Disclaimer: If I owned the Phantom of the Opera I wouldn't be writing fanfiction. I'd be writing authorfiction, and I assure you…the story would be much different then it currently is.

Chapter Thirteen

Chelsea stepped briskly through the dark passages that would lead to her home. "Meg is going to kill me for skipping out of rehearsal," she muttered to herself. "She doesn't typically understand the meaning of a crisis."

A loud shriek echoed behind her. Chelsea looked around to find Christine wrestling with a brass candelabra that had swung around and pinned her against the wall.

Chelsea shook her head hopelessly. "I told you not to step on the big tiles." She pressed the special brick in the wall, and the candelabra swung back into place. The candles were extinguished, however.

"Oh no…" Christine sounded very panicky. "Chelsea, where are you? I can't see!"

Chelsea sighed. "I'm right here, Christine. Stay where you are." She stepped around the tile that triggered the trap and grabbed Christine's hand. "Just walk with me."

Christine was a nervous wreck. Her eyes darted around, not seeing anything. "Can you see in the dark?"

"Yes. But even if I couldn't, I know this place like the back of my hand," Chelsea told her. "There's not a single thing I don't know about these passageways." She paused as the hallway opened up into a large, dark open space and the ground dropped away steeply. She tapped her chin with a finger.

"Well, it's been a few weeks since I've come this way, but I can't say I remember a trench being here..."

A shallow trench, about three feet deep, blocked their path. Water was trickling slowly through it. The trench stretched on in both directions as far as Chelsea could see, and was about five feet across.

Chelsea scratched her chin. "So this is where that father of mine disappears to all the time. And he had me thinking that he was actually doing something worthwhile." She could tell Christine was confused by this by the way she didn't answer and by the baffled look on her face. After a moment she spoke.

"Erik…digs holes…in his free time?"

Chelsea shrugged. "He's probably planning to build some architecturally brilliant bridge or something we don't need." She sized up the distance across the trench. "Stay here for a moment."

She backed up a few paces, ran forward, and leaped over the ditch like the ballerina she was.

"Chelsea!" Chelsea heard Christine's panicked scream. "Where did you go?"

Chelsea couldn't resist rolling her eyes. "Just stay put, Christine. It's all right, I'm just over here. Don't move… there might be rats hanging about."


"It was a joke!" Chelsea squinted around until she found what she was looking for- a large pile of timber, next to a larger pile of stone. Surely Erik wouldn't miss one little beam. She snatched up a long beam and dragged it back to the ditch, where she laid it across like a bridge.

Without being told to, Christine quickly crossed the narrow beam as nimbly as if she were a cat. As soon as she got to the other side, she clutched Chelsea's arm tightly. Chelsea wondered if she would hold on like that for the rest of the time she was down there. She definitely predicted the loss of circulation to her arm.

Eventually, they reached the house across the lake. Chelsea thankfully jumped out of the gondola. Christine had spent the entire boat ride worrying out loud about alligators and water rats. She was now sitting in the boat as though she expected someone to help her out. Chelsea was content to just let her stay there.

She was about to have a bigger problem on her hands.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and her muscles tensed. Chelsea looked around warily, knowing that Erik was lurking around somewhere and that he wasn't happy. Then, in a furious snarl that seemed to come from everywhere at once, the Phantom of the Opera made his presence known.

"How many times have I told you not to bring people down here?"

Erik jumped down out of the air and slapped Chelsea hard across her cheek…the injured one.

Chelsea howled and jumped back, a hand coming up to cover her face. Immediately Erik was prying it away, having felt the blood come off on his hand. "What did you do to yourself?" he snarled, eyes blazing as he surveyed the damage.

Chelsea wormed away from him. "Don't touch it! It hurts!" She realized how childish this sounded coming from a fifteen-year-old, but she didn't particularly care. "I didn't do anything," she whined. "The world is against me today! My feet have blisters, my cheek is throbbing, you just scared the living daylights-"

"I don't care, Chelsea!" Erik interrupted angrily. "I want to know why you brought…her down here!"

"Erik, stop yelling at her!" Christine had managed to get out of the boat on her own. "You're only making things worse."

"You stay out of this!" Erik bellowed, pointing a long, gloved finger at her. "If it wasn't for you we wouldn't even be in this mess right now!"

"Excuse me?" Christine looked outraged.

"Would somebody please tell me what's going on?" Chelsea begged.

"It would be best if you maintained your silence at the moment," Erik said through gritted teeth.

Chelsea took a step back, resisting the urge to put her hand at the level of her eye. "But I'm so confused! I feel like you two have some conspiracy against me and-"

"There's no conspiracy, honey," Christine said, her angry eyes still on Erik. "I can't believe you never told her, Erik."

