A/N: I have never been one for romance novels. I never really liked the mushiness of it; I never cared to read about how X loves Y, but Y doesn't love him back, nor did I enjoy seeing the drama of a love triangle in full swing. It's not that I don't have fantasies and romantic struggles of my own – I as a human surely do – but the Romance genre was never really my thing.
Why, then, do I enjoy Phantom of the Opera so much? Is it for the sheer darkness of the plot and tone? Some buried desire to be spirited away in the night by a mysterious stranger? Out of sympathy for Erik, the titular phantom who never knew and would never have love? I'm not sure, but from the moment I began to read the novel, I fell in love with it and its characters both. But what precisely am I in love with? The love triangle between Erik, Raoul, and Christine has nothing to do with it for me, though it is very touching at points. The gothic undertones and grim, tragic ending appeal to the horror freak in me, but that alone can't be it. And surely, it's not the fangirl appeal – for Erik, as we all know, technically has none, and Raoul for me has even less. This leaves only one open option, then: the sympathy is what binds me to the novel. Perhaps the desire to comfort someone far worse off than I am cuts through the fear of rejection somehow and gives me a stronger need to include. It may even be the feeling of likeness that gets to me, the sheer amazement that I myself could have similar traits to a fictional character – the hellfire temper, the skill with music (though I am admittedly no virtuoso), and the desire to, for the most part, be left alone.
Whatever it is, it's probably what made me write the short story you see here. It's probably the sheer desire to give Erik a hug and say "There, there, it's alright, someone does still care" that made me want to write this little bit of fluff, even though I normally don't write romance. Erik, in my eyes, is not excused from the danger he put Christine through or the horrible things he did in his attempt to win her, but that to me does not mean that he doesn't deserve a little bit of happiness. Therefore, this short story is not one where Erik gets the girl in the end, nor is it one where Christine has a change of heart and returns to him. It is simply a story of a man's attempt to show the woman he adores just how much he really does love her the only way he knows how – through music. It takes place sometime during the beginning of PotO, during Christine's lessons from her angel, and gives a little more insight into both Erik and Christine. In other words, it's a little PotO Phan Phluff, nothing more and nothing less. I hope you enjoy it.
NOTE: I own no claim to Gaston Leroux's novel or his characters, though it is technically in the public domain now. I also do not own ALW's take on the characters, and I thankfully do not own Schumacher's take on the story either. Also, please note that this story is in the Leroux canon: not the Kay canon, not the ALW canon, the Leroux canon. This means that all references to the original story, from Erik's deformity to the color of Christine's hair, are from the original novel. So, don't whine to me about how "OMGWTF this r not liek teh movie!!!1!11" in your comments. Thanks in advance.
Shadows. The tunnels and crevices were filled with inky shadows, cloaking every stone in every wall with a layer of darkness as thick and heavy as wet wool. Not a sound broke the eerie stillness of the musty air – not a sound dared to at this hour of night. The midnight hour was far too sacred a thing to shatter, far too hallowed. Even the liveliness of the world just beyond the hidden passageways, as playful and carefree as a child, dared not disturb the darkness, but left all below it to become dead with silence.
A single shadow stirred, as soft and fluid in movement as all the others, and two yellow pinpoints of glowing light appeared with it. The lights blinked occasionally, momentarily melding the shadow back with its brethren as it peered into the darkness beyond. A soft, radiant voice, muffled only slightly by the cold, stony walls, echoed about the tunnel faintly, rustling the stale air like a ghostly undercurrent. The shadow paused in his motion and shut his luminous eyes, calmly listening to the splendor of the sound about him, letting it fill his mind with the memory of the voice's owner…
Muffled applause replaced the glorious voice, disturbing the shadow's thoughts. He sighed wistfully and continued down the tunnel, longing to hear the voice once more… just once more…
It is useless, Erik, to desire what you cannot have, he told himself ruefully. You know very well that you may never have anything of beauty, for everything beautiful that you so much as dare lay a hand upon shrinks away from you… all save music.
He grimaced bitterly beneath his mask. Oh yes… the dead may dance and have their music! But that… and that only…
But what if he could have more than that, however foolish a desire it was? Oh, he gladly would; he would gladly cast himself into the unforgiving sea of her world if that was what it would take… Anything, simply to make her happy, anything for her…
Erik paused in his careful stride and set his gloved hand on the cool stone, feeling carefully for the shift to glass. Years of practice and his influence in the building of these tunnels had taught him well – every crack, crevice, and divot in the walls was committed to his memory; every doorway and every texture of every surface in this, his hidden home, he knew and knew well. His spidery fingers crept along the wall and found the crease between glass and stone, and he drew his hand back and knocked, no more loudly than a spider's feet upon stone.
