Disclaimer: Do not own POTO etc.

A/N: This little phiclet was just begging me to be written so I obliged... anyway, I should revise it later on. It takes place about eight years after Erik sends Christine and Raoul away together. It's not your average Christine-leaves-Erik-then-returns-and-everyone-lives-happily-ever-after phics. It's rather darker and I won't take it entirely seriously until perhaps I revise it. You know, I really hate this quick edit/preview feature...

Paris Opera House, 1889

It had been eight long years since Erik had last set foot below the Paris Opera House and in the secluded home he had built for himself there. He had left, on impulse, no more than a couple of days after he had sent Christine away with her fiancé – he had been returning home from Nadir's house but, upon seeing only darkness emanating from the front door he had left open, he did not feel there was anything to return to. So, taking only himself with him, as he could not bear to re-enter the house, he had slammed and locked the door from the outside, ensuring that no-one would ever disturb the place where he had first heard Christine. Now, after eight years of travelling for no other reason than to take his mind off of Christine, he had returned one last time.

He considered himself to be an old man now, nearly sixty, and twice as tired of life as when he had left. My darling little angel will be almost thirty now, perhaps even with children, he contemplated, sadly. It felt right to come back now, when he clearly had no way of ruining her happiness, when she would be everything she had dreamed of being – a woman now, a wife, a mother. He would not interfere again, he would not jeopardise her contentment to live anymore – she was free now – but he never would be, so long as they were apart. Love held him bound to her forever and he could and would do nothing to loosen the bonds.

As much as he wanted to go to her once more, he did not want to see her again, he wanted to remember her as he had left her – innocent and divine – he was afraid to see her with another man and another man's children. It had been so long and he had missed her so badly but it was too late now, too much of her happiness would be at stake if he looked for her, and he could never risk that again.

He spent an overly long time fiddling with the mechanism that kept his door locked – he had not used it in eight years, it felt unfamiliar now, and, though he would not admit it to himself, he was growing weak with age. When the door finally swung open, he gave a frustrated sigh and moved like a wraith into what had once been his home, his solace. The first thing that he noticed was a pungent and distinctly overpowering stench hitting his nostrils before he was a foot inside. He could not quite tell what it was coming from though it did smell almost familiar. He wondered briefly if it was the food that he had left gone rotten, but there was not nearly enough to make such a strong reek. Then again, he had designed his door so that, when closed, it let very little airflow inside, therefore reducing draughts, which could explain the smell not having really gone away. No doubt he would have a whole pile of mould to clean up before the smell even started to disperse. But it would have to wait. Erik was tired and needed dearly to rest.

He had spent the last eight years sleeping in uncomfortable situations and moving all the time, he was so glad to be somewhere he could think of as home and the thought of sleeping in his coffin again was so appealing that he hurried passed all the other rooms and moved straight into his, the stench long forgotten. He decided he would inspect any damage later, when he had rested sufficiently, and perhaps, he thought bitter-sweetly, he would dream of his beloved Christine.

His room was exactly as it had always been and he felt something inside himself wrench at that reality. There had never been anyone here to change it and he was hurt that, though he had spent eight years trying to get away from everything, nothing had changed. It made him want to cry bitterly. However, he forced himself to keep his dignity and swung himself elegantly into the beautiful wooden casket which served as his bed.

Not two minutes after he had lain down did he have to move because he could feel something pressing into his back and, flipping over to retrieve it, he realised it was an envelope. Brittle and delicate with age, it had obviously been lying against the base for some time. He did not know what to make of it and for several minutes he did nothing but stare at it until his need for an explanation grew and he gently opened it and pulled out the letter inside.

He recognised instantly that it was Christine's handwriting and that she had dated it to the very month that he had left Paris so long ago. Without realising, he had begun to cry. It was here when I left, she must have been here too, if only I'd gone through the door and stayed a little longer!

