Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 40 of 64

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Must...not...rub...face. Must...not...muss hair. These were Christine's sole thoughts on the ride out to Erik's place. Meg had bundled her onto the bus by main force after extracting a promise that she would go straight to Erik's and "show off a little". Christine sighed and settled back, feeling entirely unlike herself. The Chakras' crew had had a field day with her, applying scissors, curlers, gels, tweezers, and what felt like a bucket of makeup. They'd reassured her that it was a 'light' makeup job, but for a person unaccustomed to face-paint, it still felt thick.

"Huuuuh..." was what Erik said, when he opened the door. He'd intended intended to greet Christine with a joking 'Hugs and kisses?", but his mental functioning was abruptly short-circuited.

Christine was in the process of blushing, but then she caught sight of movement in the apartment. A short, swarthy man in his late sixties or early seventies stood in the center of the room watching the scene at the door with amusement. His fingers were curled around the neck of Erik's violin - apparently he's been playing it.

Erik was still standing motionless in the doorway, working on a greeting. Christine gave him a quick hug, then approached the stranger with her hand extended. "You must be Nadir Khan. Pleased to meet you. I'm..."

"The brilliant, lovely, gentle guiding star that lights Erik's way." Smooth as velvet, Nadir took her hand and bowed. "His words of course. It's a pleasure to meet you, Christine Daae."

They regarded one another with an instant mutual appreciation. Each was thinking that here at last was another person who had come to know and love Erik. It made them the only two members of a very exclusive club. Nadir still held Christine's hand in his; she stepped forward and hugged the old man tightly. Nadir understood: with that hug she was thanking him for being there first, for being a friend to the man she loved before she'd known him.

Erik had finally gathered his senses. "Do you two already know each other?"

Nadir laughed and walked over to pat Erik on the shoulder. "Not at all. Not at all. But we're very happy to have made one another's acquaintance."

The three spent a comfortable evening together. It was surreal to the older man to watch the younger couple cuddling on the sofa. He'd never imagined that any woman would love Erik; he never thought Erik would let any woman close enough. The two were clearly, deeply in love; it was beautiful, even if they weren't.

Nadir embarrassed Erik with stories of his childhood ranging from funny (a six year old Erik used medical tubing to tie the door of his hospital room shut to keep his tutor out) to heart-breaking (the disappearance of his mother). Christine embarrassed Erik with vivid descriptions of his gourmet meals and his romantic waltzing. Feeling a bit on the spot, Erik switched the attention to Christine and her upcoming performance at Lawrence Conservatory.

"She will stun them." Erik squeezed her shoulders proudly.

Nadir put on a doubtful face. "I don't know. I haven't heard anything yet..."

That was the cue they'd been waiting for. Nadir was used to Erik's genius on the violin, he'd heard the man's full baritone many times, but when Christine's cello joined the violin and her sweet soprano joined his dark voice the old musician wondered if he hadn't fallen into a hidden corner of Heaven.

After the recital, Erik excused himself to make dinner. Nadir took the cello from Christine and leaned it on its stand.

"My dear girl, you and I must take a walk around the grounds."


Nadir quirked an eyebrow. "While Erik is otherwise occupied."


Christine followed Nadir out the door. Once out of the building, he began to walk and talk at a leisurely pace. "Erik has told me a great deal about you, my dear, but he has told me very little about your relationship. He can be a very secretive man..."

"I know."

"So I thought I ought to make sure of a few things. For your sake, yes, but more for his." Nadir paused, considering the wisdom of this conversation. Was he about to cost Erik the love of his life? "How do you feel about him?"

Christine laughed. "You can't tell? I'm head-over-heels for him."

"And have you told him?"

"Of course. He really hasn't told you anything, has he..." Christine was a bit taken aback. The Erik she saw with Nadir was a completely different man from the one she knew. Nadir's Erik was terse and secretive, disconnected and dispassionate. But he was that way with you, too..until he heard your music.

"Not a thing. When you told him you loved did he react?"

"He told me he loved me too. These are pretty strange questions to be asking a stranger, you know." Christine quirked an eyebrow and waited for a clear explanation.

"So, he believed you. That must mean..." Nadir stopped and turned to face Christine squarely. "Have you seen him without the mask?"

She nodded, finally understanding the man's concern. "Yes. I've forbidden him to wear it in my presence. I hate that thing."

Nadir stood there for a moment, blinking. "Pardon me, my dear, but it seems to me that you just said you forbade Erik to wear his mask...and he obeys you?"

"I did, and he does. How am I supposed to kiss him with that dreadful thing on his face? Have you have tried the mask on, Mr. Khan, and felt what a prison it is? Do you know what the world looks like with dark shadows constantly in your view?"

Nadir could find no words. He stroked Christine's flushed cheek with a grandfatherly hand. "Dear child," he murmured. "No wonder he loves you so much. So you have seen him. How did you get the mask from him?"

"He offered. I wanted to kiss him. He wouldn't let me until I know."

"How did you feel when you saw? The truth now, I can read lies easily..."

"I almost vomited. I had to leave the room." Her hand briefly covered her eyes in shame. "But I came back."

"And did you still kiss him?" Nadir's tone was doubtful.

"Actually, the first time, he kissed me. I kissed him later. His face is terrible, Nadir, but I've made myself learn that it's just his face." Christine sighed. "You know I am only telling you these things because he calls you his greatest friend and mentor - his words, of course."

Nadir chuckled, but then his demeanor darkened. "So you say you love him, you've seen his face - have you seen his temper?"

"I..." Christine thought about that day on the bus, the speed and strength of his hand and the fierce gleam in his eyes. "I almost have. I've seen a glimpse."

"You know he has a criminal record?'

"I know he punched a guy in the face for trying to take his mask..."

"Yes. One punch, Christine. One punch and he broke the boy's nose and fractured his cheek. He was knocked out cold. And that isn't the only time - it's just the first time they charged him. I don't believe he ever lost a fight, after the first one, and he has had many fights; the boy answered every insult with a punch, after a while. He sent several young men to the emergency room. After his time in jail - and they did keep him in his own cell when they saw his face - he moved into that apartment, declaring that the entire human race was beneath him." Nadir stared off at the lights of cars passing on the street, pointedly ignoring Christine's pained expression as she tried to sort out the violent Erik from the gentle man she'd fallen in love with. "Erik went through...a very difficult time...when he first left the hospital. He tried to be normal. He tried to fit in. People just wouldn't have him. With the mask he was too strange; without it he was frightening. Even college kids teased him mercilessly - you'd think they'd know better. But he says you know a little something about that," Nadir paused, waiting for a response.

"Erik is helping me past that, though. He's coming with me to Appleton..." she trailed off, thoughts of how difficult that journey would be for him flooding her mind. .

"Nine years in that apartment, Christine. And then you." Nadir turned around and began walking back towards Erik's building. "You have saved him, pulled his feet from the flames of Hell and dragged him back to the light. He's more devoted to you than you can imagine, and he's dearer than a son to me. So you'll have to forgive a prying old man for trying to ascertain your intentions; I couldn't bear to see him hurt."

"Mr Khan, may I ask you a question?" They were at the door of the building.


"Why does he still wear his mask around you?" The question was sharp, probing.

Nadir looked away as he answered, "I've never learned that lesson you've taught yourself so quickly, and he can tell. That's another thing, dear, just remember that Erik can always tell."

By the time they reached the apartment door, both were wearing pleasant expressions again, but Erik knew something serious had passed between them. He could tell.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 40 of 64

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