Author's note: I wrote this after I went and saw the musical in Chicago. This was before I had read any of the books or before I had seen any movie. This story is my idea of how Erik first sees Christine.

Lurking in the opera house was second nature now to him; no longer trapped by the iron bars of his cage, no longer known as some freak of nature – known simply as "the Phantom of the Opera."

He liked things this way. The lack of company was the only thing he detested about his new occupation. Yet he was certain that if he forsook the darkness of the hidden hallways to seek a friend or two – if any of these people ever saw his face – they would flinch from him in horror and flee him, leaving him again alone.

Solitude. It was his only comfort now, and even that was often torment.

The halls of the great Opera house provided solitude, particularly once the cast had gone, and tonight, at midnight, the place was as empty as an opera chorus girl's head. The Phantom, as he had become known, wandered unhindered throughout the dark place, seeking nothing and yet unconsciously needing to find… something.

That washis torment; to seek, and never to find.

He sought for something to fill the void within his soul… something sweet and pure and beautiful in which to hide his hateful, tainted, and hideous qualities. He sought for that something often, and tonight – tonight was no exception. The emptiness of the hallways, however, provided him nothing – nothing except the echo of his footsteps.

And then, there was an echo ofsomething else.

"Think of me… think of me fondly when we've said good-bye…"

Though merely an echo, the clarity and splendor of the feminine voice that sang that song pierced the ghostly specter's soul. Where, where did it come from? And what manner of angel owned the voice that had created it?

"Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you'll try!"

The Phantom blindly sought the voice, following its precious echoes, ignoring all else but the sweet tones of the music. "My angel…" The two desperate, plaintive words escaped his lips within a strangled breath; oh, to hear her singing!

"Recall those days, look back on all those times, think of the things we'll never do… there will never be a day when I won't think of you!"

The phantasm approached box number five, his usual post, and looked down upon the heavenly being whose voice had created the melody he had heard. And, oh! She was heavenly, a fair creature to look upon, with long dark curls and beautifully pale skin, and wide eyes that stared hungrily into the darkness – as though she, too, were seeking and never finding.

In the darkness, this beautiful creation sighed, and hummed the tune of the song that she had previously brought to life with her exquisite voice. The Phantom could only stare, enraptured. "Who are you?" he murmured, wishing to ask her personally and knowing he could not.

Suddenly, the silence of the stage was broken by the sounds of footsteps. "Christine?" a young woman's voice called. "Christine! Are you here?"

The angelon the stage turned towards the voice. "I am here," she said. The Phantom, in his opera box, sighed; for even her speaking voice to his ears was the loveliest he had heard.

The footsteps became louder, and the curtains were thrust aside by a young ballet dancer, the daughter of the teacher. "Christine Daaé!" she exclaimed. "We've been worrying about you for hours! Come home at once!"

The angel named Christine looked about her with sadness in her eyes that only the Phantom comprehended. "All right," she murmured, "I'll come home." She sighed again, and whispered, "He isn't here."

The Phantom caught his breath. Of whom did she speak?

The ballet girl seemed to have the same question. "Who isn't, Christine?"

"The Angel of Music," Christine said quietly. "My father told me he would come… but he is not here."

The girl shook her head and laughed a melancholy laugh. "Oh, come now, Christine," she said. "We all know you miss your father. Do not think of him for a time, and you will be happier. Now, let us depart."

She walked through the parted curtains without hesitation, but Christine stopped and stared back at the empty stage, her eyes seeking, never finding.

From box five, the Phantom's eyes were seeking, finding, and seeking anew. This beautiful woman had pierced his soul, had shattered and rebuilt him with only a few notes! Oh, how he longed to meet her, to speak with her, to teach her – to tame her beautiful voice and tutor it until it had learned to sing in its full strength!

He watched her as she sought a moment longer in the darkness. Not finding what she looked for, she turned her back and began to walk from the stage.

The Phantom withheld an anguished cry at seeing her go, and spoke one word only: "Christine…"

She stopped, and then her eyes turned towards him, and found him. He was glad the darkness of the box hid all but his silhouette from her; he did not want her to know his form - or his face. She would be afraid of him if she saw him plainly; now, he saw no fear at all in those strangely lost and saddened eyes. "You…" she whispered, her face alighting with a new sort of hope. "You are the Angel of Music!"

The Phantom had to swallow another cry, this one of joy, and he nodded. "Your voice…" he whispered. "Your voice calls to me… so very, very beautiful… but it must be trained yet…"

"Teach me!" Christine cried, reaching out to him from the stage. "I beg of you, teach me your music!"

"Oh, Christine!" he exulted. "Christine, my bright seraph, I shall!"

The smile on her face, the brilliance of her eyes, brought the Phantom such ecstasy that he could barely speak. "Do not fear, my Christine," he whispered. "I shall come again, and I will teach you, and you will be the finest of them all!"

He could not say more, could not bear the thought of perhaps destroying the perfection of this moment, and so he turned and fled, back down the hall, back into the darkness, back into solitude.

Behind him, Christine cried out, "Angel! My teacher!"

The Phantom turned and called back, "Christine!" Then he turned and fled again, with a thousand choruses ringing in his head, all crying out one word:

Christine…