It was merely chance that he should be where he was at that time. Erik had come up from his long hibernation after Christine's flight. The mob had come and gone and since then he had remained below in hiding. No doubt everyone thought him dead. All the better he had thought until his restlessness had gotten the better of him and finally overpowered the pain he felt for the loss of his love.
As he watched the cloaked and hooded figure enter his opera house he knew he had been right in following his instinct to protect his first love, the opera in which he lived. He watched the shadow slink across the polished floor towards the inner sanctum of his world.
Who was this intruder and was he a threat? His eyes followed the figure who, as they thought it safe, lowered their hood as though to see better in the dim light. Something tensed in the air and the stranger turned to look seemingly straight at Erik.
It was a girl; she wore a pearly white mask that covered her entire face except for a square for her chin and mouth. It was exceptionally detailed, even going so far as to have raised lines to suggest eyebrows in an expression of complete inhuman calm. It was the eyes, deep dark almond brown eyes, that gave it away, the fear. As she raised a hand to sweep away an arrant strand of black-brown hair out of her face, Erik first noticed the blood. She was covered in it and he wondered how he had not noticed before that her deep red dress was in fact a blue thing covered in blood.
She was shaking.
Certain that there was in fact no one in the shadows where Erik currently stood, she turned and continued on. Erik followed and as he did so he was surprised as he realized that he was headed straight down to his own lair. Perhaps he should just kill her now and get it over with. After all he needed to keep his presence in the opera a secret if he wanted to continue his wretched existence there.
Of course there was the matter of disposing of the body, and he felt he did not have the heart to. He would much rather return to his house on the lake to die in peace. Perhaps if he asked, she would just leave. So with a sigh for the first time since She had left, Erik spoke.
"Excuse me, mademoiselle, but-"
The next thing he knew the girl had him pinned against the wall with a small knife at his throat.
"How long have you been following me.? Where are the rest of you?" She turned her head toward the dark hallway. "Don't come any closer or I'll kill him too."
Erik sighed. "There is no one else here, can you not see that. I-"
"Quiet." She hissed. The girl took another panicked look down the hallway and Erik moved swiftly and gracefully to twist the knife out of her wrist, wrap his arm around her neck and place the tip perilously close to her throat.
"Now," he growled, digging the point of the blade into her flesh so that a tiny trickle of blood flowed down her throat. He had lost all patience. "I was wondering mademoiselle, if I might ask you to kindly leave."
"I can't." She had begun to cry, not sobbing but letting tears stream down her face to collect under her mask.
"And may I ask why you cannot leave?" He struggled to keep her restrained as she fought to get away.
"They are after me. I've killed a man and- well it doesn't matter now. Kill me or turn me in to the proper authorities, monsieur, though I daresay one is just the same as the other. Please let me go and give me a chance to survive."
"I've heard a story, of a ghost who once lived below the opera. They say the story is just a tale but that there really does exist a sanctuary down beneath this place. I was going to hide there until I thought it was safe."
Erik thought of his home beneath the ground, he imagined this girl finding it and turning him in to the management or worse the police. Murderer or no, they would be lenient thanks to his capture and demise. And if he killed her? Could he bare taking another life, and this time the life of an innocent young girl. Well almost innocent. She had admitted to killing a man, perhaps he should just serve justice and slit her throat here.
"Well?" her voice shook a little. "what is you decision monsieur. Will you throw me to the wolves or will you let me pass."
Somehow he felt somewhat of an ogre all of a sudden.
"Stop crying." He threw her away from himself in disgust. She stumbled but managed not to fall. "Follow me."
He led her down through the underground till they reached the lake, the edge of his world. He pointed to the boat. "Get in."
They moved across the lake in silence, Erik watched the girl as she tried to examine her surroundings. He wondered how well he could see in the dark.
So he had spared her in a way. There was really nothing else to be done. His soul could not survive another murder, he was pretty sure he was damned anyway. Why would god want a monster in heaven? He was much better suited to burn in hell. She would be his prisoner, but not a distraction from his loss. Perhaps it was the mask that had changed his mind. She still wore it even as she absent mindedly let her fingers trail in the water. The blood must have been fairly fresh for it washed off and left a red trail in the water as they passed. Why should she wear a mask?
"I didn't know there was a lake here." she said breaking the silence Erik had found so comfortable only a second before.
"Few people do save those who need to." he said shortly. "I suppose it would seem vulgar to have such a wretched place associated with the most esteemed opera in the world."
"I think its beautiful." she spoke softly as though she were tired. "I've never been in a boat before."
He continued poling them through the water slowly but surely as was his habit every time he crossed his lake. He enjoyed being on the water in the dark. It made him feel alone, blessedly alone, as though he were the only one in the world and that was all he needed. He knew of course that this was not so, and as soon as he reached the shore he would long for that thing that had eluded him all his life.
Finally they reached the opposite side and Erik tied off the boat as the girl stood patiently behind him.
"For what?" he said without turning around.
"For letting me stay with you, monsieur phantom." She was smarter that he had thought.
"Your not exactly a welcome guest, mademoiselle, but I couldn't very well have you turning me in if I let you go could I?"
He led her into the house lighting a few candles as he went; illuminating his ransacked house and what was left of his ravaged belongings. He disappeared into his room and returned with a spare kimono and handed it to her. "You may change there," he said pointing to Christine's room, for it was still her room, "but don't touch anything."
He was building a fire in his fireplace when she emerged dressed in his kimono, her dress bundled in her hands, her mask still in place. Somehow dressed in his black silk kimono she seemed even more mysterious.
"How am I supposed to clean my dress?"
Erik shrugged and sat in his chair in front of the crackling "Wash it in the lake for all I care."
"You don't have to be so rude" She walked out his front door and he watched as, to his surprise, she knelt down on the graveled shore and began to wash her dress like a peasant laundry woman.
She slept on the floor in front of his fireplace. She should be thankful he thought, it was better than the street and safer too. Anyway he was not about to let her sleep in Christine's room. No one would sleep in that room ever again. Erik sat watching her sleep in the dim light of the one remaining candle, all the others had burned out. Well, at least she was cleaner than she had been. If there was one thing he could not stand it was a dirty child. She had tried to speak to him again and he had answered. Harshly at first then more gently as he began to actually engage in conversation with her. A scary thought when he had come to consider it. The last thing he wanted was a companion, a friend. He had all the friends he needed; Loneliness, Apathy and Despair. And who could ask for better acquaintances? Loyal to a fault, they would always be with him. They were with him now, and he brooded late into the night, sitting in his chair until the last candle had snuffed out.