"Zealot"

She was a brat, a coarse crow compared to his angel, his swan. But, no matter how horrid, she could dance.

He had been in the habit of watching them in the corridors, the both of them; sometimes, their paths would cross, and they would shyly exchange a greeting while going their separate ways, one to her dressing room, the other to the common dormitories.

But now the swan was gone, flown away to a land far from his domain, never to return. He had wept, of course, wept bitterly, groans of pure anguish, of utter, complete loss tearing himself apart as they left his horrid lips, his skeletal hands passing over his brow as he rocked back and forth, the same death's head she had graced with her kisses, his very own living bride.

He had told the Daroga he would die, die of love, and at the time, he believed it to be true. And yet, as the days, the weeks, the months passed, his living, breathing, corpse of a body persisted in living.

Finally rising from his coffin, hollow, more menacing than ever, he resumed his habit of stalking the corridors, taking a perverse delight in the pure terror he inspired in the stagehands and ballet rats, those who had doubted his presence, his hold over the workings of his Opera.

And so, on one such night, far after the lamps had been extinguished and even the most stubborn members of the corps de ballet had retired for bed, he made his way to the stage, his cat-like tread making only the faintest of sounds.

He was surprised to hear someone on stage—on his stage, his dear Angel's stage—and, thinking it to be an insolent, most-probably drunk and besotted sceneshifter, he kept himself to the shadows, stealthily closing in.

There, center stage…a girl. He pulled his fedora tighter over his horrible head, obscuring his face, wishing he had thought to bring his mask. But no…that mask had been for Christine's sake, for the sake of her who could have loved him, who he loved so very dearly…

The girl was dancing by the light of a single candle, its flame a feeble beacon in the pure expanse of utter darkness. The flickering light threw shadows of the deepest, most sensual nature all around her, accentuating her slender body as it twirled and manipulated itself in the art of the dance, seeming almost to glow.

He watched her, watched as her ebony hair spun out in all directions, her impossibly-slender limbs extended and retracted according to the music she hummed under her breath, her muscles rippling under her skin, under the delicately-dark webbing of veins that protruded ever-so-slightly as she went up en Pointe, only to gracefully lower herself to caress the worn wooden surface of the stage on which she danced a few moments later.

Was this tiny thing, this dark fairy, this flitting sparrow, truly little Giry? The image dancing before his eyes did not seem to match the mental one he conjured, one of her passing his beloved Christine in the corridors.

But no…the trick of her slender, bony shoulders and hips, the cold, raven eyes staring unseeing at her murky surroundings…this was the same, the very same girl.

The candlelight transformed her, lending a pale, ethereal glow to her normally-swarthy complexion, complementing her dark hair and eyes. She moved, graceful, focused, positively sinful in the way she rotated her miniscule hips to the disconcerting lack of music, save the rhythm she drew from her mind, her thoughts, expelled with each controlled yet powerful breath.

He watched her, continued to watch her, unaware of the passage of time, only as it reflected itself in her petite figure. After what seemed like an eternity, she finally collapsed, falling heavily to the stage, her thin, almost emaciated face lifted up to the vaulted ceilings of the Opera, the dark rafters and ropes, his home, his domain. Sweat glistened on her limbs, her minimal chest heaved, and a deep stain seemed to grow wider and wider on her slippers from where her feet had begun bleeding.

Night after night, he roamed the corridors, aimless, purposeful; night after night, she was always there, dancing until she could dance no more, collapsing in a heap on stage, barely alive, it seemed, as she eventually took her candle and her worn body to bed, unknowingly leaving him in the darkness which he found to be so comfortable.

It baffled him. He observed the rehearsals, the performances, but she never danced quite as excellent, quite as passionate, as she did in the deadness, the silence of the night.

It also intrigued him. His art was music, the voice, the overwhelming combination of sounds to form a perfect harmony, swelling constantly, a crescendo of passion before reaching the thunderous climax. Dance was an altogether different spectrum, one that involved the entire being to illustrate the passion, the harmony, the melody.

She continued to dance, and he continued to watch, each performance more enthralling than the last. After that first night, the night he had first discovered her, he felt compelled to stay, to continue to observe her performance, though it was no doubt meant solely for herself and the surrounding darkness.

And one night, she forgot her candle.

The light was gone, the beacon of daylight extinguished, and both were bathed in darkness, in shadow. She didn't hesitate, merely proceeded to dance, leaping, twirling, arms and legs extended, torso unbelievably flexible. Still he watched her, eyesight keen in the darkness, his golden eyes on fire in their sockets as she performed for him, Master of Night. She hummed no music tonight, merely moved, her gauze skirts floating in a sensual dance with her ankles. Unbidden, he thought of Persia, the women with their layers of veils, their foreign movements…

He crept to the stage, approached her. She leaped, nubile, and, against his better judgment, he caught her.

She didn't scream. She didn't say anything. She looked around, hopelessly trying to find her sudden captor in the darkness, but to no avail. She could feel his body, thinner than her own, lightly pressed against her exposed back; she could feel the erratic beating of his heart against the back of her head, so tall was he.

She spun around in his loose grasp, looked up. There, in the darkness, two glowing pinpricks, golden eyes. "You're him…the Ghost?"

"Yes."

She smiled then, and, feeling his thin fingers on her wrists, she took his long hands in her own, saying, "Come…dance with me."

And he did.

They were disciples of the night now, each caught up in the teachings, the mysteries tantalizingly held before them, unwilling to give up, unwilling to let go.