no, don't, don't… Satine, what's- what's the matter? Oh God, please…" Words fell from my mouth in jumbled, meaningless clumps. Her eyes reached out to me, pleading for help as invisible hands seemed to strangle her. She was crying, tears in her sky-blue eyes, trying to apologize, terror spreading on her face when the air wouldn't come. I smoothed her crimson hair, tried to kiss the tears and fear away, croaking half-sentences meant to calm her, crowd out whatever demon had come to steal happiness from us.

Glistening near her mouth – I touched her face, and my fingers came away crimson. Blood. A thread of blood trailed darkly down her cheek, fed by her desperate gasps. Waves of terror buffeted me as I screamed for someone to get some help. Satine was still trying to speak even as I held her against me, her beautiful voice thin and rasping.

"I'm sorry, Christian, I… I'm… I'm…" I smoothed her hair and shushed her, but she continued anyway. "I'm dying…" Her voice fell back into a whimper, small and frightened. I could not understand the words for a moment, consumed by some icy creature trailing its claws against my heart. The sounds of Satine's breathless fright woke me from my paralysis a moment ater, and I soothed her like a mother with her child. She was only frightened, sick; someone would come soon to help us. I murmured over and over to her, feeling her body strain for oxygen, telling her she'd be all right, trying to keep my voice from trembling the way my hands and heart were.

Her voice had dimmed to a tiny whisper. The red-and-white sea of petals suddenly looked bloody, blurring into her diamond-white dress. I held her closer, cradling her away from the cold stage and ominous petals. A frightened whimper, imparted in paper-fine gasps – cold.

Cold…. Please. Please no. Please, if there is a God –

"Hold me…" I could barely hear her. I drew her tear-streaked face to my shoulder, holding her tightly against me, past caring that I was sobbing and half-blind with tears. She was only scared. It would pass. It must pass. Her breaths came in short puffs against my neck, shallower than before. I forced back the sobs beating at my aching throat and kissed her porcelain face, whispering my love into her ear.

She stirred in the slightest way, and I cradled her again, straining to hear a stronger note in her breaths, in her voice. A smile curved her lips, a brave smile. My brave Satine… In a shadow of her sweet voice, she whispered, "You've got to go on, Christian."

Oh, no, no….

"I can't go on without you, though." She shushed my words, one white hand touching my face unsteadily as she breathed, "You've got so much to give." My heart was battering my chest, sobs escaping as I tried to tell her to rest, to just breathe and get better.

"Tell… tell our story, Christian." The weakness of her voice was slitting my soul into ribbons. Tears became another curtain, between us this time, and I fought to keep them from obscuring her dear, dear face. Short, shallow breaths. So little air. My chest was a mass of pain, my throat closing up, making me gasp as if the air had gone from the stage, from the world. I cannot tell her no, though I try to speak.

She is asking me to promise, her feather-soft words drifting up to me as I rock her gently, my noiseless sobs and childlike shudders half-muffled by my desperate embrace. For the first time, it is hard to look into her eyes; it takes impossible strength to fight away the agony and turn my head to her.

"That way I'll…" My heart begins to shatter. "I'll always be with you…" Her breath begins to rasp in her throat again. It is as if the air is being crushed from her; her light body arches, her head sliding back against my arm with every precious breath. I can only babble a promise, pressing her more tightly still to my chest. Somehow, she manages a smile. It is a silent entreaty, and I cannot, would not ever, deny her. I press my lips to hers in a trembling kiss.

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