The Scent of Rain

Rated PG
Summary: A young Eric finds the real angel of music. A Phantom of the Opera tie in story

His only thought was to get away. Fast and far. From everything and everyone. From this night
on, he was finished with his fellow human beings. He wanted to be free of their cruelty, their vanity,
their mockery.

He fled into the woods. Seeking the darkest depths with which to hide himself in, be swallowed
up by, and never be seen by humanity again.

Let a wild animal prey upon him, let the elements overcome him, let some unforeseen accident
break him. He didn't care at this point and vowed to mercilessly murder anyone who crossed his path
from now on.

It just so happened, during his flight, while his mind raged against all mankind, he realized he was
being followed and not too distantly at that.

Even more furious at himself for not being more careful, he pushed the nagging questions of how
and why from his head and began plotting the capture and the ultimate demise of his pursuer. Whoever
it was, they had to die. He wasn't going back. He was never going back.

Erik waited,tense and impatient. The sweat trickling from his brow into his eyes made them burn
beneath his mask. He tore it off and threw it on the ground, letting the cool night air soothe his fevered
skin. So what if his pursuer saw his face. They were not going to live long enough to tell anyone about
him anyway.

It was a solitary figure, Erik saw. Dressed in ragged peasant layers of wool and leather. Erik
watched as the stranger walked steadily through the darkness, unperturbed and not suspecting in the
least they were about to be murdered.

Fool, Erik thought and sprang forward, throwing the startled person to the ground with enough
force to shatter a spine, and pinning them down by sitting on top of them.

It was very dark and Erik was sure his captive could see him clearly, but except for the shock at
being knocked over so suddenly, the face betrayed no signs of the usual horror Erik was accustomed
to. Now Erik was certain this person had followed him. This person knew what he looked like.

Erik closed his hands around a slender throat.

"How stupid can you be?" Erik spat. "You actually thought you could take me by yourself?
Where are the others? You can't possibly be the only one to come after me. Not after what I did."

"....No others...."came a muffled, gasp of a reply.

Erik banged the stranger's head soundly on the ground, snapping branches and rustling leaves.

"Liar! You can't possibly be alone. You were following me! Why else would you be so deep in
these woods in the middle of the night?"

There was no answer and Erik decided he might as well just kill the idiot and be on his way. If
there were others, they hadn't come for him yet, Erik thought reassuringly.

Just to vent his anger, Erik once more bounced his victim's head against the forest floor, burying
his fingers deeply into long luxuriant hair, pulling the locks tightly in his fists for a better grip.

He could see the pain reflected in the shimmering eyes and the moonlight gleam off a single tear
as it slowly and heavily made its way over a smooth delicately curved cheek.

Erik suddenly stopped, curious that the only rise his abuse had gotten from this unfortunate being
was quiet tears. He realized too, this stranger neither fought back or tried to defend itself.

One last bang of the head and Erik got up, disgusted.

"Are you dead yet?" he muttered. "Why all this silence? Why don't you fight back? Why do you
just....cry?" Something wasn't right about this, Erik thought. Perhaps he did kill them after all. He leaned
closer, then knelt down.

"That hurts," the stranger whispered bewildered. "I meant no harm to you." A fine white hand
reached up and slowly wiped the tears from that smooth cheek.

Erik peered down at this person. The voice sounded vaguely familiar to him, but Erik didn't know
why that would be. It was clear and velvet in its richness. Tender, yet assertive.

Erik stared into two large blue eyes. Exquisitely formed, he noted. A fine, straight forehead. A
perfectly sculpted nose. High cheekbones and a full sensuous mouth. And all surrounded by flawless
white skin.

"Oh!" he grunted with realization and more disgust. "You're a woman!" He reached down and
seized a wrist, hauling its owner to their feet. "Get up damn it all."

Grasping their head in agony at being suddenly set upright, the stranger swayed unsteadily and
choked back another sob.

Erik was suddenly ashamed. "I didn't realized you were a woman," he began almost

"I am not a woman."

Erik raised his brow. "You're certainly no man. I think you are trying to pass yourself off as a man
to protect yourself. You'd have done better with me passing yourself off as a woman. I really try not to
murder women." He grasped the stranger's jaw and forced their eyes level with his own.

Perhaps it was the light, or the lack of it, sometimes his captive looked feminine. Other times
more like a young man. Perhaps it was stress. It had, after all, been an incredibly stressful night.

"How old are you?"

