Summary: A night at the theater. A private performance. A haunting encounter...

Setting: Whatever version you prefer...

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, I just borrow them to play with…entirely without profit.


"The tender word forgotten, the letter you did not write, the flower you might have sent, dear, are your haunting ghosts tonight." -Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

Tonight is not the first time that I've watched them, silent and obscured in the shadows of the theater. I prefer to claim a seat not more than ten or eleven rows back, so that I am close enough to see everything, but still safely hidden beneath the canopy of quiet darkness that creeps through the aisles after the house lights have been extinguished. The air is thick with the stale scent of sweat and greasepaint, the remnants of a hard day's rehearsal. The coming performance must be perfection, anything less is unacceptable—it has always been this way here.

With aching calves and callused toes, I bid goodnight to my fellow dancers. They stare at me with queer little frowns marring their too smooth foreheads. I never leave with them, instead I linger where they rush to finish, ensuring that I am the last one here with each extra minute spent scrubbing my face clean or smoothing every wrinkle from my costumes before returning them to the rack. The same script has been repeated on many nights now since I came to the Palais Garnier, and I know they all wonder at my strange habits. I can't care overmuch. The nights here are my own—well, almost.

When the last giggles and gossipy murmurs have faded away, I ease into my chosen seat, wiggling to and fro in search of the perfect position to rest my weary muscles. I cannot say why I am so certain that they will come tonight. They hardly keep to a schedule, or invite anyone into their confidence, but there is such a frenetic energy in this place just before an opening night, and I know they can't resist. My mind slows pleasantly, melting into the ether, and the gilded carvings that dance around the theater almost seem to come alive—their golden faces turned toward the stage as if they too are waiting.

It begins, as it always does, with a whisper of silk and a softly hummed melody, growing ever louder in the darkness. The tune seeps into every crevice of the old theater, filling in the empty spaces until they overflow with it, and the sound seems to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once—and then nowhere at all. A voice, sweet and lilting, calls hopefully into the silence.

'Angel? Angel, are you here?'

No answer comes. This, too, is always the same.

'Angel of Music,' she calls again, the words rising and falling to that same melody. When this too is met with disinterested silence, she releases a petulant sigh before she finally emerges from the heavy veil of scarlet curtains.

She is indescribably lovely, dressed in a pale blue skirt and ivory blouse, dark curls cascading wildly around her face and shoulders. She floats across the stage with the grace of a dancer, stopping just right of center and turning ever so slightly to face the private boxes that adorn the edges of the balcony. Her gaze lifts, and I know exactly where her eyes are focused—box number five. Her perfect, pale complexion almost glows, and I think that I see a faint, rosy blush stain her cheeks.

'I know you are watching.'

My heart stutters with the fear of discovery, but she never turns her head in my direction; and when her bowed lips curve into a brilliant smile and a joyful little giggle escapes, I know without doubt that I am safe, for she is speaking to him.

'What would please you tonight, maestro? The Jewel Song, perhaps…or Je veux vivre?' Her grin could be called flirtatious as she makes a show of fluffing her sleeves and smoothing her skirt. When no response comes from the darkened box, she places her hands on her hips and narrows her eyes. 'Is it to be my choice then? How very unlike you.'

Her posture is suddenly proud and proper, and her arms fall languidly to her sides. When her mouth opens again, the theater is filled with a heavenly soprano that far exceeds any other upon this earth. I cannot place the aria that she sings to any opera that I've ever heard, but it seems as though it could have been written just for her voice, so perfect is each and every note. She sings of lost love, of goodbyes and remembrance. She sings from her soul, the pain bleeding through until her form begins to shimmer before my eyes.

I reach up a hand to swipe at my unwelcome tears, wondering when I became so sentimental.

When her song ends at last, and the final echoes of that beautiful voice fade away, she stands pale and breathless and trembling with emotion. Into the emptiness that mourns for an ovation comes a far simpler accolade.

'Brava, brava, bravissima… Christine…'

This new voice is something dark and dangerous, the rich timbre laced with honey flavored seduction. It stirs a visceral response in parts of me that have no business reacting to words so obviously meant for another. His intended target most certainly feels the effects, for her hand flutters to her throat and her entire body seems to lift and lean toward the hidden specter above her.

'Mon ange,' she nearly whimpers.

'You sang beautifully, child.'

I can hear the smile behind his words, and I expect Christine to blush at the praise, but instead, she suddenly shakes from her trance and glares—as well as she is able to glare—up at her angel.

'Child? Do I seem a child to you?' She sweeps dramatic hands over her womanly figure, adding a little swing of her hips to further accent her point.

A sensual chuckle floats down from above. 'Not for some time now, my dear.'

She does blush now, her face blooming with a coy little grin. 'Much better. I quite like being dear instead.'

The answering 'you are very dear' is whispered so quietly that it shouldn't be audible at all, but somehow it carries through the theater. I watch as the words seem to light her from within, and she flushes radiantly in the warmth of his adoration. Her arms wrap tightly around herself as if she imagines them to be his.

My heart tightens beneath my breast, and those annoying tears prick my eyes again. I wish with all my might for him to leave his box, to appear beside her on the stage and enfold her into his embrace. I am a shameless voyeur in their little romance, but I can't seem to repent.

A blur of color streaks across the dull half light and falls to rest at Christine's feet. She sinks down to the stage, skirt billowing out around her as she retrieves the intrusive object, and when her hand lifts, a single, perfect red rose is brushed across her upper lip. Her eyes flutter closed as she inhales the scent. The bliss that overtakes her is nearly indecent. A shiver seems to pass through her and her hand slowly drops, bringing the bloom of the rose level with her bosom. She stands to her full height once again, and gazes pleadingly to the box above.

