I do not like giving specific warnings, but please be aware that this story (and this chapter specifically) contains dark themes. We live in a cruel world, and there are some people who feel that more keenly than others. Apparently Erik and Christine are two of those people. Please proceed with caution!


He did not know what possessed him to do it.

He could begrudgingly acknowledge that he did indeed have a certain connection to broken and damaged things, and it was not as though he was unfamiliar with the prostitutes who found their employment in the forgotten corners of Paris. Not that he had been the one to employ any of them—even though at times he felt nearly desperate for the connection only a woman could offer. However, he could never actually bring himself to pay for such attentions, no matter the temptation. And while he had seen the haggard and weary appearance of many of them as he slithered through the darkened city streets, he had never felt any urge to help them. He knew full well that his corpse-like visage would make any such offer unwelcome, even in the direst of circumstances.

In the past his sympathy had only been stirred by the occasional animal, all too obviously abused by the world, much as he had been.

But never a girl.

He had been walking back to his home and had heard the quiet whimpers and the low grunts and knew exactly what was transpiring. It was not his business, and so he kept to the darkened stone walls of the alley, though night had already long since fallen and little of the world could be seen beyond what the occasional street lamp illuminated. His fingers began to itch for the instruments buried away in his underground home, but the sound of a pained cry and filthy words hissed into a feminine ear made him pause and turn and truly look

The girl was staring at him. He did not know how she could see him as he was always certain to walk in only the darkest portions of the alleys in order to avoid such interactions. From the sight of her it was quite clear that even if this particular assignation had begun as a willing exchange, the girl pressed harshly into the wall was no longer amiable to the man's ministrations. And though surely he imagined it, her eyes—her clearly terrified eyes—were pleading with him for help.


The man's hands tightened on her throat as he continued to thrust into her cruelly, knocking her head against the brick behind her with a sickening thud. Her eyes rolled, and she had evidently lost consciousness, slumping against the beast that had apparently finished with her. He allowed her to fall unceremoniously into the dirty snow at his feet as he began to tuck himself back inside the placket of his worn trousers.

There was blood plainly visible on his softening member.

The lasso was taut around his neck before he had time to finish, and soon he was also slumped in the sludge next to the girl. But while she still breathed, she now lay crumpled next to a corpse.

He considered leaving her. Perhaps it was a kindness for her to pass from this world that had quite evidently shown her little benevolence. If she did manage to awaken, the immediate danger was gone, leaving her free to…

What? Continue as a prostitute, allowing any manner of unsavoury man to find his fulfilment within her for yet another coin?

He watched her crimson blood mingle with the dirty snow surrounding her, and felt yet another stirring of pity.

Very curious.

Perhaps he should not have shuddered when he lifted her into his arms. He firmly reminded himself that if she was awake she would not willingly allow herself to be carried by him, and would surely have rescinded her unspoken plea for his aid had she been granted a closer look. He had no idea of her age, and it was apparent from the state of dress as well as the filth that clung to her that she lacked any semblance of a home. He adjusted her slightly in his grasp, taking note that she weighed very little.

Not that he knew what girls of any age should feel like as he held them.

And now she was lying on his settee, getting all manner of dirt on the spare bedclothes he had placed beneath her.

For it would not do to pollute his furniture.

He wanted to draw her a bath. Though he could take little pride in any aspect of his appearance, he always ensured that his person was neat, tidy, and most of all clean.

This girl was anything but clean. She wore what he supposed was once a sturdy cloak, but was now a faded brown rag tied loosely around her shoulders. It would do little against the harsh winter winds, and he wondered that she had survived so long while living in such conditions. Her dress was torn over her right shoulder, leaving bared skin and the tattered remains of dingy undergarments visible to his view.

What he noticed most were the bruises. Her shoulder bore evidence to the putrid yellow of some close to healing, while others stood out prominently—black and harsh and angry. Her tangled and matted hair covered much of her face, and he eased most of it away, grateful for his gloves so he would be sure not to touch her with his own pallid skin.

Too many monsters had touched her this night.

