Disclaimer: The Phantom of the Opera, all characters, places, and related terms belong to Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Warner Brothers.
Author's Note: The 25th anniversary POTO streamed on YouTube this past weekend – amazing production, Hadley Fraser confirmed as the definitive Raoul in my book – and my writing muse was just tickled pink!
All I Ask of You
"Thank you, Raoul!" Christine exclaims through her tears, clapping her hands in delight.
The grinning boy is soaking wet and shivering as he walks up the beach, holding up the red scarf triumphantly. To her he appears like a knight victoriously returning home.
"I will give you a kiss for going through such trouble for me," she adds after her friend returns her scarf.
Raoul's grin falters, then changes to a smaller, shy smile. Ignoring the butterflies in her stomach, the little girl smiles back.
"Non...no, no, no!" Then Raoul's tutor is there, separating the two, scolding them for their impropriety.
The dark sky and chilly air match the mood of the young people.
"You are leaving?"
"Within the hour." Raoul sighs unhappily. "I wanted to say goodbye."
For the last time, Christine silently adds.
The boy, seemingly reading her mind, says, "We will meet again, Little Lottie. You're my best friend." He reaches for her hand and presses it.
"And you are mine," she replies. "Please be careful."
Fighting back tears, the girl impulsively stands up on her toes and pecks him on the cheek. She steps back, flushing, and he turns his head toward her—
A loud thunderclap makes them jump apart, resulting in the exchange of quick goodbyes, Raoul hurrying away, and Christine wondering what might have happened…
"Oh, Raoul, it is you!" Christine Daae cries, her smile a warm sunbeam, and extends her hand.
The vicomte eagerly clasps it and offers her his rose. She hesitates before wrapping her fingers around it, then looks questioningly up into his face. Raoul's smile slips as his gaze rovers over her features. To see her, hold her hand, feel his heart beat fast...like old times, and yet not...he could kiss her.
No, he catches himself in time. He has just found her, after all this time. No need to startle her. Wait, first supper, and then…
In one smooth motion Raoul lets go of the rose, moves to stand behind Christine's chair, and meets her eyes in the mirror.
Christine bandages Raoul's wounds from his duel with the Phantom. The gentleman has swallowed both his embarrassment and shame over the situation. ("It is the least I can do," she'd stated simply.)
Under his intense, unbroken stare Christine's hands tremble. To him it feels like there are sparks each time her hands touch his chest, making him catch his breath. Without thinking, he lifts her chin with two fingers. Her cheeks turn pink, her lips part, and there is guilt, fear, and tenderness in her wide blue eyes. Raoul flushes, too, and struggles to sit upright.
"Christine…!" he says hoarsely, desperate longing coloring his tone, her eyes filling his vision as he draws closer.
Just as he feels her warm breath fanning over his face, pain races through him and he hisses sharply.
"Raoul!" Christine cries in alarm. Carefully she helps him lie back down.
The moment is lost (forgotten).
For a moment Raoul can imagine that Christine, returning his embrace, is safe, free of the dark menace haunting her. Despair no longer hanging over her, nor nightmares nipping at her heels. The vicomte presses a quick kiss against her hair. She squirms and he releases her, opening his eyes to reality: the opening of Don Juan Triumphant is just minutes away, the trap set.
This ends tonight.
A tentative hand steals up to his cheek, drawing his attention. Christine searches his face (and he prays she finds what she seeks); in the light she appears so pale, helpless, frightened.
"Raoul," she whispers his name. She leans her forehead against his, and his eyes close.
"Time, Miss Daae!" a muffled voice calls, accompanied by a knock on the dressing room door.
The anguish in Christine's expression matches Raoul's. It is too late to cancel the performance, to come up with a different plan, to confess his heart is in her hands.
They are out of time.
Time blurs after Erik releases Christine and Raoul: the returning of his ring; the boat ride from the lair; both of them breaking down, sobbing and clinging to each other.
Now there are no more tears left. Christine sits at the top of the stairs leading down to the labyrinth beneath the opera house; Raoul's head rests in her lap, his weight grounding her. They are alive. Gently she caresses his brown hair, watches his face. Without him, she would not have made it through the storm. Dear Raoul.
"Say you'll share with me one love…," she starts to speak quietly.
Raoul's eyelids flutter, open. The weariness in his eyes swiftly changes to something like hope.
Her heart stutters when Raoul reaches up for her hand and presses it against his cheek. He never takes his eyes off her, overwhelming warmth in their depths.
Emotion causes Christine's voice to tremble, "Say the word and I will follow you."
"Share each day with me," Raoul speaks softly. He lifts his head.
The corners of her mouth curve upward and she bends down. "Each night."
"Each morning," they whisper together.
Then their lips touch for the first time.