Chapter Ten
And It All Comes Down

The music came to a triumphant conclusion, and the audience watched in stupefied amazement as the couple that came out of nowhere took their bows. Aria however was not so impressed. The daughter of the Phantom was angry.

Oh have pity on everyone around her.

"Phillipe," She said sweetly. "Would you please accompany me back stage?"

Phillipe looked up at the strained undertones in her voice. "Whatever you wish milady. May I ask if everything is all right? You sound rather strained."

"I'm not strained in the slightest." She said, and Phillipe shook his head, but he got up to accompany her none the less.

"I merely have some unfinished business to take care of."


Meanwhile, backstage, someone else had some very unfinished business to take care of. Now it was the time for explanations, and apologies. And if Erik had it his way there would be a few deaths as well.

Yet Christine and many other witnesses were there, and so that particular part of the plan may have to take a back seat to other, more pressing matters. Still, he smirked evilly at the horrified expression on the Comte De Chagny's face. 'Watch yourself , you don't want to walk down any dark alleys tonight . . .

Yet before Erik could have the immense satisfaction of another showdown with Raoul, he was stopped by the two managers and a handful of still stunned gendarmes. "Monsieur! Madame!"

Erik cringed, he had forgotten all about the pompous music illiterates. Now for a quick, on the spot lie. Yet he found that he had no need to, Christine was one step ahead of him, "I'm so sorry! We can explain everything!"

"Oh, there is no need to Madame. Your Persian friend here has explained everything." Christine turned surprised blue orbs to where Nadir stood. The look in his eyes clearly said, 'You owe me. Again.' The manager continued. "What an ingenious way to audition! That has had to be one of the best duets since, well I'm not sure how long!"

"It was!" Erik was merely shocked that he wasn't getting arrested.

"Oh yes, and we must say that we would be happy to hire you two for the upcoming season."

Okay. That was an unexpected development. One that wasn't exactly welcome either. He had had his fill of the theater. Erik grimaced as he caught Christine's glare. In her eyes this was his fault, and she fully expected him to get them out. He sighed. It looked like he was back to this again. "I'm sorry Monsieur, but I'm afraid that I will have to decline your generous offer."

"What! But why!"

"You see, "Erik started, now in full actor mode as he pit on his best remorseful face. "It seems that I have come down with a rather dreadful skin disease."

He could literally see the manager's face fall. "Oh . . .how horrid."

Erik braced himself, and slowly began peeling the mask away from his face. Revealing gnarled flesh, and twisted bone. To the manager's credit he didn't scream. Yet his face paled drastically, and one could actually see the dollar signs fade from his black beady eyes. His voice was rough and shaky as he said, "O-oh, t-that would p-present a p-problem! Is-is that permanent?" He was still hopeful.

Erik frowned as if in contemplation. "No, but the doctor did say that it was highly contagious."

That did it. "Oh no! Monsieur!" The manager began to back away slowly. "Y-you just c-c-call when that goes away!" The manager was gone, and the gendarmes weren't too far behind him.

Erik tried hard not to laugh. He really did. Yet it was no use. The looks on their faces were just too priceless. A deep chuckle escaped him as a small, but very firm hand grasped him by the shoulder and forced him to face her. his wife's normally calm blue eyes stormed, and she said, quite sternly, "We are leaving. Now."

He finally nodded in agreement, and was even going to leave Raoul in peace when a piercing voice cut into his escape. "Dad!"

he stopped dead in his tracks. Oh no . . .

He turned around to see his clearly agitated daughter coming towards him. Anywhere to run? Anywhere to hide? His golden eyes flickered around desperately, and then came back to his daughter uninspired.

Curses.

"Are you leaving so soon father?"

Well, he was . . .yet now she was here, and he had to rethink his plans. Behind him Raoul stiffened in nadir's tight hold. "Daughter?" He asked incredulously. "She's related to you?"

Erik resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and snapped, "Of course she is, why else would she call me father?"

Raoul flattered for a moment, seriously considering his answer. The he looked Aria over, and said, "Well I didn't want to assume, she's beautiful, and you're . . . well . . ." Raoul broke off, not wishing to sound rude, but the damage was already done, and Erik glared at him.

Oh how he longed to strangle him.

Just this once . . .

Christine squeezed his hand in a pointed warning, and she looked at her daughter. "Aria," She started, trying to smooth things over. "how is your date going?"

Aria smiled at her mother. "Divine mother, thank-you for asking. Everything was perfect until someone decided to crash the opera." Aria gazed coolly at her father. Awaiting an explanation.

