Author's Note: Salutations one and all. In this fanfic, you can be assured that I do not own Erik and Co. I credit Susan Kay for the scenario which this story is built upon, although this will definitely stray from any of the canon versions of Phantom. Erik will most likely be out of character by most of your standards, but regardless I think that the idea has some merit.

How Hungry Would a Woman Have to Be? – Chapter One

The streets of Paris were cold and silent as a tall, masked figure made his way to his home. Pausing by one of the bridges on the Seine, he overheard a prostitute hail a passing soldier.

"Monsieur, I will take you to my room in exchange for a piece of bread."

The man replied with a comment unheard by the masked man but presently the two made their way together off in the direction of the Rue de Grenelle.

Watching the ice flow down the river, Erik stood for a while as he contemplated his fate and life.

'Just how hungry would a woman have to be to accept my money for her services?'

Even the thought depressed him; he would never be able to experience the pleasures of love no matter how brilliant, no matter how talented he was. He would never know the love of another human being or the feeling of another's embrace. He was seized with a desperate urge to get back to his lair as quickly as possible where he could content himself with his music; it was easier to forget rather than to face his troubles.

He began to walk briskly away from the Seine and through the streets of the St. Denis neighborhood of Paris. He began to encounter more prostitutes as he made his way through the streets and checked that his cowl still covered his head completely so that he would attract no extra attention. He absently took a short cut through one of the many dark alleys and had almost made his way to the main street on the other side when a sultry voice called out to him from the shadows.

"Looking for some company, monsieur?"

"You wouldn't have me even if I were looking." He muttered under his breath as he kept walking. Apparently, the woman overheard him as she stepped out of the shadows and into view. He stopped dead in his tracks, arrested by the sight of her. She had thick brown hair and dark eyes set in a porcelain face that was without the greasepaint and other cosmetics that whores used to attract their customers. Her figure was quite voluptuous in the cheap yet clean dress she was wearing and she held a thin shawl around her shoulders to ward off the freezing cold. She wasn't incredibly beautiful, but something about her struck him as extremely attractive. He watched mesmerized as she swayed her hips as she walked towards him. When she was close enough that he could smell her cheap perfume, she stopped and positioned herself so that he had a good view of her 'assets'.

"I wouldn't bet on that, monsieur. I take 'em all; all shapes and sizes alike. Like to consider myself a daughter of the Revolution with all the liberty and equality stuff; I'm even better with fraternity..."

She rolled out the last words in a low, seductive tone and licked her swollen, red lips. Erik was uncomfortably aware of the straining at the front of his trousers and took a few steps back from the woman in an attempt to remove himself from the temptation and to control the powerful desires coursing through him. As being a successful prostitute required the ability to read others and their actions, the woman noticed this movement and spread her arms to him in a gesture of supplication.

"Come on, dearie, I didn't mean no harm. You needn't be frightened of me. Don't you want to try even a small sample of the goods? My prices are reasonable and I think you'll find the services quite worth the money. Really, sir, I can be trusted to make your evening more pleasurable." She coaxed in a sincere, understanding voice.

"You cannot possibly understand, madame." He tried to infuse his voice with as much venom as he possibly could. However, she didn't even bat an eye at the tone of his voice and instead struck another pose as to get his attention. In a flippant tone, she replied "You can pay me to be understandin'. Really, it's only twenty francs for a quick one and forty for the night. For a gentleman like yourself, I might even be persuaded to go cheaper..."

"Madame, I am not like your other patrons." Again, he spoke coldly to her and she smirked up at him as she licked her lips again and answered "I can see that already. Not many of them have that voice of yours or wear such expensive cologne. I could even be persuaded to let you have a go for fifteen francs if I must." She absently undid the top lace to her bodice and again angled herself so that he would have a better view.

This woman's proximity was too much! He tried to will the pain and longing away and pushed away from her. He had walked five paces from her when a strong pair of arms grabbed him and held him against the slimy brick wall of the alley.

