Disclaimers and Ramblings: No, I don't own copyrights to phantom. I do think this story will be a bit of a challenge for me seeing as how I promised that I would try and not badmouth any character. I've tried to make them true to the story, and human as well. Even good old Raoul is lovable. I don't care if you hate him or not, my Raoul in this story is going to stay a good person. As for the E/C element, it's not even a question, though I'm going to try and not make it easy on them. What? *looks innocent* I like conflict!

"Why can't she love me, and why can't I forgive myself for what I've done.... "

"Angel?" She asked sleepily, reaching with her hands to touch his hands subconsciously, until the sound of his weeping roused her. Eyes unblinking, Christine the young woman woke to the amazement of one man who loved her. He had taken her to his home, he had to see her once again, be near the smell of her, the sound of her voice. No matter what cost.

"I never was fully your angel. I broke a promise to you and your father, you understand." The man hid his face in his hands, watching the girl come up to him, holding up his mask. Thinking his beautiful apprentice asleep, he had taken off his mask, able to cry in peace without the annoyance of the white leather that bound him to hell forever. Tears hid behind it, and made his already ugly face itch.

"You knew my father, angel?" She put the mask in his lap, quietly accepting that he might come around to trusting her. She had been so wrong that first time in his home, to take it off out of blind curiosity. It had been the first time in her life where she had hurt someone so terribly, by just one action. By exposing his face to hers-and ruining everything.

"Not at all, but I knew your admiration for him, your love for him. I was jealous…horribly jealous…" He whispered, barely able to breathe with his crying.

"Jealous of my Papa? I forgive you, Erik. I forgive you. It's alright." Christine replied softly as she stifled a yawn, after a nap most needed. She knew not why Erik would be jealous, but looking at how he hid here in this place, away from humanity itself, was enough of a clue. Christine did know, however, that soothing tones were the way to calm any temper tantrum, even if she was afraid of Erik. Her father often could cheer her up with a softly said word, a simple touch.

He had leaned into her by accident when he picked up his mask and bid her to turn the other direction. She must not see, she thought, for it would cause such a fright in her. She might swoon. He had been so kind to her to let her nap after music lesson in that room he had made for her-and despite every opportunity; he never once betrayed her trust. Even though at times he crept near her to watch her rest, he never woke her-Until this moment. She could hear his fingers struggle to tie the knot that kept his mask on by those beautiful black satin ribbons, and the sound of his ragged breathing, trying to still his crying. She wished she could reach out to him, yet something held her back. That face would haunt her forever. She didn't know the love that he wanted of her, and she wanted to, badly…but…as long as that face existed, she knew it would not be so. She was afraid of earning his love, and then breaking his heart. Why couldn't he be just her maestro and nothing more?

Things were never that simple, and they never could be. Even her blissful years by her father's side had to come to an end at some point, that point being far too early. She had been just a child, really. She saw the broken child she still was in Erik in times like these, these moments when it was all he could do but cry.

"You do? Why forgive me? If you knew everything...if you knew…" He turned to her as he sat back down on the bed, calming his thoughts.

She remembered how majestic he looked, how darkly handsome, it almost made her blush. Then she recalled his face, the fear she had of his scars, the pigmented skin. "If I knew what, Erik?" She could not sit beside him, so she chose to lay her head in his lap, which returned a look of satisfaction in his fascinating eyes.

"I would scarcely begin before you'd run away from me, Christine Daae." Erik replied, carefully running his hands through her dark hair, sighing to himself. "I cherish you too much to do that."

"Yes, I know you do, Erik." She did not inquire. Maybe he had more reason to withdraw than she could conceive in all of her little travels around the world, seeing so many things.

"Someday, Christine, I might tell you. When you are strong enough to know and when I am strong enough to tell you. " Erik couldn't tear himself away from her now. Her sweet temper had wound its way around his heart, and he couldn't bear to be left from it. Better to lie to her, than tell her the truth.

Christine could only sit and wonder, when would that time come?

