Author's Note: Still not the Original but it is much closer to it that what I had previously posted.

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters from The Phantom Of The Opera and am making no profit from this story.

"Ooo!" Christine cooed, quickly jerking away from the walking corpse beside her as she grabbed for the exquisite shell. "Look, a seashell! Isn't it beautiful?"

He watched silently as Christine's feeble happiness drifted through the vast darkness of his underground tomb, like the sickly sweet scent of flowers left to rot by a grave. The shells, collected from some forgotten seaside, had been casually scattered around the vast lake, a distraction for those foolish enough to venture this far. A distraction he had taken advantage of more than once. Her tiny smiles of childish joy burned into his mind, he must do more to keep her happy, happiness would keep her here. Mentally he noted he must return and place them where she could see them more clearly as she had passed by most without spying them.

"It is very pretty," he replied, leaning towards her as she held it out for his appraisal. "The perfect beginning for a collection, I would imagine."

She glanced up quickly as he loomed over her, before hurriedly placing the shell in her pocket. "I wonder where it might have come from," she asked softly, filling the oppressive silence as they resumed their mockery of a stroll along the lake. "It can't have just appeared out of nowhere." Fidgeting nervously, she watched him out of the corner of her eye. "Unless someone put it there."

"If someone had crossed the lake I would have known immediately," He replied evilly, a rather unpleasant smirk passing across half his face. "No Christine, I think it must be magic."

Her luminous eyes glowed even brighter, and she swallowed thickly. "Magic?"

"Of course, perhaps a dwarf dropped it on his way back to his cave or a troll, you can never know for sure what lives underground." He nodded in agreement with himself. Gazing longingly at the captive angel beside him he sigh wistfully. "Yes, such a beautiful thing would doubtless be coveted by many a magical being."

"Do you think so?" Christine asked, breaking away from his disconcerting stare by pulling the shell out of her pocket to gaze at it.

"Sometimes if you look carefully you can see tiny fairies flitting through the dark." He intoned solemnly, tilting his head slightly in hopes of once more catching her brilliant eyes, which seemed so focused on the tiny shell. "More than once I have glimpsed a stray goblin creeping through the lower levels looking for pretty trinkets to steal."

A sudden loud splash interrupted him and he felt her violently flinch away from him. Almost instinctively his expression turned into a snarl. He had done nothing to frighten her yet still she sought to run from him!

"What was that?" Christine asked, her voice in near hysterics.

"Don't worry my angel it was only the Koi." He growled, angrily noticing that she pulled further away from him as he moved closer to her.

"Koi?" Confused and frightened with nowhere else to go, she slowly turned back towards him. "What is koi?"

"It is a type of fish, like the great carp in the ornamental pond in the Emperor's Garden." He told her, his anger quickly forgotten as she gazed nervously up at him, seeking his reassurance, his protection... "They are souvenirs from my travels in Japan. It is nothing for you to fear."

"You never told me there were fish in the water." She whispered, terrified as he slowly reached out his skeletal fingers towards her hair. Casting her thoughts about wildly she desperately attempted to distract him. "Can I feed them?"

He sighed softly, his poor heart bleeding with love for her, before gently shaking his head as his arm fell back to his side. "I'm afraid they would not accept such an offering even from one as lovely as you. They are very shy."

"Oh," She mumbled, terror having momentarily numbed her tongue. "They must have been here a long time, it looked like a huge fish and I've never seen one with such colors."

His bleak mood darkened visibly. "Come Christine, I think we have spent long enough in this dank air, we mustn't allow any damage to your voice."

Turning slowly towards the house, she obediently trudged along, keeping pace with the silent shadow beside her. Resigned, she turned to watch the lake disappeared from sight as Erik shut the door behind them.

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Erik sighed once more as he guided the boat out to where the body gently bobbed atop the water. He had been lucky that his angel didn't see it for what it was. Not all of his traps dumped their victims into the lake but it did help to reduce the number he had to check everyday. Apparently the Opera House would be hiring another seamstress soon. Honestly the silly things were worse than the ballet girls in their unnatural curiosity. Tying the corpse to the side of the boat he turned the vessel toward the darker depths to dispose of the remains.
Christine would never see.