A/N:

Yeah, so I'm alive. Everyone start crying. Arcèlia's alive...

First, I'd like to apologise for my extended absence - life, love, assignments and France got to me.

Oh, by the way, I'm posting from Bordeaux, France. On a French keyboard. Feel honoured. I don't like French keyboards.

Updates will come. Like, I'm serious. I feel really guilty about not updating...

So, I thought I'd better finish this two-shot which has been lying around for a while...

This is the second thing I'd like to apologise for. The chapter's about 3000 words, and it so did NOT go the way planned. Nice safe fluff turned into unnice, unsafe...I don't know if there's a word for what this is.

In conclusion, I'm a failure at life, writing romance, and speaking French. Though I'm getting better at the last one.

Enjoy


See the Music – Chapter 2

What d'you want, you fuckin' bas-!"

The fairly predictable sentence ending was left unsaid, as a blow so loud it rang over even the music cut short the words.

"Is it the alcohol that has so disturbed your ability to comprehend spoken language, or are you always like this?" asked a smooth, cultured, sexy (though she'd die before actually saying that) male voice from just above the jaw. "If you will merely look to Mademoiselle…?"

It took her a moment to understand that he was expecting her to speak.

"Daaé," she choked out. "Christine Daaé." Her voice sounded strange to herself - broken and hoarse.

"…Mademoiselle Daaé," he continued as though he'd never halted, "I'm sure her feelings in this matter are quite obvious."

"What the fuck?!"

Were sighs musical? Could the adjective 'musical' be tagged onto a word like 'sigh'?

"Go away."

It was the weakest-worded command Christine had ever heard, and yet at the same time, it held a hypnotic, powerful command feeling to it. Raoul had enough strength of will – or was sufficiently drunk – to muster up a baleful glare before stomping angrily away, becoming steadily faster with each step till he appeared to be running.

Christine only realised how weak with relief she was when her knees suddenly buckled and her arms were quickly, but not painfully, grasped by those larger ones.

"Are you alright?" he asked gently, concern evident in his tone.

Stupid question, Christine thought cynically, before the immensity of what had just happened hit her. Ungrateful idiot! she berated herself. You should be on your knees thanking him!

"Stupid question," cut through her self-flagellation, a rueful echo of her thought. She stared up at him, amazed – and that was the first time she was aware of the gleaming white half-mask.

A mask? Why is he wearing a mask? Her eyes widened, and she bit her lip nervously, instinctively pulling her arms away from his hold.

Though he acted oblivious to her alarm, a slight tightening of the jaw muscles indicated that it hadn't gone unnoticed. "Can you walk?" was all he asked, and the tone was changed too – still smooth and beautiful, but with a hint of harsh distance to it.

The feeling of shame that Christine had felt earlier returned – who was she to judge by appearances, when she had learned the hard way how little they counted for? And what was more, he had selflessly aided her when many others would have walked away?

She wanted to apologise, but something told her that it would come out awkward, and would likely do more harm than good.

"Can you walk?" he asked again, and the concern had returned. Shakily, she demonstrated, but he insisted that she find somewhere to sit for a while all the same.

He headed in the direction of the hall, but Christine couldn't bear to return to the stuffiness of the building. Besides, Raoul could be there, and though he wouldn't try anything with other people around, she didn't think she could bear to see his face all the same. "I'll stay out here," she said, turning to walk away. "Thank you for all your help-"

The last word was cut off when, in a movement unbelievably quick, he was in front of her – carefully maintaining a two metre distance between them. Are you sure that is the wisest thing to do, Mademoiselle Daaé?" There was anger in his voice now.

"I don't want to go inside," Christine protested feebly.

"And I didn't ask to have my evening ruined," he responded harshly as he – she didn't even know his name! – took hold of her arm once again. This time, he didn't respond to her automatic cringe. "Please!" she begged, trying to pull away, but his strength was far greater than hers. "Please!"

She didn't notice that she was crying till black-gloved fingers wiped the moisture from her cold cheeks. Though he didn't release his grip on her hand, it relaxed considerably as he led her to a nearby bench, where they sat, the only noise the sound of her sobbing.


It seemed like hours to Christine before she could finally gather enough composure to raise her hands to her face. The tears were warm, a stark contrast to the chill of the night – she shivered as the cold finally broke through her shock. It was very cold.

