A/N: Here's the disclaimer: I don't own Phantom of the Opera or The Little Mermaid. I'm just messin' with the characters. Especially that sexy Phantom guy...

Ariel sat close to the water's edge on the wet sand of the beach. Her red hair was loose, spilling over her shoulders and her knees as she hugged them close to her chest.

She was waiting to hear a song- but not just any song, sung by just anyone. Ariel was waiting for the thoroughly seductive voice of a merman, the Phantom of the Seven Seas, to echo over the waves.

A time or two, she'd even caught a glimpse of him. He'd been keeping his distance, of course, but with her sharp eyes, Ariel had seen that he had dark hair, a mask (possibly carved from shell), and a deep blue tail. Hopefully she'd see him again tonight.

Ariel wasn't certain what drew her out here to the beach, night after night. Her father would say she was being rebellious. Her sisters and her mother would say she was falling in love.

She'd disagree with both, but she had to admit she was intrigued by the Phantom. But then again, how would it be possible to not be?

Ah, there she was.

He was flattered to know that the girl waiting to hear him every night. Once, he'd hung out far enough in the waves where she couldn't see him, though he could see her. He hadn't made a noise that night, save for his breathing.

She'd still remained on the beach all night, only leaving once the first hint of dawn crept into the sky.

Well, he certainly wouldn't remain silent tonight. He'd sing his soul out for her.

Ursula was never one to turn down a chance to barter for a soul, and now she saw an excellent opportunity to make a wager. This lovesick princess- and she was, even if she wouldn't admit it- was the perfect fool to deal with.

The sea witch called up a great storm, with rolling thunder and huge streaks of lightning. She called up the tide early, ensuring the princess would be swept away by the current and be rescued by the mysterious Phantom of the Seven Seas.

She would come to Ursula and bargain to stay beneath the sea with the Phantom.

And she would fail and belong to Ursula, like all the rest.

Ariel awoke in a place stranger than any she'd ever seen. She was in a dark cavern, though- she leaned over the edge of the boulder she was perched on- it was lit a little by phosphorescent fish.

How had she gotten here? More importantly, where was she?
Switching positions, Ariel sat on the edge of the boulder and dangled her legs in the water. It was warmer than she'd expected.

"H-hello?" she called tentatively.

From the water behind her came a soft male voice. "Yes?"

Even though she'd been hoping for a response, Ariel screamed.

Erik (for that was the given name of the Phantom) winced when the human girl screamed. Scaring her was the last thing he'd wanted to do. But he'd rather get her initial shock- and likely repulsion- over with quickly.

"I didn't kidnap you," he informed her, hanging out of her view. "You fell asleep just before the tide came in. I was afraid when you didn't wake up, so I brought you here."

"Where is here?" Ariel asked. Then she realized that perhaps she should be asking a different question. "Who are you?"

"Have you already forgotten me after only a few hours?" He waited silently for her response. Perhaps she wasn't there so much for him as he had thought.

Perfectly blue eyes widened. She'd been brought to the Phantom's lair by the Phantom himself? Ariel unconsciously groaned. The merman she'd been obsessed with for years had likely held her, been that close to her, and she hadn't had the decency to be roused from sleep so she could see him?

She twisted on the rock, but her eyes hadn't adjusted to the light. "The Phantom of the Seven Seas?"

"Is that all I'm known for?" Erik kept his head down, circling behind her each time she shifted.

"It's all I've ever known you as," said Ariel, now feeling foolish. She turned around again. This time, she was fast enough to catch a glimpse of him. "There you are!" she exclaimed.

Guiltily, he stopped moving. He wanted to duck back under the water because it was so strange to be talking to her. In person. Not just watching her from half a mile away.

"Why were you hiding?" Ariel asked him, just as a different voice called out to the Phantom.

"Erik?" came a booming male voice. Ariel's eyes widened. Was that Triton? She was only a dozen yards from the King of the Sea, then! It continued, "You're late. We're expecting you at the palace."

So his name was Erik? Questioningly, she looked at him, intending to ask what was happening, but he shook his head and put a finger to his lips.

