Disclaimer: Not even remotely mine. Takes off of a scene near the end of Susan Kay's Phantom. Amazing book, amazing author. I bow to her greatness.

A/N: This contains spoilers for Phantom. I suggest that you are an E/C shipper as you step into it. –smiles-

I couldn't explain to anyone what it was I felt for the genius, the madman, the monster, the lover that was the Phantom. He was the most unbelievably beautiful man who has ever lived, I can assure you that. And he was more than my father figure, my friend, my teacher…

He was my angel.

And that day, when I wrote up the invitation for my wedding and addressed it to him, I felt my soul die just a little more than it had been every day since I'd left him.

I completed the scrawlings that showed the date and time of the union I would soon have with my dear Raoul. Setting the pen aside, I inspected the finished product with a sense of bitter satisfaction.

"Perfect," I whispered to no one, lightly running my fingers along the edge of the envelope. It was a thing of painful beauty, something that Erik would be able to appreciate. Now all I had to do was deliver it to him.

Footsteps behind me. I turned to see my fiancé enter, his handsome face darkened by the same thoughts that I'd been having all week: It was time to keep the promise he'd made.

"I'm ready," I told him, standing and showing him the invitation. His eyes narrowed.

"Christine…"

A short stab of ice collided with my heart. No…don't do this to me…

"I'm ready," I repeated more firmly. "It's time."

"No!" he cried and I was shocked at the raw emotion in his voice. "No, Christine, I won't take you back there!"

My throat constricted. "Raoul," I whispered. "Raoul, please…You promised him, Raoul. You promised."

"I would have told him anything!" he protested angrily. "Anything to get you out of there, Christine, don't you understand that?"

"No," I replied simply. "No, I don't. You made a promise and I intend to keep it, Raoul. If you won't take me back, then I'll go on my own."

"Christine, he'll never let you go!" he protested.

"I don't care," I answered truthfully, ignoring the way his eyes widened in horror. "I'm not leaving him. This is the last chance I'll ever get…the last good-bye, Raoul, you have to understand—"

"No!" he shouted, banging a fist down on the desk. In one swift, surprising movement, he swiped the invitation from my hand and tore it to shreds. Hurling the pieces at my feet, he cried, "I won't allow it!"

I only looked at him sadly. This wasn't the man I knew…not the one I could at least pretend to love.

"I will see you in a few days, Raoul," I told him quietly, turning away. I heard him grunt in frustration, saw him leave without another word out of the corner of my eye. Shaking my head, I packed my things.

If this was to be the last time I'd see my angel, I had best move quickly.

It took some time, but I eventually found my way down to his home. I was a bit wet from the lake water that had sprayed me as I rowed across and exhaustion threatened to take me over completely; I brushed it away. There would be time for such things later.

Right now, there was only Erik.

It didn't surprise me in the slightest that the Persian was there, seated on a sofa with his eyes closed in an expression of weariness. He looked up when I entered and his mouth dropped open.

"Mademoiselle!" he cried, sounding part delighted and part horrified. "Whatever are you doing—"

"Where is he, Monsieur?" I asked quickly, interrupting him without a care.

His face fell. "Mademoiselle…I'm sorry…"

"He isn't dead!" I cried, terrified that I was too late.

"No, no, not dead," he assured me hurriedly. "Just…he's not well. He won't be here for much longer, I'm afraid."

That was all I needed to hear. My heart pounding, I brushed past him to move through the ruin that was my angel's home. "He did all of this, I presume."

"Yes…" The Persian sounded defeated now. "Yes, he did. There was only one place he couldn't…he wanted to die where he was born, you see…full circle."

He didn't have to say another word. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

I pushed open the door to my room.

It was exactly as I had left it. A comfort, if I could find no other. And there, in the bed that I had slept in so many nights, was Erik.

He was paler than ever behind his mask. I could see in the faint rise and fall of his chest that he was indeed at the end. Another few hours to a day, I guessed, and he would finally be free of this world which had mercilessly tried to beat him down.