She blinked her eyes, clearing her head and biting her lower lip as her memory/daydream left her. But Erik had said that he loved me, he had shown me what love was in the last five minutes of our meeting. He had shown me unconditional love, until I had broke his heart that last night.

The Angel of Music-He appeared in Erik! She was quite adamant about that as much as her heart softly broke at all the hurt she had caused him. She cried softly, yet another daydream turning into a nightmare haunting her.

She sat in a prop chair on stage, running her hands throughout her black curls, unsure what to do next, or what to say.

"Mam'selle Daae? You forgot your script.." The voice teacher, M.Lockley, an American, sighed as he saw her. She had the most beautiful voice, but it lacked depth, and ..at times sounded as if her heart was never in it. Their new diva had an allure that mystery that her past had afforded. Scandalous, but scandal was always a good thing, not a bad, for it got attention from everyone. And as for her past, she had arrived with it at her heels, but never mind that. Everyone could see she was a fetching and beautiful, and in time, she would get over her troubles..

Christine laughed nervously, hoping no one in rehearsal saw the despair in her wide blue orbs. Her small hand reached up and took it from the old man, well accustomed to his American tongue and bad pronunciation of her language. They had accommodated her on her ship to the America's…to lovely New York in all its decadence.

Indeed, while the poor starved in horrible apartments, and lived to die in factories, it was a lot like Paris in it's own beauty. It made her long for home, to be a child and have her father's warm arms around her. The world scared her, made her feel unsure of her self.

Raoul had sent her to America to stay with his family while he himself went to the Arctic to survey the frozen mass. He had came home to Paris, she heard, in a box. Her time of mourning would never end, her best friend, dead and buried..without anyone to love him, so much like the other men in her life. She read his letters, tears soaking her shawl, before she went to bed each night. She went on, because she knew it was the right thing to do, even if her heart said not to.

Maybe Raoul and Christine never could have been, she thought. It wasn't like she didn't love her best friend and companion, but it was such a sweet and childish thing…even in it's purity. Raoul had been the best of men, and sent her away, and didn't mind once he learned she had taken up singing in a New York Opera house. In fact, in his last letter, he had said how proud her father would be, and he himself was that she could sing with all her heart, no matter how their time apart made them melancholy.

Now that time had been proven by his death. It was a sweet love she had for him, remembered by their childhood playing by the sea, of playing in the attic, listening to Papa's stories by the bonfire. Those bittersweet memories would always stay, but her love for him never had a true chance to blossom. Raoul had gone out of her life, and she mourned him for a period of a year or so, remembering the beautiful boy he had been, the great solider he could have been. Her protector, even against herself. And she needed that, especially now. She had lived for her father, now she lived for Raoul, and a bit, well, more than that, she had to admit, lived for the man underneath the opera, who had taught her music.

His gentle kindness to her in the beginning of her music lessons was something she could never forget. His way of comfort-by singing and by playing music had calmed her soul, before the world saw to it to break the gentleness and goodness away from her. To find that again in someone, anyone…

But Erik was dead, as well. The Parisian newspaper that had come in the mail had said so, and she believed it, for Erik had said he couldn't live without her, or love. It was time to keep her promise to him, time to bury him with the respect he only got in death. She had promised him that on the night of their parting, and now she could not put it off any longer.

She would see the managers about arranging a period of leave, perhaps soon. She could give him more dignity in death, than anyone, including herself, had given him in life. Wearily taking the script that Mr.Lockely had been kind enough to give her…she brought herself back to the rehearsals, to her piece in the Opera. "A midsummer night's dream" -where she was to play Titania, made her smile a little, almost like getting away with murder. Erik would have hated that Shakespearean play. It was, too happy, he had said. Better for her to play Ophelia, or Juliet.

He had made her act those two roles more and more, near the end of their lessons. Part of her lessons that didn't require singing was to help her expression on stage, and she would sit for hours in that large room, over and over reciting the tedious lines. He would sit in his chair like an overseeing Lord, for if she got too tired of the ordeal he was unforgiving and made her go on until a scene was done. Erik never let her forget that was her greatest flaw, that to be a convincing Opera, it had to have believable characters. And those characters must stand apart from one another.

