Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to these characters or any settings/places. This is merely a fanmade writing experiment and is in no way profit making.

The Phantom and Moppet

Chapter One

The two men did not see him, even though he was less than a foot from where they stood, the dusk of night, his black cloak almost made him invisible, but then no one saw the 'Phantom of the Opera' unless he wanted to be seen.

"Give it a couple of days and the old man will be dead," the thin, starved, greasy looking individual said to his companion.

His friend sniggered in an unpleasant way. "Then we can do as we please with the girl."

"We'll come back tomorrow," the one decided for them, and they slunk off together further down the alley, they and their conversation disappearing into the dark.

Uneasiness overcame the Phantom. He paused, and then ventured in the direction from which they had emerged. It opened out onto a road not two streets away from the opera house. At this time of the evening, it was always fairly empty, and the Phantom freely stepped out into the street, his mind made comfortable by the shroud of darkness; his eyes searching for the girl he'd heard mentioned.

Swiftly he traveled up the street, his gaze missing nothing, easily avoiding anyone who would question a masked man. He reached the end without seeing any who matched the description he'd overhead from the two men. Curiosity killed the cat, he thought, and then dismissed his concerns and decided to let the matter drop.

He turned the corner at the end of the street, onto the the path that led straight to Opera Populaire- his home; his prison. In his yearning to reach that double edged sanctuary, he almost ran into a young girl, one not more than seven years old if he was any judge. One, who was also desperately trying to wake an obviously very sick man.

"Please Papa, it is getting dark. Can we not find shelter now?" her small voice begged. She was so engrossed in her pitiful efforts to rouse her father, that she did not notice him almost stumble over her and then dip back into the shadows. "Papa, papa...?" she called over and over. The Phantom examined her from where he had secluded himself. It took him only a moment to conclude that the child was beautiful. The dirt and dust from the roadside did not at all hide her kind face. Her sweet features were nothing however, compared to the sound of her voice. It captivated his attention; melodious and harmonic it trilled in the air, and while laced with panic and fear, he had the passing fancy to think of her as a melodic moppet - the name ghosting a smile to grace his lips. He had a strange yearning to wish to hear her speak again; her childish treble delighting his muscican's ear. Keeping himself out of sight, listening, he saw the old man shake his head, and try to wake himself up.

"Christine?" croaked the old man. He opened his eyes and lifted a hand to gently touch his daughter's face. "My sweet Christine," he whispered. He coughed violently then, and the Phantom noticed how it left fresh specks of blood on the already smeared handkerchief the old man pulled away from his mouth. From this, it seemed evident that there was truth in the conversation the Phantom had overheard. The ailing man was not long for this world.

"Give me a minute, child and we will go. I will find us somewhere to lodge. Do you have the money safe?" he asked coughing again.

At this the little moppet, as the Phantom already thought of her, turned and picked up a tin which lay next to a violin case on the filthy cobbles. The frown already adorning her face increased. It was clear how concerned she was by the emptiness of the tin. She took a deep breath, a smile replacing her frown before she turned back to her father. "I have it safe here, Papa," she obediently replied.

She set the tin down again, then worriedly pulled the blanket which had fallen open, tighter around his shoulders. "You must keep warm," she implored him, her mellow voice full of concern.

As he stood there watching the pair, the Phantom considered what if anything he could, or might do about their situation. Too many years of screams, horror, abuse hurled both physically and verbally at the sight of his mask held him back from approaching them. It was none of his concern, and no one had ever stopped to help him when he needed. Bitterness swamped him for a moment, the remembered pain and humiliation clawing at his insides, but he quickly dismissed that idea. He did not know why but knew he had to help them; this Christine, and her Papa. He just somehow couldn't leave them, or her, to such a desperate fate - to the evil hands he had passed earlier. He had to intervene.

Quickly, he moved forward and dropped some money; the coins landing by them as he passed. It seemed the best plan. This way the old man could get them somewhere warm and safe - perhaps recover, he tried to convince himself; ignoring the nagging doubt: what about the moppet if the old man didn't make it?

He ignored his qualms. He couldn't get involved more than this simple act of charity. A few steps away, he glanced back to see the child collect the money, but as he did so was stopped by her small hand grabbing his cloak.

"Excuse me, Sir, you dropped your money," came that sweet voice again.

The Phantom twisted around fully at it, not thinking to hide his face, shocked that someone so obviously in need would be so honest. He suddenly found himself staring into the gentlest of childish brown eyes. He realised he had been staring when the moppet repeated, "Sir, your money, you dropped it."

She took his hand, placing the money in his palm. "You should be more careful, Sir, else you will have it pinched," she advised, astounding him again by giving him a warm smile.

"Thank you," he managed to whisper, even more astounded when he realised that she had not reacted to the mask. It created a connection, a need to protect, when her grin grew wider at his words.

"You're welcome, Sir," she grinned at him.

It blazed, then faded in a flash to one of wide eyed fear, but not at his mask, but from the sound of her father's call of her name, gasping as he collapsed. She darted back down to her father's side, wrapped her arms around him, then sobbed, "Papa."

"Christine..." the old man managed weakly before a hacking cough overtook him.

Terrified, sobbing, Christine looked up, as the Phantom moved to join her at her father's side. He pressed two fingers to the old man's throat; his pulse was weak and thready. He met the child's gaze. "Please Sir, will you help us?" she begged between sobs.

How could he deny such an entreaty? Dizzy, and emotional, he gave the only answer he could, "Of course." It was almost a vow. Mere breaths later, and she threw her arms around him; the hug grateful and relieved.

"Thank you," she sniffed. "You are an angel to save us."

She hugged him tightly then leaned back to look into his face.

All his life he had been labelled: a freak, a monster, a murderer, and a God damned angel of death... the Phantom of the Opera. In looking into her trusting face he suddenly felt that he may have the chance at another role. Setting her down, he bent and easily lifted the gravely ill man into his arms. Looking at her, he smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, Christine, I will help. I promise to do everything within my power to see that you stay safe."

Her answering smile was slow to come, fighting against her fear. When it finally curved, it melted the last of his reserve. He made another promise there and then, one to himself that he would do anything he could to protect this little Moppet.