"Christine?" he called softly, his voice barely above a whisper. "It is I, your Angel…"
No answer came.
Still no answer. Erik fidgeted slightly – it was very unlike her to ignore the voice of her angel… Cautiously, he tapped on the glass once more.
"Christine? Is something the matter?"
No answer came, and a most dreadful though occurred to Erik then. What if something were the matter? What if she had fallen ill and was unable to speak, or injured herself onstage, or something far worse?
Do stop that, Erik. You are being quite ridiculous. Erik must not allow his mind to say such things to him!
This, however, did nothing to allay his fears, and he cupped his hands against the two-way glass of the mirror and peered into the room. It was dark, overwhelmed with blackness, and very difficult to see a thing. But one thing he saw quite clearly: in a cushioned chair, near a small wooden end table in the very corner of the room, rested the limp form of Christine.
Fearing the worst, Erik stepped on the floor switch for the door, watching impatiently as the mirror slid smoothly between the walls. After what seemed to him like an eternity, he swiftly stole into the room, gliding shade-like through the darkness to rest at Christine's side.
"… Christine…?" The name escaped as a whisper. Tentatively, Erik set a hand on her shoulder. She stirred only slightly in her slumber, shifting to a more comfortable position.
Erik felt himself relax slightly. Poor dear, he thought. She must have fallen asleep as soon as she had left the stage at the end of the show… Perhaps I… should wake her. He made as if to shake her awake, but he drew back at the last moment.
… He couldn't do it. She still did not know him yet, not really. Besides, she looked so peaceful in her slumber, so perfectly content, so angelic…
… So angelic…
Kneeling as if at the throne of a great queen, Erik gazed upon her. Here lay the flawless creature that he would gladly give his soul to serve, and yet he could not, for she would never adore him the same as he adored her… He would carve out his wounded, bleeding heart for her and lay it at her feet… and all she would do is draw away from it – from him – and run away, never to return to him again.
Erik gingerly brushed a stray tendril of hair out of her face. No… no, he could never tell her, never show just how much he truly did love her…
… But perhaps… perhaps I can…
"… No…" he whispered, chiding himself for even thinking of such desecration. "No… There… there is nothing sacred enough for you, Christine…"
Erik stood silently, watching the angel – his angel – slumber. No doubt she was curled in the cradling arms of some pleasant dream, quietly unaware of his presence. No, there were no words, no artwork or melody in Heaven or on Earth, that could ever capture her beauty, her spirit, her voice…
But… I must try… for the sake of her and my heart both, I must try…
With that, Erik walked back to the tunnel's entrance, pausing only momentarily to lay eyes upon the woman he so adored. After this momentary pause, he stepped back into the tunnel, shut the mirror with the hidden switch, and silently began back down the tunnel, slowly melting into the shadows once more.
The lake was placid this evening, as it always was. No soul save one ever would think to venture down this far, and it was the skeletal figure of this one soul who stood in the only boat upon the lonely lake, a Charon upon his solemn River Styx. His cat-like eyes peered deeply into the candlelit gloom, surveying his underground kingdom as his gondola slowly glided across the murky waters; his mind swam with an endless tide of thoughts. What could he ever possibly compose that could compare to her? Where could he begin?
Suddenly, Erik paused in his rowing, frozen in realization as the gondola coasted to a near stop. A strain of a melody had floated wraith-like through his mind, a single silver spark, as if some wayward Muse had appeared from the gloom and blessed him with her inspiring touch. The melody… was enrapturing, though brief, and it spoke to him like a voice, a familiar voice…
"Yes…" he murmured, still entranced by the melody. "Yes… yes, that is perfect…"
Breaking out of his stupor, Erik once more set to rowing, allowing the ethereal song to carry him home.
"No, no, no, no, no!"
Erik angrily stood, storming away from the organ and to the stony wall, slamming his hand against it in frustration. That was the tenth time in a month that he had hit a dead end in this piece, halting his efforts to capture her in song. And always in the same place!
He sighed wearily and removed his mask, setting his gaunt brow against the wall as if to quell the heated, fevered frustration surging through his head. Why couldn't he get it right? Why was this such a difficult task for him to complete when he was so skilled at what he was doing? He never encountered such trouble while working on Don Juan Triumphant!
"Patience, Erik", he murmured, massaging his bony temples. "It is a minor setback, not the end of existence. Remember how it went – remember her. You must remember it; remember her voice when she sang the aria…"
Erik shut his sunken eyes, thinking back to that night so many weeks ago… How her voice had resonated that night, sweet and glorious like a golden bell; how it plucked at his very heartstrings like a magnificent harpist…
His rage silently died, slowly melting into nothingness. Yes… he remembered it...