"Do you wish to return to the hall?" Christine almost yelped when she heard his voice – he'd sat there so silently she'd almost forgotten his presence beside her.

"No, thanks," she whispered, but the wind gusted suddenly and her words were carried away, replaced by a more violent shudder.

From the corner of her eye, she saw movement – but she didn't react till she felt something warm and heavy being draped around her shoulders. Surprised, Christine looked over at him – wearing nothing but black pants and white shirt.

She gasped, and hurriedly pulled the jacket off herself. "I can't accept this," she protested. "You'll freeze!" Never mind that you're in a dress that's so thin, it'd be no different if you were wearing nothing at all…

"I'll live," he shrugged. Somehow, the colloquialism of that phrase seemed odd coming from someone as tall and dignified-looking as him.

Him.

"Oh!" Her exclamation was loud, and the echoing caused her to clasp her hands around her mouth reflexively – to his amusement, she noted sourly – before she realised that there was no one around to hear it.

"Yes?" Oh, he was amused – Christine could hear it in that beautiful, rich tone.

She ignored it as she said, "I don't know your name."

"Names aren't important, Mademoiselle Daaé," he told her. "Besides," the amusement returned, thicker than before, "isn't there something romantic about a mysterious stranger riding to your rescue?"

"Where's the horse?"

The shiver that ran through her at the sound of his laughter had nothing to do with the cold, if only because it felt a lot nicer than one that had to do with weather.

"What's your name?" she asked again, his reluctance to answer merely fuelling her persistence. He remained silent, and when she looked up at him, his face was turned away. It was the other side of his face – the one that she couldn't see – that was visible. Why does he wear a mask? Christine wondered. An injury? To look mysterious?

She recalled that when he'd referred to himself as a mysterious stranger, he hadn't referred to himself as a masked one.

To distract herself from the white porcelain – porcelain was what it looked like, anyway – Christine scanned the rest of his form. While his height wasn't as noticeable, seated as they were, the image of him looming over her – and Raoul, as well – returned to her. While he wasn't slender, he had a dancer's grace and posture; even the way he sat screamed that.

"Am I so entertaining to observe, Mademoiselle Daaé?"

Oops. "What's your name?" she asked (again), in an attempt to hide her embarrassment. The wry smile that upturned his lips and softened his angular features – or the half she could see – before it was replaced by careful blankness was evidence of her unsuccessful cover-up. As predicted, he didn't reply, and they lapsed into awkward silence once more.

"Who was that man?"

"Hmm? Oh…" She'd almost forgotten the earlier events of the night, but they returned to her in an instant at his question.

The stench…

The stone at my back…Though she couldn't see, she could feel the bruises begin to form.

His hands on my skin…the sound of his voice, the claustrophobia, his face, the empty music – the music!

"We were married," she heard herself say, as though there was someone else in her body speaking for her. "He promised not to drink – Raoul's always been bad with alcohol." Her laugh was harsh. "One night, not too long after our wedding, he went to a pub with some friends. Promised not to drink. When he came home, he…" She trailed off, unable to continue.

"Ah."

Ah, she thought bitterly. Ah, indeed.

The exact memories of what had happened that night had thankfully been washed away by the hospitalisation that had followed it, but Christine still remembered the fear, and the anger, and the shame. The shame never left, like a dirty stain that couldn't be washed away – it returned every time she saw one of his family members, or when she heard the whispers at the school where she taught music. A lot of her colleagues had come to the wedding.

None came when the divorce was formalised.

Her wedding…Christine had shredded the photographs, and burnt the scraps. She'd thought it would make her feel better, but it didn't, as if she'd destroyed the only real physical evidence of what had happened to her.

The man next to her didn't speak, for which she was grateful. The silence returned once more, but this time it was comforting. Around them, the wind whistled softly, and she pulled the jacket closer around herself. If she turned her head, she could see the hall where the dancing and laughter still continued, unaffected by the chill outside.

"My name is Erik."

"Huh?" As soon as the sound came from her mouth, Christine wanted to slap herself for it.

"My name is Erik," he repeated patiently.

A swell of satisfied warmth filled her. "And does Erik have a last name?" she asked smilingly, wanting to consolidate her victory.

