It was still dark when Christine opened her eyes, telling her she hadn't been sleeping as long as she thought she had. A quick glance out of the window - which had surprisingly been left without the curtains drawn - confirmed her suspicions; she could see the glittering stars, but the moon was noticeably absent, making everything significantly darker than it would be on a normal night. She found that fact only amplified the lingering sense of sensuality in the room she had woken up in; the moonless sky on top of the pleasant heaviness of her entire body and the feeling of the sheets against her bare skin. That simple reminder of the night she had had was enough to make her blush, and she turned her head to look at the very man she had shared that night with.

Erik.

She could finally put a name to the face of the man that she had adored for so long; he was no longer the Angel of Music or the Phantom. He was Erik; a mortal man with flaws and talent and the greatest capacity to love she had ever seen in a human, despite it having been so long suppressed. The man that she realized she had come to love even more than the man she was intended to marry in only a few hours' time.

She hadn't expected her evening to take the turn that it had; she had come to visit Meg and her mother with a desire for one last night of familiarity before she married Raoul and her whole life changed completely. True, she had been disappointed to discover that the pair was leaving that evening and wouldn't be back until late the next day, but they had offered for her to stay in their home for the night so she could enjoy the feeling of a familiar bed.

Little did she know that they had left out one critical detail…

Christine couldn't believe her eyes. For a moment, when they had first locked eyes, she had tried to convince herself that it couldn't have possibly been him; she told herself that the mob had gotten to him that night when she left him and that they had dragged him away to prison or beaten him or every other horrific scenario her mind could create. Then again, she thought, Who else could it possibly be? No other man carried himself the way he did - with such grace and confidence - and there was certainly no other man who looked like him. So it was him...standing in the same room as her, his gaze stuck on her.

She hadn't thought he would really be there. In truth, she hadn't just gone to the Girys' for the sake of a familiar home and bed to stay in the night before her wedding; she had gone to them with the hope of finding any information she could about her Angel's whereabouts. She just hadn't expected him to actually be there.

"Why are you here?" he asked. His voice was quiet, she noticed; he was nervous. Or emotional, perhaps. She was never quite sure with him.

"I-I had to see you for myself," she replied. She knew she couldn't lie to him because she knew he would see right through her. She was also well aware of the fact that her shuffling feet and nervous habit of twirling her hair would give away how anxious she was about their interaction, but she knew that any attempt to hide those same ticks from him would give him away even faster.

"To confirm that I was as broken and humiliated by my own actions as you presumed I was?" he demanded. "Well, here you are. Now go."

Christine wasn't sure what compelled her to move, but before she could convince herself not to, she rushed over to him and gripped the lapels of his jacket tightly in her hands, resting her head against his chest. She wasn't going to let him leave; she couldn't lose him again.

"I came because I feel terrible about how we parted. I care for you too much to allow us to part ways on such horrific terms, no matter what happened," she admitted, tears pooling in his eyes as she looked up at him and found his own rich brown eyes looking back at her, the tears welling in them making the flecks of gold stand out more than they normally did.

Her heart skipped a beat when the backs of his fingers brushed her cheek to wipe a tear away while he wrapped his opposite arm around her waist and pulled her to his chest. She had never felt so secure, so warm and wanted before; not even with Raoul, who she had so long pictured as the man who could give her the security she truly wanted and needed. Now, with Erik holding her close, she realized how wrong she had been and cursed herself for not realizing it sooner.

"To leave you...to have to watch you go knowing what I had done to you brought on a feeling of guilt and heartbreak as I have never known before," he whispered. "I could apologize a thousand times over and it will never be enough to make me worthy of your forgiveness, but you must know, my angel, that I truly am sorry."

Christine simply nodded as she lifted her hand to brush his cheek just as he had done to her a moment ago. "I know you are. I can see it in your eyes," she said softly.

And then, setting her hand to his cheek and feeling him lean into her touch, Christine leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. She felt him stiffen, though she wasn't surprised, given that it was probably the last thing he had expected her to do.

"Christine, what are you doing?" he asked as he gently pushed her away, his hands on her shoulders, eyes wide and searching her face for an answer.

"I want to do this; this isn't out of pity or anything, please don't misunderstand," Christine replied, praying she wouldn't have put him off and driven him away just when she had gotten him back. "Please, Angel, I-"

"Erik," he interjected. "My name is...is Erik."

Christine couldn't help but smile at that revelation. "Erik," she repeated softly, her lips ghosting over his as she tested the name out before she claimed his lips once more.

That same smile graced Christine's face as she reminisced about that moment while she looked at the man who slept beside her. He had never looked so at peace before, though given the little she knew of his life, she figured that to sleep meant to look vulnerable, which he couldn't afford. Still, she was fortunate that with her, he would let his walls down.

He lay on his stomach, the marred side of his face pressed into his pillow. Christine wondered if he had simply trained himself to sleep without that side of him exposed out of desperation to seem normal whenever he could. Whatever the reason behind it was, she couldn't exactly complain; the unblemished side of his face, with the sharp brow and cheekbone, his structured nose, and his cheek still flushed slightly from their previous endeavours, made him all the more handsome to her.

