A/N: This story was conceived of for a morbidity contest. Though it was not submitted, it remains extremely morbid. Be warned—there is violence and horror within!

Chapter 1: A Man Like Any Other

Erik wanted an ordinary life above all else. So how could he resist taking it when it was offered to him? How could he release Christine when finally he knew the willing submission of a woman? How could he give her to his hated rival only to be denied once more the simple needs of a man? He couldn't. He wouldn't. When Christine turned the Scorpion and he saw that she meant to stay with him as his living bride, he returned the Vicomte to the surface and promised him death should he ever set eyes on his wife again.

What did it matter if she turned away from him on his return? What did it matter if she refused to touch him, or even look at him? He knew what he was; that she was right to deny him. Only one thing mattered: that she was by his side now and forever. He would find an ordinary flat and take his wife to the park on Sunday's like an ordinary man. And in time, perhaps, if he were diligent, his love would soften her aversion and they might be happy together. Erik was lucky, he wouldn't forget it; lucky to have found Christine and lucky to have had the chance to keep her. He promised himself that he would never squander one precious moment with his beloved.

Within the week he had rented a townhouse in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. It was pretty and quaint, but private, with a little garden in the back surrounded by high walls. Tall windows ran the length of the second floor, recessed behind a long narrow balcony, so that sunlight would fill the space without exposing those within. There was a large bedroom for Christine, decorated in white finery, and a smaller bedroom across the hall for himself; for he was a realistic man, and did not expect his beautiful bride to share his bed. There were no staves of Dies Irae, no coffin, and no torture room. Death had no place in the ordinary house.

Erik moved Christine into their home and she was not unpleased, though she still spoke little to him and avoided his touch. But as time passed, she did warm to him, as he had so dearly hoped, and after several weeks together, she seemed to have overcome the trauma of that fateful night when she made her choice. It was on their one month anniversary, that she approached Erik with plans for the future.

"I am your wife, Erik, and I know that you love me. And so my happiness, I am sure, is important to you."

"My darling!" he said. "I would do anything to make you happy as my wife."

"Then let me seek occupation. I cannot remain idle in this house every day! It is not natural. You have your compositions to amuse you, but what do I have?"

He wanted to answer that she had him, that his sole purpose was to amuse her and fill her life with music and joy. For he had abandoned his tremendous work Don Juan Triumphant, spawned from hatred and grief, the day Christine had agreed to become his wife. He continued to compose, but now his object was love and passion, and he composed only for her.

But he understood that he could not be everything to Christine, though it was his most desperate aim. It terrified him beyond reason to let her go, even for a few hours, but he allowed it for her sake. Christine smiled when he gave her permission to leave, and touched his hand briefly before she left. He wept bitterly that afternoon, for the contrast between elation at her touch and fear that she wouldn't return was too much for him to bear. But she did return, and that evening, as she sat comfortably by his side and told him of her day, he felt for the first time that she really was his living wife, and he was glad that he let her go.

She had visited the opera, and through connections had found employment in a small choir in a church across town. It would give her the chance to perform again without occupying a great deal of her time: only three afternoons a week and the occasional evening.

"Oh, Erik," she sighed, and her face was radiant with joy. "Imagine…I can sing once more. It would be such a waste to hide the great gift you gave me." She rested her head on his shoulder as she spoke, and Erik wondered at the pain that was mingled with his tremendous happiness. He loved his wife, and he trusted her; but two days later, when she left for practice, he followed her just to make sure she was honest. He was surprised, but happy, to discover that she was.

With this new diversion, Christine's spirits improved rapidly and within a week Erik hopes were soaring beyond all reality; wild images of shared ecstasy began to fill his mind, and to his great amazement, his hopes for once were fulfilled. As he prepared for bed one night, Christine came to his room, wearing a long dark dressing gown. The expression on her face was inscrutable, but her purpose was clear though she did not kiss him. And as she blew out each candle before removing the robe and lying on his bed, Erik was helpless but to accept her offer. What did it matter that she turned her face from his in the darkness, or that she felt oddly rigid beneath him? What did it matter that she wouldn't reveal herself to him in the light? The moon was near full and he could see her well enough in the dark. She had given him a mesmerizing gift, and she didn't cry or faint when he touched her. He wouldn't question her motivation.

She rose almost immediately after he finished, and she made no mention of it the next day. Indeed, she never hinted at the brief time they spent together and after several months even Erik began to doubt that it had actually occurred. But then one night, in the dead of winter, she came to him again. Once more she came to his room, blew out the candles, and silently submitted to his passions. Once more she left afterwards and behaved as if it had not occurred. Some weeks later she visited him a third time, and this time Erik confronted her.

"Erik," she said in reply to his desperate questions. "I am trying to love you, in my way. But love cannot be conjured out of thin air, like one of your silly magic tricks," she laughed. "I am trying, but you must give me time to adjust to my position. Speaking of it will only make my trial greater, which will only serve to keep me from you."

Erik did not understand, but he knew that his position with her was tenuous and he didn't want to risk upsetting her lest she should leave. And so he blew out the candles and closed the curtains so that the room was utterly dark when they took to bed. But he couldn't help lingering in his devotion to her, though he sensed still that she was impatient to leave.

"I must attend practice every day this week," she said over breakfast the following morning. "There is a performance on Saturday. I understand if you won't attend."

Her tone was perfectly casual, but she had performed before without extra practices, and it struck him as somehow odd. Something didn't feel right, and so when she left the house in the early afternoon, he followed her once more as she walked the few miles to the choir hall. Erik was relieved to see her enter the small brick building, though just to be sure, he waited for her to emerge. He didn't wait long. Perhaps fifteen minutes later, she left the building, wearing a dark cloak and a veiled black hat.