With a drawn out sigh of longing, he resumed his place at the organ and slid his skeletal fingers over the slick ivory keys.
The faintest hint of a smile crept across his gruesome visage, and he set to playing, letting the music guide him and not caring where the notes went or in what shape they formed themselves. The room was awash with strands of music, joyous in its ebb and flow, resonating like a glorious golden bell and slowly becoming a familiar shape…
Erik stopped suddenly, listening to the last note fade away into silence. It all made sense to him now!
"… Yes… yes, that is it!" He chuckled slightly, and a wide grin crept across his ghoulish features. "Christine, I hear you!"
He laughed, not bitterly but joyously and triumphantly, as he had not done in years. That… was her. His Christine, her voice, her soul, her very essence captured in the jar of music and capped only by raw adoration.
Erik leapt up like a jumping spider, snatching his inkwell and sheets of blank musical staff, and set into a mad flurry of scribbling. A note here, a rest there, a fermata to hold the sheer triumph…
Yes… yes, it needs only words, and it shall be finished…
A shuffling sound came from beyond the two-way mirror, and Erik leaned against the wall, awaiting a response. The shuffling stopped a few feet from the mirror, where Christine stood, peering into it dreamily and letting down her long, wavy hair from its elaborate styling.
"Yes, my Angel?" came a sweet voice – her voice. She paused a moment in her preening and turned away from the mirror, gazing upwards. "Were you listening tonight?"
Erik smiled warmly beneath his mask.
"I am always listening, dear Christine," he said. "And tonight, you sounded as magnificent as ever. You outshone the very light of Heaven above, my dear child!"
Christine smiled demurely and resumed gazing into the mirror. "I owe it to your presence, my Angel…"
"Perhaps it is better owed to your father, child," Erik responded. "For it was he who sent me to you…"
Christine's smile widened in the hint of a laugh. "And I am ever grateful for it."
"You are a humble child, Christine," Erik said wistfully. "Such God-given talent and you thank me for it…"
He shuffled nervously, but softly. "I've… a gift for you… A bit of Heaven's music. It is… the least that I might give to you. Please… listen to it…"
Erik stood from his leaning position and set his hand against the mirror, his emaciated frame no more than a mere feather's weight against the glass. Shutting his eyes and reaching to recall the words, he softly began to sing.
The song poured into the room like quicksilver, a swirling river of heartfelt notes fluttering about Christine's head like nervous butterflies. Every swell in the song made her soul soar; every lingering, longing phrase of the melody tugged at her, asking her to stay. The words sobbed and cheered, longed for and cherished, and slowly engrained themselves into her heart. The melody was more anguished than any requiem and more joyous than any aria she had ever heard, and by the time the final note had faded, Christine's eyes were wet with tears of utmost sorrow and absolute joy.
Erik sighed nervously and peered into the room, hoping to see her reaction, and when his eyes fell upon her tear-stained face, his own fell in despair.
No… Erik, you have offended her… you have shared too much of yourself, and now she knows and hates you! Look at what you have done…
Christine sank to the floor and leaned against the mirror, her thick, fluid locks pouring against the glass like liquid gold, and she sighed contentedly.
Erik felt his breath hitch and his pulse quicken. She had never strayed so close to he and the mirror before… Had the mirror not been there, he would have reached out to touch her, if only to rest a single hand upon her hair, her shoulder, her arm… If only…
He pulled himself out of his thoughts at the last moment, suddenly realizing that his foot was resting mere inches from the switch on the floor. He pulled his foot away, startled by what he nearly had done, and took a few steps away from it and the mirror for good measure.
Erik must be more careful! he thought, alarmed. He might easily have destroyed the cover and trust he has spent months building between he and his beloved and sent her running! How could Erik have been so careless as to nearly reveal his monstrosity to her?
Erik jumped like an agitated grasshopper and snapped his attention back to the mirror, taken aback by the sudden, if sweet, sound. Feeling foolish, he crept back towards it on cat feet.
"Yes, my dear Christine?" he asked, collecting himself.
She sighed in weary rapture and peered up to the heavens, wet eyes glistening with joyful tears and gentle lips upturned in the faintest of smiles. Behind the mirror, Erik knelt next to her on the worn, dusty floor and leaned against the mirror.
"What do you call such a glorious aria?" she asked, her golden voice little more than an awed whisper past her lips.
Erik's face crept into a smile, and warm tears of joy welled in his luminous eyes as they glittered with delight.
"For You, he whispered – and nothing more.