A/N: Begging pardon for delays, but school has begun... and this is an extra-long chapter so that you may enjoy it and of course review it!!!

Chapter the Third


Lisa stood there incapable of moving, what she had just seen kept her wide-eyed and petrified and even though her eyes hurt, she wouldn't blink trying to remember every detail of what she just had witnessed.

He had been tall, very tall and emaciated; the way he walked was stunning, so proud so confident, the black cloak drew his body in a graceful and much elegant way, his hands: he had had the left one inside his cloak and the right one on top of his left shoulder, his fingers were very thin and long and had wore absolutely no garments, his skin was pale, the white mask covered his face completely and made his eyes look black and expressionless in the distance.

The sole though of him made her body shake and her mind wonder in dangerous places, she thought him enticing, attractive and somehow darkly necessary. She had to find him... and in a bold rush she stepped out the room and began to run, she did not know where she was heading, but things were still so vivid in her memory, she wouldn't risk a chance.

The hallway did not seem to frighten her anymore; in the other hand it appeared inviting, warm and exciting. Lisa could feel her heart beating a hundred times a second, everything seemed so clear and yet so confusing. She founded herself in the top of a staircase and there was no other way to head but down... and down she went.

She stepped down and founded herself facing an identical staircase to that she had just walked, this one went up, and a greater staircase that went down and in the wall, in the middle of three arcs that covered three floors and guarded by two mighty statues of marble representing two women dressed in robes and two magnificent, tall lamps, there was an entrance above which hung a wooden board which read in gold:



She swallowed; never in her life had she remembered having seen such a magnificent, welcoming entrance. She walked slowly, entering between the stone women, just to find herself in a lobby with three entrances, no doors. She walked underneath the one that read Orchestre and opened the two mighty wooden doors on her way... she gasped, she stood now in what she had seen in so many pictures: The Orchestra seats of the Opera Garnier.

Her eyes wondered around them and on the curtains of the stage, the boxes and finally they fixed on the roof: blue, yellow, white, green and red... she could tell the colors because of the mild light of a few lamps on the wall. She could see the two circles of the ceiling, painted on those colors, with angels, ballerinas, the Eiffel tower, the Arc of Triumph and even the façade of the Opera House.

The golden garment between the circles and around the entire room contrasted appealingly with the mighty chandelier that hung above her. Lisa couldn't help it but smile; it was very similar to that one used in Broadway's show, but infinitely better, more elegant, more beautiful...

The thought assaulted her then and she frowned; "What the hell am I doing? As if I'll be able to find the lake! Even if I know what dressing room is Christine's, I never could make it through the lake, the siren would get me... and the third cellar? My death! There's no known way to escape the torture chamber! What am I doing?"

She sighed, what was she honestly thinking? She had read everything about Phantom, she had chatted with every Phantom expert she had been able to find, she had read the books at least five times each, and she knew the story and the musical... honestly!

She observed the room for a while... Erik had been there, he had designed it, the interior of the Opera Garnier... it had been his work. She sighed again... but maybe there was a way... the Rue Scribe? No, that would lead her to the lake. There had to be a way... a place where she could try to find him without getting herself into a jeopardized position, and then a light in her head went on: Box five.

She went over her steps and arrived to the place where the three staircases met... now what way should she go. She decided to go left and ran up the stairs, climbing them as fast as her feet allowed her... she had forgotten how much her ribs hurt, the dizziness apparently had never been and all the pain had dissipated with the sole sight of... of him, the only man she could truly love, the only person who could completely understand her.

She knew her way she had studied the building through many books and of course the internet, and it appeared to her she was in some sort of dream, probably product of some concussion. She froze then in the middle of the steps, she did not remember being so aware of herself in any dream, but it had to be that... she remembered the incident, it had happened in New York City, in September 2004... not in Paris and definitely not in the 19th century.

She decided to continue her journey and arrived to the top of the staircase and entered through another threshold and with a smile on her face and a warm feeling in her heart she began counting: Eleven, nine, seven and... five... the thought assaulted her again, her body trembled in anticipation... it seemed so real, but it was a dream. "It has to be" she assured moving her head "But if it is a dream... I shall live it then, live it and have an everlasting happiness that will accompany me till the day I die... and I shall die joyful and pleased."

She closed her eyes tightly and opened the door, she stepped in and pulled the curtains abruptly... a scream escaped her lips and she fell down as he wrapped himself swiftly in his cloak and disappeared...

"Wait! Please wait! a... arête!" She did not know if it was for her delight or much to her regret that he stopped and made himself visible again... was it him?

Her eyes were fixed on his boots; they gave his feet a pinched, narrow appearance, and a strained, delicate gait. Her eyes wondered further up his firm legs, his strong hips, his traced waist, his thin torso, his neck, and finally his face and the white mask that covered it almost entirely.

"Erik?" she asked doubtfully... he did not move, not one inch, it began to make her feel uncomfortable and with little amusement she observed he was scrutinizing her and then again she could understand why... she was wearing her favorite jeans, her feet were covered only by her socks that were awfully dirty, her black shirt was also dirty and her hair, she could imagine it, was totally messed up... not quite the encounter of her dreams, was it?

She passed a hand through her hair, but it had so many knots that she couldn't and so she drew her hand back just in time to hear a soft laugh... a magnificent soft laugh.

"Have we met?" He asked hardly moving his lips at all and Lisa felt her heart melt, he was no Michael Crawford or Hugh Panaro... he was an angel or a demi-god, his voice was just... unearthly.

"I...You speak English?" It was a stupid question and she was fully aware of it, he had asked the question in a beautiful Britannic English... but she had imagined him always a mainly French speaking figure although she had read the books... what a fool she was! Another soft laugh interrupted her.

"You are not English are you mademoiselle? American perhaps then..."

"I am." He offered her his hand and without thinking twice she took it and gasped, he was cold, colder than the floor... cold as death. She couldn't see his eyes but she was sure he had heard her gasping, and oh, how many times had she said she wouldn't even blink should he touch her!

He pulled her up gently, and she felt him strong. He smiled then, she couldn't tell why but he had and now that she stood in front of him she could see how tall he really was... he had to be taller than six feet! And she was only about five-four or so... she forced herself to look into his eyes and felt her body shiver when she saw them glowing in a yellow, enticing fire. He let her hand go and asked again, softly:

"Have we met mademoiselle?"

Lisa took a deep breath, she had planned a thousand first conversations she would establish had she the chance, but none of them appeared to be the right one now.

"No." she answered simply "We haven't, but I know you... or at least I think I do."

He was confused although he did not look it, but she knew he had to be... after all how many times one does meet a stranger like... well like her!

"And where if I may ask, where do you know me from?" He asked this time coldly as if remembering something he had thought long forgotten or as if not wanting to go further in conversation... something about his voice being that icy brought shivers to her spine, she did not like that tone.... she did not like that tone at all!

"Everything is gone wrong" she thought "everything's gone so wrong!"