So she settled in to his strange, underground life. He was writing much more than usual, given that he was no longer skulking around trying to catch of glimpse of Christine. He took much joy in being able to look up and see her or to follow the sound of her singing to wherever she was, to creep up behind her and kiss the back of her neck. And, for the first time in his life, he was content to be still, lounging about watching her. She had a mania about his messes and seemed determined to conquer more than a decade's worth of haphazard collecting. Already in a small back cave there was a pile of old candle drippings nearly up to his knee.

The day after their adventure upstairs, Christine came to him with her toe shoes in her hand and a determined jut to her chin. "I'm taking over a room, Erik," she said in a firm little voice that made him want to laugh. "I'm going to practice my ballet exercises, and I don't want you to watch me." It was cruelty. "But I've seen you dance a hundred times," he protested. "That was in a whole group of girls! You mustn't, Erik. You know I'm a terrible dancer." "Not terrible," he said, but she would not let him interrupt. "All right, maybe not terrible, but you know I'm not very good." As much as he had loved to watch her dance, he would not lie to her. He merely nodded. "So it would make me feel shy if you were to watch me." She kissed him lightly. Then, as she left, she turned her head back over her shoulder, "And if you promise me, then perhaps later I shall need help washing my hair." It was worth promising.

In many ways, things were easier. Unlike Giry, who had to be bullied into helping him, Christine happily crept up out of the labyrinth to walk through Paris, shopping and gawking at all the sites she hadn't seen during her lonely years cloistered in the Opera. Many nights they sat together in a large chair in front of the fire, and he would comb her hair with his fingers while she sat in his lap and told him about the sights and interesting faces she had seen during the day. He found that many of these stories turned into music---he would go to sleep with the images in his head, and by morning they would have transformed themselves into notes.

Her interest piqued his, so there were a few evenings that they went out together, simply to walk arm in arm and look around them. Once he crept out very early in the morning and bought all the roses his arms could hold, scattering them around her on the bed so that she awoke in a garden. It was a much more comfortable life than he had ever known---there was no more lurking in shadows all day with his mask making his face itch. There were no more sleepless nights of agony over his loneliness. Christine even made him eat regularly, so he had to take up fencing again, because he was afraid of becoming quite fat. Christine exercised a prerogative of being entirely unfair and watched him fence, sitting wide-eyed on her stool, until her curiosity won and she begged him to teach her. She had found a lightweight prop sword that suited her, and with her dancer's strength and grace, she learned quickly.

Still, it was obvious to him that she was miserable in the cold. There was no way he could think up to actually warm the corridors save by building a steam engine, which would alert the world to them immediately. He hung heavy draperies for her in front of the room with the stove in it, so it was often much warmer. She made him teach her to cook, which he suspected was mostly an excuse to stand close to the stove. It worried him, and to see her after a bath in the cold stream, huddled shivering as close to the grate as she could get without scorching her clothes, troubled him.

So there was an undercurrent of discontent in their days together, amid the kisses and the music, the sweet whisper of flesh on flesh in the dark. They were singing at the organ one day when she laid a hand on his arm and asked whether they would live there forever. His hands rested lightly on the keys while he thought. "I have never considered anything else," he said. "For me, to come here and have a place where I could be master of my own fate---it was all I wanted." He turned to her, dear thing, huddled on her little stool. "Where could we go?" "Somewhere warm," she said plaintively, staring sadly at the floor. It hurt his heart to look at her. He put his arms around her, cradling her close. "Dearest," he said. She reached up to touch his face, his miraculous love, who did not mind his ugliness, loved him despite it. "I'm sorry," she said. "I want to be here with you, my Angel." And it was great comfort to hold her, that she kissed his protests away, but he still worried. It was even worse the next day, when she came to him with a handful of coins---sou and pitifully few francs---saying, "This is all the money I have, Erik. Can it help?" He was utterly ashamed of himself. There had never been such a sweet and good girl. "My dearest love," he said, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry. For a moment, he could not speak, his heart in his throat. "Christine. Is there no end to your goodness?" She smiled at him a little, her hand still held out. All he could do was lift her up and spin around with her in his arms, rain kisses on her cheeks. After a time, she laughed. He overflowed with love for her.

Though she still looked at him quizzically, he would not say any more until they were tucked into their chair by the fire and she had a blanket over her legs. His angel. Who would have thought it? That he would have a love of his own. Her face in the firelight was everything beautiful to his eyes. "Now will you tell me what that was about?" she asked, and Erik realized that he had been staring at her, smiling, for he knew not how long. "You are the sweetest creature ever to live," he said, and she wriggled with frustration. "And you know," he said in a much lower voice, "if you continue that, it will be another very long while before I tell you." She immediately went still; it was slightly disappointing.

