What Lies Beyond the Point of No Return: A Phantom of the Opera Phanfiction
*re-loaded from a few years ago!*
Characters & history aren't mine, but the content is! ©2011!
Chapter 1: Prelude
I, Christine, scurried off the stage. My beautiful lavender dress, as fragile as butterfly wings, whispered around my legs as I stepped across that wobbly board. As the other players continued their rehearsal, I saw the stage hand push past me. The board beneath him shook. "Someone should fix that," I told him.
He instantly bristled, turning to give the sharp edge of his tongue to whomever had deigned to criticize his sets. When he saw it was me, though, some of the tension left his jaw. He had always been more polite to me than he had to the others. I had, you see, never played on his sets as a little girl, nor did I amuse myself among the ropes that restrained the heavy curtains of the stage. Many of the ballerinas had so entangled themselves and were extricated amongst much bellowing on the part of the stage manager. I had given him no reason to be irritated by me; thus, he endured me. "I suppose they wouldn't be too happy if someone fell, now would they?" he said with obviously forced joviality. "I'll repair it right now." He waved a hand to his crew; they hurried forward armed with nails, hammers, and a large plank.
"Christine…." that velvet-soft voice whispered in my ear. Just the sound of it made a shiver leap throughout my core. "Christine…come to me…"
Meg, swathed in yards of rose tulle, saw me and grasped my hand. "You'll do wonderfully at the show tomorrow!" She had barely thirty seconds before she was expected onstage. I nevertheless had every confidence that she wouldn't miss her cue. She always managed to be on time, despite perpetual absentmindedness. Her mother and I were alike convinced that God had dealt her the gift unfairly.
Distracted now, myself, I gave her a quick smile and looked for the nearest staircase. "Thank you, Meg. But now, I must go to my room. I left something behind." I had become rather skilled at lying. No one suspected me, me with my innocent face.
"All right. See you tomorrow afternoon!"
Freed, I fairly leapt up the steps in my haste. The room at the end of the staircase didn't belong to me. It belonged to the Phantom. With cold, blue eyes like baleful chips of sky and dark, shoulder-length hair, he was beautiful. The others, they whispered to me that he was a monster beneath the mask he wore. I knew the truth. He had laughed about it to me, when I had caught a secretive glimpse of him one night when the mask was off. He had caught me, needless to say. He had told me that he preferred that the other ballerinas think him repulsive, for then they wouldn't seek him out for romantic overtures.
Little did he know, I sought him out as much for those romantic overtures as for his teaching.
I paused at the worn door to the old tower room. No one had been here but me and the Phantom. They would just think the room was for storage. How wrong they would be, for inside, it was a clean, neat room with a small bed, a decent chest of clothes, a mirror, and a desk for writing music. Chiffon curtains billowed inside the room, swelling with the frigid night sky. I shut the door behind me and caught my breath at the sight before me.
The moon was shining through the window with an eerie promise. He wasn't here yet, but he would be soon. He had promised me. I chilled; the autumn night made the hairs on my arms shiver. Inside the chest of garments, I knew, was a warm flannel house coat and a lovely nightgown. The Phantom let me sleep in this room the night before my performances, away from the giggling cavorting of my old dance-mates. He would tuck me in, as he did when I was a child, and lay on top of the blankets. There was a layer of soft sheets between us, but his heat warmed me more than they did. His presence was comforting when I was a child…now, my heart would beat just a little faster as he laid himself down beside me.
But then, it would calm, for his cruel eyes would soften as he gazed at me and croon me to sleep with a lullaby he had composed for me. He was a great teacher of the voice, and his own was so extraordinary it was a wonder he did not have an alternate persona who sang in the opera. It was gentle and smooth, a masculine flute of honey to my ears. I would wake with his arm flung over me, almost – but not quite – pulling me in as if I was his possession.
Smiling at what would be my evening, I stripped off the gown and laid it over the foot of the bed. He would put it in a safe place after we finished our own quick dress rehearsal.