The stranger's brow furrowed. "Why are you asking me that?"

That voice was deceptive as well, Erik thought. Both alto and barritone depending on the
inflections. Feminine and masculine. Lilting and intriguing. And still oddly familiar, Erik noted.

"Do you sing by chance? You have the voice of a singer. Such diction and clarity. It's rather
dulcet." Erik's mind was off and running in a thousand different directions.

The stranger looked shocked again, then nodded slowly. Confusion clouded all those perfect

"Do you know music?" Erik continued.

"Music is an integral part of who I am," the stranger replied as calmly as if they were having
conversations over tea instead of in the middle of the night in the woods.

"Have you ever sang before an audience then?"

"When summoned to."

"Yes," Erik agreed. "You have the look and mannerisms of a theatrical type. Beneath all those
peacock feathers is nothing but deception and mystery."

Now the stranger looked insulted. "My young monsieur, I can assure you I am trying to answer
your questions as forthright as I can. I have no intention to deceive or harm you in anyway."

Again. That was the second time this person admitted that, Erik thought. "So you were following
me? You do have some business with me in mind?" He studied the face closer, mesmerized, and felt a
surge of envy. All that beauty and perfection. It wasn't fair to give it all to one person when some
people had none. That face was so beautiful in fact, Erik had to avert his eyes to keep his senses. In its
stead, he focused on the shining black cascades of hair falling over square and powerful looking
shoulders and down the chest obscuring breasts, if there were any.....But this body was too tall, the
limbs fine, but muscular. This is madness, Erik thought.

"What is your name?" he blurted out suddenly angry again but not sure why.

Still wiping at persistant tears, the tall stranger with the beautiful face and the long feminine hair,
took a deep measured breath.

"Rane. I am called Rane."

"Like the stuff that falls from the sky?" Erik couldn't recall ever hearing anyone by that name
before. Once again he found himself staring, taking in all that beauty. Everything about Rane was
beautiful and it was entrancing to Erik for he loved to look at beautiful things.

"Forgive me, I've never seen anyone quite like you before," Erik began.

A hint of a smile played on Rane's lips. "I know. It's all right if you want to look at me."

Erik sneered. "You must be used to enchanted, adoring gazes such as mine then."

"I've never seen anyone quite like you either," Rane told Erik.

Erik unconsciously stepped back as if he had been struck.

"But I don't care to be looked at!" he snapped.

Remorse darkened Rane's eyes. "That wasn't meant to be insulting. This is the first time we've
spoken and I cannot help but be truthful. It is my nature."

Erik leaned closer again. "Strange, how you didn't react when you saw me at first. When I
attacked you. Most people would have screamed in terror thinking I was a demon dragging them off to
hell. But you didn't."

Now Rane looked compassionate. Such an expressive face, Erik thought. If I could look like
that, I could express compassion too.

"Your face is hardly that of a demon's, Erik. Besides, I have been with you for sometime. I know
your countenance well."

Suddenly indignant, Erik grabbed the collar of Rane's clothing, twisting it and forcing that lovely
face mere inches from his hideous one.

"You know my name? You never told me why you were following me. What business do you
have with me? Answer me now, or I'll break your pretty neck into two neat pieces." Still no horror, still
no repulsion. Just a glimmer of fear, Erik noted.

Erik inhaled impatiently and detected a faint ionic scent in the air. Like the smell of waterfalls or
the night sky after a storm.

"I told you," Rane replied with a slight quiver in that melodic voice. "I've been with you awhile."

Erik felt Rane's fine delicate hand on his own, prying Erik's fingers from the shirt collar with
surprising strength. Erik noticed even Rane's hands were beautiful, smooth, and entirely uncalloused;
and feminine, with long tapering fingernails the color of lambrusco wine. Erik also noticed with some
surprise each finger was adorned with at least one ring. Different bands of gold, copper and silver, from
detailed, intricate patterns to smooth solid circles. Erik seized Rane's hands and inspected them more
closely. So beautiful....he thought and momentarily forgot his anger.

Rane continued voluntarily, watching Erik with gentle amusement.

"We thought it would be better if I were physically with you tonight. You are very vulnerable right
now. You've been through too much lately, we realized and I've come to help."

Erik looked up into Rane's face. He released the lovely bejeweled hands, almost throwing them
away from him.

"Who's we?" he snapped.

Rane simply sighed. "God and myself."