"Did you think, dearest, that it is because of poverty that I live down here?" She frowned. "I don't know," she said. "Is it?" Erik shook his head. "I have received a salary from the Opera for many years. You never heard of that?" "No. You made them pay you?" "Twenty thousand francs a month." She sat up sharply, moving badly over a sensitive spot, and it was testament to her irritation that she did not notice his wince. "Twenty thousand francs a month! Erik, that's outrageous! How could you even think of it?" He didn't know how to answer that; luckily, she went on. "It was very wicked of you! Poor M. Levefre, who was always so kind to me, and having to give you a prince's allowance every month! No wonder he always seemed so tired." Erik reminded himself never to tell her about the threats and blackmail. "There must be another way for us to live without robbing the Opera blind," she said. "Of course," he agreed, not thinking what that could be but wanting the line of conversation to change before any of his more uncomfortable secrets got out. In time, he would tell them all. Or perhaps he would forget them.

She harrumphed at him, but then leaned back against his arm. Presently, "So, the new managers---you won't make them pay you?" "No, beloved." And then, a little later, "You can't have spent it all, living down here the way you do." At that, he had to chuckle. "No, of course not. I'm sure most of it is lying around down here. I just wanted the control." He could practically hear her thinking. Finally, she turned around until she was perched on his knees, facing him. "But if you have money, Erik, why still live underground?" He stared at her---the question was ridiculous. "Not everyone can look on me with kindness, as you do." "What about your mask?" Really, it was too much. "Christine, I cannot walk about in society wearing a mask. There would be no end to the questions! With either my face or a mask, we would be shunned wherever we go." She nodded, chewing her lower lip in a most beguiling manner. Then her face brightened. "Erik! Do you remember two seasons ago, that man from Prussia---what was his name? The Baron von Müffling?" He thought back two seasons: that was Benvenuto Cellini---Carlotta had been particularly dreadful, and---"The man who wore dresses?" "Yes," she said, leaning forward. "We all made terrible fun of him, of course, but I remember hearing that he was quite popular. Don't you see? The rich can get away with anything! Maybe we don't want to live in Paris, but somewhere quiet, maybe, just a little house, and if anyone asks about your mask I'll talk sadly of a childhood accident, and no one will care! You'll wear your lovely clothes and speak in that voice of yours and I will have to become jealous and protect you from the ladies." The she stopped and looked at him slyly. "You'll have to learn better manners, though." This was a turn he had not foreseen. "What's wrong with my manners?" She laughed. "My love," she said, "you are always perfectly gallant to me, of course, but everyone else you order about like cattle. Don't worry," she said, patting his arm. "Happiness is working on you. You are already much less grumpy." As she settled back into his arms, he'd have liked to protest that he wasn't grumpy, but he also knew it would be useless.

It was an outrageous plan, of course, and it would never work. Erik snuck out again in the early morning and commissioned a cobbler to make a fur-lined pair of silk slippers for Christine, so that she would at least be more comfortable if she was going to be stuck with him underground. He noted that the man looked curiously at his mask but asked no questions, even smiling at him after Erik handed over the money. He was very thoughtful as he walked home. When he gave her the slippers several days later, she squealed with delight and put them on immediately. He thought how lovely it would be to shower her with gifts ever day, to spoil her and give her every comfort and luxury.

Of course the date for his salary to be paid had come and gone without his noticing it. He crept up to the small backstage room where it was left and found two letters with the banknotes: one from the managers, begging for their diva back, and one from the boy Viscomte that was by turns pleading and threatening. He tore that one into tiny bits and set them afire. He left behind the note that Christine had watched him write, instructing that no more payment be made. It was difficult to care about the workings of the theatre now---all that was interesting to him lived with him, slept with him in his bed at night.

He thought that he had dismissed her plan as impossible, but he kept thinking about it, especially when Christine went on a money hunt through all of his belongings. He had to laugh with her at some of the stranger places where she found bills---stuffed in drawers and between the pages of books, in teapots, and quite a lot in a little music box with a monkey on top that was one of the very few things he had been able to smuggle with him into and out of the carnival that had caught him when he left Persia. It was rather an impressive pile of money; if they chose wisely, it would keep them comfortably for a handful of years.

In her turning everything upside down, Christine also discovered his book (it had several bills tucked in the pages). He was working on a violin sonata and didn't notice for quite some time that she had gone utterly silent. When he finally turned around to look for her, she was sitting on her stool with her knees drawn up, eyes very wide and cheeks bright red. She looked up. "You know, Erik, had we not already done many of these things, this book would make me cry." At every turn, she surprised him. He had not expected her patient cheerfulness: he had always known her to be melancholy and hesitant. He had imagined that their life together would not be quite so normal. It left him breathless to think that all her care and comfort were for him---that it was in making a choice to belong to him that transformed her into this bustling little creature rifling through all of his drawers and making him eat three meals every day. He would have to start writing religious music and designing churches to make up for it in whatever small way. Then he laughed, realizing that she was still reading. There was no recourse other than to sweep her into his arms and carry her to bed for a more active examination of what she had learned.