Horror of horrors! I heard a noise at the window, and knew him to be entering. My body instantly flushed and cooled with my embarrassment at wearing only my chemise. Quickly, as soon as he stepped into the room, I darted behind him and put my hands over his eyes. He usually did a preliminary scan of the room, an old habit from darker days when such things were necessary. Ah, I see from your face, listener, that you assume I know more than I reveal! Do not be so foolish; my teacher never revealed aught to me that would make me unhappy. Such morsels of information as I have gathered, I have done without his blessing. Yet, even in the matters of his own past, my efforts have been fruitless.
Without uttering a cry of surprise, his instincts made him seize my hands and twist them away, almost snapping them from my delicate wrists. "Stop!" I cried. My toes nearly gave out my precarious hold over his visage from fear. "It's just me."
"Christine. Are you all right? Unhand me!"
"Heavens, no!" I twisted around in front of him slightly, letting my fingers separate to let him see my face, then I resealed them. "You came at a most inopportune time! I am…not decent."
A slow, lazy smirk spread his mouth, and my stomach seemed to leap into my chest. "Very well," he drawled, "I shall not gaze upon your innocence." He turned away, and with a jerk of his head, unleashed my hands from his face. Before I could protest, he deliberately closed his eyes and lay upon his back. The smirk was already sweetening into a gentle smile. "It is wonderful to have such a ….student…as you, a young lady, who still finds such excitement in the idea of her revelation." His words had a double meaning that made my spine tremble again. I told myself it was mostly the coldness of the breeze, in whose breaths I was directly standing.
I didn't tarry to see how long his benevolence would last; I dashed to the open clothes-chest and withdrew the rustling nightclothes. It was strange, dressing before him. One could have almost thought he was slumbering, so unconcerned did he appear, but I knew otherwise. "I'm done," I said in a voice that barely shook.
Immediately his eyes opened and he smiled at me, the cool white of his mask contrasting with his dark clothing. He rose from the bed as effortlessly as a specter. I turned away from him, fiddling with the ties of my robe. "What do you wish for me to study tonight, my teacher?"
"Not to study, but to discover, tonight, my dear," he whispered. He had come up behind me and his hands trickled themselves over my shoulders, a warm prickle of heat. They slid down my arms to my white bodice, and they splayed themselves over my hipbones like a harpist rests her hands upon the soundboard of her instrument. Stars…like a harpist…
"I wish to give you a different type of music."
"One that will resound within me?" I asked in an attempt at lightheartedness.
But I could almost see him smile, though he wasn't within my view. "Exactly." Then, he began to sing. I instantly knew from the timbre of his mellifluous tenor voice that it was a love ballad. "Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness stirs and wakes imagination. Silently the senses abandon their senses…" He paused, as though giving me the opportunity to flee. Why he offered it, I had no idea. Could he perhaps be implying a purpose deeper than instruction by singing this ballad? After a moment, he continued to sing.
To speak honestly, I was becoming lightheaded from his voice. If his lyrics were penned, readers might scoff at my reaction. I would not hold it against them. There was an inexplicable quality about his voice, a force that was impossible to resist, that could not be conveyed through ink. A reader would be sheltered from it; I, however, was subjected to its complete and vast influence. How can one stand in an ocean current and not give way to its tug? Likewise, how could the female heart prevail against his voice? This was not a rehearsal, a lesson, or a demonstration, my all too-willing heart was insisting to my weakening intelligence. It was courtship and seduction!
With this hope, heat and cold raced in my veins. Could it be? Could the Phantom be offering me my darkest, most secret dreams?
He was going to kiss me soon, my heart decided. He must, for how could he say such words to a woman and not act upon the desire they provoked? Oh, my teacher was going to kiss me… Did I want him to? Dared I surrender myself to this dark angel, this man, this Phantom? He had terrorized, he had passion worthy of murder, he had music burning within him that would create life within the throes of ecstasy.
Dared I take the chance of being his? It would not be an easy life, for he had told me that he was hated by society as much as I was loved. He had told me that he had scars from their whips as much as my cheeks were raw with their kisses. Could we exist together in happiness?
