And Should I Turn Away…
Disclaimer: I do not own Phantom of the Opera or any of the characters, songs, etc. associated with it. I am merely a penniless writer captivated by a story.
The basic premise here is that everyone does their what-if stories based on what happens after Christine rips the mask from the Phantom on stage during Don Juan Triumphant. So I've decided to go ahead and write a what-if based on her never exposing the phantom for who he is.
Also, you may notice I've tweaked a few aspects of the Point of No Return scene, rather than lifting it straight from the movie… for example, I've gone ahead and assumed that when the Phantom makes his entrance, its at the end of the opera…
Chapter 1: The Point of No Return
Christine glanced up towards where she knew Raoul sat so far above her, watching. She closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself for whatever might come next. So far the night had been going smoothly, almost too smoothly for a production so tainted. Truly the opera was an astounding piece of art – the audience sat nearly breathless in their seats, some nearly shocked at the daring nature of the work. It was near its climax however, and Christine couldn't help but know in her very soul that now was when the Phantom was going to make his move. If she could only know how…
Past the point of no return
No backward glances
Christine's breathe caught in her throat. Surely it couldn't be? But no, the voice was utterly unmistakable as that of her teacher; it was undoubtedly the voice of the Phantom of the Opera.
Our games of make believe are at an end
Past all thought of if or when
No use resisting
Abandon thought and let the dream descend
She could only helplessly watch him approach her. Not a word, not a rose, not a moving shadow in the night, had betrayed his presence to her for weeks. To see him now, so suddenly, so powerfully, as he moved across the stage, was to destroy her will. All thoughts of Raoul, of summertime, were sent spinning like the confetti at the yearly Masquerade Ball, suddenly lost amidst the feelings this man could conjure in her soul with just a fragment of song.
What raging flash that floods the soul
What rich desire unlocks its door
What sweet seduction lies before us?
Christine could feel herself trembling as he neared her. His touch, light and delicate against her, sent trails of fire across her skin where he let his fingers caress her, a terribly mimicry of choreographed touch. For nothing so seductive could be choreographed. Beyond the fear that rose in her throat, Christine could feel other feelings threaten to rise up within her, ones she dared not to name. Her eyes searched the audience desperately, but everyone appeared mesmerized by the daring, dangerous images being played across the stage.
Past the point of no return
The final threshold
What warm unspoken secrets will we learn
Beyond the point of no return
Just as suddenly as he had closed in upon her, he was gone from her side. His voice no longer rang in her ears, his last solo lines spilling richly across the stage to envelope her. She cast one terrified glance towards Raoul; why was he not moving to save her from this? But the music played on, and her own words were already upon her tongue, terrifyingly relevant.
You have brought me to that moment when words run dry
To that moment when speech disappears into silence
Distantly, she found herself missing the warmth of his body standing so close to hers, the strangely evocative touch of his fingers against her body. But this was no time for such terrible thoughts, now she had only to act. To play out her part until this nightmare could be concluded.
I have come here hardly knowing the reason why
In my mind I've already imagined our bodies entwining, defenseless and silent
Now I am here with you, no second thoughts, I've decided
She followed the steps she had learned so carefully, her singing strangely far away from her mind as she began to climb the stairs that framed her half of the stage.
Past the point of no return
No going back now
Our passion play has now at last begun
Past all thought of right or wrong
One final question: how long should we to wait before we're one?
There was a part of her that wanted to stop singing to laugh at the ridiculousness of this all, or perhaps to cry. Here she was singing of seduction and passion, her eyes riveted to the dark form that was her phantom, her teacher of so many years, and all the while Raoul, her fiancé, was sitting above, watching it unfold. It was disgraceful, or shameful, or… but why was it shameful? At some opportune moment she was to give a sign to him, wasn't she? He could not act before she gave some sign. Bitterly, Christine came to realize that this was all in her own hands.