Huffing, Ariel sat back on the boulder. The Phantom was just going to abandon her here in his dark cave while he went off? She wasn't having that. She tried to slide off the rock but Erik put his hands on her legs, holding her in place.

"Stay here," he ordered, then ducked under the water and swam away.

Erik was supremely upset that the sea king had chosen now- now, of all times- to call him to court. Any other day, it would have been a welcome break in the monotony of waiting until night. But today...

Today, Ariel was in his home, and he'd left her there unprotected. He couldn't stop thinking about that, or about her.

That would be his luck. This could not be happening right now.

"Yes, Triton?" Erik asked arrogantly. He was perhaps the one merman who could call the king by his name and live. He didn't kneel to Triton, either, but that was because of the protection Erik offered from Ursula, and the ruler knew it.

Weighing his words carefully so as to not offend the Phantom, Triton replied, "Erik, rumors have rapidly been spreading under the sea today."

"Have they? Erik asked, affecting indifference. As he immediately determined the worst- someone had seen him taking Ariel- a human- to his lair.

"Ye-es," the king said, dragging the word to two syllables. "One of my daughters said she spotted you kidnap a human."

A serious charge. Erik couldn't admit that he had been going to the surface to see a human for a year. Well over a year. "That is not the case."

Narrowing his gaze, the king said, "I hope you're certain, Erik. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt." He leaned forward on his throne and said very clearly, "Don't mess up."

Erik had no intention of doing anything to jeopardize his precarious situation.

"Ariel? Ariel. Where are you?" Ariel's mother, Cassandra, was getting concerned. It was near noon, and her daughter was still nowhere to be found. Cassandra had seen Ariel out on the beach the previous night before she'd gone to bed. She'd fully expected her daughter to come back inside and be awake by eleven o'clock. That had not been the case today.

Cassandra strode into her daughter's room and stopped short at the sight that greeted her. Ariel's bed was vacant, unslept in. She hadn't come home last night.

Frantically, the queen ran out of Ariel's room and down the hall to find her husband. A search party needed to be organized. She had to be found!

"Has anyone come in here?" Erik demanded of Ariel when he returned to his cave.

She was taken aback by this sudden business-like manner. "No. Should someone have?" It was genuine question. Her voice was full of anxiety; she found the cavern terrifying. The water all around her was dark, leaving her unable to see if she could stand, should she fall in. The only light came from the sun peeking through the small gap between the roof and the water's surface. It smelled nasty, like decay.

Erik shook his head. "No." He felt tangible relief that no one had found Ariel. Triton would only allow him to keep her as long as she remained unseen.

Though she was thrilled that she was there, a part of her was preoccupied by the affairs that must be taking place on the surface. "Have you come to take me home?"

It wasn't that she wanted to go home; she was just concerned about how her parents were taking her disappearance. It was likely it would make it to the status of an international crisis.

Another 'no' from the Phantom's lips.


Ah, here was his opportunity to persuade her to stay! He answered her question indirectly. "Seeing as I don't believe you've fully recovered from your ordeal, you should remain here for a while." Telling her of his intentions outright would not be beneficial.

Stay? She agreed, but on one condition. "Tell my parents not to worry, then. I'm sure they're looking for me."

Erik smirked before realizing it was not the appropriate expression. "Done."

The reason for his easy acceptance was that he would not need to seek out the land king and queen himself. He had a friend- well, he said friend- who was a servant in Ariel's palace. He really more of employed her to spy on the happenings on land. He'd go to Meg later on.

"I wish I could breathe underwater," Ariel said at length. "I would love to see your world."

He inclined his head. "As I would love to show you. But you have no way of breathing, and the sight of your tailless lower half"- his eyes drifted over her legs- "would almost certainly start a riot."

Worried, she looked down at her legs, too. "Are they really that bad?"

It made him laugh, her innocence. "No, but you're human, and humans aren't allowed here."

Suddenly anxious, she questioned, "Is there a punishment?"

Erik's expression was gravely serious. "Death."

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