All of a sudden, the relaxed silence became anything but relaxed, and she looked at him in surprise. The golden eyes were narrowed, and though his posture was as perfect as before, Christine could practically see the tightness of his muscles. "I'm sorry…" she murmured, somewhat confused.

He – Erik – sighed, and the tension dissipated. "No, I'm sorry," he apologised softly, and she wanted to cry from the sheer beauty of his voice. "Destler," he said. "Erik Destler."

"Erik Destler…" Christine repeated, tasting the name. It sounded familiar…"Erik Destler!" she exclaimed, again too loudly – but this time, she was too excited to notice. "You're the famous composer!" He smiled slightly at her enthusiasm, but it was a sad smile.

"Yes," he confirmed.

Christine couldn't believe it. Erik Destler was her saviour? Erik Destler, of all people? "It's such an honour to meet you!" She was gushing, she knew, but she didn't care.

"The honour's all mine, believe me," Erik demurred, but the words had an air of formality about them, and she realised for the first time his discomfort.

"Oh, well, um…I'm sorry…"

The awkwardness had returned tenfold, as they sat in silence – again.

Finally, Christine heard another sigh. "Well," she heard him say, "you know my profession now. What do you work as?" The forcedness of his tone annoyed her.

"I'm a teacher," she replied.

"Really? What do you teach?" The forced conversation…Christine was on the verge of standing and walking away, but she made herself answer the question with some degree of civility.

"Music, at the Conservatory."

"Ah." She'd hoped that he might show some more interest at that, but no. He probably meets bad musicians every day, Christine told herself glumly. "What instrument do you play?"

"Piano," Christine said absent-mindedly, "and I sing." More she used to sing – after the divorce, she'd not been able to muster enough passion in her voice, and she hadn't been able to garner more than chorus positions in operas and musicals. Now, she only sang if begged to – such as at the wedding, yesterday.

"You sang yesterday."

Does he have to repeat everything I think?

"Yeah, I did."

"I see."

For some reason, something in Erik's tone made her look at him. He was frowning – or at least, she thought he was frowning, since the closest side of his face wasn't visible to her – and though he was gazing down at an innocent-looking flower, it didn't seem to be the focus of his attention.

Finally, he spoke again. "I have a request…" he said slowly.

"Yes?" she asked.

He didn't continue till a few moments later, just when she'd begun to give up hope of any sort of continuation.

"Will you sing something for me?"

She only sang if begged to, and this wasn't begging – but from what she'd heard, this man didn't ask favours often. He made demands, and expected them to be carried out.

"Only if you call me Christine." She was half-afraid that he'd shout at her for her audacity, but he merely looked surprised, before his lips curved in the first real smile she'd seen him give.

"Will you sing for me, Christine?"

For some strange reason, she felt as though there was another, hidden meaning in those words, but she didn't search for it, instead focussing on what she was about to sing.

Think of me,

Think of me fondly,

When we've said goodbye,

She hated the sound of her voice, though she knew it was probably only due to the cold. But the lack of feeling in it…that was Raoul. Raoul. Raoul who'd done such terrible things to her, and been able to blame it on the alcohol. Raoul who she'd cared too much about, even after that night, to be able to take to anything more than the divorce courts. This is his fault, and the anger at the thought fuelled her song.

Remember me,

Every so often

Promise me you'll try,

Gods, how she hated him!

And on that day, that not so distant day,

When you are far away and free,

If you ever find a moment,

Spare a thought for me!

The sound of her panting filled the air as her sobbing had before – she hadn't sung like that for years!

"No soul…"

Though she dismissed it later, she could have sworn she'd heard Erik say that. No soul.

"Why did you stop?" Christine shrugged.

"I don't sing much now," she said honestly.

"I can tell…" he muttered, and those words sparked the anger of before.

"Fine!" she spat. "Dismiss my voice, dismiss everyone not up to your oh-so-famous-composer standards, but you asked me to sing! You!"

When he finally met her eyes, it was with something like amazement. "Yes, that's true…" Erik murmured, as though she'd presented him with some sort of divine revelation. Rolling her eyes, Christine rose to her feet.

"I'm leaving," she whispered. "Thanks for your help."

She had only taken a few steps when she heard him rise behind her. "I'm sorry," he said. His voice was low and husky, and…sensual. Steeling herself, Christine ignored him and took another step.

"I'm sorry...Christine."

