Angels of Music (chapter three)

*****

Michael soon found ways to keep himself busy. The first thing he did was find a job at the Palais Garnier. he spent a few hours a day working backstage on the sets. Not only was this a good way for him to make a little money, he also heard the current Opera House gossip as he worked.

The rumors ranged from scandals between certain members of the corps de ballet and certain other members of the male chorus to wild stories of Carlotta's temper tantrums. There were also rumors of a ghost. Whenever something was lost or someone tripped, it was blamed on the Phantom. Soon, ballet girls were claiming to have seen a shadowy figure roaming around. Michael heard dozens of different accounts of who the Phantom really was and what he looked like. He often returned to Erik's lair and told him about the stories he'd heard. Erik delighted in it - he delighted in the gullibility and the stupidity of the workers in the Opéra. He played with their minds as a child plays with toys. Occasionally, Michael was slightly frightened by Erik's little games; the Phantom had a habit of getting carried away sometimes. Michael was scared that Erik might do something that he would regret if he was not careful.

Once he had earned enough money (combined with what he'd brought with him - imagine the look on the banker's face when he asked to exchange his pound notes that had dates over a century in the future on them to 19th century franc notes), Michael rented a flat on the Rue de Rivoli and moved out of Erik's lair.

"Thank you, Erik, for everything you've done for me," Michael said as he firmly shook the Phantom of the Opera's hand.

"Think nothing of it Michael," Erik said, and he meant it. Michael was the first person he'd ever known who looked past the horrible features of his face and paid attention to who he was inside. "I suppose I'll have to adjust to living on my own again. It's been nice having you around."

Michael laughed. "You flatter me," he said. "I know I'm not a very good roommate."

"Well, you're good enough got me," said Erik. "You - you're probably the first real friend I've ever had." There. He'd said it.

Michael smiled. "Well, I can't understand why I'm the first. You're a great companion, Erik." Michael knew he and Erik both understood quite well why no one else was friends with the Phantom, but neither of them chose to bring that up. "I'd best be on my way," said Michael after a moment's silence. He turned to leave - he'd long since memorized the way in and out of the underground labyrinth.

"Goodbye, Michael," Erik said.

"Oh, this won't be the last you'll see of me," Michael called over his shoulder.

"Is that a promise or a threat?" Erik replied into the darkness.

Michael's only answer was a hearty laugh that seemed to hang in the air before fading away.

*****

In this way the days continued on. Michael spent most of his time in the Opera House. He made money building sets; he watched rehearsals from backstage and noticed as Christine's voice improved due to Erik's training. He also went down to visit the Phantom from time to time. More and more their discussions turned to Christine: her voice, her looks, her mannerisms, and her budding interest in the Vicomte de Chagny.

" . . . They grew up together. She's comfortable with him. Damn him! He's going to sweep her off her feet - I just know it!" Erik stopped pacing momentarily and looked at Michael. "I - I think she's falling in love with him." Speaking the words made it too real for him. He sank into a chair and hid his face with his hands.

"Erik," Michael said softly, searching for words to comfort his friend, "You don't know that."

Erik sighed. "I *do* know that. I've been watching her too long not to know. It's the look in her eyes . . . Oh dear God." Michael could tell by the cracking in the Phantom's voice that he was struggling to hold back tears. Michael was uncomfortable. He'd never seen Erik quite this desperate before.

"Erik, the two of you share *music*. Think of that. there's no way to build as strong a bond as you build when you make music together. With luck, there may be hope for you yet."

"Luck." Erik snorted. "When has luck ever been in my favor?"

Michael took a deep breath. This wasn't helping, but he had to get Erik out of this mood before something terrible happened. "Erik, 'Carmen' opens tonight. You'll have to hurry if you want to make sure your box is open."

That distracted Erik for a moment. "Those idiotic managers. And Carlotta will be playing the lead, no doubt?"

"Yes," Michael said softly.

"Well, I've told them once, I've told them a *hundred* times that Christine is better. but they don't care about music; all they care about is money. What they're too stupid to realize is that Christine will be a better box office draw than Carlotta ever was. Does Christine even have a role?"

"It's a silent part."

"What effrontery! What a disgrace! What is this place coming to?" Erik scoffed.

Michael chuckled. "Come on. We'll be late."

*****

Once they reached the ground level, Erik immediately disappeared into the shadows. Michael chuckled again and kept walking to the theatre. Once he was settled into his seat, he looked up to box five on the Grand Tier level to see if Erik was there yet. Erik was *not* there. In fact, on closer inspection, Michael could see that there was a young man sitting in the box - Raoul. Michael sat back into his chair and groaned. This was going to be a long night. Between Carlotta playing the lead and Raoul sitting in the Phantom's box, Michael knew Erik was bound to lose his temper and do something dreadful. And Michael felt even more helpless as he realized there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. What was he supposed to do? The Vicomte didn't even know Michael - there was no chance that the young man would listen to him. All he could do was try to relax and pray that Erik wouldn't do anything drastic.

*****

More coming soon - it'll be much longer, I promise. Please review.

~ Erik's Angel ~