Erik shifted uneasily on the piano bench as Christine peered around his shoulder, shifting the sheet music they were working on so that she could see it better from where she was standing behind him. Today, they were working on a piece that he had written for Christine, although he had not told her yet. As she reached out to turn the page, her arm brushed against his shoulder, such a small gesture, yet it send shivers running through his body. He had lived so long without anyone, without touch, without a voice save his own, without anything besides himself. To have a real, living person, a beautiful, young woman no less, here beside him was unnerving for him in some ways, but he loved it all the same. He loved being able to simply hear Christine breathing when they were weren’t talking or singing. He loved to hear the ring of her footsteps as she padded down the hall, the soft sound of her voice, the unexpected moments when her fair skin brushed his, the strangely comforting smell, belonging to only her, which had begun to mingle with his own in their house underground- he loved it all. However, he did still have to get used to a few things which came with having another human being in his house. Especially when he was deep in thought or composing, Christine’s voice startled him and, worse, angered him. He tried so hard not to be angry at her, his sweet little angel, but, when he was on the verge of something great, just teetering on the edge of some new great idea and her voice drew him back to reality, it was so hard not be angry. No one had ever interrupted his thoughts before, since he had lived alone up until this point, and it was very irksome to him. Reality was so cold; dreams were far better. Of course, many, if not all, of his dreams included Christine and now that she was really here with him, reality did not seem quite so terrible.
Christine felt him shiver and glanced down at him curiously. She did not always understand him; sometimes even accidental brushes of the skin caused him to practically break down, whereas others, he would refuse to talk to or even acknowledge her for hours at a time. Still, she had given up life as she knew it for this- this world of the darkest of night, a world with music as its only light, and a man she could scarcely understand. But she would not change it… No, she had chosen this and this life was what she wanted now. It was hard but here she was and here she would stay. Well, the life she had chosen with the Phantom was not so much the hard part as her Phantom himself was. He was so insanely frustrating sometimes, screaming at her to leave him alone when all she had done was ask if he would join her for tea, refusing to touch her in any way, save a gentle hand on her own, despite the fact that he had asked her to be his wife, becoming suddenly tearful when she sang for him… The list went on and on. She had promised to love him, however, and love him she would, no matter how trying it was at times. He had never been shown love before, not by anyone (at least, to the best of Christine’s knowledge) and she had chosen to take on the responsibility of showing him, by means of whatever she could, whether it be just small gestures, a smile at the right time or making his coffee for him in the morning, or by larger ones, duties she had yet to undertake as his wife.
She looked away quickly so Erik wouldn’t see her blushing as her mind began to wander to places where it should not have, dark and sensual places she tried her best to keep undisturbed. Yet the longer she lived with Erik, the more her mind seemed to stumble on these thoughts. She was a good wife, was she not? She had given up everything, everything for him. She had gazed upon the face of a monster and loved it still, despite the horror of it. She had sung everything he told her to, no matter how complicated. She had forgiven him for his countless outbursts and endured them with more understanding than she before had known she possessed. She had even cleaned up around his messy little house on the lake, although he had never asked her to. She must be a good wife, for she had done everything a good wife would do. Then why did she feel as if she was denying him of the love he so needed? He had certainly never asked for her pleasures and she, being quite content with that, had never pressed the matter. And so, they had lived in their quiet, simple little love story for a few weeks now, neither of them asking any more from the other and Christine was content. Erik, she sensed, was content as well, perhaps even more so than herself. He often told her that having her with him raised him to the highest ecstasy, her love brought him more joy than anything in his life had before. But was a sweet and contented love story what they wanted? Why settle for such a chaste life when they both knew they could have so much more?
