A/N: All characters and situations based upon the works of Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I don't really imagine that Christine had no face-to-face contact at all with Erik in the ALW musical between the morning of the unmasking and the Masquerade, so this is just an idea of a scene that may have taken place in-between--you're welcome to disagree. Thanks to Monj (Mongie) and bee (sparklyscorpion) for their help and encouragement!



Apparition

"When people talk of Ghosts I don't mention the Apparition by which I am haunted, the Phantom that shadows me about the streets, the image or spectre, so familiar, so like myself, which lurks in the plate glass of shop-windows, or leaps out of mirrors" -- Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)

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Twenty-four hours had passed since Madame Giry had found her mute and shivering in her dressing-room after the events below the Opera. The wise older woman had sent her home with instructions to rest and Christine had obeyed, though her sleep had been fitful and her dreams filled with images of the twisted face she had unmasked. She hoped that the activity of this new day would chase away at least in some small part the ghosts of the evenings before.

When she arrived at the Opera for rehearsals Christine bypassed her dressing-room, not wanting to see the mirror inside. As she made her way through the corridors leading to the stage she attempted to ignore the sidelong glances aimed in her direction and the muffled whispers that followed. She had told no one anything to dispel the rumors or to clarify the mystery surrounding her "disappearance," so curiosity continued to run rampant. The furtive chatter did not cease during rehearsals, either, with the petits rats indiscreetly pointing and twittering from the wings. It was not until Monsieur Reyer threatened to box their ears that some semblance of normalcy was restored.

Even as rehearsals began to resume their usual rhythm, Christine could feel a change. Before, she had always sung for her Angel of Music, had always felt his appraising gaze on her from afar…and now she felt utterly alone, naked beneath the bright beams of the limelight. Her Angel was fallen and mortal, yet even so she longed for the reassurance his watchful eye had brought her in the past. When she grew listless as the morning progressed, M. Reyer dismissed her.

Her heart was not heavy but strangely empty as she followed his orders and left the stage, her feet carrying her to her dressing-room out of habit. Dragging herself up the small staircase leading to her door, she entered and locked it behind her without pausing to light the gas lamp. She wished she could forgo lighting it at all in order to avoid her reflection in the mirror which occupied nearly an entire wall of the room, but reasoned that tripping in the dark would be no better. Once the room was lit she sank down on the stool before her vanity and rested her head in her hands, unsure of what to do.

After a few minutes of keeping her gaze trained on anything else, her attention was inexorably drawn to the mirror. Christine stood and stared at herself in it, examining the dark circles beneath her eyes. She inched closer, reaching out her hand until her fingertips just brushed the cool surface. She jerked back as she remembered how cold his grip had been on her wrist as he led her down to his kingdom beyond the underground lake.

Swallowing with difficulty, she stepped up to the mirror until the toes of her shoes touched its base. "Are you there?" she whispered, peering intently into her own eyes in the hope of seeing through them to the other side. She did not know what possessed her to speak into the empty room. Christine turned her attention to the carved wooden frame and ran a fingernail along a portion of the design, remembering how the last time she had stared so deeply into the looking-glass she had been swept through it to a world she had never known existed.

It had seemed like some sort of fairy-tale at the time, one of her father's old fables; she knew now that there was no magic to it—just a very clever, very ugly man. Her eyes widened in realization—surely if a door could be opened from one side, she reasoned, it could be accessed from the other. As she felt along the edge of the frame in search of some kind of switch or lever which would slide the glass open, the thought came to Christine that even if she were able to discover the secret of the hidden door, she would have no idea how to make her way through the labyrinthine tunnels that lay behind; she did not even know why she wanted so badly to find the way.

Still tired from the past two days and overcome by this new frustration she let out a defeated cry, finally crumpling to the floor in a heap of skirts. Tears threatened to come but she held them back, instead pounding her fist on the mirror in a tantrum more characteristic of La Carlotta than of herself. She shook her head, mumbling, "This can't be what you meant in your stories, Papa…"

Just as Christine was about to collect herself and leave, she heard her name sung gently in her ear. Startled, she gasped and turned to the source of the voice but saw no one. She heard the murmur again in her other ear, then above her; it was his voice. She wanted to call to him, but the name that automatically rose to the tongue was that of "Angel" and the word died before ever escaping her lips. "Where are you?" she cried out blindly, feeling at something of a disadvantage knowing he was observing her while remaining unseen. "I'm here," he responded, his voice now firmly grounded behind the mirror.

"Is it you? Whoever you are…" she breathed, soothing her burning cheek on the icy surface of the glass. "Yes, Christine," the voice answered, muffled by the barrier between them. Remembering the way they had last parted, she asked quietly, "Are you still terribly angry with me?" "No," he sighed, "I am not." His reply seemed to calm her, and her tone was neutral as she commented, "You were not there at rehearsals this morning to hear me sing, I could sense it…"

"I did not think that you would miss my presence." His statement hung in the air, a disguised question that she refused to answer. Not confirming or denying his implications, she requested, "Let me see you." He hesitated before replying tersely, "I'll beg you to remember the last time you wished to see me."