"Erik," I whispered, coming to his side and gently smoothing dark hair from his forehead. He gasped, coughed, and opened his eyes.

"Chris—Christine?" he asked as if he wasn't certain his eyes were to be trusted. I smiled through the tears that had begun to slowly cut a path down my face.

"Yes, love, it is I." I stroked his hair again and again, falling into a rhythmic pattern. He sighed contentedly.

"I never thought this day would come," he admitted. I nodded.

"I know. But I couldn't leave, not without a proper farewell…the curse of a diva, you see."

A painful-sounding laugh escaped his lips. "Always leaving your final mark."

"Full circle," I replied with another bittersweet smile. Turning back for a moment, I said, "Monsieur, if you could…leave us?"

The Persian's face betrayed his feelings on the subject, but before he could say a word, Erik sat up. The effort showed even through the mask, but he still radiated that intense control, even on his deathbed.

"Leave us, my friend," he commanded.

"But…Erik…"

"You've been good to me, Nadir," he said more gently. "Be a friend one last time."

The man bowed his head and shuffled backward, closing the door behind him. Erik gave me a tiny, anguished smile.

"Alone at last," he joked wearily.

This time, I could not find the strength to laugh with him. My hand moved of its own accord, sliding down the cold white of his mask. His breath hitched.

"Christine…"

"Erik, this mask is nothing to me," I told him firmly. "It is this"—at this, I removed the protective covering—"that I am in love with."

I saw his eyes widen as my fingers curled against his cheek. Bending my head, I brushed a kiss against the shockingly-soft skin of his forehead, then another, and another. I sighed against him; his taste was as intoxicating as his voice.

"Christine," he murmured again as my lips traced along his cheeks, his eyelids, the space where his nose should have been. "Christine, don't…I'm not asking—"

"No," I cut him off gently. "I am."

My lips claimed his as I leaned onto the bed, into his shaking arms. He kissed me back with all the nervousness of a school boy and I smiled against him. My hands slipped into his hair, gripping the once-luxurious locks as I deepened the kiss with my tongue. His eyes opened and he let out a tiny moan.

"Christine…"

"I know," I assured him, touching my forehead to his carefully. "This is my final gift to you, my angel. Please, permit me this."

He smiled. "It seems you've learned to grow up at last. How did I miss it?"

I laughed quietly. "You, my dear, initiated it."

With that, I pressed my mouth against his once more, my hands tracing down his chest to play under his dress shirt. A gasp was elicited from his lips at the unexpected contact.

"I've…I've never…"

"Neither have I." My lips drew down his throat and I felt him twist strands of my hair around his hands. My body screamed for him as his shaking fingers brushed against my back, down as far as he dared to go…

I was killing him, I knew. Very slowly, I was sapping him of all of his strength…but I couldn't stop myself.

His breath came raggedly as he whispered my name reverently.

"Christine…I love you. I know you don't want to hear it, but…" He cut himself out with a gasp even as I pressed a finger to his lips and rocked my hips against his.

"What makes you think I don't want to hear it?"

He chuckled. "Only you, Christine…only you could reduce me to this."

"I'm honored," I teased back, rubbing his lips with my own once again. He shifted slightly as I pushed against him.

He was gasping by now, unable to breathe, and by the time my own air intake became that difficult, he was panting, leaning weakly back against the bed.

"Thank you," he whispered.

"I love you," I replied. "Thank you for giving me this."

I didn't leave his side until he was gone. And when the doctor told me, less than a month later, that I was pregnant, I knew. I hadn't given him his final gift; he had given me mine.

His child was inside of me, growing. And as long as I had that, I had him.

My angel.

A/N: Okay, so that was as close to a lemon as I will ever write. It was…interesting. Probably would have been a bit better if I hadn't been dragged away from it (or if I wasn't afraid to write it –apologetic smirk-). I hope it isn't deadly-awful.

Off to work on my Phantom AU now! –runs away to avoid flames-