Erik wondered how to simplify things, not wanting to sound too rude. "I just wanted to follow you, you know, so that nothing would have happened." He rubbed at his neck in agitation. He shouldn't have to explain his actions. "I just . . ."

"Didn't trust me?" Aria finished for her flustered father.

"Yes. No! I trust you, I just don't trust him!"

Aria's eyes narrowed. "Phillipe is the sweetest boy on the planet, he would never dare to do anything like you are suggesting!"

"That's exactly it. He's a boy! It's not about wither he's nice or not, he's predestined to be a pig! It's part of being a boy!"

A more timid voice cut into the wonderful bonding moment. "Phillipe?" The comte asked.

Aria turned to the noble. "Yes, why do you ask monsieur?"

Raoul looked flustered. "He's my son."

Aria's eyes widened, and then she walked over to him. "I'm very pleased to meet you, I'm Aria Destlar, and your son was escorting me tonight."

Raoul took Aria's hand, and bowed like the gentleman he was. Erik growled. Raoul asked. "Where is my son?"

"He ran on to an acquaintance, he said that he's meet me momentarily."Her eyes narrowed in the perfect impression of a angered teenager. "I didn't want him to have to meet my father here."

Raoul tried not to laugh. "I can see that." Erik tried very hard not to break something.

Behind them, another joined the tense group. "Father! What are you doing here?"

Raoul cringed, and it was his turn to play the part of the flustered parent. "Um, Phillipe! How are you doing?"

Phillipe ignored his father's greeting. "You promised not to interfere this time!"

Raoul cringed, and Erik tried hard not to cheer. Finally! The tables were turned in his favor!

Aria looked over at her date. "It seems that we suffer from a common malediction."

Christine bristled at being called a malediction, and Raoul was still trying to figure out how to talk to his son. "I was just worried about you. You're my heir, and I have never heard of the girl who you were courting. For all I knew, she could be some common harlot out to steal your money."

Erik glared at that, yet Aria didn't look insulted, so he let it rest. Phillipe didn't say anything, he merely waited for his father to continue. "Yet now I understand why you were so drawn to her." Raoul smiled, and turned to Christine. "It is good to see you again Little Lotte. It has been far too long." Raoul smiled, and bowed to her.

Christine smiled back. "It is nice to see you too." She linked her arm through her husbands. "Perhaps we can meet again under more pleasant circumstances."

Erik bristled. More pleasant circumstances would involve a rope and a death.

Raoul turned to his son again. "I'm sorry for interfering, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening."

He turned to leave, and Aria turned to her father. "See, why can't you be like that?"

Erik glared, and softened when he saw no more anger in his daughter's eyes. "Do you really want me to be a fop?"

Aria looked aghast at her father insulting someone that he had 'just meant,' and amazingly it was Phillipe who laughed.

Aria softened at his mirth, and Erik went to address his daughter again. "Aria, you are my only daughter. Any boy with you is going to hurt more than you can imagine. I know that I got carried away tonight, and I sincerely apologize for that. It won't happen again."

He saw Christine glare at him, and he knew that at least that much was true.

He sighed. "You're my little girl, and it hurts to see you grow up."

Aria smiled at her father, and moved forward to hug him. "I love you daddy."

Erik squirmed a little, unused to affection in public, and hugged his daughter back. At length he pulled away. "Now go and enjoy the rest of your evening. I promise that I won't interfere."

Aria looked dubious. "Promise?"

"Promise."


One Hour Latter

"She's late."

By five minutes Erik."

"She's still late."

Erik glowered as he peeked out of the window once again. This really was too much for his nerves.

Late. Late. Late . . .

A second latter a carriage pulled up to the house, and Erik jumped up to watch. Heart in his throat, and lasso in his hand. If that boy made one wrong move . . .

Christine sighed from across the room. "You haven't learned to trust your daughter yet?"

"I trust her just fine." Erik mumbled as he watched the couples progression towards the front door. They were almost there. "I've explained myself on this subject a couple of times now."

Christine shook her head, and got up to join her husband at the window. What a perfect end to the evening.

She was ready to retire when all of the sudden Erik shot to his feet, and yelled. "I'm going to kill him!"

"What happened!"

"That boy dared to hug her!"

Christine sighed, and hugged her husband in a calming manner.

Here we go again.

The End

OMG! I updated! It's done!

So, I just want to say how much I appreciate all of my loyal readers. I'm so sorry that this took so long. I really don't have any excuse. I can only hope that this made up for it.

So, thank you all for humoring me this far!

Until the next story,

MiraJade