The bedsheets were draped low around his waist, leaving his back exposed to her gaze. In the dim light through the open window, she could see the faint outline of scars all across his skin, and she reached over to confirm her suspicions by brushing her fingers along them. She couldn't imagine what had caused them, and didn't want to resurrect any of his deep-seated trauma that was so obvious by asking; all she knew was that her heart ached to think anyone had ever hurt him in such a way.

Her attention was drawn back to his face when she noticed he had started to snore quietly, making her giggle before she could stop herself. It was such a simple, human thing, but something about it coming from him amused her. She had never associated such normal things with a man like him, who she had so long thought of as not of this world, but with every passing moment, both of them completely exposed to one another, made her realize more and more that he was no angel; instead, he was simply a man that had captured her heart, and she couldn't have been more pleased.

Feeling her eyelids beginning to grow heavy once more, Christine put her observations to an end for the night and snuggled into her lover's side once again. A small smile formed on her face when she felt Erik drape his arm over her, seemingly rousing enough to press a kiss to her forehead before he dozed off again.

This is where I need to be. Here, in his arms, never to be alone again.

The bliss didn't last, though; it seemed to come to an abrupt end when Christine woke to the shifting of the mattress and the rustling of the bedsheets, only to sit up and find Erik getting dressed again.

"What are you doing? W-where are you going?" she asked, wrapping the sheets tightly around her bare torso.

She furrowed her brows when he simply sighed and shook his head, the move almost imperceptible. "Just go back to sleep, my angel," he replied as he slipped his shirt on.

Christine simply watched him for another moment, only to feel her heart seemingly drop into the pit of her stomach when the realization finally dawned on her. "Are you...leaving?"

"Christine…" she heard Erik say as he turned around. The look on his face was a broken one, and Christine had no doubt that it was mirrored on her own face, but her expression was quickly fading into an angry one rather than one of heartbreak. "I didn't-"

"You didn't what? Think? Consider how I would feel when I woke up and found you gone?" she asked. It felt good to unleash the emotion and anger she was feeling with him, she realized; for so long, she had felt the need to dance around him when she thought he really was an angel, not wanting to displease him and drive him away. Now that she knew the truth, though, there was no holding back, just as it had been on that fateful night beneath the Opera.

"Please, Christine, I'm-"

Christine shook her head, lifting a finger to stop him as a few of her tears spilled over onto her face. "I gave you everything, both last night and in all those days before that! I gave you my heart, my soul, my voice, and now, I have given myself to you in every sense of the word! That is only meant to be given to my husband - the man I am supposed to marry in a matter of hours - but I gave it to you instead because I love you and wanted to share it with you and only you, now and for the rest of my life! But if you are too stubborn and blind to accept that, then just...just go."

She hung her head, looking down at her lap as she fought to keep her breaths steady despite the tears in her eyes. Has this all been a mistake? she wondered. What is there to stop him from leaving? He got what every man wants, didn't he? To lie with a woman? He could leave now and I could be left here to possibly bear his child and-

"Y-you...what?" she heard him say, his quiet words breaking through her thoughts. Looking up again, Christine saw Erik looking back at her, the same pleading look in his eyes that she recognized from the very first time she met him.

"I love you," she whispered again, reaffirming the statement for the both of them as she left the sheet on the bed and got to her feet to walk over to him. He tried to take a step away from her, but she reached out to take his hand and pull him back towards her, having no plan to let him get away if she could help it. "Please believe me when I say that, Erik, please." Never before had she been so desperate for someone to listen to her.

"I...I just never could have dreamed you would say those words to me," Erik said quietly, his tear-filled eyes locked on hers.

Christine knew she had to reassure him of her affections; reinforcement about how people felt about him was something she realized he needed. To help him understand, she set her hands on his bare chest and ran her hands over his skin to push his shirt off of his shoulders, then wrapped them around his neck and tangled her fingers in his hair at the nape.

"It's not a dream, my angel," she said softly as she stepped away from him and slipped Raoul's engagement ring off of her finger and set it down on top of the dresser in the room. He had watched her every move as she did, she'd noticed, and the look in his eyes - one of amazement and relief and adoration all at once - warmed her heart.

"Then let me say how much I love you too," he whispered as he quickly stepped over to her side and pulled her into a kiss, gently holding her face in his hands while he did. "And if you'll let me, I would be happy to show you as well."

"Oh, please do," Christine whispered back, smiling as he kissed her again and gently walked forward until her legs hit the mattress and she fell backwards, Erik bracing his hands on the bed so he didn't crush her. A sigh escaped her as he pressed a kiss to her neck, but they both paused when he lifted his head and they bumped noses when he went to kiss her again, making them both laugh quietly.

"I love you," Erik said softly, a warm smile on his face.

"I love you more, Erik," Christine replied, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down to press her lips to his once more.