Erik laughed humorlessly. This was too much. Not only was he suddenly inflicted with the
company of a comely androgynous stranger; he or she, was derranged as well. No wonder there was
no show of fear. The trusting simplicity of a certified lunatic. That explained alot.

"Your soul, my friend," Rane continued. "Is in mortal danger of eternal damnation. But you are
not lost to us yet. God has sent me in answer to your prayers."

"I don't pray!" Erik shrieked. "I don't need God's help, or yours, or anybody's."

"You do pray," Rane said undaunted. "You pray fervently and passionately. Your pleas are
brought to heaven every hour. Your cries for mercy, for love, for beauty, for death. It is why I am here.
I know you are sorely in need of a friend tonight."

"What makes you care?" Erik grumbled. "How would you know such things about me?"

Erik shrank back from the figure standing in front of him. Chills ran down his spine and he
trembled. He decided this person was too creepy for his tastes and didn't particularly feel like
murdering anyone anymore. He should just send them on their way. But he was also thoroughly
intrigued. He wanted to hear more. He wanted to know why this stranger with the dulcet voice, spoke
of him like someone known from the past. Why the compassion? Why the concern? When all Erik had
shown was anger and brutality and scorn.

"I don't understand you," Erik sighed finally. "Why do you seek the companionship of a monster?
If you know me as well as you are insinuating, you should know then, I am not receptive to

"You are not a monster. You're a troubled young man."

Erik laughed. "Yes. Slightly troubled. I can see how that must make me appealing to you. I'm
certain a little dementia on your part helps gloss things over as well."

Rane's full lips set in an attractive pout. Erik laughed harder.

"Ah you are even more lovely when you are angry!"

He suddenly thought how he would like to see Rane in the daylight. Discover if all the beauty
radiating forth was only an illusion of moonlight and shadow. He tried to look away more than once,
but Rane's beauty drew him in and held him close like a lover's embrace. And that voice. Erik thought
he could listen to that voice forever. It was like listening to the sweetest violin in perfect tune.
Alternating in timbre from the high piercing E string to the low and soothing G. It was musical and music
had always been a passion of Erik's.

"You are free to go," Erik sighed, the last of his anger dissipating. "I won't detain you any

Rane looked disappointed. "I'll go now if you truly want me to, Erik. Though, I'd really rather
stay for awhile."

Erik shook his head, disbelieving. "Suit yourself." He suddenly felt exhausted, his energy spent.
The past few days events were bearing down on him with crushing weight. "I don't care anymore,
about anything. Most of all what happens to me. You shouldn't either. It doesn't become you." He felt
his throat tighten and tears well in his eyes. His whole body ached and his legs wouldn't support him
anymore. He crumpled to the forest floor at Rane's feet, covering his face with his hands and dissolving
in fitful sobs. "If I only truly deserved your compassion. Your friendship. It's like I hear you but you
can't possibly be talking to me. You look at me, but you can't possibly see me. If only I was the person
you seem to think I am. I would welcome the alliance you seem to want with me. But I am nothing but
a hateful, cursed, hideous creature. Even though I don't want to be grotesque like this anymore. I don't
want to have to be mean to people anymore. I want to be loved. I do so want to be loved....."

Erik suddenly became conscious of Rane kneeling beside him and placing a warm and muscular
arm around his shoulders. A soft and beautiful hand stroked his ravaged face.

"Don't despair, Erik," Rane whispered in his ear. "You're very young still and all is not lost. I'm
here for you."

Erik tentatively accepted Rane's comforting embrace. A delicious feeling of warmth and security
enveloped him and he leaned his head against the downy softness of long silken hair.

"Sing to me," Erik breathed shakily. "You said you can sing."

"Of course. You need only ask," Rane whispered. Erik could feel the chest expand with the
intake of air.

Suddenly Erik's ears were filled with the bell clarity of Rane's superlative voice, even more
enchanting in song. An ancient Latin hymn rang out in glorious a capella reaching the farthest corners of
the woods. There was something ethereal about the mesmerizing beauty of Rane's song, the power of
that voice coupled with the soft personal way in which it was sung. Erik knew the hymn from his
childhood. He joined Rane, their voices blending, melting together and complimenting each other like a
well rehearsed duet presented before the highest courts of heaven itself. Note for note, octave and
pitch, were flawlessly and effortlessly matched.

Erik hated for the song to have to end. He looked up into Rane's eyes and smiled in awe.

