So here is the long awaited next chapter :) As you know I don't own anything apart from Caroline :) Reviews and constructive criticism are welcome as always, and flames will be doused by Erik's lasso - now without further ado let my story begin!


X-Men The Imperfect Angel Saga – Part One: First Love

Chapter Eighteen: Down Once More...

Caroline's POV

It was the morning of the final dress rehearsal, before the performance in the evening, and I found myself pacing nervously in the wings.

"You'll do beautifully. The Opera Ghost wouldn't have cast you to play Aminta, if he didn't believe you were capable of playing the role." A voice said gently, and I turned around to see Madame Giry standing stoically beside me.

"It's just I still don't feel comfortable playing alongside Piangi – especially when he is married, and touching me so intimately. I have never been touched in such a way before – it unnerves me a little."

"Why don't you imagine someone else you are more comfortable with?" Madame Giry suggested gently. But who am I more comfortable with? Who could I imagine in Piangi's place? Was it possible to be comfortable around the feared Opera Ghost? I mentally shook my head, before making my way onto the stage – as we started rehearsing the opening scene. Yet as we got closer to performing the duet in the third act, I noticed I became increasingly tense and my voice became more timid. I came close to tears, when I could sense the impatience in Monsieur Reyer's demeanour. Suddenly he stopped the rehearsal and took me to one side.

"Mademoiselle Aves – I don't know what has gotten into you – but you need more passion in your performance, and you need to project your voice more." He said stoically, as without warning the tears fell down my cheeks.

"Excuse me I need a moment." I said tearfully, before leaving the stage without waiting for a response. Was I ever going to please him? Why was his constructive criticism hurting me so much?

"What are you doing out here mademoiselle? Shouldn't you be in rehearsals?" A lyrical voice said gently.

"Why are you being so formal all of a sudden Monsieur?" I asked curiously, despite being formal in return.

"I think it would be better if we don't get too close. It will only end in heartbreak – and I couldn't bear to see you hurt." The voice replied stoically.

"You have already hurt me Monsieur – I don't think there is any more of my heart you can break." I said sadly, trying as hard as I could to wipe the tears from my eyes.

"Now if you excuse me, I should get back to rehearsals – before Monsieur Reyer comes looking for me." I continued stoically, before leaving back towards the stage. I then took a deep breath, before starting to sing the first verse of third act duet - all the while I tried to pretend it wasn't Piangi singing with me. Yet try as I might I found it increasingly difficult to imagine another person in Piangi's place. Suddenly a lyrical voice seemingly whispered in my ear.

"Imagine a man you would fully trust your life with – a man you know will protect you no matter what." But who do I trust my life with? Who will protect me no matter what? Is it possible the Opera Ghost has been the man I would trust my life with all along? But there were times when he tried to kill me, or stop me from ruining his plans – so could I fully trust my life with him? I took a deep breath before imagining the form of the Phantom performing alongside me.

The rehearsal finished several hours later, and I found myself walking past the deserted chapel – but where was Christine? Did she take an unplanned trip to the cemetery with Raoul? Or was she preparing herself for the opera too, despite not being in the lead role? I mentally shook my head before making my way to the dressing room – wanting to get ready for the opera alone, without having to deal with too many people. Yet I had to suppress a groan when I reached the dressing room, to find the whole of the costume staff waiting for me.

"Mademoiselle Aves, we are here to help you get dressed."

"Thank you for the offer, but I can manage – thank you." I said stoically, not having to deal with so many people after such a long and tiring rehearsal. I just hope I'll be able to cope with the performance tonight – despite knowing what will happen. Or will the events pan out the same since I took over Christine's role?

"You will need assistance with the costume – it has a corset, and is very heavy to lift alone. We insist on helping." The head costume person said insistently. With a reluctant sigh, I allowed them to help me into the costume. As they put it on, I realised they were right about the costume being heavy. How did anyone who played the role of Christine on stage handle the weight of this costume? It looked exactly like the one from the stage musical – consisting of a ruffled peach skirt with a black and gold lacy panel through the centre, trimmed with black lace and long ruffled sleeves. I was then made up and my hair styled with curls and put up in a half up, half down style, before I was left alone in the dressing room. I breathed in and out, trying to calm my addled nerves, finding myself uncertain as to what was about to occur. What part was Christine playing? I know she is in now back in the chorus, so what part will she be playing? After taking one last deep breath, I made my way to the wings so I could watch the performance before I was to go on stage.

As I watched the performance unfold before me, I smiled at the grace and beauty Christine exhibited whilst on stage. Even though she was in the chorus, she still played an important part in the production. I found myself mouthing the words to the songs, as the chorus started to sing.

Here the sire may serve the dam,

Here the master takes his meat!

Here the sacrificial lamb utters one

Despairing bleat.