"Softly, deftly, music shall surround you," my Angel of Music continued. "Feel it, hear it, secretly possess you…" His arms surrounded me in much the same way, his voice melting every reservation I had about him. The roughness of cloak rubbed against my bare arms, warm scratching. The edges whispered over the round curve of my shoulders, and I sighed as a woman sighed in the arms of her lover.
To be his, to be claimed as his…to never have another woman clutch at him. To wipe his tears, bear his anger, to have his love of me proclaimed to the world in his shouts of pleasure. O, sweet prospect…
As if reading the nature of my thoughts, his voice became deeper, more suave. It glided over me like the sheer wedding-night gown of Cleopatra. The low vibrations made my eyes fall shut in bliss. "Floating, falling, sweet intoxication," he crooned. "Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation." Oh, bold! I thought. Is there any doubt of his intentions?
His hand pulled mine to his face. I felt the soft warmth of his cheek, the moisture of his tears testifying to the depth of his emotion. His lips were soft and wet – and hot. I turned to him, ready to meet his mouth with mine and end this torturous teasing.
With a wicked grin, though, he reined in his passion and swept away from me, only his gloved fingers retaining contact with my hand. "Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in to the power of the music that I write –"
I confess, dear listener, I was falling into him, a sweet desperation filling me to belong to this black mastermind. Was I naïve and thoughtless? I challenge you to do better!
He finished, murmuring quietly, "The power of the music of the night."
Yes, I give in, I told him within my mind. I'll sing your music in your name…I shall fashion it into melodies that will make the angels weep for the terrible beauty of your wrath and my echoing whispers in the snow.
He was favoring me with an unfathomable look, an indistinguishable blend of emotions. I did not know what to say. I was shaking noticeably. What explanation could I give? "My…my lord?"
"Yes, Christine," he murmured, "I am your lord. And," he said, sudden mischief in his whispering voice, "you will be my lady." He pulled me back to him. Ah, cruel man, to tease a woman so! At his words, my head fell back onto his shoulder in helpless appreciation, my breath hitching and coming in gasps. "You do not find my words repulsive, I gather," he murmured as his gloved hand trailed up my throat. The leather was cool and slick and soft, an aphrodisiac to the hot textured embroidery of my nightgown against my body.
"Why do you do this?" I asked faintly. "What is your purpose?"
He answered only the first query. "Do you object?" His arms hesitantly – hesitantly, still! – crossed over my chest, letting their weight press me close. A sound of pleasure, foreign to me until now, rose from my mouth, and I could feel him start. He began to unknot his arms, perhaps thinking my response from fear. Was he for once unsure of himself?
Boldly, surprising myself, I reached up and held his arms in place. They were lean without being scrawny, powerful without being bulky. I could feel the rippling of his muscles as he flexed his fingers over my upper arms. "I surmise you enjoyed that?" he drawled.
I flushed. This was unladylike. If my father were alive to know that my teacher and I were standing in such an embrace in a room without chaperons – at my age, and in my dress – he would most likely faint. But at the sensation of his breath coming slightly faster in my ear, I decided I didn't care.
"My teacher –"
"My name is Erik."
I looked shyly up at him. "….Erik….does this mean you return my regard?"
" 'Regard.' Regarder. To look, as our people would say. My student, my Christine, my eyes have looked fondly towards you in the shadows since you were a child. But only recently have they noticed your attraction towards me."
Made uncertain by his evading answers and vague accusation, I tried to pull away, but his arms only pressed me closer against his chest. Lower, more slowly now, "My Christine…Long have you regarded me as a father, but, neither nature nor our own hearts can deny that I am not your father, nor indeed am I any part of your family. This icy heart now melts in your gaze as no relative's could, and this…." he paused, "….soul….desires your affection as none of your blood would." He released me then, and spun me around to meet his eyes. Blue like ice-covered lakes sometimes, but now liquefied summer sky, they revealed tender fear. "Do you understand me?"
"My teach-…Erik, I understand…and reciprocate."
