DISCLAIMER: Story, characters, and lyrics property of Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Charles Hart.

I have mucked with details and timing a bit, to fit the purposes of my story. I hope you enjoy it! Reviews are, of course, welcome.

Just the fact that she was sleeping in his bed set him afire. He had watched her for hours, her delicate face pale against the coverlet, until he could no longer bear not to touch her and his blood was racing. His hands ached for her. He would never sleep again.

So he wrote. It was often his only comfort, the scratch of pen on paper, whether the whispering long lines of blueprints or the sharp ticks of music. Tonight would be music, of course, music for her, of the song in his heart that was equal parts joy and torment. She would awaken. She would sing for him, with him. Some day, she would love him.

Yet the writing went slowly. His mind kept turning to the book hidden at the bottom of a stack of scores, the one he had stolen from the theater, years ago, that had colored drawings of men and women together. Its lurid text had so confused and thrilled him when he first read it; he had nearly memorized it during the long lonely stretches of time. Not yet. Maybe not ever. He would shake his head to clear it, hum the last few shakily written bars, and then, before he knew it, there were the images again from the book or from the couplings he had seen from the shadows. He burned. But Christine was no coarse charwoman to be taken, grunting, on top of a barrel. She was light, his muse and his voice. She deserved better. Better than me.

A thread of sadness wove itself into the song he wrote. It was a duet for tenor and soprano---no words as of yet, but those would come later, when she was gone and he was alone again. He would find quiet, and the words would come. In the meantime, there was music. The melody took on a life of its own, two voices twining and separating to counterpoint: he could tell it was some of his finest work, and his hand could barely move quickly enough to keep up with the notes running through his head.

Then his face was cold. He looked up and Christine was there, his mask in her hand, her other fist pressed to her mouth and her eyes wide as she backed away from him. All at once everything crumbled, somehow slowly enough that he could feel his dreams slipping away from him. There would be no duet now. There would be no building of trust, no love. She would hate him. The sound of the mask hitting the floor freed him, and he hardly knew the words he said to her, only that they were composed of rage and shame, of heartbreak and fear. He cried out his self-loathing, then damned himself as he dared speak of love and heard the sob in his voice, cursed himself for his weakness. He sank to his knees, not far from her, weak with disappointment. Christine had fallen and was still staring at him, brows knit together. He could not hold her eyes. Looking at the floor, he held his hand out for the mask.

She placed her hand in his.