Her lips were chapped and her skin was drawn and slightly sallow, obviously suffering from severe malnourishment. He suppressed a dark chuckle that she was beginning to resemble him.

He allowed one hand to pull slightly at her lip, revealing surprisingly intact teeth given the abrasions that confirmed someone had struck her quite soundly on the mouth.

She stirred suddenly, moaning in her sleep as she tried to pull her shabby cloak more tightly around her and he yanked his hand free from her person.

Well. There would be no more examinations.

He left her to continue sleeping as he went to the kitchen to prepare a light broth. He was not particularly hungry—never truly was—but it was apparent that she would be starving when she awoke. Perhaps if he had food readily available she would be less frightened at waking to the masked countenance of a complete stranger.

Though he should hope that she would remember little of her attack, he almost wished she would at least remember him—that she wanted him to help her. He was not in the habit of kidnapping young girls for sheer amusement, no matter what his reputation implied.

Realistically however he knew that she would awaken to a slightly chilly sitting room—though he had lit the fire and it was gradually warming the small space—and find herself trapped within a house of stone. She would fear for her life, plead and cry with him for her release, and the broth he had set to warming would go uneaten as he doubted he could stomach it after seeing her imagined display.

He heard a sharp cry from the sitting room followed by the rustling of fabric, and knew she must have woken. Stirring the broth one woefully final time, he sighed and vacated the solitude of his kitchen in order to face his new guest.

She was indeed awake, and her clear blue eyes were wide as she stared at him. As he had predicted, her fear was nearly cloying in its intensity.

He would not be angry. She had the right to be afraid after what had transpired, and though he could feel his blood begin to pound as she continued to watch him with such panic, he tried valiantly to keep from snapping at her to mind her staring.

"Who..." Her voice was soft and noticeably unused. It rasped slightly and she coughed, while he openly scorned that she managed to keep her eyes trained on him even as she struggled for breath.

"Where am I?"

He swept his arms wide and gave a low bow, his irritation making him slightly sarcastic in his movements. "You are in my home. I was under the impression you required assistance."

She blanched, her eyes finally moving from him and fell to her lap. He almost wished she had continued to stare at him for as soon as she saw the state of her dress, and most likely registered the pain in her womanly places, her eyes welled with tears. "I… he…"

He coughed uncomfortably. "Yes, it would appear that your caller was more than you could handle."

He would not have thought her capable of such ferocity, and mingled with the tears still glistening on her cheeks she look slightly crazed. "I am not a whore!"

She stood suddenly, limping towards the door. He made no move to stop her as he knew with certainty she would be impeded by the lack of handle.

"My apologies then." Guilt was not a feeling he often experienced. He had few interactions with others, and usually when doing so he cared little for social niceties. If the girl had not agreed to lie with the man for money nor of desire, then he has maligned her dignity—what little she could afford living in such squalor.

She lifted a trembling hand to the door, pushing at the heavy obstruction feebly. "Please, I should like to leave now." Her voice was rapidly returning, though it still quavered and hitched with disuse and her continued tears.

He sighed. "Mademoiselle…" he looked at her expectantly.

"Christine," she mumbled and he nodded.

"Christine, sit down before you harm yourself further."

She pushed futilely against the door once more before acquiescing with another sob as she returned to her makeshift bed.

"Now, if you would remain seated I shall bring you some broth. I assume you are hungry?"

Christine eyed him warily. "What do you expect for it?"

He blinked. "I expect you to eat it."

Her tears had finally slowed but he found her look of complete resignation to be equally discomfiting. "Men always want something. I told you I am no whore so I will not… do… that for a bit of broth." She raised her chin defiantly, and he could not stop the chuckle that escaped him, though it stopped short when he heard the loud grumble of protest her stomach gave.

Whether or not she would accept the food freely given, her body obviously was imploring her to do so.

He sighed and approached her slowly. Comfort and assurance was not something that came to him naturally. "I expect you to eat what I give you, and then I expect you to take a bath after you have eaten. You insult me by suggesting I am as monstrous as that previous fellow." No, they were not the same. He was far, far worse.