"You aren't exactly in a position to be saying things like that," Erik informed her, fingers clenching.

"I'm saying them anyway." Christine met his gaze defiantly. Not a wise move, in Chelsea's opinion. "We need to talk."

Erik glared at her for a long time. Chelsea's eyes went from Erik to Christine to Erik and back again as nobody spoke.

Finally, Erik turned to Chelsea. "Chelsea…bed."

Chelsea's jaw dropped open. "What?"

"You heard me."

"But that's not fair!" Chelsea all but screamed.

Erik's eyes flashed. "Life isn't fair. Now go."

"No!" Chelsea protested. "I deserve to know what's going on! And it's not even five o' clock yet!"

Erik leaned forward until his nose was three inches from his daughter's. He uttered a single word. "Bed."

Chelsea shrieked in frustration, stomping her feet in a typical teenage temper tantrum. She swung around and stormed off to her bedroom, hissing obscenities, not only her native French, but also in English, Spanish, Greek, and Latin.

"I can hear you, Chelsea."

Chelsea spun around, eyes brimming with tears. "I know you can!" She stomped into her bedroom and slammed the door. Then she knelt down and put her ear against the keyhole.

"Get away from the keyhole!"

Chelsea sat up momentarily. "I'm not at the keyhole!" Then she rested her ear once more against the cold metal. The voices of the two people outside were muffled, but still discernable.

"How could you not have told her?" Christine was saying. "How could you have let her go fifteen years of her life without knowing?"

"I rather thought that I could prevent her from becoming as shallow and foppish as you became when you married into the noble French aristocratic society," Erik said icily. "Whether I succeeded or not remains to be seen, but in any case, why would I mention you in my everyday life? You ceased to be part of my life many years ago, in case you had forgotten."

Chelsea pressed her ear harder against the keyhole, still extremely puzzled by the situation.

"But still… You let her grow up without ever knowing who her mother is?" Christine was obviously outraged. "I can just imagine the assumptions she must have made all these years! What I want to know is how she managed to survive fifteen years living down here with a father like you. What other secrets are you keeping from her?"

Chelsea cringed. Erik was silent, which could not have been good. She now also wanted to know what else he was hiding from her, but she had enough sense not to ask. Not the way Christine did, anyway. Was she trying to get killed?

"That is not your business, little prima donna." When Erik at last spoke, his voice was as cold as ice, burned like fire, was as silent as the grave, but all the same sent shivers down Chelsea's spine. She had never heard him speak this way. Never.

"I should think that it is," Christine argued, trying to sound bold but quailing obviously. "If she's nearly sixteen and she's never known who her mother is, something's wrong. I don't know what you were thinking, but I care about the child's wellbeing, and-"

"If you really cared about her wellbeing, why did you abandon her?"

Chelsea froze.

Erik continued. "If you cared, why did you abandon her at the time she needed you the most? Why did you leave her here, of all places? Surely you knew that a place like this could mean certain death to a sick infant?"

Fingers tightening around the doorknob, Chelsea's heart pounded pitilessly against her ribcage as Christine stammered outside.

"I-I thought…but you…you w-would…"

"I would what?" Erik interrupted mockingly. "Sweep her up into my arms and welcome her into my heart? Take her, an infant, into my home? That's not exactly in my character, Christine. You of all people should know that." Christine didn't say anything, and he continued. "It just so happened that I was feeling benevolent that day. You see, Chelsea and I have something in common. Do you know what that is?"

The fact that they were both extremely cryptic and terribly-tempered at times would've been Chelsea's first guess, but she supposed that was irrelevant. Christine stayed silent.

"We're both outcasts." Erik's voice dropped to a whisper. "I was shunned by the world because of the monstrosity that is my face. The girl I discovered down here almost sixteen years ago was abandoned by you…why? Out of fear?"

"No…" Christine didn't sound convincing.

Erik snorted. Chelsea heard a rustling of fabric, and she pictured the Opera Ghost turning on his heel and stalking away. "Why did you come down here, Christine? I don't suppose bringing up the past was your intention."

Suddenly, Christine broke down. "Erik, I didn't mean to!" she screamed. "She was dying, and I was so frightened! Everyone was so suspicious! She was only a few days old and on the verge of death, and I just couldn't bear to watch her die! There was nothing else I could do, no one I could turn to- it was my last resort!"

Chelsea made no sense of this. Was Christine talking about her? Once again, her heart started beating rapidly. Did she almost die when she was a baby? Of course not- that was ridiculous! Or was it?

