((A/N: Sorry this update took me a bit. My writing muse sorta disappeared towards the end of here, so I might rewrite it if I find a better way to say what I needed to. The song towards the end is Maybe by Sick Puppies.))
That evening Erik took his usual place behind the wall of the manager's office. Unbeknownst to them, there was a hole that had been drilled through the wall and served as the perfect place for Erik to look through in order to spy on them. Tonight would wind up being just as enlightening as usual. Firman was pacing the area in front of the large, cluttered desk while Andre was seated and glancing through a stack of letters. Upon further inspection, Erik received a jolt of surprise when he discovered they were all letters from him. Had he really sent that many last opera season? They were more stubborn than the previous manager, so it was their fault he had to use so much parchment.
"The note is from him, Firman, that fact is indisputable," Andre said after comparing their latest note to the ones previously received from this mysterious Opera Ghost.
"But just who is he? A year of this nonsense and we still have no idea who he is. I'm tempted to just send the entire police force down below to capture him and prove once and for all our phantom is not a phantom at all!" Firman was fed up with this opera house. If he would have known how much of a pain it was, he wouldn't have taken over in the first place!
Andre sat thoughtfully for a few moments before formulating a reply. "I think our phantom is too clever to be captured by such antics. Down below is where he stays, you've heard the stories about his Punjab lasso and what he does to intruders," he was going to continue, but Firman interrupted. He slammed his palm down on the desk in exasperation.
"Yes I've heard the stories! We all have! It doesn't mean they hold any sway over me! What is the proof he's even used this lasso?"
"What about Joseph Buq – ?"
"- Don't bring him up! That was clearly an accident!" Firman shouted in denial. He sighed and sank down into a nearby chair. Firman placed his hands over his face and assumed a posture of utter defeat that brought a smile to Erik's lips.
"Yes well erm, anyways, I suppose until we find a way to capture this phantom," Firman scoffed at this and thought phantom? More like madman! "We should comply with his demands. Not doing so last opera season is likely what caused many of our problems. We haven't the money to go through that again," Andre finished his suggestion and rather than argue, Firman merely nodded.
"Oh fine! You write the reply back to Madame Giry then. This phantom business has made me far too weary. If that is all we need to discuss for the night, I'm going home," Firman commented as he stood up and put on his coat and hat.
"Well there is the matter of auditions . . ." Andre pointed out and Firman rolled his eyes.
"Oh let Madame Giry handle that," he snapped as he stalked across the room and slammed the door after he exited. Andre sighed and set to work on writing his letter. Erik chose this moment to leave and follow his hidden passageway out into the hallway that housed some of the employees of the opera house. Antoinette's room is somewhere around here he silently mused. He didn't need her for anything at the moment, but he couldn't help but make note of the location of the room. The doors would say the name of the inhabitants, so he just had to get close enough to read them to find where the Girys stayed.
Just as Erik was nearing one of the doors, it slowly creaked open and he had to scramble away without his usual phantom-like finesse. A blonde head popped out and glanced down both directions of the hallway. Erik narrowly avoided detection by pulling his cape up and over the bright white of his mask that stood out quite prominently in the dark. What on earth is she up to? He wondered as he watched her creep outside her room, fully dressed, and carefully shut the door behind her. She kept glancing around her as though she was worried about detection which made following her difficult, but not impossible because Erik was the master of stealth. No matter how alert a person was, he was able to sneak up on them.
Meg's heart was pounding in her chest and fear of detection made her paranoid. She wasn't sure why, but she'd been struck with the urge to visit the opera house chapel her and Christine often played in when they were younger. She missed her best friend terribly, and it was the only place she felt like she was near her. She could have made the trip during the day, but she would have chanced running into somebody, and she was feeling a bit rebellious tonight anyways. Her mother didn't want her to seek out Erik? Fine, she'd just visit somewhere she knew he was likely to keep an eye on. According to Christine, he sometimes taught her singing lessons there, so it was probably pretty close to his heart as well. Even at this very moment, she felt as though somebody was following her, watching her, and seeing as how she hadn't been yelled at yet, she assumed it was him. Oh she felt utterly possessed! She'd always been curious of him and jealous that he had only shown himself to Christine, but now her curiosity was all but taking her over. Rather than cease these feelings, her mother's words made them worse. What was she hiding? How could she claim to know his true nature when she hardly spent time with him? Surely he was not as bad as everyone claimed. Meg was almost certain of it. He'd certainly been horrifying during Don Juan Triumphant, but he'd been pushed to his limits – it was obvious. Even from her vantage point, she could tell Christine was just teasing him during the majority of that duet. Meg smiled softly despite herself when she remembered how embarrassed she'd been just watching them on stage. It was so personal a moment and Christine had taken advantage of his moment of absolute trust. Any man would take that badly! Perhaps not to the extent Erik did, but it would not leave them entirely unaffected.
Her mind was so clogged with thoughts; she didn't realize she'd reached the chapel until she nearly collided with the closed door. Shaking her head at her carelessness, she opened the door and took a deep, calming breath. The very air of this place seemed filled with tranquility, and it was working wonders on her disposition. Her worries of the day and the upcoming auditions melted away and she took a seat by the stained glass window. This was always their favorite spot. Feeling like a child again, Meg sat and tucked her feet beneath her. "Oh Christine why did you have to leave?" She asked the empty air. As expected, there was no answer, but Meg suddenly had the urge to say all the things she wanted to say to Christine. "I'm all alone aside from mother now. The other ballet dancers think I'm only there because maman is the instructor, so none of us really get along . . . you were my only true friend Christine. Why did you have to leave me?" She asked pitifully with tears streaming down her face. Despite her disagreement over some of the things Christine had done, she was still practically a sister to her. "Maman won't let me write you yet even though she knows where you're staying. I'm not sure why," she trailed off and then just stared off into space. "I just miss you so terribly!"