When will the blood begin to rise
The sleeping bud burst into bloom
When will the flames at last consume us
She found herself once again in his arms. Strange how that kept happening, her thoughts whispered from far away. His hands ran along the sides of her body, his voice terrible and passionate in her ears as they sang together. It was frightening, she found herself thinking, how well their voices matched. It was almost as if they had always been meant to sing together. But then again, she thought bitterly, it was what he had trained her for.
Past the point of no return
The final threshold
The bridge has crossed
So stand and watch it burn
We've past the point of no return
Part of her wanted to wrench herself from his grasp. Whatever dangerous game he was playing, she was running out of time to save herself from it. But he held on to her as the music changed, its tune strangely familiar to her ears, and she found herself unable to move from this place so close to him.
Say you'll share with me
One love, one lifetime
Christine wasn't sure if the feeling that suddenly crept up her spine was horror or shame, as his voice whispered borrowed words into her ear. But the words rendered her motionless, frozen amidst his spell once more. She felt herself turning to face him as he loosened his hold upon her waist. Now, surely now was the moment she was meant to give Raoul a signal, a sign that this was their moment to rise up against the phantom, to strike him down forever.
Keep me, save me, from my solitude
Say you'll want me with you here, beside you
Anywhere you go let me go too
But his voice was so sad. He was merely begging for a chance, any chance really. Christine didn't need to look to know that the police were stationed all around the opera hall; that guns were nearly leveled at this man. This man who was pleading with her for… for something. Christine found his eyes locked upon hers and was trapped in his gaze. Was it love in his eyes?
Christine, that's all I ask of you
Christine felt her body flow into his arms as he pulled her into the embrace that marked the end of the scene. His face was very near hers, for it was choreographed that Don Juan should appear to be kissing her as the curtain fell, but his lips never touched hers, his eyes instead still searching hers for an answer. Any answer.
She exhaled slowly, suddenly realizing that she was trembling in these arms that held her so tenderly. Her eyes left his only for a moment, flitting for just a moment to his lips, a terrible thrill running through her body as she considered their closeness. But instead of pulling her closer, the arms pushed her away gently, slowly releasing her such that her balance was maintained. All with such tenderness that Christine only wished she had any sort of answer for him.
The very air crashed with the thunder of applause just behind the curtain, but it was the hurried footsteps that echoed through the backstage that intruded into the quiet moment that sat between their eyes. "Christine!" Raoul's voice cried. "Are you… alright?" His voice died upon his lips at the sight of her and the phantom, standing so close, but not touching. She was unharmed, and still present, both things she supposed Raoul had not expected to find.
"Hey now!" A second voice huffed from behind Raoul.
"What's all this?" A third voice joined in, as the two managers jogged up behind Raoul, whipping handkerchiefs out to mop sweating foreheads. "You are not supposed to be on stage!" An accusing finger pointed at the phantom.
"Who are you in any case?" Demanded Firmin. "We're not paying you, are we? I'd hope I could recognize those who are under our employ." A crowd of police came stumbling down the narrow hall behind the stage at that moment, guns already raised to the strange masked man.
Christine felt a slight movement from the phantom, before she heard her voice tumbling out. "He's… a friend of mine."
Four sets of eyes suddenly focused upon her in utter shock. Silently she cursed herself. Why on earth had she said anything? It wasn't her job to protect the phantom. Quite the opposite in fact. "I…" Christine fumbled for words, for anything that could possibly fix this mess. "Dear monsieurs," she began so softly, her eyes cast down demurely, "You remember that I had a teacher?" She gestured ever so slightly towards the phantom, who appeared to have been shocked into stillness. "This is he." She struggled to ignore Raoul's gaping mouth, or shocked eyes.
"And your name, sir?" Andre inquired, his voice coloured more with intrigue than anger as the applause continued on behind the heavy velvet curtain.
There was a long pause, during which Christine was terrified to lift her head. For should she lift her gaze she would be affronted by the fact that she was now, in a way, sheltering the man she had promised to Raoul, to her love, that she would help to bring down.
