Title- Fourth Act
Erik/Christine, Erik/Meg
He had seen enough operas in his lifetime to know that this was when the curtain fell. Except that this isn't an opera, and life still goes on... Now what?

A/N- LND sucks. Everyone is OOC. And yes, in case you were wondering, the switch from past tense to present tense is intentional.

When he was three, his mother sold him to a gypsy carnival, anything to get him out of her sight. She didn't tell Boldo his name, and he never volunteered it. Erik. His name was the only thing he really owned. It was his last, only precious secret.

When he was seven, they traveled to India, and he marveled at the wonders of the Far East, and dreamed of making magic like the performers he saw there. It was his dream- someday, to escape from these bars and make things vanish in a puff of smoke, to make people cheer and love him instead of fear and mock him. By the time he was eight, they were back in Europe and he had had the dreams beaten out of him.

When he was ten, a nameless ballerina took his hand and pulled him out of the ripe, seething darkness of the carnival and led him into a new kind of darkness. This kind of darkness was soft, gentle, protective, safe. And he discovered a new love: opera. All his life, he had heard the music in his head, little whispers of melody that played themselves out and faded away. The sounds of the rattling caravans took on the qualities of a song and it had been his defense against the whips and the beatings. But the very first time the clear, ringing call of the prima donna reached him, Erik fell in love with art, music for the sake of absolute beauty and absolute truth. He hid in Box Five and peeped over the top, just out of sight of the genteel crowds and learned from opera, his mind open and eager for anything they could give him. He wept for the tragic fate of Rigoletto's only child. He stared, wide-eyed, as Jean de Leyde brought his palace to a crashing ruin in the name of tragic lost love.

When he was twenty, he took up the mask of the Opera Ghost, because the managers were idiots and obviously had no clue what opera was about. With a little hard work, he was able to correct the flagging Opera Populaire's course, and he knew his orders were well-obeyed because within a few years, the theatre that was supposedly in its twilight days had been restored to its former glory in the eyes of the adoring public. He felt irrational pride in his work.

When he was twenty-three, an orphaned daughter of a Swedish violinist came to live in the ballet dormitories, under the care of his old friend, Antoinette Giry. The child had a beautiful voice, surprisingly matured for one so young, and he could just imagine the coloratura she could achieve if only she had the proper training. The trouble was, no one was going to be willing to give voice lessons to someone destined for the life of a chorus girl. Well then, it was up to him. Her voice was putty in his hands, and he molded it, thinking all the while of the opera he was composing, his beautiful Musique de l'Nuit, and he built her voice for the lead role. It was the girl's destiny to stand upon the stage and perform the aria he was writing just for her.

When he was thirty-two, suddenly she wasn't such a little girl anymore. She was sixteen, and she was beautiful, and her voice was more beautiful still, and he was in love. He hadn't the faintest idea how it had happened, or that someone like him even could fall in love, but there it was. Christine Daae was not just the pupil anymore, but his obsession.

Antoinette found him, after il Muto. She chastised him for killing Josef Buquet (even if he was a miserable little wretch, she conceded), and cautioned him against continuing his pursuit of Christine. She told him caustically that he was behaving like a character in an opera, and life simply didn't work that way. Well, he wouldn't know, would he? As always, Antoinette was the voice of reason in his life, possibly the only sanity he had ever known, but he didn't want to listen. He didn't want to hear. He was tired of hearing her be rational and sensible and grounded and he just wanted Christine. He shouted at her, then when she was gone, sat down and began to compose a new opera. Musique de l'Nuit would wait for the perfect moment. It would take something a little more... sensual... to ensnare Christine, to make her see.

Except it all went wrong. He should have known there would be a third act twist. An ultimate betrayal. He had never felt so tiny or so horribly exposed than in that moment when Christine bared his face to a horrified crowd. And so he did as Jean had done, and brought his palace down, and took Christine to the depths with him for one last, fatal confrontation.

It was the perfect opera, he thought bitterly as the mirrors smashed, an opera in three acts. First act: the romance. Second act: the complication. Third act: the tragedy. And as he let the velvet drape fall behind him, hiding him from the ravenous mob calling for his blood, he imagined it was the finale. He had seen enough operas in his lifetime to know that this was when the curtain fell, bringing a timely end to this tragedy they've all been playing out.

One thing operas never say, though, is what happens after. What happens to the players when the drama is done and the music has spun itself into silence?

As it turns out, what happens after is... life. He discovers this in the form of Antoinette's daughter. The little blonde angel as usual pokes her nose in where it doesn't belong, and finds him, cowering in the dark with no idea what to do now that his own personal opera has come to its close. She asks his name, and since he has nothing left but that to give anyone, he tells her. She takes him by the hand and leads him out of the dark and, with her mother's help, spirits him away to Germany, which is not at all where he expected to end up but he discovers to his great surprise that he likes it there.

He also discovers that Marguerite Giry is hardly an angel, despite appearances. She is, he learns very quickly, absolutely infuriating. She is bossy and impossible, utterly unlike her friend and far too much like her mother. She refuses to humor his sulking and his temper, and forces him to actually take part in society at least a little bit, which he finds baffling.

But maybe she is an angel after all. Not an Angel of Music, though she does have more artistic talent than he gave her credit for, but an angel nonetheless. She holds his hand when he's afraid (and that's more often than he'd like to admit). She sympathizes with him and never pities him. He doesn't notice it at first, but one day it occurs to him that because of her refusal to put up with his outbursts of temper, they've all but stopped occurring, and wonders briefly if he should be irritated at her for training him like a horse (he decides he shouldn't be). For some unfathomable reason, she isn't bothered by his horrific deformity. She dances like she has wings on her feet, and seems to feel music in a way Christine, for all her capacity, never could. It occurs to him, after many months of bitter pining, that Christine was just another instrument, only capable of creating beauty because he poured the music into her. Meg has the music in her soul all on her own, and though she doesn't use it in the same way, she still owns her art the way he does.

When he is thirty-four Meg Giry kisses him, and Erik discovers something else: his opera didn't end after just three acts. There was a fourth act: his salvation.