"You are music," Erik sighed adoringly. "Please, don't stop singing. Sing something else.
Anything. Just sing for me." He felt his heart thaw towards this fair and gentle stranger.

Rane's satin palm brushed the damp bangs from Erik's forehead.

"You should try to sleep. You're exhausted."

"I want to hear you sing some more," Erik argued quietly.

Rane smiled. "I'll sing. You sleep."

Erik could feel himself drifting off even as sleep was suggested. He fought to stay awake, to hear
the rest of the song Rane had begun, but in the end the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

"I'm sorry I hurt you," he murmured and promptly went to sleep.


Dappled sunlight pierced the treetops, warming Erik's bare face. He woke up thinking how
fortunate he was that Rane accepted him without his mask, considering he had lost track of the damned
thing last night. He opened his eyes slowly, aware of the arms holding him to a column of warmth
behind him.

It was a delicious feeling, a sensation of intimacy Erik had never experienced with another person
before. He pressed himself closer to the source of the warmth. He could feel a heartbeat. He could feel
the gentle steady inhaling and exhaling of a real living body beside him. And suddenly all he could think
of was why?

Rane's strange scent surrounded him. The scent of water, Erik thought. The scent of fog and mist.
The scent of rain. Clean and fresh and lifegiving. Erik thought it was a peculiar way for a person to
smell, but didn't think anymore of it.

Perhaps God had been listening after all. His longing for companionship, beauty, mercy, and
music were all here, right next to him all in one form. Why else was this person compelled to seek him
out? Put up with his ill-tempered abuse? Take him in those warm lovely arms and not show the slightest
bit of repulsion....Yes, Rane must be heaven sent. A blessing at last, Erik sighed. He would never have
to be alone anymore and he could gaze upon beauty everywhere he went.

Erik could feel his heart thudding heavily in his chest as he twisted around to face his new and
wonderful friend.

No, all that beauty hadn't been an illusion of moonlight last night. Rane was even more beautiful
this morning. The sun lit the smooth and flawless skin, making it as white as snow on a mountaintop.
There was just a hint of rose on each cheek and pale, diluted wine-colored lips made up the only
fluctuation ofcolor throughout the face. Long black lashes lined Rane's large eyes but the eyebrows
were only a whisper of brown. Arched and delicate, like the brow of a lady aristocrat. Erik
remembered the numerous rings Rane wore as his eyes caught the glint of gold coming from Rane's ear.
Carefully brushing aside the ebony tresses, Erik saw in that perfectly formed, pretty little ear, not one ,
but seven gold, copper, and silver studs winding all the way around the gentle curve to the earlobe.

What manner of person is this? Erik thought. At the very least, someone of a different culture
from some far away and distant land. And certainly someone well off enough to have purchased
precious metals in such an abundant and frivilous way. Despite the tattered clothes, Rane seemed to
possess all the qualities of a blue blood. Well bred, well kept, well fed. Certainly not anyone used to
physical labor....or pain. Rane had seemed more afraid of the pain Erik inflicted than of Erik himself.

"I'm sorry," Erik whispered, truly regretting his actions last night. He reached up and slowly
traced the trail of studs adorning Rane's ear.

Rane's eyes flew open with such speed it startled Erik. The gaze which met Erik's came from
eyes so pale blue they looked like aquamarines. Two large clear pools of water.

Erik smiled. "I didn't mean to wake you. I was curious about all the jewelry you wear. Go back
to sleep. I won't touch you anymore. I promise. I just want to look at you."

"They were all gifts. From the elements. Some from stars. Some from the sun....."Rane blinked
unhappily and sighed heavily. "I hadn't meant to stay all night," Rane was suddenly saying. "It must have
been the blows to the head I received."

Erik's smile broadened. "I am quite sorry for that. I was trying to kill you at first," he confessed
sheepishly. He sat up and stretched, his eyes never leaving Rane's face.

"I know," Rane replied, gingerly touching scab encrusted hair.

Erik couldn't resist touching Rane's cheek . This was the first time someone actually allowed Erik
to touch them and he decided he was going to take advantage of every opportunity to do so from now

"You are lovely." Rane's face felt like an infant's. Skin so velvet and smooth, it could have never
sported a beard. Erik was entranced. He slowly traced every contour of that beautiful face with
trembling, excited, fingertips. "I can't believe you don't pull away."

Rane smiled but it was a sad smile. "I'm sorry Erik. I have to leave you now. You'll be all right."