She frowned, brow furrowed in thought, and moved away from her husband once more. Did she want more? Did she want a life bursting with passions that, at present, she could hardly even imagine? She wrapped her arms around her waist as her stomach had begun to fill with butterflies. She did not even know what she wanted from this man who was her husband, who was willing to give her anything she so desired it seemed, anything, that is, except himself. Slowly, she turned to face him, gripping her arms tightly. They had never spoken of this certain aspect of their marriage before but somehow it had remained unspoken between the two of them for quite some time. She needed answers and why not ask him? She was his wife, after all, and she had more than a right to know. She inhaled deeply, bracing herself for his answer before her question had even escaped her lips.
“Erik, are you… afraid of me?”
Erik, having sensed earlier that something was amiss, due to his wife’s silence, had just turned to face her when she asked him. Eyes widening in shock, he shook his head adamantly.
“Why on earth would I be afraid of you, dear one? You have been nothing to me if not gentle. You have given me love which I never deserved. How, then, could I ever fear you?”
Christine bit her lip. She was not sure why she was so afraid to ask such a simple question. “Because… Because you refuse to… Touch me.” As she said this, her cheeks turned a dark red and she turned her gaze to the floor and stared at it intensely, as if it was the holder of some deep secret.
He had not always refused to touch her however. There had been times when he had kissed her, gentle kisses but kisses none the less, but those had been directly after their small wedding, for only the first few days following it. He used to lean over her while she was eating breakfast and kiss her softly on the nose, which had both amused and annoyed Christine. She used to cuddle up with him in front of the fire at night and they would sit there together for hours, often not speaking a word just sitting, listening to the other breathing, feeling the rhythmic rise and fall of their chest. They would even kiss before parting to their respective rooms at night (Christine was still not sure why they did not share a bed, at the very least). Oh, how she craved that time when they were almost like a normal couple! She wished she could have it back, no matter how little it had been before, it had been something, at least. And before they had married, he had not seemed to have any problem with touching her. During Don Juan Triumphant, he had touched her in ways that not even Raoul had done before. She still remembered how she had wanted it then, how she had not wanted him to take his hands off of her, no matter how inappropriate their physical displays of lust were, even for an opera. She had felt things then that she had not dared to let herself even think about before and she had enjoyed it. She had assumed, quite sensibly, that after their wedding, she would be able to enjoy this all-consuming and heated feeling again, this time without guilt, but she had not been correct in her thinking. Why would he, after their marriage no less, decide to refrain from touching her? To deny her pleasure? She did not understand.
This was certainly not what Erik had expected out of today’s music lesson. Christine was right in that he hardly ever touched her but he had his reasons, and plenty of them, too. None of them, however, had to do with any flaw on her part. She was so perfect and he, being the sinful thing he was, longed so much to hold that perfect thing in his arms. She was so sweet and kind yet he so wrongly desired to do things of the most inappropriate nature to her. She was an angel yet he had brought her into his hell with him. He was not afraid of Christine, he was afraid of what he so badly wanted from Christine. He was afraid of himself.
Before their marriage, it had all seemed rather like a game to him. Christine had chosen her side and he his and they had let the game continue for so long, it had morphed into something far worse. The game they had played was a game of life and death, a game of innocence and wickedness, a game of hate and love, but a game no less. They had both made choices and there seemed no consequence for either of them (well, that is, until Raoul, the stupid young boy that he was, had wandered down to Erik’s lair, practically letting Erik to pull him into his sadistic game, forcing Christine to make her final play). However, now they were married, and nothing seemed a game anymore. Everything seemed so real: real love, real responsibilities, real promises and Erik, as much as he hated to admit it, was scared. He was terrified of what he now had at his fingertips as Christine’s husband, because he knew now that there was no game; he would ruin everything and he could never forgive himself if he did.
Christine stared back up at him, having at last torn her gaze from the floor, trying to search in his amber eyes for some sort of answer. He was completely unreadable however. By now, Christine knew that, when she had overstepped some line he wished her not cross in her questions, he could shut himself down completely, turning his entire face into a mask, quite alike to the cold, unfeeling one he always wore over half his face, hiding his deformity from her. But he couldn’t hide from her, not right now. She needed answers from him, and she had a right to them. She flung her arms around his neck, silently imploring him to speak to her. The moment she touched him, she felt his whole body freeze but his eyes grew larger, losing their empty look and filling with emotion once more.