"I believe the lady asked you a question! An' you dunna flirt wi' the goods unless you've a mind to pay for 'em!" came a male voice whose words were slurred and whose breath smelled of cheap wine.

"Remove your hands from my person, monsieur." Erik responded with a dangerous undertone in his voice, his eyes glowing with their fury.

"Let him be, Jacques!" The woman cried out as she put her arms on the man and tried to pull him off of Erik. "He ain't interested, there ain't no harm in that. Just let 'em be!"

"You asked him a question an' you deserve an answer. Besides, I'm in charge of your clients and if I say that you're to fuck someone....

At that moment, Erik moved to pull away when the hood fell from his head and his mask glinted in the moonlight. Whatever curses he was about to voice died on Jacques lips as he looked at the burning eyes in the mask before him.

"Holy mother of Jesus..." Jacques gasped as he released his hold on the other man. "There's no way you're bedding that bastard, Marceline. Get away from us, you monster!"

"A moment ago you were going to force her on me and now my money is not good enough?" Erik replied coldly as Jacques pulled the woman away.

"No way in Hell is my best girl fuckin' the likes o' you!"

"Jacques! For heaven's sake, please!" the woman cried. "You've made this bad enough as it is. Just go, I'll handle it." She stepped between the two men; her arms raised exposing her heaving chest in the tight bodice.

The filthy pimp shook his fist at Erik and growled "I ain't takin' his money, Marceline. An' if you know what's good for you..."

"If you know what's good for you, you'll just let us be. You'd best see to Laurine, she's quite the novice even after two months. Don't worry 'bout me none; I manage myself well. I'll see you in the morning, Jacques." And she turned away from him with the flippant goodbye.

"Marceline..."

She spun around on her heel and glared at him. "Bon soir, Jacques." she said in a firm tone that allowed no argument.

"Salope." He hissed. "You had better take care of yourself beddin' freaks like that. I ain't helpin' you in the mornin' if you come back bleedin' and cryin'. It's your own damn fault."

He walked off into the shadows and the brunette turned back to Erik, who had watched this exchange with increasing self-loathing and disgust. Even with these people, these animals, he was still hated because of his face. Even among the poorest and most desperate, the most debauched and depraved, he still could never hope for companionship or even a shred of compassion. These thoughts sickened him to his core and he turned to leave when the whore turned to him and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. He shook it off briskly, but she took the opportunity to get his attention.

"Well, I apologize for that. Work for the man and he thinks he can own you body and mind. Don't heed his words none, he ain't got nearly the brains a dog's got and ain't familiar wi' the customs an' such. Now, monsieur, are you sure you really wouldn't be interested in company for tonight?"

"You cannot possibly know what you ask." He whispered almost brokenly. He berated himself for even considering that this woman would be a willing partner; he was nearly forty and still believed in miracles! He was lost in his thoughts and completely taken aback by her next statement.

"I know exactly what I ask. So, you're another man who has to hide in a mask so that I can't identify you. Ain't the first time I've had me a man like that. Must've bedded half the Chamber of Deputies in that manner! Trust me, dearie, I've had them in all shapes and sizes; it takes quite a bit to shock me. You ain't no different from the rest." She tossed her head and shrugged her shoulders as to indicate her indifference to the matter. Her chest rose with the movement and again brought Erik's attention down to her breasts. He had never examined a woman's form closely before and he was completely overwhelmed by this provocative woman's presence. The better half of his mind warned him to step away and with a great effort he did so, and infused his reply with as much coldness as he could muster in his state of distress.

"I believe that is where you are mistaken, madame. I am not the same as other men."

She frowned with her perfect, red lips at the tone of his voice. "Call me 'Mademoiselle' or Marceline; 'Madame' is bad for business." She replied just as coldly. Her dark eyes searched his glowing ones closely and in a softer, more compassionate tone she asked "Honestly, what's the problem? I'll cater to your desires; it's what I do best. What'll you have me do? Is the dark good enough for you or do you prefer to blindfold me so I don't recognize you? I'm willin' to work both ways if you want. Oh, an' it costs extra if you want my hands bound, but it can be arranged..."