"I haven't forgotten," she retorted softly, drawing back. "But I cannot keep sitting here talking to my own reflection when I know you are there right behind it." Her words were met with silence and she looked up to where she imagined him to be standing. "Please…no more pretenses, no more parlor tricks. I can't bear it."

After a moment he operated the mechanism which permitted her to see through the mirror as he did. It felt very much like the zoological garden her father had taken her to once years ago, gaping through a glass enclosure at the wild creature on the other side…yet Christine was unsure if she was looking into the cage or out from within it. She tried not to consider the matter too closely and was simply glad for the reassuring boundary the mirror created.

She stared up at him as if she were seeing him for the first time, and nearly laughed at the thought that such an expression was not so far from the truth. He was no longer the dark and triumphant angel who had first appeared to her only two nights ago, but a skeletal figure in evening clothes, his mask glowing strangely in the darkness of the concealed passageway. Perhaps he was a phantom, after all… Christine had never thought twice of being alone with her otherworldly teacher—for what could an angel want with a mortal woman?—but now she felt all too keenly that it was a man of flesh and blood standing only inches from her. Scrambling up to her feet, she brushed out the folds of her dress self-consciously.

They watched each other in awkward silence until a knock at the door made her jump. Christine clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from squeaking in surprise. "Wh-who is it?" she stammered, lowering her hand to her chest in a vain effort to tame the quick flutter of her heartbeat. "It's me, Christine." She breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of Meg Giry's voice. "M. Reyer sent me to ask if you're well enough to come back for the rest of rehearsal."

Tamping down her nerves Christine went to the door and unlocked it, opening it just wide enough to peek out into the hallway. Meg's forehead was wrinkled in concern, an expression which seemed foreign on her usually-cheery face, and Christine forced her lips into what she hoped was a convincing smile. "Yes, Meg," she spoke, managing to keep her voice steady. "I—I'm feeling better, now. Please tell M. Reyer I'll be there momentarily."

"Is everything all right?" Meg questioned, attempting to peer over Christine's shoulder into the dressing-room when she was not invited inside. Christine fought to keep her eyes focused on her friend, resisting the temptation to glance back to see if her tutor was still visible through the mirror. With some effort she reassured the younger girl, "Everything's fine, really. I was just a bit tired. You'd better hurry back soon—if M. Reyer doesn't give you a lecture for taking your time then your mother will!"

To Christine's relief Meg seemed convinced, laughing at her gentle teasing before leaving, her ballet costume a blur of white as she dashed away. As she shut and barred the door again Christine was reminded of the last time she had locked someone out to be alone with her tutor. Raoul…she thought as she rested her forehead on the door-frame, wanting desperately to confide in her childhood companion but knowing there was no way he would believe her. I scarcely believe it myself

When she turned around she half-expected to meet only her own reflection, but he was still there in the shadows. She waited for a snide remark about her acting skills, but it never came. "I must go," she murmured, feeling foolish for excusing herself from her own dressing-room. Without thinking she asked him, "Will you be there for the remainder of rehearsals?"

Christine bit her lip as soon as she had spoken, as if to hold back any more impulsive outbursts. She didn't know why she asked—out of habit, she supposed; the idea of her Angel being a man was still new, and she felt unsure of how to act. There was a long pause before he answered, and Christine focused on trying to decipher his expression as she awaited his reply. She traced the curve of his lower lip with her gaze as it drooped down to his chin, then below the edge of the mask. She knew what continued beyond that thin shield of porcelain and shuddered.

His voice ended the silence and she nearly startled, her eyes returning to his. "No, I think not," he replied. "I must attend to my music." His tone was unreadable and she found herself wondering why he had come to the mirror at all if the call of his work were so strong. Before Christine could respond he continued, "I will attend the performance this evening as always, however…provided my box is kept empty." Christine almost asked him what he meant by "his" box but soon understood that he meant Box Five, the one M. Lefèvre always used to set aside for the Opera Ghost. A new wave of confusion came over her as she tried to reconcile the man before her—whom she had once believed to be the Angel of Music—with the rumors she had heard of the Phantom.

Her mind spun as she searched for something else to say, some word of parting, but nothing seemed to fit. She settled for nodding mutely and held her breath as the figure on the other side of the glass lingered, unmoving. His lips parted and Christine stepped forward with a soft sound, hoping he would speak some magical word to repair the fraying tie which bound them. He said nothing, but his expression held the same sadness it did as when he had implored her to see past the horror of his face, the same need she had felt in his cold touch and heard in his music, and she trembled at the memory.

Christine saw him nod almost imperceptibly in answer before his hand darted out to flick some hidden switch, and without another word she was left with only her own thoughts and the twin reflection staring back at her from the mirror's surface.