She sung her lines to the Musical Director, happy that it had gone so easily, compared to almost two years before. Everything seemed to flow from her, unlike the shaky girl that had graced the stage not so long ago. She was comfortable with the stage and the people watching her from the audience, and stayed after for curtain calls and meetings with important patrons. She had become everything her teachers and lover had hoped, and that pleased her.

"You do sing so well Madam…" one of the chorus girls told her as they sat through the hour and a half that would be required of them today. She smiled and turned to the young woman that addressed her, and then was completely astonished.

"Megan Giry, what on heaven's good earth?" Christine exclaimed, embracing the laughing girl whose curiosity never ended.

"Maman sent me after you, and I thought I might have a little fun and see what I could do with my voice…" Megan softly laughed, her curls put up until they only swung a little in her sweet and dear face.

Christine had never been happier to see her best friend. She had missed confiding in Megan, and mostly kept to herself. "Yes, well, where is your escort? Surely you didn't come alone… Oh Meg, tell me you didn't come alone on that ship by yourself!" Christine said concerned, putting a hand on her Meg's shoulder, as everyone was too busy in rehearsal to pay attention to two friends who were whispering.

"No… mother wouldn't have let me, you know that…one of the chorus girls has decided to come here as well, and we made good companions. I'll have to tell you about it when we go to dinner tonight, correct? I can't stay long, you know. Mother wants me close to her…. maybe I can stay six months or so…. we'll see." Megan said hurriedly, trying to stifle a giggle by doing so.

Christine smiled, seeing Meg on the verge of womanhood. Time had changed her into a beautiful woman, still tiny and petite, but very attractive. "Oh Meg, but your dancing? Your body will never adjust to ballet again if you take a break like this, you know. And how did you find out I was here?"

"Maman had kept in touch with Raoul's family for her own sake. She wanted to know if you were safe, and if the time came that Erik died and we had no other way of reaching you…"

"You would send me the paper… saying so." Christine finished for her- frowning a bit. She would not cry, she told herself, she would be strong…it would be what they had wanted.

Megan looked out at the auditorium, bare and lonely, nothing compared to the place she called home. It wasn't as majestic-and it wasn't a place for Christine's magnificent voice. She had come here with every intention of getting Christine to come home. She had no friend here, which was obvious. From what she had been able to tell, every night Christine went straight from the Opera to her apartment-that she had heard from snooping in the manager's office. Nodding to Christine's statement…she paused looking around her.

"Well…it is alright. I am just glad to see you." Christine stifled her tears, thinking of the pair of eyes behind the mask that still haunted her. He was dead… Raoul was dead also…and she hadn't done right by either of them.

"As I am glad to see you Christine. It has been so long. Please don't cry. I'm sure that everything will turn out fine."

"Erik is dead, Raoul is dead…." Christine muttered.

Megan comforted her and led her off of the stage so they could talk alone, in a darkened hallway. Maybe it was time Megan told her why she had really been sent here. "I've lied to you, Christine. And it was to keep Erik and you safe. I feel so awful."

Christine leaned up against the wall; her eyes wide open as tears fell down her cheeks. "What do you mean, lie? Megan, you must tell me, what is wrong at the Opera Populaire!"

"Simply, that the newspaper and Nadir lied. Erik is not dead, or was not dead when I left..."

She slid to the floor, a gasp escaping her mouth as she began to feel ill. "He's…not…dead? But…"

Megan smoothed her friend's dark hair and continued. "Maman couldn't hide the secret from me forever. She had been taking care of him, and helped him build his home again. Nadir even covered the whole process up, until I stumbled upon a bank note in Maman's papers signed O.G. It was a brand new letter of course, and in his red ink writing. I couldn't believe it myself...and I had to race to tell you about it. I lied to her as well, and hope she can forgive me. But he's alive..."