Title: Scent

Summary: almost, but not quite, Erik/Meg

Disclaimer: I do not own POTO. Damn.

Author's Notes: I don't know why I did it, so don't ask.

He did not know what scent it was she wore that hung about her in a delicate cloud. He hadn't noticed its scent the first time she had found her way into his home, there to return the porcelain white mask he had left behind when the mob approached. He'd nearly killed her then, just for what her mother had done, leading the mob to his only sanctuary, destroying his life's work. But she hadn't screamed and hadn't begged but had stared at him in silent horror until his hands had actually begun to squeeze down on her thin neck. The she had stammered out, fast and frightened those four little words that stopped him cold.

"It's not all gone."

He'd followed her, almost stumbling to a little niche in the stone wall near the lake, the only place she'd been able to think of to hide a few handfuls of his work. But what handfuls. The first two and a half acts of his Don Juan Triumphant, probably the only copy left after the fire that had consumed the Opera House above him, were completely unharmed but for a slight dampness.

He'd practically reeled with the joy of holding the pages in his hands again, and he stood there searching over every one, as though to convince himself that they really were all there. When he looked up again she had been gone.

The second time she came he was in a rage. The last part of the third act had come to him easily but the fourth act, every perfect line of it, skittered away from his mind like shades. He could not grasp it but instead beat his hands senselessly against the walls trying to force the shadows to come off them. He'd smelled something then, something fresh, like a breeze from the outside and he had turned to see her standing there again.

He'd had no energy to hurt her then. And he could muster only a slight annoyance at the way she tended to his bruised and bleeding hands, wrapping them in soft strips of cloth torn from who knows what. Hands so gentle and steady even though he knew she had seen his face the first time she came to him.

The third time she'd come down he hadn't even known of it. He'd worked furiously for days since she'd been there trying to find the melodies he knew existed in his mind. He'd ripped the carefully applied bandages off a mere day after she'd put them on, too focused on his masterpiece to even realize he'd done it. But she'd left a basket in the middle of the floor and he'd found it when hunger and exhaustion made him finally stumble up from his seat and stagger towards the bed. There had been salve for his hands, and dried meat that he had wolfed down in moments, but there had also been the lingering scent of that fresh breeze carrying some vague, sweet fragrance with it.

The fourth time, or the fifth time, or maybe the sixth, he didn't remember which, he had played something soft and beautiful trying to recall, as always, his inspiration for his Don Juan. And she had stood there, with her eyes half shut and she had twirled gracefully around the room, dancing to the music he played and some other song in her mind. The smell of her perfume had not left the room for days.

It became habit for her to appear, sometimes bringing a small tidbit of food or of gossip, and sometimes nothing at all. She would walk about and straighten things or sit and watch him as he worked and soon there was no time that he did not smell that distinct and persistent scent. It began to eat at him night and day, while he worked it seemed to dance about his head, making him think once again of the breezes of the above world. At night it lay over him like a sheet, becoming heavy and heady with the fall of the sun. It rolled over his skin like a caress and left him anxious and restless in the twilight but exhausted the next day.

And then one day, he sat at his organ and realized that he had not touched his Don Juan in weeks. He stared blankly at the keys in front of him and still he could not concentrate for the attack on his senses. The scent had worked its way into his very skin and blocked his every thought. But he had to finish his masterpiece, only when it was done could he finally lie down and rest, and then he knew what he must do.

When she came again he still sat there, furiously pounding on keys and then, with equal ferocity he wrote the note out on the lined paper. She came up softly behind him but he knew she was there before her hand could touch his shoulder. He stiffened and something in his posture made her take a step back. He turned around but instead of looking at her he seemed to address the space right beside her left ear.

"I want you gone from my life." He said calmly, "I don't want to see your face or hear or voice or smell your saccharine sweet perfume one more time. I want you to disappear like you've never been here before and I never want to find a single solitary trace of you coming down here again." With that he turned away from her without as much as blinking and began to carefully transcribe his music once again. And she waited until he finished that page and turned to the next before she could pull her eyes away from his careful, controlled hands and turn around numbly to leave. She paused for only a second at the door and turned her head the barest fraction of an inch.

"I do not wear perfume," she said softly, and then she was gone. Behind her Erik continued to write his music for many hours. But not a single page of it made any sense.