The Chance To Live

BY : Brittany
Category: M through R > Phantom of the Opera
Dragon prints: 2440
Disclaimer: I do not own The Phantom of the Opera movie(s), nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

AN: Characters are based mostly on the movie, but there are references to the book by Leroux. (Basically, took the quotes I liked and ditched the rest.) Clearly, I don't own any of the characters or anything else about this story, and I don't claim to. Any questions? No? Excellent!

Chapter 1 - Dawn

Just before dawn, rain replaced the snow. She knew it was raining because she was awake, listening; the gloomy spattering mirrored her unhappy thoughts perfectly. Somehow, her companion’s warmth failed to comfort her. It seemed like she had lain there forever, as lonely as she had ever been in her life. Raoul stirred and reached out to draw her back to him, but she swung her legs off the bed and went to the window.

After Erik had let them go, Christine and the Vicomte had gone together to his townhouse. The whole way back, Christine had allowed herself to nestle into Raoul’s arms, not even daring to think about what had happened at the opera house. That would mean she had to face her feelings. Raoul had held her and kissed her gently, sheltering her from her darkness. There was no fire in his soft kisses, but at least they had offered Christine an escape from her pain, and she had given herself to him that night for the first time. Christine had taken no pleasure from their union, and she couldn’t decide if she was sorry or not. Afterwards, sensing that she was hurting, Raoul had touched her cheek gently and moved away without a word.

Now he watched Christine from his position on the bed, thoughtful. He wasn’t sure that she had even known she was crying as they made love.

***

Across Paris, the rain dampened the last of flames and restored the ruins of the Opera to silence. A dark figure separated itself from the dripping gutter and disappeared as the first faint claws of light raked across the charred beams and fallen stonework. Dawn.

***

It was much later when Raoul and Christine stood awkwardly in the drawing room of the townhouse, each waiting nervously for the other to make a move. Silence was becoming painful, but no one had said a word since the night before. The plush armchairs that squatted in the corners of the room seemed out of place with the current mood, so both occupants stared out the window at the unrelentingly grey sky.

“I can’t do this, Raoul.” Christine’s voice shook with the effort of speech. She knew she was breaking Raoul’s heart; certainly she was breaking her own. But she had seen Erik’s eyes as he broke that last kiss, the second before he’d looked away.

“I know.” His answer surprised her, and Christine drew up the courage to look at his face. Raoul was almost crying. “When I felt you turn to look at him one last time, I knew that you were never mine. And yet,” he returned her gaze with an effort, his voice steadying, “and yet you do love me, I know that as well. Can you honestly tell me that you could have stayed with him?”

Christine tried to say no, that she hated Erik for what he had done, but it would have been a lie. At least, she had hated him during those final minutes in his lair, when he had been so harsh and violent. She had loathed his cool, mocking voice as he tightened the noose around Raoul’s helpless form. But Erik had turned from Raoul to her, silently begging her to understand, his huge, helpless eyes giving him away, and her own words had echoed back to her. An immense and tragic love… Their kiss was a lover’s kiss, passionately destructive, and Christine had given him her soul.

“Yes!” The word sounded too harsh, so she repeated it more softly, “yes. Perhaps I should have stayed, for both of us.”

Nodding brokenly, Raoul turned towards the window. When he spoke, he was surprised by the bitterness in his tone. “It seems I am not too proud to eat at the crumbs from another man’s table! I suppose that I must be grateful to that cur for sending you back to me. Strange, is it not, that two people could love each other as you and I do and not be happy together?” The tears that ran down his face were silent; he turned so that Christine would not see them. “If you do marry me, know that I will ask nothing more of you. Please consider it, at least.”

“I can’t. How could either of us live that life?” Christine almost reached out to touch his shoulder, but stopped short and walked quietly out.



Almost a month passed during which the young Vicomte made no attempt to see Christine, but they could not avoid each other forever. Tonight, Giles André was hosting a dinner for everyone who had been involved with the Opera Populaire. From where she was sitting at the long dining table, Christine could watch Raoul as he ate and made absent conversation. Their eyes met once and he looked as if he wanted to say something to her, but Christine hurriedly turned back to Mme Giry.

The former ballet mistress observed the exchange, but to Christine’s relief she merely raised one elegant eyebrow by way of question. After a moment, she resumed their conversation. “Will you continue with your career now that the Poulaire is gone? With your talents I am sure that you could have a position singing with any company you wanted.”

“I suppose I’ll try…” She glanced at Raoul again. “I have nowhere else to go, and I’ll have to eat somehow. Excuse me, Mme Giry,” she added. To her great relief, the meal seemed to be winding down and guests were beginning to disperse. Christine took the opportunity to leave the stifling atmosphere and went off in search of the powder room.



“Miss Daae?” The man’s sudden presence behind her made Christine jump and spin around. Vaguely, she recognized him as the manager of another opera house, but she couldn’t recall his name. Someone she had been introduced to earlier, no doubt. Until just then, she had not noticed what a very large man he was. “I have a little proposition for you, I just thought you might be interested. Can’t have a pretty girl like you letting your talents go to waste, can we?”

“What sort of offer is it?” Although he sounded pleasant enough, Christine was sure she already knew the answer; God knew she had received enough such ‘propositions’ as a chorus girl. He was so close to her that she could taste the alcohol on his breath, and she looked around for someone who might offer her a convenient escape. The hallway was empty.

He’d seen her glance away, and grabbed her roughly by the wrists. “No trying to leave now, my dear,” he leered at her, inches away from her face. “Besides, I can offer you such excellent career advancements.”

“Don’t touch me!”

She tried to spit at him, but he slapped her hard across the face and knocked her back. His hands fumbled at her skirts, tearing them in a single wrenching movement. It was too late to scream; his wide, wet toad’s lips ground against hers, suffocating her and making her choke on her sobs of pain. Pinned completely, Christine could not fight back as he stabbed into her body. A queasy disgust rose inside her until she was sure that she would be sick. He finished quickly and yanked her head back to study her face. The man laughed when he saw how she was crying uncontrollably, then shoved her to the floor.

After he had fled, Christine summoned just enough strength to pull herself through the nearest door before collapsing completely. Back to the wall, she sank to the ground and sat there staring numbly. She did not notice how hard she was trembling as she hugged her shredded skirts against her violated body. Eventually, Christine realized that her tears had stopped and she would have to move. People would miss her. Like some sort of automaton, she stood and walked to the only window. Opening it, she threw up violently as if her body was trying to rid itself of all the pain and humiliation.

The room, a small bedroom, had a mirror, for which she was extremely grateful. Christine stared in detached disinterest at the apparition whose smeared makeup looked back at her. For some reason, the whimsical forget-me-nots on the mirror’s frame struck her as hysterically funny and she let out a strangled giggle. With absolutely steady hands, she combed her hair and rearranged her skirts so that the rent was not visible. Most of the reddening bruises were concealed by the dress, but there was a small cut on her neck that must have been made by Christine’s own nails. The shoes would have to go as well, she thought coolly, one strap was snapped. Her face was unnaturally pale, but it would have to do.



Out in the hallway once more, Christine found that she could not stand another second in that darkened passage. Barefoot, half sprinting around the corner, she collided with something solid and let out a panicked yelp.

“Christine!” It was the Vicomte. “Are you alright? I went looking for you.” He looked away and lowered his voice. “I missed you after dinner.”

“Yes, I just… lost my way.” Thank God her voice sounded almost normal. No one would ever know what had happened; she was too ashamed. Christine sucked in a deep breath. “Raoul? I’ve considered things, and I’ve changed my mind.”


TBC


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