"Erik." The single syllable cut the air. Christine felt her head jerk up involuntarily. Somehow she had never dreamt that the phantom actually had a name. Obviously he must have… or perhaps this was just another lie. A man's name rather than a ghost's title simply because at the moment it served him better to be a man than an angel or a ghost. There was something in his eyes, however, a strangely far away look, which suggested to Christine that perhaps this name was the truth of it. After all, the phantom was not truly a phantom, but a man.
"Erik, is it?" Andre picked up, missing the sudden weight of the name. "So we have you to thank for our lovely Miss Daae." He turned to Firmin and smiled – all smiles for everyone. "Dear gentlemen," he began suddenly, realizing the police still had their guns trained upon the masked man above, "I do believe we've solved our mysterious performer's identity, no need to keep weapons trained upon him!"
"Andre," Firmin cut in, "Don't you believe we should be slightly cautious?" His expression looked mildly pained to Christine.
"Firmin!" Andre cut in, "Can you not hear the crowd out there? They are going simply mad for these two… and the opera ghost's opera, oddly enough." The promise of money was already bright in the man's eyes. "And if you haven't noticed, there have been no tricks on the part of our ghost tonight!"
"Because we followed his instructions to a tee." Replied Firmin moodily. "How can you suggest that we've in any way won?" Christine shifted uneasily, still high above the unfolding scene. She glanced at the phantom… Erik, she supposed, finding it suddenly odd to have a very human name to attach to him. He was completely still, amusement flickering in his eyes as he watched the scene below.
"Sirs!" Raoul suddenly cut in, haste in his voice. "Don't you find it unsettling that a strange masked man has appeared upon our stage, on the same night as the phantom does not attack? Does it not make you wonder that this man has no last name?"
"I have a last name." Christine watched the phantom's… Erik's eyes narrow with masked hatred. "Durant. Erik Durant."
"You see, my boy?" Andre piped in warmly. "Nothing to worry about at all. Quite evidently Christine mentioned her staring role to her tutor, who must have had a word with Piangi, who agreed to allow such exceptional talent the opportunity to shine upon our stage." He was nodding now, finding his story a satisfactory explanation. "Isn't that right, Miss Daae?" He cast his gaze upwards to Christine.
She felt a lump grow in her throat as she looked between Andre's beaming face and Raoul's scowling glare. She lifted her eyes to the man in question, who was staring at her with an oddly bemused expression, as if he couldn't quite figure out what she was playing at. It wasn't a murderous gaze in any case. "That's exactly right, monsieur." She confirmed, watching the anger in Raoul's eyes blaze up at her.
"Come now, dear," began Firmin, "You should come down from there in any case." He cast a sideways glance at the masked man beside her. "You too, Monsieur Durant. It is rather difficult to talk business at such varied heights."
"Business!" Raoul's enraged voice was little more than a hiss. "You intend to do business with… with that?" Christine froze as Raoul pointed his finger at Erik who was even now coolly offering her his hand to help her down. She caught her own hand back, which had already nearly accepted it of its own accord. No, she scolded herself, that would just foolishly invite danger. But it was more the guilt she felt from Raoul's searing gaze than reason or fear motivating her actions.
"Dear boy," Firmin began, clearly aghast. "The man was acting! While I admit his gestures in regards to Miss Daae were perhaps… daring… I don't believe it condemns your eternal wrath!"
"But he's…" Christine found herself at Raoul's side at that very moment, and ever so gently placed a finger against his lips, trapping the secret of Eric's true identity upon his tongue.
"My teacher." Christine said ever so softly, her eyes pleading and begging with Raoul to understand. "You need not worry," she whispered softly, "My love is yours, and yours alone." She could feel the phantom, or perhaps it was the man, Erik, who flinched behind her, as though the words burned.
Raoul lifted his eyes from hers, the rage cooling to a simmer. "If you hire such a man, you shall also need a new patron." Grabbing Christine's hand he began to tread away from the two startled managers, pulling her along with him. She understood his anger, in many ways she sympathized with it. She had betrayed him, he who had promised her safety and a life within the light. She allowed herself only a single glance behind. The phantom, his mask still in place and his stance flawless, stared after her, his eyes betraying nothing, a slight smirk gracing his lips.