Her face flickers like a candle in the dark. Her pale visage moving in the shadows, flitting in and out of his vision like a moth against a gas lamp. He wants to reach out and touch her, but he knows she is not for him. As if she was only as tangible as early morning mist or cigarette smoke. She sits there like a phantom and he waits for her eyes to alight upon him, just once. And maybe then those perfect emerald eyes would burn him to the core so that his heart would only be smoldering ashes.

And then there would be nothing left.

It was late, well past the midnight hour and Lucille was packing up to leave. The lights were dimmed low and The Rare bird was almost silent. The last patrons of the night were on the way out, hailing cabs and calling out drunkenly into the night – perhaps looking for a more bawdy venue. Lucille sat at her boudoir tiding up her make-up. Lipsticks glinted softly against tall vials of perfume like fading embers and her fingers fidgeted with powder lids and scattered brushes.

Francoeur sat on the low sofa again, plucking vacantly on the stings of his guitar. His eyes were focused on Lucille's reflection and not an ounce of attention was invested elsewhere. It was the nightly routine and normally he would have been contented, but tonight's performance left him hollow.

He saw them, backstage together.

It was the last performance of the night, and it went as well as expected. He sang and he danced along with Lucille. She smiled, his heart soared, his steps were swift, hers were graceful. Their voices intertwined like satin and silk – things couldn't have been more prefect. Maybe tonight he would find the words, the words that had eluded him for so long. Perhaps tonight he would find his true voice and be more than just a song bird or a music box.

He would tell her that he loved her. And she would smile and say she loved him too. They would kiss and there would be warmth and sunlight even in the dead of night.

The curtains fell to a thunderous applause and Francoeur gathered the dozens of flowers arrayed around his feet. Every night he'd scoop up the blossoms and take them back to the dressing room and placed them in a vase. They were really too beautiful to go to waste. But in the process he lost sight of Lucille. Normally she hung around to help him out, but tonight she was nowhere to be seen.

He peered behind the musician's pit, but she was not there – nor was she on the upper balcony or behind the props. She wasn't in the dressing room or even Madame Carlotta's office. He paced back to the stage, confused and a little worried. Sometimes strange men would try to corner her in hallways or quiet areas. He did not like those men and he did not like the thought of Lucille being alone otherwise.

Then, from behind the second curtain her heard a giggle and a hushed whisper. Quietly pulling it aside he saw Lucille's face pale as the moon. Bright green eyes flashing like facets. Her skin was ivory cream, and her grin lush and full, but that smile wasn't for him. No, it was for someone else backstage.

It was for Raoul.

He stood there with a lopsided grin on his face, his hands brushing invisible dust off of his new straw coat. It was then Lucille sauntered forward and placed her hands upon his chest, batting her eyelashes. One of her fingers traced circles where his collarbone would be. The man flushed red.

"I love you." Raoul whispered, looking at the ceiling not daring to meet her eyes.

Lucille seemed to consider this for a moment and then wriggled further into his chest. She tilted his chin back down so that he would look at her.

"I know." Lucille replied and wrapped her arms around his neck. Their lips met and her eyes closed.

Francoeur's stomach lurched and he dropped his cargo of roses to the floor. He wanted to run, but he had nowhere to go. He would always come back to the theatre, inevitable as entropy.

So instead he slid the curtain closed and went back to the dressing room and waited. He slid his tongue underneath his teeth and bit down until he could taste ichor. Twice he tried playing his guitar, only to snap the strings.

He wanted to do those human things, like scream or cry – but he didn't have it in him. Not even rage. There was just emptiness and void. He had no tears to give and no voice to give his frustrations.

When Lucille finally came back to the dressing room she didn't even glance at Francoeur. It was as if her eyes would never meet him again. Instead she busied herself with the end of the night chores while he plucked mournfully away without direction. In the mirror he could see her face, pale and red like a fresh peach. She worried her lower lip and it seemed to him that her fingers shook.

He wished so desperately that she would look at him. He wished so darkly that he would be burned from the inside out, instead of dealing with this unquenchable ache in his chest and marrow. But such relief would never come. He knew he was destined to give her the best of himself, even if it was hopeless and even if she could never reciprocate. He would make her a banquet of his voice, his talents, his strength, and his passion. Perhaps then one of them would be sated.

Maybe this was a different kind of burning. It was slow and persistent flame eating away at his soul. Love and lust were only kindling. Years would go by until it would finally be extinguished.

And then there would be nothing left.


A/N: Sorry guys, I'm working on my next chapter- promise. I'm just so stressed out at the moment.

This was a 1 hour 1k challenge posed to me by my friend midground. Hers turned out to be 3 hours 2k but whatever.

Again sorry. I have a roommate who has autism and won't stop screaming SPAAAAAACCCEE.

I am waiting for my refund check so I can get real food. My new classes are super difficult and I am missing home. It also doesn't help that I am super lonely. Also can someone tell me why I've had a surge or readers lately?