Chapter 1: Erik All Alone
It had been nineteen days.
Nineteen days since he last saw Christine, nineteen days since he had last been in the presence of his beautiful wife. Nineteen days since he had felt happy and his heart had been at peace.
Now the pain was slowly tearing him up from the inside out.
His lovely lady wife, Christine, had gone down to Chartres to perform a few shows with the company there. She was only there for three weeks, and when she had first brought it up, he had been ecstatic about it, encouraging her to go. He had thought it would be wonderful for her career, as well as probably fun for her to spend a few weeks in the light with her friends. But now that he had to face the horrible reality of it, he cursed his past self for ever thinking this could have been a good idea.
She had been reluctant about leaving him. She had said that she was worried about him, and that she didn’t have to go, she could simply stay by his side. But he had insisted - God, he was stupid - he had insisted she go. Packed her bags for her, sent her on her merry way, reassured her he’d be fine, he’d been living this long alone, what’s a few weeks? But he was very, very wrong.
The first few days had been fine. Not good. But fine. He was surviving, at least. He had eaten a few things. He had tried to compose, thinking that he would surprise Christine with a few new arias to sing when she came back. Currently, he had thirty one of them, all half-finished and strewn about his room with little care. His writing had gotten progressively scratchier and messier, to the point where some of his more recent scores could barely be made out.
After a few days, he had given up eating and sleeping completely, reverting back to the days before Christine when he would spend weeks doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and breathing music. Except this time, there was no music. Nothing. Dead silence. It was as if Christine had taken his muse with her and he was left cold and empty. He had to physically force himself to write notes down on the page, hoping that if he did it enough, eventually the music would come back.
After a week he had officially given up on that matter, deciding instead to do things that he thought would make Christine happy. He needed Christine to be happy. So he cleaned the entire house, every nook and cranny there was. He carefully and reverently made her bed, placing the pillows just so and dusting everything in her room until he was coughing from the dust. He made sure that every fireplace always had a roaring fire in it, and carefully made sure that the ashes were always cleaned off the brick. It would not do for Christine to come back to a dirty house. What would she think of him then? Surely she would be terribly disappointed, but because she was Christine she would smile and lie and say that everything was fine and that would be even worse because he didn’t want to make his dear Christine lie to him of all people. He did not deserve her kindness or her pity. He deserved to be treated like the monster he was.
When he had finished cleaning, and it had only been eleven days, he then decided that if he didn’t want Christine to be horribly upset with him, then he should try to make everything as easy as possible for her when she came back. He took up repairing her dresses; several gowns had minor rips and tears that needed to be fixed. There was even one that had been a costume from a past production that he had taken, but sadly it was too large for his petite Christine. She had been meaning to get it tailored, but had never found the time. He took to it immediately, and even though she had never gotten the exact measurements, he knew in his mind the exact shape of her curves and bodice and he perfectly tailored the dress.
Now it had been fourteen days, and he was slowly descending further and further into madness. He was frightened of sleeping, because sleeping would mean laying down in Christine’s bed, and he couldn’t do that because Christine would want her bed nice and neat and not messed up by his monstrous form. His only other option was the coffin, but he shuddered to think of sleeping there again.
And now it was sixteen days and he was scrubbing the dishes in the sink, forcefully scrubbing them so hard it was quite possible the paint was chipping on some of the plates and cups. He hadn’t used them at all. It didn’t matter. The dishes needed to be in pristine condition by the time Christine came back. The water stung at his hands but he ignored it, continuing his onslaught against the poor porcelain. He had taken to scratching at his own hands, as some way to relieve this horrible stress that was building up inside him. His hands had been rubbed raw because of it, the already skeletal structures looking all the more horrible. Fitting, he thought, for a monster. The same onslaught had been given to his arms, and now even the slightest touch on them burned and seared with pain. It was only thanks to his hours of endured torture in the past that he was not screaming in agony while washing dishes.
It had been nineteen days, now, and Christine would be coming home in two. Perfect, lovely, wonderful Christine. The woman who had somehow deemed fit to marry him. Erik would never understand why, but he was grateful for her nonetheless. Everything Christine did was the act of a pure angel, and every touch she chose to give him was a gift to be cherished. Every moment spent in her presence was pure and divine and nothing would ever come close. So everything must be as perfect as she was when she came home. He spent the day obsessively cleaning, polishing the already mirror-polished floors, dusting the already dust-less shelves, and carefully repositioning the already carefully placed pillows and blankets on her bed.
He had always worn gloves whenever he touched her things, not wanting to taint them with his essence. He had stopped doing it a while ago at Christine’s insistence, but he found himself doing it again now as he cleaned her things, despite the fact that his fingers screamed in protest.
The clock struck twelve. That meant that it was day twenty, and that Christine would be home tomorrow. He sighed dreamily, just thinking of being back in her presence again. The thought filled him with new vigor, and he frantically continued cleaning the house. Everything must be perfect, otherwise Christine would be upset with him, thinking he was so horribly incompetent he couldn’t even spend three weeks alone. He thought he just might die if Christine was upset with him. He simply couldn’t bear the thought.