Dear Erik,
I came back to beg of you your forgiveness and though I did not expect
you to still care for me as you once did, I had hoped to reveal to you
my one last secret from you – just as I used never to think twice
about telling you all my secrets in the days when you were my Angel
and I was just yours. You see, Erik, I held this secret from you for
so long that it hurt us both and forced us apart, so, the only way I
could think of to join us again was to tell it to you.
I am unsure of how to say it, you have always found your words so
easily but I still stumble over what I try to tell you and it never
comes out quite right, even when I'm writing you a letter. I have
never quite known what it is that I feel for you, especially when I'm
around you. You overwhelmed me the very first day I met you and you
have not ceased to overwhelm me every day since. If I had not been so
naïve I would have realised then that it was not fear. For a long
time I have been truly astonished at how much love you laid at my feet
– no-one else had ever really done that for me and I was afraid of
what you expected in return, afraid that I could not love you back.
You were the Angel placing all your love in front of me and in my
confused folly I stepped all over it. I can never expect the hurt I
caused you to heal but in return I am now giving you the means to hurt
me just as much – because, Erik, my last remaining secret from you is
that I love you, too!
I need to tell you now why I am writing this letter. I came back to
you just two days after you sent me away with Raoul, but you were not
here. I waited for you until I was so tired that I must have fallen
asleep in your chair, for when I wakened up, I found the door had been
blown shut by the wind. At first, I was not worried because I thought
that you would return eventually and find me – but it has been many
days, Erik, and days still since the last of your food ran out. I am
so hungry and weary that I can barely write this letter but you had to
know, Erik, you had to know that I loved you, as well. Oh, Erik, you
never showed me how to unlock the door!
I hope that someday you find this letter and it gives your soul some
peace to know that I loved you, that you were never unloved. Wherever
you have gone, and wherever I will go now, know that whatever you do,
I love you still!
Forever yours,

Before he had even finished the letter, Erik had begun to retch and splutter. He was crying furiously and his stomach was overcome by spasms which were forcing him to vomit what little he had eaten. His heart felt like a dead weight inside his chest and he was filled with such a feeling of dread and foreboding that he was shaking and had lost all control of his legs.

I... I must have locked her in! I... Oh, God... she had so... so little food... and I locked her in! And I... And I... I never taught her how to open the door. I thought I'd always be here when she was! I didn't think she'd need to know... She was supposed to be safe here... My God, where is the smell coming from?!

He was utterly blind with panic and guilt that he had left her alone in his house for eight whole years, in the darkness, in an abyss. "My love, my Christine," he sobbed, "where are you? What have I done to you?"

He could not see for the tears clouding his vision and the constant shudders which rendered his legs useless caused him to desperately pull himself along the floor until he reached the door to her room. He pushed the door open and fell flat on his back with the force of the smell coming from within. It was death he had smelt before and it was death he smelt now. Again, pulling himself to the bed, he had to force himself to look up. He was certainly not prepared for what he saw there...

He was greeted with the sight of her sleeping; facing away from him so that he could only see her lovely hair and the blanket wrapped tightly around her. "Christine," he sighed, "you're alive, you're alright! Wake up, my love, wake up!" Still on the ground, he reached his hand up to stroke her hair and he was so elated that he did not immediately realise that when he had pulled his hand back, a large clump of her hair had come with it.

He looked down in such fear that he could do nothing but scream and flail his hand about desperately to throw it off, whimpering and pushing himself into a corner.

The shock of seeing his beloved lying dead and decomposed, merely a skeleton now because of him, was so immense that it fractured Erik's mind and sanity forever. He just snapped. He was harbouring too great a feeling of loss and grief that his mind converted to deal with it – he went quite mad.

When Nadir, who had helped Erik gain passage out of Paris and passage back in again, came to see if he had settled back in to his old home without problems, he found Erik in quite an amiable mood. Amiable if not sane.

He was in his chair by the fire, grinning broadly as he cradled and rocked a skeleton in his arms. "Are you warm now, my love? You were somewhat cold when you woke, do you feel better now?"

Nadir was in such awe that he dropped the bottle he had brought Erik to welcome him back, causing Erik to look up at him.

"Ah, Nadir, you've arrived. No, leave the glass, I'll clear it up later, we can have tea instead so that Christine may join us. Please, if you would make some, my hands are full," he said, stroking the skeleton's scalp as though he had meant to stroke hair.

Nadir was too stunned to speak, he didn't know what to say. So, doing the only thing he had been instructed to do, he went and made tea – perhaps he thought it would help to calm Erik, perhaps he didn't think. He entered the living room again and brought two cups back with him. He kept one and handed the other to Erik.

Erik sighed, "Nadir, truly your manners are appalling! I just told you we would be including Christine but you have not made her any tea!" He paused to look at his beloved in his arms, "It's alright, darling, you may have mine." And with that he handed the skeleton a teacup.