“Tell me why then, Erik, that every time I touch you, you freeze and push me away. Why is it that every time I try to show you, who so desires it, any sort of love, you seem to deny it? What am I doing wrong, Erik?” Christine sunk to her knees before him, letting her arms slide carelessly from around his neck to his chest, which was now rising and falling rapidly with shallow breaths. “Am I not good enough for you, my husband?”
As she whispered her last words, her eyes filled with unexpected tears. Although she tried to deny it, the lack of physical affection from Erik was beginning to get to her. She wanted to feel wanted, and, although she knew Erik wanted her more than anything, it was hard to remember that when he refused to touch her. She was not asking for much either. She did not necessarily want the entirety of Erik’s passion bestowed upon her, she just wanted a soft kiss before they went to sleep, or perhaps hug when she sang for him, maybe simply to fall asleep with her head on his shoulder and his arm around her. She did not need much, just something.
At the end of her little speech, Erik placed his hands gently on her own, which were still resting on his chest. With eyes full of sorrow, he said, “Not good enough for me?” He gave her a sad smile. “Christine, please understand, you could never disappoint me, in any way. You have done absolutely nothing wrong, my angel. The problem, you must understand, is myself. I must protect you, you see. I am simply doing my duty.” As if he had only just understood what he had spoken, he looked back down at their hands, intertwined just over his racing heart, and pushed them apart lightly before standing back up.
Christine felt anger rising in her chest. Protect her? She did not require protection! She had chosen this, she didn’t need him trying to persuade her otherwise. She flung herself onto her feet to join him, her face just inches from his own. “Protect me?” She cried. “Protect me from what? I think I, as a perfectly capable young woman, am able to—“
She broke off as Erik suddenly kissed with such a passion as she had never experienced before.
She felt him pushing her roughly against the piano, which let out a dissatisfied clang at being so unceremoniously made from an instrument of unmeasurable beauty to a simple chair. His hands, which before had been so restrained, began to roam all over her back and around her hips, as his mouth explored her own. She gasped against him, unsure of how to respond to her husband’s newfound passion, despite that fact that, only moments ago, she had been the one asking for it. Erik tightened his grip around her and she shifted, causing the piano to cry out once again. Cautiously, she moved her hands from her sides up into his hair, letting them tangle themselves in it, Erik groaning as she did so, and began to kiss him back. Breathlessly, he broke their kiss and let his lips begin to trail along her neck, moving from along her jawline to her collarbones to the neckline of dress (which, Christine was suddenly reminded, was a bit lower than it should have been). She moaned and dug her hands into his hair. Was this the life she had been missing out on? And if so, why? Feelings of pleasure were beginning to overwhelm her and she could not remember why she had been content with her chaste life before this.
“Erik…” She moaned and traced her hands along his jaw, just along the curve of his mask. She felt him shiver against her, letting out a sharp breath, and then, just as suddenly as it had started, their passion play was over. Erik had crossed over to the other side of the room so fast she would not have thought it possible, and she was still sitting on the piano, her head leaning against the wall, still catching her breath.
Erik pressed his hands over his eyes, doubling over as if in pain, his chest still rising and falling rapidly. “Christine,” he moaned, “Don’t you see? I’m protecting you from myself.”
He felt terrible. How could he have let himself go so easily? Had he not vowed to protect her from his sinful impulses? Yes, for those few moments it lasted, it had been perfect. The feeling of Christine beneath him, her lips against his own… It had all been a little too good for him. How would he ever be able to forgive himself if he forced her into the something like that? Or, worse, what if he fathered her child? What if that sweet, innocent young child resembled him, a horrifying, deformed monster, unfit for the world, destined only to be mocked, beaten, and scared? No, he would never forgive himself. He couldn’t, he could not, let his baser needs take over and defile Christine, his lovely Christine, with him and all his horror. He heard her clear her throat from across the room and he could not even bear to look at her, not after what he had done.