Erik's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean? I thought you came to me to be my friend. The way
you spoke last night led me to believe..."

Rane sat up and sighed heavily. "I'm sorry you were led to believe I could always be with you. I
can't. Not like this."

Erik stared stricken. His heart twisted painfully inside him as he suddenly realized all that beauty,
that compassion, that ethereal musical voice was not meant for him to keep after all. Furious and
demoralized, Erik shoved Rane away from him as hard as he could and climbed stiffly to his feet.

"Then get going! Get out of my sight before I finish what I started last night!" he seethed, knowing
ironically, the reason he was so upset was because Rane had decided to go.

Slowly, almost imperceptively, Rane edged away from Erik ,sensing an impending erruption of
Erik's violent temper.

Erik could see the shadow of fear clouding Rane's face. It made him even angrier. He laughed
wickedly, delighted. "That's more like it! Fear and flight! Now that is what I'm used to!" he said but he
could hardly bare the thought of Rane fearing him and wanting to get away from him. He reached for
his friend wanting so desparately to be held once more in those warm,strong arms, but Rane flinched.

"Oh why did I believe you?" Erik fumed, his heart tearing inside him painfully. He stepped closer
as Rane moved further away.

"Erik, please...don't hurt me again," Rane pleaded.

"I wanted to believe you! You said you were the answer to my prayers. You knew all my secret
longings. I thought.....maybe God really did choose you for me. The way you looked at me. Seeing
past this demon's face and into the lonely, empty shell of my heart. The way we sang together last night.
You are mine! You belong to me."

"Erik, listen to me. I am your's. God gave me to you. I'll always be yours," Rane implored him.

Erik could contain himself no longer. He savagely kicked and pursued Rane across the ground
and up against a rock ledge. Trapped there, Erik continued hitting and kicking, releasing his anger in a
violent rage. "I can see now you are only a raving lunatic! A bewitching, simple, stupid, lunatic! And I
fell under your spell."

Rane screeched with pain and spared a fiery glance up at Erik.

"Stop it!" Rane hissed. Pain wracked breaths billowed from that beautiful sensual mouth in the
crispness of the morning air.

Erik stopped. An icy chill ran down his spine. "Oh, just go away....I depise you. I depise your
beauty. I depise your god." He turned around and started walking off but Rane called to him.

"Erik, please. I can't bear the thought of you hating me....I love you."

Erik froze. "Love?" he growled. He could scarcely make his deformed lips form the word. "Love
you say?" He whipped around with lightening speed and dragged Rane up, against the rock ledge.
"You are insane," Erik fumed. "Don't mention that word in connection with any feelings you could have
for me. Love is a lie. A myth. It's nothing but pain, if anything at all." He smiled cruelly as an idea
suddenly occured to him. "You want my love, Rane? I'll show you what love means to me." He was
fueled on by the terror mirrored in those big pale eyes. "Since you love me, you'll no doubt give
yourself and all your beauty to me willingly in that most intimate of all embraces." He tore at Rane's
clothing and resorted to blows at the slightest hint of protest.

"Vile, insololent youth!" Rane spat. "This is not love!"

Erik seized Rane's hair and stifled anymore words by covering those lovely lips with his own in a
rough, brutal kiss. Rane whimpered pleadingly as Erik's large hand slid down the length of Rane's
trembling and bruised body. Erik thrilled at the hairless warmth of satin skin beneath his fingertips. Lust
coursed through him now and he was oblivious to any pain or discomfort or shame his unwitting partner
may be experiencing.

"Say you love me now," Erik teased. "Look at my horrific face. Feel the coldness of my decaying
skin and the wretchedness of my passion moving inside you and tell me again how much you love me."

Erik paused, waiting. Expecting resistance, outrage, horror. Instead he felt the soft warmth of
Rane's hand on the side of his face in a tender caress.

"I do love you," Rane whispered. "And I would give myself to you if I could. I know you. I know
your heart. So I don't understand why you want to hurt me. You must know, I cannot raise my hand
against you. I can only use my strength for your good. I cannot defend myself against your

Erik closed his eyes and staggered back. He was suddenly seeped in shame and remorse. He
opened his eyes reluctantly and gazed sorrowfully at Rane's beautiful face marred now with purpling
bruises and smeared blood.