No, it was definitely ridiculous. Chelsea shook her head, trying to sort all this out. There was something going on here, something that Erik didn't want her to know about. She couldn't help but feel that her father had gone mad. Christine wasn't the kind of person who would abandon a baby in a place like this. But… hadn't she just confessed to it?

"I am led to one conclusion." Erik's voice was steely. "I think you left her here because you had something to hide. You had made a terrible mistake, going off and betraying your own fiancé that way. Soon, the entire aristocratic population of Paris would know that you had a daughter who looked nothing at all like her supposed father. You got scared and decided that it would be best to get rid of the problem before it could get any worse, and then, when she got sick, you had the perfect excuse."

"Erik, no! That's not…You're not… That's…"

Icy claws grabbed Chelsea's heart in a grip of death. No… It couldn't be!

And yet it was.

Chelsea opened the door and slipped out of it, trying to stem the flow of tears from her eyes. Without making a single sound to alert the conflicting adults on the lakeshore, she slipped down the hallway and into a secret passageway.

With tears flowing from her eyes and strangled sobs emitting from her throat, Chelsea blindly made her way through the passages of the opera house, tripping up stairs, blundering up ladders... If she was seen, she didn't know and honestly didn't care. She kept running, nearly hyperventilating with the combined efforts of panting and sobbing. Somehow she wound up on the roof, just below a large statue of a rearing horse.

Sniffling, she climbed onto the horse's back and sat there, sobbing silently. Her mind whirled in confusion and desperation, and she couldn't shake off the feeling that she had been abandoned.

Well, perhaps that was because she had been abandoned. Abandoned by one of the most important people in her life. Left to die at such an early age… Was it really possible?

For hours she sat there, undisturbed, not caring if people missed her. She had no cloak or coat of any kind, and the cold seeped into her like freezing water. Chelsea watched as her fingers turned blue and felt them go numb. She felt the tears on her face freeze. She shivered as the cold cut into her mercilessly. But she just didn't care. She felt so lost, so hopeless, so… unloved.

The dark had long since come over Paris, cloaking the city in a velvet night sky, studded with stars. Chelsea slid clumsily down from the statue, slipping in a patch of lingering snow. She stood up straight and tall, despite the fact that she could barely feel her nose. She wouldn't stand for this. She couldn't.

She had to know the truth. She had to know what had really happened all those years ago.

With that in mind, Chelsea strode purposefully through the opera house, deaf to the calls of her peers. She paused only when she had reached the door to the flat in the musty hallway. Her father had neglected to tell her the truth about her parentage. She could hardly go to Christine at the moment. At this point in her crisis, she couldn't let herself walk away without clearing the frustration and confusion that had been building since… Well, it had been brewing within her for years. Too many years.

Chelsea rapped on the door with her numb knuckles, which were cracked and bleeding from exposure to the cold.

The door was opened by a tired-looking Meg Giry, who was surprised to see Chelsea standing there. "Chelsea, what happened? You and Christine both disappeared and nobody-" she trailed off, shocked at the state that the girl in front of her was in. "Chelsea, what's wrong?" she asked, concern in her blue eyes.

Chelsea tried to restrain the shakiness in her voice. "Meg, my world just got turned upside down," she said as strongly as possible. "I have no idea what is happening. I overheard a conversation, and…" She trailed off, her voice cracking and her eyes welling up with tears.

Meg's eyes grew wide, her lips pressed firmly together, but she said nothing.

Drawing in a shaky breath, Chelsea continued. "Neither of my parents could tell me what I desired to know. Therefore, I have come to the only person who can." She looked at the ballet mistress with pleading eyes. "Meg, please tell me what happened between Christine and Erik."

The blonde woman stood silently, apprehension and fear, coupled with concern, plainly spelled out in her eyes. Finally she nodded, opening her door. "Come in. I'll tell you what I can."


A/N: Ahaha. Yes, well...hello. Before you say anything or start throwing tomatoes, I am deeply ashamed of the fact that I haven't updated either of my phics since last summer. I really don't know what happened there. All I know is that it started with computer problems and being busy with school and somehow ended up with it being...um...(counts on fingers) ...over six months since I've updated. Wow. Half a year.

I recently recieved a personal message from a reader that pulled me out of my slump. For those of you who like this story and haven't forgotten about me completely, we can all thank Smidgie for that. Upon looking at my stats for the first time in months, I found that several people had reviewed since I've been gone. I had no idea... The website didn't email me or anything. Otherwise, I probably would have updated sooner (yeah, right). Sorry, friends. I typically reply to reviews, but...blegh. But now it's 9:49 at night, and, even though I'll be getting up at three for a cross-country trip, I'm updating.

I am back. And I will finish this phic.