He was getting used to waking up happy---the strangest thing. A lifetime of misery and now this. He almost thought that he might someday forget all of it, the violence and wickedness and pain. He might be her Angel of Music, but she was his angel of healing, of light.

Thinking of light made him want to look at her, so he crawled out of bed to light candles, to bring one close and watch her. Her sweet face was soft in sleep, one curl falling across her nose---he slipped it gently behind her ear. Even though he knew that the cold would wake her, he pushed the coverlet down to her waist, tracing the line of her shoulder and arm. She shivered slightly in her sleep. Erik felt he could look at her forever and always discover some new beauty. He pushed the coverlet down further, running his palm over the warmth and softness of her leg. This beloved girl. He was just about to lean in to kiss her awake when he saw that there was blood on the sheet. After the first night, there had been a little; this was more. He panicked briefly: what if she were not asleep but gravely ill? He shook her roughly---she woke immediately, but her confusion did nothing to comfort him. He could not speak for terror, but Christine looked down and said, "Oh! Have I been down here a month already?" This made no sense at all to him: how could she be so calm? He knew very little of medicine, but he had seen men die terribly, bleeding to death from wounds on the inside. He was still staring even as Christine rolled out of bed, wrapping herself in the red velvet robe. "I'm sorry, love. I'll wash the sheets today." She would do no such thing. She would get back into bed and lie very still, and he would go up to the theater and send for a doctor---the best doctor there was---even if he had to bring that little Chagny into it. Whatever was wrong with her would be cured. It must be cured. Surely God would not torture him with happiness and then take it away from him. He could not bear it if she died. She couldn't die. He would not allow it. He was working himself toward threatening Heaven with all-out war as she walked back into the room. When she saw his face, she knelt beside him and put her arms around him. "What's wrong, my Angel?" He shook himself free of his trance. "Wrong with me? You must lie down." He was pushing her down, but she resisted, and he was babbling about doctors when she laughed. "Oh no, my darling," she said, "Erik, no." She placed a hand on either side of his face and kissed him lightly. "My love," she said. She was blushing. "I'm not ill. I swear it. This just means I'm not pregnant."

Somehow he had not gotten used to his life flying to pieces and re-assorting itself, even though this kept happening. Of course the possibility of a child had never occurred to him, even though he knew perfectly well how it was done. So she was not pregnant: and that was a happy thing, except that it was also sad. But that was ridiculous. He could never father a child. What if it was as monstrous as he was? And even if the child was normal, he remained hideous. But Christine loved him; presumably she would love a child that looked like him. He remembered his agonizing early childhood, the desperate love he had felt for his own mother, even as she refused him and covered his face---he knew that any child he treated with kindness would love him as its mother did.

In the midst of this, even as he was sobbing against Christine's breast, he realized that they would have to leave. She could never carry a child living in these dank caves: to raise a family underground would be cruel. To raise a family. He would have to stop thinking about it and actually take the steps, transform himself from monster to man. Erik raised his face to his angel, his savior, and told her this: for her, he would emerge from darkness. Anywhere she wished to go, he would go too.

Christine bustled about more than ever. They debated over maps for the better part of a day before deciding on Greece. She became quite the little cut-throat, rifling through the caves and taking valuable items to pawnshops, where she apparently haggled so sweetly and stubbornly that the shopkeepers gave her something approaching actual value. She ordered trunks for them, and clothes; she bought tickets for the train that would take them to Marseille and made him write to an English solicitor in Athens who would start looking for a house for them, somewhere near the sea. Erik, too, went out on an errand of his own, but he did not tell her.

Early in the process, she declared that they needed a last name. She refused all of his more gloomy ideas from the Italian. When she finally suggested 'avhållen,' the Swedish word for 'beloved,' he felt his name settle on him like a comforting blanket. Several days later, Christine presented him with a handsome set of handkerchiefs with "EA" embroidered on them. He wept over them.

As soon as they had settled on Greece, Erik had begun reading The Odyssey to her in the evenings. She was so entranced by the story that she made him start teaching her Greek and then to promise to read it to her again in the original. As the date of their departure approached, she quivered with excitement, packing and repacking their trunks, jumping on him for a kiss just as he was rolling up the single copy of an opera he hadn't finished.

Then, at last, the date arrived. Their trunks had been carted off, and a carriage waited to take them to the train station. He was wearing a smaller mask, one which hid only the worst of his deformities, and it sat strangely on his face. Surely that was why he was nervous. Yet his Christine was beside him, her hand on his arm. He turned to look down at her. "Shall we get married, then?" he asked her softly, and the smile on her upturned face was like Heaven. She pulled him down for a kiss. "My love. Are we not married already? My heart, my soul are yours." He smiled and drew the object of his secret errand from his pocket: five rubies as red as heart's blood set in a band of gold. "I thought you might say that." He kissed her hand, then slipped the ring on her finger. "Christine, I love you," he said. His angel smiled at him and led him into the day.