“What I said before still holds true.” He heard her slide off the piano and knew she was coming towards him. “I do not want or need your protection.” Her voice was soft but firm as she wound her arms around his neck once again. She leaned up to his ear, lips brushing softly against it, and in hardly more than a whisper, said, “I know what I want.”
Never in his life had Erik heard more enticing or inviting words spoken. He groaned and pulled away from her, crossing again to the opposite side of the room. “This,” he gestured vaguely over his own mutilated body, “is not what you want. I am nothing more than a monster, but I am a monster who loves you and, because of this, I refuse to let you unknowingly defile yourself.” Christine only sighed and turned, coming towards him again.
“Christine, please!” He backed himself into the corner of the room, desperately trying to make her, and himself, understand why he could never give her what she wanted in this one aspect. “Listen to me! This isn’t what you want. Think of the children!” He blurted in one last, hopeless attempt to stop her advances before he lost all control. She paused and looked him, her confusion evident. He cleared his throat and clarified, “If there ever were children, what if they resembled me? What then, Christine? Would you give them a life such as mine, full of hate and rejection?”
Christine stood before him now, only a foot away from him, just close enough for him to touch. “I would love my child despite its face, Erik. You, of all people, should know that. But, as your face is an abnormal deformation of the muscle and bone, which I’m quite sure is not a common trait in your family, I doubt our children would inherit it, if it is even inheritable.” She paused and took another step towards him. They were almost touching now and Erik’s heart was beating so fast he was quite sure Christine could hear it by now, as it was deafening in his own ears.
“What if this is what I want? You cannot decided that for me. You do not need to protect me from anything, either, Erik, least of all yourself. We are married.” She slid her hand from his cheek down to his chest, watching him all the while, and continued in a faltering whisper, “Is this not what you want? Is this not what you have always wanted from me?”
Erik wanted to move away from her but he was pinned against the wall, the hand on his chest holding him there gently, but, all the same, firmly. He swallowed, dreading to answer her. Of course this was what he had wanted! This is what he had spent hours fantasizing over but now that it was really happening, he realized he did not want this. He did not want Christine to stiffen at his caresses, to shy away from his horrid face, the revulsion showing in her clear eyes. He did not want her hands to fall away from him once she saw what he really was: scared, broken, and ugly. He did not want her to act through only duty, making their love something unfeeling and forced. He would rather have only the life they were living now instead of what he knew would happen if he made love to her, despite whatever short feelings of bliss it might create for him.
“All I ever wanted was your love, Christine, whether it be love in the purest sense or physical love.” His eyes fell back towards the ground and he continued in a tremulous voice, “But I do not need anything more than you, here beside me, giving me the most wonderful gift of only your presence. I need nothing more from you, angel. I do not want anything more from you.”
She reached up and cupped his cheek, pulling his gaze back to her before saying, “I came here to show you love, you, who has never known it, and show you I shall.” She sighed heavily and stepped in closer to him, brushing her hands lightly over his face, along the corners of his mask. “I am just as nervous as you, I assure you. But I want this.” She grabbed his hands and ran them along her sides and her curves, until she no longer had to encourage his hands to touch her, letting go when he rested them on her hips. “Oh, Erik, I want this so bad! Let me show you…” Her lips were now hovering just over his, almost touching, so close he could feel her shallow breaths. “Let me show you love. Let me teach you, my angel. Let me show you…”
Erik, feeling his last resolve crumbling, answered, “You make it nigh impossible for me to resist…” She kissed him on the soft part of his neck and he sighed. How could she possibly want him, of all people? She couldn’t want this, she couldn’t want him. Speaking softly, so quietly he was almost talking to himself, he whispered, “Yet I shouldn’t…. I could never….”
Christine’s fingers ran over his good cheek, silencing him. The half-inch of space between them was all the restraint Erik had left, which fell away as soon as Christine murmured against his lips: “Come to me, angel of music,” giving Erik the push he so needed.