Raoul walked slowly out of the hospital. The Phantom's words echoed in his head. His life was in shambles. He didn't know where to begin to pick up the pieces. The Phantom would be up and about any day now and he, Christine, and Gustave would really begin their new life together. He couldn't be here to witness it. He had to return to France. He walked to the hotel room to prepare for a quick departure.
He was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn't hear the soft knock at the door.
Meg timidly opened the door. "Raoul? Is everything okay?"
Raoul glanced up as she entered the room and sighed. "I don't even know if I know what okay is any more."
Meg looked at the half packed luggage in horror. "Are you leaving?" her voice trembled with emotion that she fought to repress.
"Yes," he answered, "There is no reason for me to stay here. I don't think I can stay here. I can't be witness to him taking over my life and succeeding where I failed. I have to return to France."
A fissure opened in Meg's heart. He couldn't leave. Not now. They hadn't had enough time. They had only just begun to know each other again. Her breath quickened.
"Don't go." She whispered.
"What's wrong?" Raoul looked at her in concern.
"I love you," Meg blurted out. Her face turned scarlet and she cast her eyes to the ground. She hadn't meant for it to come out so abruptly.
The Vicomte stayed silent. She loved him? He had enjoyed the time they shared together but love? Did he love her?
"Please, don't say anything." Meg pleaded. "We're not ready for this and I'm sorry. But you can't go back to France without knowing." All of her innermost thoughts came tumbling out her mouth without restraint. "I have loved you since Paris. Since before you married Christine. I have always loved you. Christine said that perhaps this is fate bringing us together at this point to give us a chance to be happy together. I don't know how you feel, but please don't say anything now. I don't expect you to. You're still married and with everything that has happened it's complicated, and there's still so much you don't know. I'm sorry. I'll leave you."
Meg ran down the stairs as fast as her feet would carry her. She was mortified by everything she had just admitted to Raoul. She thought they would have time to ease into this but she had panicked at the sight of his immanent departure. She locked herself in the bedroom of her small apartment, worried she had ruined everything with her unfiltered confession.
Raoul could only watch Meg as she practically ran out the door. The deluge of information hit him like an avalanche. His feet were frozen to the ground beneath him. How did he feel for Meg? He had quite enjoyed her friendship and company and the comfort she had given him through this ordeal.
Throughout their last week together he had felt moments of attraction but had dismissed them because of his current situation. He hadn't really allowed himself to consider her romantically because he was married. But while that was technically true his marriage was over. Could this be fate?
He slumped into the chair beside him. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to imagine the possibilities. Could he and Meg be happy the way he always thought he and Christine would be? Would Meg come back to France with him? Would he live in America? Perhaps living here wouldn't be so bad if he had a love of his own by his side; if he had a new life with purpose. He had nothing in France but a few properties and a ruined reputation. With his debts paid by the Phantom he could easily liquidate his holdings and join Meg here. If he did, he could still be a part of Gustave's life if Christine would let him. His heart swelled at the prospect of it all.
Thoughts and possibilities ricocheted around his head. He needed air.
He wandered aimlessly around Phantasma. When he removed Christine from the equation, he found himself very attracted to Meg. She was passionate and considerate and loyal and kind. She was caring and beautiful. He knew her life had not been easy. He suspected she had many secrets and a rather dark past, but even so she was full of love. Eventually he found himself in front of Meg's apartment. It was the middle of the night but he couldn't help himself. He knocked loudly on the door.
Light flickered in the window. Meg opened the door in her dressing gown.
She was beautiful.
Her face twisted in concern. "What's wrong? Has something happened?"
Without thinking he stepped toward her and reached out, pulling her close. Fireworks burst behind his eyes as he kissed her.
Meg froze in shock. She had never been kissed quite like this before. His lips were so loving and tender. His motivations so pure.
He pulled back breathless and elated. "Meg, I know this is new. I know there is much we don't know about each other. We have a lot of lost time to catch up on but I would very much like the opportunity to do just that." He took her hands in his. "Come with me to France."
Meg balked, "My whole life is here. I can't just …"
Raoul pressed a finger to her lips. "Not to stay. I must return to France to settle my affairs, to finalize the divorce, and collect the rest of our belongings. Come with me and see where this leads us. If, at the end of our time in France you still want me we will return to America together."
Meg held on to his arms to keep upright. She had fantasized about this moment since the second she laid eyes on him at Phantasma.
He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her answer. Slowly she nodded and reached up on her tip toes to press her lips to his again.
The sensation of her lips started a fire within him, the likes of which he had never known. He tightened his grip around her waist and held her firmly to him. When he could bear no more he pulled away from her. He wanted to do this properly. He didn't want to cause her any undue pain should things between them not work out. He kissed her cheek and then her hands.
"Well then Miss Giry, I shall see you in the morning. Sleep well." He left a lingering kiss on her cheek and backed down her front step, holding her gaze as long as he could before walking off into the night, a new spring in his step.