Yet I found myself instinctively wincing as Carlotta joined in with the chorus.

Poor young maiden!

For the thrill on your tongue of

Stolen sweets,

You will have to pay the bill –

Tangled in the winding sheets!

Serve the meal and serve the

Maid!

Serve the master so that, when

Tables, plans and maids are laid

Don Juan triumphs once again!

However Carlotta didn't sound that bad – did the Phantom intervene at some point during rehearsals? I know he intervened during the events of the musical, yet so far the story playing out before me was different to the as it got closer to the scene between Piangi and me, something didn't feel right – setting me on edge. But what was the cause of this unease I was experiencing? I felt a lot better about the scene than I did at the beginning, so I knew that wasn't the cause. I watched as Meg came out of the curtained area alongside Piangi; giggling coquettishly trying to grab the purse in his hands, before kissing his cheek and catching the purse Piangi threw towards her. I heard Piangi singing the lines in the lead up to my entrance, and so after taking a deep breath, I made my entrance onto the stage.

No thoughts within her head but thoughts of joy,

No dreams within her heart, but dreams of love

I picked up the prop apple, before sitting down on the bench and polishing it on the skirt of my dress – sitting with my legs apart. Suddenly I heard a voice that sent shivers down my spine - as I immediately recognised to whom the voice belonged to. But what was he doing here? Christine was only in the chorus, so why is he taking Piangi's place? Was he still planning to find a way to kidnap Christine? But I knew there was no way I was going to be able to save Christine, without revealing the Phantom's presence to everyone – as I didn't want to see him hurt. Yet I couldn't bring myself to reveal his presence, as I let the sound of the Phantom's voice wash over me.

[Phantom]

You have come here

In pursuit of your deepest urge

In pursuit of that wish which till now has been silent...

Silent

I made the motion of passing the apple to him, before making my way across the stage – as he followed close behind me with a goblet in his hand.

I have brought you

That our passions may fuse and merge

In your mind you've already succumbed to me, dropped all defenses

Completely succumbed to me

Suddenly he took the apple out of my hand, before replacing it with the goblet.

Now you are here with me

No second thoughts

You've decided, decided.

Past the point of no return

No backward glances

The games we've played till now are at an end

I tried walking away from him before he firmly placed a hand on my shoulder. A moment later I felt him tilt up my hands, making me take a 'drink' from the goblet, before taking my wrist and trying to lead me across the stage towards the bedroom. But I spun from his grasp before sitting on the bench – allowing him to brush his hand up my leg.

Past all thought of if or when

No use resisting

Abandon thought and let the dream descend

What raging fire shall flood the soul?

What rich desire unlocks its door?

What sweet seduction lies before us?

As he sung I felt him brush a hand down my arm, causing me to shiver in response.

Past the point of no return

The final threshold

I felt his hand brush my arm, before I lifted my arms then bringing them back down to my sides – allowing him to run his hand up my leg.

What warm, unspoken secrets will we learn?

Beyond the point of no return

But I didn't allow his hand to travel any further as I got up quickly from the bench, before getting ready to sing my lines.

[Caroline]

You have brought me,

To that moment where words run dry,

To that moment where speech disappears into silence

Silence

I have come here

Hardly knowing the reason why

In my mind I've already imagined our bodies entwining, defenceless and silent

And now I am here with you, no second thoughts

I've decided, decided

Past the point of no return

No going back now

Our passion play has now at last begun

I leant against the end of the table before standing behind him and taking his hands in mine.

Past all thought of right or wrong

One final question

How long should we two wait before we're one?

When will the blood begin to race

The sleeping bud bursts into bloom?

When will the flames at last consume us?

I ran his hands up and down his body as the song grew in passion, before I suddenly came to my sense and I tried to make my escape from the stage. Yet he grabbed my wrist and dragged me across the stage before we sung the final lines.

Past the point of no return

The final threshold

The bridge is crossed, so stand and watch it burn

We've passed the point of no return

I had to fight the urge to furrow my brows in confusion when the Phantom's 'proposal' never came. Yet why did he think he would indeed propose to me? He still loves Christine, so he would never give me a second glance – to him I am just the girl who gets in his way. Suddenly without warning there were screams of panic, and when I looked across at the Phantom, I saw Christine standing behind him – his mask and wig clenched in her hands. With an inhuman growl he grabbed me around the wrist, followed by grabbing Christine as he tried to drag us off the stage. However Raoul was blocking our path – with officers pointing guns towards the Phantom.

"No don't shoot!" Raoul said warningly.

"Keep your hand at the level of your eyes!" I said towards Raoul, to which he followed the instructions before we were both dragged away – screams of panic from the audience and Carlotta could be heard as the dead body of Piangi was found. Darkness enveloped us as we were dragged down once more...