"Dry your tears petit ange," a melodious voice called out to her from the shadows. She looked around and tried to find the source of the voice, but to no avail. Despite the circumstances, she was unafraid. Surely this was Erik, but why would he care if she cried? "I have a proposition for you," he continued and Meg's eyes widened. Surely he did not mean what she thought he meant? His unexpected chuckle told her that he realized the direction of her thoughts. "It's likely not what you're thinking I imagine."
Meg sniffled and wiped at her cheeks. "What is this proposition of yours?" She asked unable to hide her curiosity in her tone. She couldn't help it. What on earth would the great Phantom of the Opera offer her? She was desperate to know, but tried to keep this desperation out of her voice and expression.
"You know as well as I that my opera needs replacements for those that left – in particular the Prima Donna – and I've come to make sure those idiot managers make the right choice. The remaining chorus members are practically useless because none of them can sing soprano, but you, Meg, surely with some practice you can be just what the Opera Populaire needs in a Prima Donna." Her eyes widened. Surely he did not mean what he said. She was just some ballet rat and nothing more.
"B-but Monsieur I'm merely a ballet girl. I haven't the voice . . ." she trailed off with a sigh. There was a long pause. Meg thought it was because he was reconsidering his offer and she looked down at her feet to cover up the fact tears were welling up in her eyes once more. She couldn't stand all the weeping she'd done as of late. It made her eyes sting and her head pound. When he was so silent Meg thought he had left, she leaned her head against the cool, stone wall. His voice startled her when she closed her eyes.
"I've heard you sing before . . . you didn't know, but that one night you were with Christine I was listening. At the time I'd been so blinded," he sounded like he choked on the word, "by her that I didn't have a thought of you. Now that she's gone I've realized what a lovely voice you have. Sing for me." His command startled her so much she forgot about her grievances with him so openly admitting she was his second choice. Oh why does it matter, he's just thinking of the Opera House and doesn't want some newcomer on the stage as the Prima Donna.
"Sing? Well what should I sing?" She asked. It would be better to do as he asked for now. She knew what an angry Phantom meant. It seemed that the very human Erik had recovered enough to put on his façade of the Phantom again and it felt odd thinking of him as Erik at the present moment.
"Whatever comes to you," he responded entirely unhelpfully. She thought for a moment, trying to decide which song she wanted to sing. Meg sat up straight and waited for a song to come to her. She wasn't sure where it came from, but suddenly she started singing something that just flowed into her mind:
Maybe I'm a dreamer
Maybe I'm misunderstood
Maybe you're not seeing the side of me you should
Maybe I'm crazy
(Maybe I'm crazy)
Maybe I'm the only one
(Maybe I'm the only one)
Maybe I'm just out of touch
Maybe I've just had enough
Maybe it's time to change
And leave it all behind
I've never been one to walk alone
I've always been scared to try
So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more
To wanna live a better life
What am I waiting for?
'Cause nothing stays the same
Maybe it's time to change
When she finished she realized that sometime during her singing she had stood up, so now she fiddled with her dress and waited for the criticisms to come. They didn't. She gazed about the room trying to spot him when he stepped out from the shadows. The sparse moonlight glinted off his mask and he was dressed all in black, so his face was the only part of him she could see well. "So how was I?" She asked nervously.
How was she? Oh what a question. It certainly wasn't something he could answer truthfully. Her voice was obviously not practiced, but it was certain she had hidden talent. Why on earth was she a mere ballet dancer with such potential? He was so preoccupied in his mind about how he could reply to her without making his desperation obvious that he didn't notice her nervousness. Surely he'd frighten her away if he showed too much interest in her voice.
"Your voice is good enough for a chorus girl, but if you really wish to succeed as Prima Donna, you'll need a tutor." He nearly cringed upon the realization that this was playing out far too much like how it did with Christine, but the Opera really did need a Prima Donna, and he didn't want some stranger singing the lead.
"Since I sang for you, am I allowed to hear you sing something as well?" She asked quietly enough that he almost didn't catch it. He sighed. Erik had been expecting this question, just not this soon. If she was hoping for him to jump at the chance to sing again, she would be sadly mistaken. Erik took a few moments of thought before answering her seemingly innocent question that in actuality caused him pain.
"No. I will never sing again," he paused and debated admitting his reasoning. Finally, he decided he might as well, and if she decided she didn't wish to be burdened by him, they could part before he grew more attached than he already was. It would be a lie to say he wasn't affected by her. He was, but it was early on enough that her rejection wouldn't hurt nearly as much as Christine's. "Christine stole more than my heart that night you found me. She took my music as well. I fear I shall never recover it." Meg's face softened in sympathy, but Erik didn't give her a chance to speak. "Your lessons begin tomorrow night at eight. Meet me here. Goodnight, petit ange."
Without even a backward glance, Erik disappeared through some secret passage and left Meg all alone and rather confused. She wasn't sure why he wanted to help her, but it seemed as though she'd find out tomorrow. Yawning, she realized how tired she was and left the chapel to head to bed. She'd certainly need her rest for the upcoming days.