Her lip trembled again and he sighed. "Do not cry. Remain here and I will bring you something."

He tried to prolong his time in the kitchen as much as possible, but eventually he ran out of tasks. A lone spoon and bowl were placed upon a silver tea tray, along with two slice of passably fresh bread and a cup of water, all which he eyed ruefully.

It looked to him more akin to prison rations than a proper meal.

But it was the best he could do under such circumstances, and the girl should probably not eat anything too decadent on such an empty stomach in any case.

He passed his dining room table and considered calling her to sit with him at the overly large structure that could easily seat four. It would feel so good to have someone to eat with. To set the table for two and dine over a fine meal that he had prepared.

Would learn to prepare.

He had little interest in food for himself, but the prospect of having someone to cook for was an appealing one. Having someone to do anything for was an appealing thought—one he had not allowed himself to contemplate since the days of his foolish youth.

Perhaps he should begrudge the girl's presence for reminding him of these long forgotten fantasies, though he supposed he knew it was no fault of her own. Her only error had been to make the dreadful mistake of appealing to him for help—and his being to provide it.

As soon as the thought entered his mind, he felt the prickling sensation of guilt. He had not been wrong to save her...

Though by no means well versed in what constituted proper knowledge and behaviour, it was readily apparent that he should have no knowledge about the intimate atrocities that had befallen the young girl. Yet the fact remained that he did possess such knowledge, and as such he decided against seating her in the dining room. The settee would be far more comfortable for her more delicate places and wounds, and it was not as though he would be joining her in the partaking of the meal. To do so would mean removing his mask— if only slightly—and that was something he would never do in company.

He scoffed.


He had company.

Christine had tucked her legs within her skirt and wrapped her cloak entirely about her person, so she more resembled a brown lump than a girl. She grew visibly uncomfortable when he came close enough to place the tray upon the side table nearest her.


Her gaze flickered from him to the proffered tray, but finally the scents of steaming broth and soft bread proved too much for her. She must have burned her mouth the way she was devouring the soup, but he was disinclined to scold her.

He knew what it was to be starving.

He watched her eat with interest. Christine's wrists were terribly frail. While he knew he had been born with shockingly long fingers, he was certain even a normal man's hand could encircle her wrist completely with quite a bit of room to spare.

"How old are you?"

She froze, obviously not expecting him to carry on conversation. Christine cleared her throat awkwardly, clutching the soup bowl possessively near her chest along with the bread. "Fifteen," she said quietly. "I think."

He could not say if he was surprised, either by the number or by her uncertainty. Part of her seemed impossibly young, evidenced by her delicate wrists and hands as well as her small stature. Her eyes however bespoke of someone much older—someone who had lived and seen far too much for their short years.

She swallowed thickly. "How old are you?"

He laughed, and it was startling to both of them. "Not fifteen."

The girl nodded and returned to the last of her meal, using the remainder of the bread to ensure she had sopped up every drop of soup.

"Christine, I must ask you something." The look of fear was back, and he sighed impatiently. He could well understand why she was so nervous, but that did not mean he appreciated her ready assumption that he was intent on harming her.


"Are you in need of a physician?" What colour had entered her cheeks by the warm food quickly dissipated.

"I… I do not think so."

He was not entirely sure he trusted her opinion on the matter so he enquired further, articulating the question that had been pressing quite insistently on his mind. "Was tonight the first time that has happened?"

Her eyes welled once more and she shook her head slowly. "No. It is…" She sniffled loudly, putting aside her bowl and wrapping her arms around herself tightly. "There are cruel men who like to…" She seemingly could not give voice to what perversions the men of Paris were inclined to inflict on her.

"I am well aware of just how cruel men can be."

Her eyes rose to meet his, and for a brief moment he felt she could truly see him. Her eyes roamed over his mask, and for the first time he did not begrudge her for it.

"What is your name?"

He gave a slight smile though he knew she could not see it.

"My name is Erik."

Sooo… Who's with me?