Oh, how she hoped that moan didn't come from her lips at the sound of her name! The way he rolled the 'r', how he almost whispered it with a sort of religious reverence, as though it was a fragile, sacred object!

When he laid his large hands on her shoulders, she shuddered again, his touch burning her though a jacket was between his skin and hers. A jacket didn't seem nearly enough at the moment…

"I heard your voice yesterday," Erik murmured, and she could feel his warm breath on her neck, "and it was as though I was hearing an angel's song."

"No," Christine found enough strength to protest, "I'm not a good singer at all, I never get anything other than chorus parts now-"

"Yes," he interrupted, "now, after the de Chagny boy laid his filthy hands on you!" He almost growled Raoul's name, hatred clear.

The chill she felt now was one of fear, the disgust that Erik felt for Raoul terrifying.

De Chagny…

"You know his name," Christine realised.

Erik spun her to face him – caught off-balance, she almost fell, but he wrapped his arms around her waist to hold her steady. "It was all I could take to remain civil, though the blow I gave him was admittedly very satisfying. I've watched you for a while, Christine," he said, and the hint in his voice at the final sentence made her feel faint. "You were in one of my operas, remember?"

She did remember. It was one of the best parts she'd ever played – Aminta, in the daring, sensual Don Juan Triumphant.

It was also the last part she'd ever played.

"How long's a while?" she asked.

His grin was wolfish. "Does 'a long while' suffice?"

"But I've never seen you before…" she mumbled, confused. It had been a surprise, and slightly humiliating, to find out that the composer of the opera they were performing didn't have time to visit them - her co-actors had been rather vocal in their feelings about 'Erik Destler'. Christine had merely felt sad - his music had been an important part of her training, and meeting him...

He's here now, though.

Yeah, she thought. Though this isn't the sort of conversation I'd imagined we'd be having.

She was certain that she'd never seen him before, though - it would be something she would remember, seeing a masked man. It wasn't very common, after all…

"No," he agreed. "You wouldn't have." Recalling the graceful movement and almost inhuman speed, Christine could believe that.

"What do you want from me?" Christine whispered, gazing wide-eyed up at his liquid gold eyes, and a slight smirk touched his lips.

"What do I want from you…?" Erik repeated, chuckling darkly. "What I want…"

His arms left her body and he stepped backwards, "…is to give you singing lessons."

What?

"I will meet you in your Conservatory at the end of your day on Monday," Erik said calmly. "I trust there is some moderately decent piano in the place?"

What?

"Till Monday, then," he told her, walking away. Dumbly, Christine stared after him for as long as she could – but he seemed to melt into the darkness, and her eyes could only follow him for a few short moments.

It's cold, she told herself, and if you want to be alive by Monday for work – and that promised singing lesson – you'd better go inside…

"Oh, shit!" She still had his jacket!

Instinctively, Christine started to run after him, but stopped, realising that she wouldn't be able to find him. Sighing, she turned to walk back into the hall. Yes, she would see him again – but the night felt rather anti-climatic all the same…and she still didn't understand. Why her? How long had he been watching her?

Another sigh turned into a gasp as her shoulder was grasped and she was spun around for the second time that night. In the dark, she couldn't see the face of her assailant, but she lashed out in the direction of what she reasoned would be their head.

The unknown stranger laughed, grabbing hold of her wrists easily, and Christine's heart jolted.

Can it be…?

Lips claimed hers in a heated kiss, movement of the other's mouth against hers leaving her breathless and gasping for air when, as quickly as he had initiated it, the man still firmly holding onto her hands released her mouth, moving his lips to her ear.

"Keep the jacket."

Walking back to the lights and sound, touching her lips occasionally, Christine reflected that maybe – just maybe – the music wasn't as bad as she thought it was.


A/N

Ahahahahahahaha.

Okay.

I'm so attempted to disassociate myself from that.

The story, not the ahahahahaing. Though maybe that as well.

So, what did you phans think? By the way, I don't hate Raoul. The Raoul in this is lovely. When he's not drunk.

I'm ending it here for now, though later I might be tempted to make it an extended story (though Raoul as the romantic rival's kind of out of the picture.)

By the way, if anyone wants me to review their story, I'm more than happy to - just tell me in a review/PM/whatever.

Till the upcoming Say You Love Me (I think) update,

Arcèlia