Chapter 2 Beneath a Moonless Sky

The carriage stopped outside Meg's apartment just as it had before. Christine bid goodnight to the driver and made her way up the steps, hiding in shadow until he drove away. Silently she crept back down the steps and into the alley toward the address now memorized in her head.

The door was nearly off its hinges. The building looked as though it might crumble before her eyes. Her heart pounded disjointedly against her ribcage as she approached and raised her hand to knock softly.

No answer.

She knocked again a bit louder.

No answer.

Gently she pulled the door open. The dark night made it difficult to see anything in the building. She could just make out the silhouette of a man sitting at a table with his head in his hands. Her breathing sped. She thought her heart might escape her chest.

The slight creak of the door did not escape the Phantom's notice. Nothing ever did. Curse the old woman. Why wouldn't she let him wither in solitude.

"I'm fine, Madame Giry. Leave me alone. Just let me be. Just let me wallow in my sorrow."

The sound of his voice sent shivers down her spine. She reached out a timid hand and gently touched his shoulder.

"I told you I'm fine!" he roared and turned to slap the hand away from his shoulder. As he turned his eyes caught sight of the perfect dark curls framing the shadowed face of the Angel touching him. The woman stood, frozen to the ground, startled by his sudden outburst. His breathing hitched. "What are you doing here Madame de Chagny?" he snarled.

Christine stepped back. His words tore at her heart. Every rehearsed phrase, everything she thought she would say to him left.

"Not yet," was all she could manage.

"What?"

"Not yet. I'm not married yet."

"What are you here for?"

Though she couldn't see his face Christine stared at the beautiful shape of the man in front of her. Her heart soared. Her choice had been wrong. She could not go back to Raoul. As good a man as he was, he could not make her heart sing. This is where she belonged. She would stay with her Angel consequences be damned. She was here for him. She reached out once more and placed her hand gently on his cheek, surprised by the wetness she found there.

He pressed his face into her palm. "My Christine," he sobbed.

She stepped closer; their bodies almost touching. Slowly, but confidently she slipped her fingers under his mask and pulled it away. He flinched but felt emboldened by the darkness surrounding them. She couldn't see his hideousness. Not here. Not on this moonless night.

He reached out to take her hand and felt her engagement ring. She was promised to another. Whatever happened here she would always leave him. His heart couldn't take it. He wouldn't survive if he dared get close to her and she left again.

He pushed her away and turned his back to her, "Go, go back to him. Go to your precious Raoul and leave me in peace."

Christine ripped the ring off and threw it on the table next to the mask.

"I don't want him. I can't marry him. I want you. I need you. I love you." She reached out and grabbed his arm, forcing him to turn back to her. She wrapped her hand around his neck and pulled his lips down to meet hers. He had to know. He had to understand. He was who she wanted. She couldn't live without him. All the love and longing and devotion in her body flowed into the kiss. Her hands grabbed at him desperately, silently begging him to hold her and love her.

All thoughts of what might happen tomorrow abandoned the lonely phantom and he lost himself in her touch. He reveled in the feeling of her lips and wrapped his arms around her thin waist. He spread kisses down her neck as she pulled him impossibly closer.

"Erik. My name is Erik."

Christine smiled as he swept her into his arms and carried her to his bed.

He watched her sleeping peacefully, a hint of a smile playing at her lips. His heart ached as he thought of what he must do. She could not stay with him. He was a monster regardless of what she had said under the cover of darkness. In the morning, in the light everything would be different. He couldn't bear to see the regret in her eyes. He couldn't watch her leave again. Quietly he slipped away from her embrace and clipped a single rose from the bush outside, tying a black silk ribbon to it's stem and laying it where he had been.

"Goodbye, my Christine," he whispered.

He picked up his mask and fitted it back in place, sparing only a brief glance for the engagement ring that was her future. A future with so much more than he could give her.

He slipped into the darkness, hiding in the shadows until he reached Giry's apartment. A dim light flickered in the window. He unlocked the door and threw it open with silent ease.

"Giry!" his rough voice called to her. "We're leaving. Now. Pack your things. We sail for America immediately."

Madame Giry sat waiting for him. She sighed deeply. She knew this would happen. She knew Christine would break him.

Christine smiled as the events of the night flooded her mind, the future with her Angel that now appeared in front of her.

"Erik?" Christine called into the darkness. The thin blanket provided little warmth without him beside her. Her hand brushed the velvet smoothness of the rose. Her heart stopped. She wrapped the blanket around her and ran through the house calling his name. His mask was gone. He was gone. She threw her clothes on and ran as fast as her legs would take her to Madame Giry's.

"Madame Giry? Meg?" She called. The door was unlocked, cracked open. The room was empty of all personal effects. They were gone. "Erik!" she cried desperately. The silence was suffocating. Christine sank to the floor. Violent sobs wracked her body as she tried to cry herself into nothingness.

The first rays of sun peeked above the horizon and Christine made her way back to the battered building that had been her Erik's home. Her engagement ring sat on the table, unmoved. She picked up the single rose and crushed it to her chest. Tears Christine thought were dry fell once more.

As dawn chased the dark away, she knew what she had to do. The Phantom had disappeared. He had abandoned her. Christine knew she'd never be able to find him now. He didn't want her. He wouldn't want to be found. It had been a mistake to come here. The closure she so desperately wanted just a day ago left her heart torn and broken but now there was no real choice. She left the crushed rose on the table and slipped her engagement ring back into place on her finger.