A/N- On the subject of songs… they'll get put in (sometimes with altered lyrics) if people were LITERALLY singing (Think of Me, Music of the Night, etc) but when the songs were recitatives or metaphors for what was really going on (Phantom of the Opera, Notes, Prima Donna, etc.) I'll be replacing it with more natural dialogue.

Also, you may notice the distinct lack of a Meg version of the Christine Doll… I gave it a great deal of thought and decided that with the completely different relationship between Meg and Erik, it wouldn't really make sense. Unlike Christine, she's not some faraway idol to him, she's much more real than that, given the nature of their odd sort of friendship over the years.

Chapter Four

Erik felt a thrill course through him as his protégé's tiny hand slipped into his. Ten years, and this was the first time he had touched her. Wordlessly he moved deeper into the passageway behind the mirror, pulling her gently behind him, and she followed, almost as if under a spell. He had not even worked any of his hypnotic techniques on her! He had intended to, for he wasn't ready to speak just yet, not until he had shown her everything, but it appeared he had not needed to. She gazed up at him with those bright eyes, such a lovely dark blue like the sky at twilight. The soft look on her face warmed him unexpectedly.

Oh, his angel! He had not expected her to step into Carlotta's shoes after the conceited diva had walked out; no, he had just been trying to clear the way for someone, anyone, who wouldn't traumatize his ears with her bellowing. The fact that it had been Meg who had found it in her to fill the vacancy pleased him beyond words. When he had heard that voice like a bell ringing out in the theatre above, he could hardly believe it… his little songbird, spreading her wings at last.

How long had it been, he wondered, since the affection of a teacher turned to more tender feelings? He could not point to any one moment, any word from her that had set it off, and looking back now it seemed as though he had always felt so, though he knew that could not be. In fact he knew the shift in his feelings was quite recent, sometime in the last few months. He knew that her never-ending stream of questions used to annoy him to the point that, when she was nine, he almost gave up visiting her in his exasperation. Now, however, he couldn't imagine his life without days spent pouring through his collection of books, trying to find just the right answers for her.

Once upon a time, he had almost passed over her because hers wasn't the voice for the music he was writing. Sometime in the interim, though, he had found himself writing music for her voice instead, an endless series of arias for mezzo-soprano, precious duets for mezzo and baritone, and most important of all, the opera he had devoted his life to. It was a masterpiece he had begun shortly after meeting her, and which somehow became a vehicle specifically for her lovely voice. Oh, there were roles for sopranos in his work, but he had flouted convention and written the starring role for a lower range, for that sweet voice that haunted him. It had struck him all over again when he had heard her sing tonight; she was not the little girl he began teaching so long ago. She was so much more.

The connection they shared was a thing to be cherished. She alone understood his loneliness, and through all the years of their acquaintance she had stood by him. Once, he had thought Antoinette had taught him what friendship meant, but he had been wrong. Meg was the only true friend he'd ever had, and Erik both feared and anticipated the storm of feelings she unwittingly provoked in him. He was bewitched. The loss of control should have frightened him beyond reason, but instead he gloried in the sensation of falling in love. Yes, love. For so long- most of his life, in fact- he had thought himself incapable of loving or being loved. But Meg…

Erik was a master wordsmith, but even he could not find the words to explain how he felt. It was an emotion beyond expressing in mere words. Only his music served, and he had a song just for her.

Meg remained silent as he led her down a winding staircase and through a series of twisting corridors until they reached an underground lake. There an elaborately painted black and gold gondola awaited them, and he handed her into it as a gentleman would. Meg's skin tingled where his black-gloved hand had touched her.

In silence, they pushed off from the shore, and in silence he poled the little boat across the eerily still water. Why speak? It wasn't necessary. They understood one another. Meg reached her hand over the side to play with the mist that hung over the surface of the water, causing it to whirl up into strange shapes. She glanced up at him, and he was watching her with an unreadable expression on his face. She quickly looked away again. It had not escaped her notice that her "angel" was rather handsome beneath that half-mask he wore, and his intense green-eyed gaze was doing worrying things to her stomach. His mere presence was intoxicating, and Meg wasn't sure if that was good or bad at the moment.

A part of her felt that perhaps she shouldn't go with him. Maman would wonder where she had gone, as would Simone once her anger faded. But that was a very small part of her, and she quickly abandoned that line of thinking the next time he trapped her in his eyes. Nearly all her life he had been there, and she would not abandon the opportunity to really get to know the man behind the mind at last!

