A/N: Long time, no post. .;; Err, it tied for 1st place in Mort Rouge's 2007 Valentine's Contest. Theme was "love," if I remember. . .

Disclaimer: I don't own Phantom of the Opera, and I'm not making any money off this

Ratings: G

Genre: General / Hurt/Comfort

Warnings: Nothing really. . .

Main Characters: The daroga and Erik

Additional Notes: I had so thought I posted this ages ago. . . Also, to anyone still reading my stuff. . . I am so sorry for the long absence. I may or may not be back now. . . I'm really not sure.

Stage Lights

It wasn't clear to me why I decided to go there at that particular time. The halls and labyrinthine passages were dark then, so late at night. I daresay it must have been nearly midnight, if not past it. All of the opera house's occupants were safely asleep, save a few guards scattered about. I doubted I would meet any on my wanderings, though even if I were to run into one, no one ever questions the "mysterious Persian with the Evil Eye." Of course, I found that I was quite correct in my thinking—I saw no one. Down endless halls I wandered, with no particular destination in mind, following only a flimsy whim. Soon enough, I found myself before the stage, the grand crimson velvet curtains open—oddly enough—and the old gas stage lights lit, though low and casting a strange orange-white fiery light across the empty stage boards. I frowned; it was certainly unusual for the lights to be left on, and the curtain open and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, though not as much as my next revelation.

At that moment, I realized I was not alone, not the only one who had decided—by some unknown force—to go to that otherwise empty room in the dead of night, to the opera. And I heard it, like a tickling in the back of my mind, a whisper in my ear—the voice. The voice was soft, at first—almost hesitant as it sang a few quiet scales, a short warm-up. It was the most beautiful voice and it sparked a memory in me, a memory of a rare happy day that had graced me in Mazendaran. I was only moderately surprised to find that I knew this voice, though I had only heard it sparingly in all the years I had been acquainted with its owner. The lights lifted only slightly and I could make out the dark silhouette of a cloaked man against the black. Erik's voice gained volume as he began to sing an aria from some opera or another. As he sang, seemingly oblivious to everything, myself included, I felt the chords, the very melody, twist around me, seep inside me—and I could feel his bitterness as well.

His song seemed to end all too quickly, but by the end of it, I found myself seated with no memory of lowering myself to the chair. There was no time to ponder in the lull between his songs and Erik—now fully visible, though appearing somehow insubstantial in the flickering lights and shadows, on the stage—began to sing in a language I was not familiar with. Still, I could sense the tone, could feel the words more than hear them. It was a simple song, and all the more beautiful for it. I closed my eyes and Erik sang. He sang of love never held, of loved lost, and he sang of devotion—consuming, eternal, painful devotion that burned and ached until it was all that was left. As it ended, I was left utterly breathless in the wake of its splendor.

When I opened my eyes once more, Erik was standing in the same place, in the low glare of the stage lights. He gave the impression of waiting for something but for what, I wasn't certain. He sighed, turning, and suddenly I knew. So many years he had devoted to the opera house and never had he received any recognition beyond fearful whispered rumors of the "opera ghost." Never had he been allowed to sing on his stage and receive what he should have been entitled to. Erik froze when he heard the sound of my feeble applause—hardly comparable to the standing ovation of a full opera house which he deserved. It was all I could give him, however. He only paused a moment longer before I was left with the echo of my dying applause and the stage lights and his whisper in my ear.

"Thank you, daroga. . ."

A/N: Well. . . As I said, I may or may not be back. . . But please enjoy this. :3 Review!