He shook his head, still moving away from her. "You cannot be serious, mademoiselle..."

"Oh, I'm not a jokin' girl, monsieur. I'm a right honest lady, I am. I never lie and I never joke about business. If you're interested in my services, I'll do almost anything for the right price."

"You would honestly take my money without knowing who I am?" he asked incredulously.

With a wry smile, she answered in a very matter-of-fact tone. "If I knew every man I've ever serviced, I'd be acquainted with 'bout half the men on earth. And I never lie about that, either. I'm right honest, yes I am."

"You would be willing to...to...to work with me even without knowing what is behind the mask?"

"Discretion is another valuable service that I provide at the right cost. I told you before that I don't care none. So long as you pay, you get a lay. So what'll it be? Fast, long, all-night?"

"I assume you've a room somewhere."

"It's part of my position to provide the location. Ain't the grandest salon in town, but it'll do. Downright quaint, I think. What'd you want?"

He was making arrangements without thinking; without considering his past or his future. His desire had taken over complete control, and he blindly let himself be directed by this whore of a woman.

"For an evening. How much for an evening?" he whispered.

"I said forty earlier and forty it is."

He paused, weighing the consequences briefly before deciding to risk his pride. At this point, there really was no choice; he had little pride left to lose.

"Alright."

"You don't get there until you show me that you can pay, monsieur. Always gotta remember professional courtesy."

She held out her hands and he dropped the gold in them without question. A smile broke out on her face, showing a set of white, even teeth that were quite an unusual sight in the slums of Paris.

"You're quite new to this practice, ain't you?" she said with another smirk.

He began to get flustered and again backed away from her. She reached out to him and took his arm gently with a smile lighting up her face.

"Don't get all flustered. It doesn't bother me none. Just keep in mind that with most ladies, you settle for the price and leave it for them when you're done with the services. Never hand it straight to them, that dirties the money. It's a professional superstition, you know. Tainted money's said to be cursed. However," she said, sticking the hefty sum in her pocket, "we'll dispense with the formalities of the trade this evenin' and I'll show you the ropes at my place. Come along now..." and she held out her hand for his.

He looked at her face in the dim lighting; her expression seemed sincere considering her profession and he honestly was led to believe that she intended to go through with this farce. "You're serious, aren't you? You haven't any idea who and what I am and you'd still be willing to..." As an answer, she took his death's hand and began leading him towards the street.

"I said yes and I never lie or go back on my word. Now come along, it's freezing out here and I know the best way to warm us up."

A/N: Howdy Doody…As I said earlier, I am well aware that this does not follow any Phantom canon nor is Erik in character. Please do not flame me for this! This is an idea that has been rolling around in my head for some time and I thought that I'd give it a go and see how it turned out. It will be relatively short; I'm expecting 3 or 4 chapters to finish this story if it is well received. I've rarely seen anything like this done on and so I am not quite sure what to expect from reviewers. Hopefully, you won't desire to Punjab me too much!

The grammatical and spelling errors in Marceline and Jacques' speech are intentional; consider them my pitiful attempt to show that they both are from the 'slums' and do not speak with proper grammar. Oh, and please don't worry. It will not be a Mary-Sue or an another-woman fic in the true sense…yes, Marceline is a woman and yes she is a prostitute and yes she and Erik have some mildly steamy scenes coming your way (I don't do in-depth sex scenes and they're not permitted on anyway), but that doesn't mean that Erik will fall for her instead of a certain idiotic brunette with some vocal talent…

For those following my other fic, 'The Patron of the Opera', you needn't fear that I'll abandon it for this piece. I've only got to work on Chapter 8 before posting as 9 and 10 have been written for some time. Once 8 is out of the way, you'll be well into the story with frequent updates until Chapter 11.

Thanks one and all for your support!