"I'm so sorry...."he lamented, feeling his eyes burning with tears. "I really don't want to hurt you. I
just have this terrible, uncontrollable temper you see. I do want to love you and treat you right, if you'll
only... stay a little longer. I won't force myself on you. I promise. If you love me, won't you consider it?
Show me what real love is?" Erik grimaced suddenly and looked Rane over searchingly. "I still don't
know if you are a man or a woman. That rather complicates things."

Rane smiled slowly and wiped away a tiny trickle of blood.

"I am both. I am neither. I am made in His image just as you are. I am a human reflection only."

Erik stared back at Rane dumbfounded. "Who are you?"

Rane's gaze was piercing. "I am your angel."

Erik started to laugh but stopped suddenly, considering the idea. It wasn't because Erik didn't
believe in angels that the idea seemed so implausible, it was just that he never thought he actually had
one. Now everything seemed to make sense in a twisted sort of way. Everything Rane did and said.
The elegant strange appearance. Erik thought for a moment his heart had stopped beating. He put his
hand over it to make sure it hadn't.

"An angel? But you are flesh. You breathe. You sleep....You bleed."

"Only in this body," Rane answered.

Erik involuntarily took a step backward. He felt unworthy to be so close to Rane anymore.

"You said you were a reflection. Of who?"

"Of you. Your soul."

Erik gasped. "But you are beautiful! You can't be a reflection of me."

Rane smiled again. "If you persist in your path to eternal damnation I won't be beautiful much
longer." The angel stepped closer to Erik. "There's beauty in you, Erik. But you choose to believe the
shallow human perception of you instead of God's perception. I embody the beauty inside you. Your
hopes, your superior intellect, your love, and of course your music. I am you, Erik."

Erik lowered his eyes. He flushed with shame. He couldn't bear to face the angel any longer. The
realization of what he had done and had almost done to this holy creature paralyzed him with
humiliation and grief.

"I'm going straight to hell aren't I?" Erik moaned.

Rane shook his/her head and immediately regretted the sudden movement. Wincing and
straightening with a reassuring smile, Rane said, "You've led a hard life so far, Erik. In most cases you
have risen above your circumstances. God knows this and blesses you. You'll have your reward in
heaven if you only do what's right in the end."

"I don't feel very blessed," Erik said in a small quivering voice.

Rane put an arm around Erik's shoulders. "But you are. I personally gave you my voice." Erik
looked up startled.

"Your voice? Is my voice?"

Rane nodded slowly. "It's your body's version of my voice. But they are one and the same.
Couldn't you tell that while we were singing together last night?"

Erik was shocked. "I have an angel's voice," he said aloud as if testing it with his ears. He smiled
and truly did feel blessed at that moment.

Rane continued. "And you were given so many other gifts. Gifts that let you rise well above your
fellow man. And you must realize what a blessing you were given just last night when I was allowed to
come to you. You were able to feel me hold you and comfort you when you were so vulnerable. Most
people live their entire lives on earth without ever knowing the angel who looks out for them. The angel
who loves them."

Erik began to cry now in great heaving sobs. Rane held him tightly and stroked his hair.

"Please....don't leave me. I love you, I do," Erik cried, hugging the angel's neck. "And I'm so
sorry for the way I've treated you. I thought at first I wanted to be left alone, but in reality, I'm so afraid
of being alone. Who will hold me if you go? How will I ever find out what love really is?"

"You know what love is. There's so much love in you, Erik. It motivates everything you do. My
arms will not be the last to embrace you. I promise you." Rane looked up suddenly and nodded. "I
must go now."

Erik reluctantly released his grip on the angel's neck. "But we've hardly had any time together at
all. Can't you stay a little while longer? There's so much I want to ask you. So much I want to tell
you....Will you at least sing for me one last time?"

"Oh, my love." Rane took Erik's face in those long jeweled fingers. "Don't be sad. All you have to
do if you want to hear me sing, is sing yourself, Erik. Remember, it's my voice that you hear. And
whenever you sing, I'll be singing with you." Rane tilted Erik's face back and kissed him softly,

Erik closed his eyes to fully absorb the sweetness of the angel's kiss. The gilded voice was inside
his mind, singing, distantly. The angel was gone.

When Erik opened his eyes he was strangely aware of the passage of time. He was lying on the
ground, with the first rays of dawn warming his bare face. It must have rained last night, he thought. The
scent of it hung heavily in the air around him. Pure and refreshing. And he was covered in a fine
crystalline mist. He felt oddly peaceful and happy and his lips tingled. He wasn't sure why.