After several minutes of gliding across the still surface of the water, they rounded a bend and emerged into a large cavern, lit by the soft warm glow of thousands of candles. Meg stared around in amazement as she finally understood- he didn't just haunt the opera house for sport, he lived down here! She shivered at the thought; although he had obviously put a great deal of work into making this place comfortable, she couldn't imagine it being a particularly nice place to live.

He stepped out of the boat and removed his cape with a flourish that had Meg's stomach doing funny things unexpectedly. Before he could return to help her out, she made to step from the gondola herself, a little unsteadily as the rocking motion beneath her feet destabilized her usually perfect balance. As she wobbled precariously, he reached out a hand for hers and kept her from losing her footing. She shot him a nervous smile, trying unsuccessfully to ignore the sensations the contact between them was causing.

Only once she was safely on dry land did they speak. "Meg, for so many years I've shaped your voice, trying to prepare you, to create a voice that was perfect, for my music," he said, holding her gaze steadily. Despite the fear that he would read something she wasn't ready yet to give away in her eyes, she forced herself to meet his look with equal assurance.

"I've written so much music for you, Meg," he told her, and his eyes and his voice were strangely pleading. She wasn't quite sure what it was he was asking, but that tiny current of desperation she sensed beneath the seemingly innocuous statement made her hope she had the answer for him. A voice at the back of her mind told her she was being ridiculous, but she didn't care. There were some things worth being ridiculous for.

He seemed to be unable to find the right words to explain what he was trying to say, and he fell back on a technique she had known him to use hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the course of their acquaintance. When words failed him, he used music to explain what he was feeling.

Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation,
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination.
Silently the senses abandon their defenses…

Meg felt her breathing slow and her heartbeat accelerate. His voice was so heartbreakingly beautiful, and as always when he sang she fell under his spell. Somehow he was able to weave magic with his voice in a way no singer she'd ever heard could do, and it undid her every time. She felt this was dangerous- this ability he had to dissolve her will and melt her senses- but she couldn't bring herself to care as his voice rose in the next verse.

Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor,
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender.
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night.

As he sang, he took her left hand in his and pulled her deeper into his realm. Meg went willingly after him, unable to do anything but follow anywhere he chose to lead her. She had always been strong-willed (too much, her mother said, for no man would want such a stubborn wife), but his voice made all that power drain away. Her eyes were fixed on his as he led her onward.

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before!
Close your eyes- let your spirit start to soar,
And you'll live as you've never lived before.

Meg was all too willing to do anything he asked. Her lack of self-control should have terrified her, but as his voice reached up into the higher octave with a sound so pure and beautiful she nearly cried, the heat that spread through her entire body wiped away any worries she could have had.

Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it secretly possess you.
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind.
In this darkness that you know you cannot fight,
The darkness of the music of the night.

As he sang the tantalizing words that sent Meg's head spinning and her heart racing, she realized quite suddenly that this was a love ballad. Although the language was circumspect, there was no question that this was a song meant to win a woman's heart. The shy smile he offered her as he finished the verse only confirmed it. Meg wondered vaguely if he loved her.

Through the sensual haze his voice had set in her mind, she decided she didn't mind if he did.

Let your mind start a journey to a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before!
Let your soul take you where you long to be!
Only then can you belong to me.

His voice dropped from a powerful, overwhelming crescendo in the top range down to the softest pianissimo whisper that she could practically feel shiver in the air around her, and he approached her as the last notes of the line faded.

Meg was afraid now, but not of him. She was afraid of herself, because he was having a wholly unsettling effect on her. That wasn't unusual, really, but it was one thing to have his voice undo her and his conversation leaving her feeling giddy, but to see him, to have his hands on her arms, even through layers of fabric, was a new experience to her. She was frightened of what she might do if she kept looking into his eyes, and so she turned from him. She let him keep his hands on her body, because it felt so good to have him touch her, but she knew she would act rashly if she continued to stand facing him. There was heat in this moment, and she was terrified that both of them would burst into flames if she reacted even slightly to the enchantment he had set on her.

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation,

He sang gently next to her ear, and Meg felt her stomach turn over and her heart squeeze in her chest. Goosebumps followed the path his hands traced across her arm and torso, but she kept herself carefully turned away from him.

Let the dream begin!
Let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write

And now she had caught the melody (or perhaps it had caught her) and she couldn't help but turn to him at last to join him in the next line.

The power of the music of the night.

Their voices melded sweetly in the darkness.

A/N- I'm getting near to the end of what I have already written for this fic. Really, this is pretty much the last prepared chapter, because it was after this that I got stuck. I think my head's gotten unclogged on this story finally, but from here on out it's probably going to be pretty slow on this story. I apologize for that, but bear with me. Reviews, of course, always help.