My response had lit his eyes so that they reminded me of the snow that blankets the streetlights. "Darling girl …I must ask you an important question."
"Anything, Erik." His name now fell easily from my lips.
"Imagine," he said, now releasing me and striding about the room as if it was too confining, "imagine – that you have carefully crafted the solo for your performance tomorrow. Then, that afternoon, the caretakers of my establishment" (his lip curled in derisive contempt) "give you the opportunity to pass your solo to Carlotta. Would you?"
At the thought, I could feel my mouth twisting into a snarl, my shoulders hunching inwards as if to protect the orb of music hovering in my chest. "Never. It's mine to protect. I've made it my own, left my own mark on it – give it up! How could I?"
"And, why would you love this solo so?"
"It is part of who I am. You – you know the feeling of being taken by music." My expression became glazed with bliss. "Floating on a gentle sea, swept in the depths of passion…" I stumbled then, and was silent. How could I explain to this male, teacher though he was, that when I was in music, it took me within its embrace like a lover? How could I explain the shivers that raced down my arms like his long fingers when my voice merged and throbbed with the orchestra?
It didn't need to be said. I could see that much. His eyes glittered with satisfaction and pride at what he had fashioned me to think. "Christine…you are my music, my solo."
At his words, my protective stance melted, and my legs became weak with his meaning. "You – you-"
"Let me make it plainer. If you want me in this manner, I shall never yield you to another."
My limbs yearned to make me spin in gladness for his words. But, I held them still. "Then, Erik," I said, looking upon his dark beauty and knowing the terrible and wonderful rich desires that drove him, but not caring that I didn't comprehend to what I was sealing myself. "Then, declare to the world that I am your solo, and," I blushed, "make music of me." I started to burn as hot as the smoldering fire in his ice-eyes.
He was across the room in a moment, a black vampire of myth, forbidden and awesome. His legacy and menace, his lethal malice, was written in every potential movement of his body. His lips were on my unblemished throat. "Sing," he commanded, and ran his cold fingertips down my vibrating neck. I heard music in my mind, dually dancing with his hands to claim my attention. His arms clasped my waist to his, and he bent me over backwards as his voice whispered dark and seductive things in my ears.
My voice was nearly unacceptably breathy, the tune of his lullaby coming in gasps. Hit that note, crescendo there, diminuendo – it was strange, concentrating on that tune while his wonderful mouth did malevolent things upon the skin of my neck. I grasped onto his dark cascades of hair to keep from fainting. He filled the holes of my song with his own voice, mouth descending on the soft swell of my shoulder. I sang of him, of how my heart joined to his when our bodies yet could not. I told him, in a voice shimmering of tears and joy, how nervous and strange I felt the first time I saw him. My angel was real, he was a man, he was breathtakingly beautiful, he was tortured in black. He had led me down hallways forbidden to young innocent girls, looking more like a demon than an angel. But, an angel he was; he was my teacher. He was immortal, he had put his spirit inside me, he was –
"Oh!" I gasped, the music abruptly cut off, and he chuckled cruelly against my skin.
"Erik," I pleaded, "I don't need a wedding. Let us declare ourselves as couples eloping, and – and –"
"Not now, my angel," he said regretfully, straightening. "I will not have it said that I stole the solo. I will…earn it," he promised with a crystalline glint. "And when I take it…I shall own it fully."
I was panting for him, and pressed myself wantonly against the untiring body before me. "I want to be yours now!" I sobbed. "I want to be one with you!"
Gripping my arms tightly, he shook me. "Do not tempt me more than your beauty and voice already are. Tomorrow, after performance, my love, I will claim you." His voice was at once both the rough growl of a hungry cat and the curl of a master's rapier, still yet the dangerous hiss of a snake. He would come upon me and leave no portion of me unclaimed. A worthy compensation.
"At least, then, kiss me." He did, and I kissed him back. He had to flee the room, leaving me confused and laying breathless on his bed.
Stars, I had sworn myself to an honorable devil!
Surprised? Have some unanswered questions? I'll bet! Don't worry - all will be explained, and this is JUST the beginning!