'Is this all I am to have of you tonight, mon ange?'

Her query is met with silence, and she begins to move forward, closer and closer to the edge of the stage, though her eyes never spare a glance to her steps. I feel oddly nervous for her inattention, and breath an inaudible sigh of relief when she finally stops and looks down to the flower tenderly clasped between her delicate fingers.

'This lonely blossom is a poor substitute for your touch, its petals lifeless without your Voice to move them. See how it begins to wilt for the loss of you,' she implores, raising the flower up for his inspection. 'Will you leave me to the same Fate?'

The response comes from behind, before, beside, above—a strange echo in this whisper. 'I will never leave you, Christine.'

The blackness around the lady seems suddenly alive, and then a flash of white breaches the void. He emerges unhurriedly from the shadows, draped from neck to toe in a fine suit of ebony. Only his face stands in relief, half hidden as it is behind a pale bone mask. It's clear to see how he can pass undetected until the moment he chooses to be seen, although one may wonder at how effortlessly he has reached the stage from the confines of Box Five. Then again, this old theater is rumored to be laden with hidden passageways just begging to be rediscovered.

Her body melts in his presence; the tense lines of her posture become fluid and relaxed even though her back remains stubbornly turned to him. He brazenly steps into her personal space, so close that they seem to merge into one being. His arms coil around her waist, and her own come to rest over his, allowing the rose to tease along his sleeve. She leans into him, her curls blanketing his shoulder and spilling over the fabric of his tailcoat in thick, glossy waves. A sigh escapes from lips that are curved into a dreamy smile. If I had any talent with a brush or a pen, I would capture them just this way—quiet and content in their moment of perfect happiness.

'Never leave me,' she murmurs, snuggling deeper into his embrace, and turning her face ever so slightly to the right so that her temple presses against his jaw.

'Never,' he assures her, and his eyes fall closed as he breathes in the fragrance of her hair. 'I will always be here…'

'Singing songs in my head,' she finishes, and then she is spinning inside the circle of his arms until she stands toe to toe with her tender captor. Their eyes meet, and her fingers float up to trace along the edge of his mask. He seems to flinch at her touch, and takes a single step backward, leaving her hand caressing only air. The sudden distance that he has placed between them sends an eerie chill creeping through the theater.

'Little Pandora. You reach beyond your grasp.'

Christine does not tremble under the weight of his hard gaze, but boldly advances with outstretched arms until she grips his lapels and pulls him back to her. 'I will have what is mine. Your music…my voice,' she proclaims, and then rising on the tips of her toes, she unabashedly extends her body along his length to create an intimate connection. Her lips flutter seductively beneath his. 'I sing only for you,' and the sliver of space that remains between them begins to disappear.

I'm perched on the edge of my seat, and my attention is so caught up in the couple on stage that the rest of the world has faded away. They rarely engage in such public displays of affection, and I vaguely wonder why tonight has varied so far from the usual script. They hang on the edge of sweet consummation, and I feel as though I am the one nervously awaiting that stolen kiss. My heart races, the thundering rhythm having grown increasingly frenzied.

So close…and then…and then…

So rudely interrupted by the echoing crash of the rear exit door. The shock has me nearly jumping out of my seat, and I whirl around to glare at this uninvited intruder to my private performance—as if I somehow have more entitlement to be here than anyone else. A streak of light flickers against the far wall, dancing in time to the flurry of feminine giggles floating in from the lobby.

The ruckus is quickly silenced with a hiss of air. "Not there, cherí," and I instantly match voice to one of the Garnier's handsome, young scene shifters. "Don't want to provoke the Phantom, now do we?"

"Oh, Andre, you're so silly…"

I can't place his companion so easily, but it hardly matters as the door slides closed on their laughing banter. The disturbance lasts only a few seconds, but when I turn around again, the stage is deserted.

Disappointment settles like a stone in my stomach and I huff out a frustrated sigh. I know that I won't see them again tonight, but that doesn't stop me from sitting quietly for a little while longer, hoping for an encore. I am, of course, denied.

I cautiously rise from my seat and make my way down past the orchestra. I can't resist crossing the stage to stand in the spot where the Phantom and his lady had been only moments ago. Looking out into the empty auditorium, I allow myself a moment of indulgence. Closing my eyes, I imagine myself to be her, and I can almost feel the arms of my mysterious angel folding me into his body. Almost…

So close.

So real.

He's here.

Suddenly, I can barely draw a breath, so thick is the air around me. My eyes fly open and I stagger forward, gasping ineloquently. My toe brushes against something in the darkness, and my gaze falls to the floor.

There at my feet is a single, perfect, red rose.

I bend to retrieve it with trembling hands, and a shiver crawls along my spine as my fingers make contact with the stem, solid and real against my flesh. I inhale the sweet fragrance, and my body trembles as I hear two ghostly whispers in perfect accord.

'Fate links thee to me…'

'…Forever and a day.'

Stillness descends over the theater once again, but I feel their spirits linger, and I know that, despite all of the tales that have been told of them over these many years, one thing remains true.

The opera ghost does exist—and he is not alone.


Author's Note: Okay, so writer's block is kicking my unmentionables. So it might be quite some time, if ever, before I'll be able to finish anything longer than a one shot.

This piece is something a little different for me—first person and present tense. I've always wanted to try my hand at a ghost story.

Feedback is always welcome, but never demanded.