Chapter 2: Christine to the Rescue
Christine was decidedly very, very tired. She had, of course, enjoyed her little vacation, if you could call it that. Three whole weeks of non stop performing, each night spent singing and dancing her heart out as the crowd cheered them on. She had had a lot of fun, but she now longed to be back in Paris with her husband. Just imagining being embraced in his comfortable warmth made her smile in anticipation.
So, even though she technically wasn’t due back home for another day, she didn’t actually have any more performances, and she decided that she would surprise her husband by coming home a day early.
So, after the evening’s performance on the nineteenth day, she quickly went through all the closing night traditions. Which were not actually very quick, as many people wanted to talk to the star of the performance and she had to say all her goodbyes to the rest of the cast and crew, as well as thank the managers of the building. It was nearly twelve at night by the time she arrived back at the hotel they were all staying at, and she quickly packed all her things. By the time she fell asleep it was nearly one in the morning, however she forced herself to wake up at six in order to get an early start.
The carriage ride took over nine hours, most of which she spent sleeping. She was finally awoken by the coachman when they reached Paris, at which point it was nearly four. Christine was overjoyed to be back in her home city, and even more excited to see Erik and surprise him with her presence. She blushed at the thought of what he might do when he saw her again, as her mind conjured all sorts of romantic fantasies.
She was dropped off on the Rue Scribe side of the opera house, and she deftly made her way down into the tunnels and across the lake. She nearly wept with joy at the sight of their lovely house, immediately running down to the drawing room entrance. She flung open the door and joyfully announced “I’m home!” to a very empty drawing room.
The drawing room should most definitely not be empty. Erik should be at the piano, composing the score, and he should be looking up at her with a mischievous smile as she walked over to him in a rather seductive manner. He should be throwing his arms around her and kissing her senseless and announcing how much he missed her.
Or really, she would take anything over the horrible silence of the empty drawing room.
She carefully set down her things and crept through the empty room, walking down the hall to where the music room was. Still nothing. She went into the dining room and the kitchen, and he wasn’t there either. His room, where he kept his beloved organ, was empty as well. That left only her room, unless he was out.
She slowly opened her door, which was already ajar, and the sight that she was met with pained her to no end.
Erik, her lovely, sweet, generous, caring husband was on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor. The marble floor, which already appeared to be polished, was being scrubbed rather roughly by him. And worse than that, he looked a mess. His scraggly hair was in a mess of tangles at the back of his head, his mask was off but the skin there still looked like it was rubbed raw. He was in dress pants and a simple linen shirt, but both were covered in dirt and various scratches and tears. His shoes were scuffed and dirty; really, everything about him was a far cry from his usual pristine appearance, and it saddened her deeply to see that he had taken so little care of himself.
And worse than that, she noticed with tears in her eyes that he was wearing those horrible white gloves again- the ones that he had insisted he wear so as not to “sully Christine’s possessions with his monstrous being.” She had thought that she’d thrown those away a long time ago. It appeared he had multiple.
He hadn’t seemed to hear her when she came in, and he didn’t respond when she called to him now. She sighed deeply and willed the tears out of her eyes, knowing they would only distress him more. She instead came to kneel down beside him, and she gently placed a hand on his shoulder.
It was as if he had been struck by lightning. His entire body convulsed and shook terribly, and he immediately dropped the rag he was holding like it had burned him. He then tentatively looked back up towards her, and he immediately gasped and jumped away from her, holding his hands out as if she was going to hurt him.
“Christi- Christine is back! Christine can not be back! Christine was supposed to come back tomorrow, the house is not ready! Erik is not ready, he has not finished cleaning, he meant to-” He cut himself off with a low, mournful moan as he clutched his chest and sank to his knees. “Oh, Christine must forgive Erik, he did not mean to be so terrible. The house was supposed to be nice and clean for you, and now it is not. Christine must be so very tired, she was supposed to have a nice bed and a meal and a clean house waiting for her, but Erik has been very bad and neglected his duties so now Christine must suffer! Erik is very sorry, he did not mean to!” he cried, clutching his hands out towards her as if in prayer. The sight tugged at her heartstrings, and it took all of Christine’s willpower to not start crying right then and there.
She came to kneel in front of him, reaching out for his hands, but he quickly snatched them away.
“Oh, Erik, Christine does not need these things,” she began, her tone gentle. “Christine only needs her loving husband to come home to. She does not need a clean house or a cooked meal or any of those things. She needs her husband.”
She did not expect the impact her words would have.
He immediately began crying, throwing himself down so that he could kiss her hem and shoes.
“Christine is so lovely! She is such a pure angel, Erik does not deserve her! She deserves far better! Oh, Christine!” he sobbed, and it broke her heart in two. She quickly took him in her arms, but he gasped at the contact and broke away, looking like a spooked animal.
“Erik, what’s wrong?” she whispered, noticing how he was holding his arms out very oddly.
“Nothing is wrong with Erik, he simply does not want to taint Christine with his horribleness,” he choked out, shaking. She clucked her tongue at that, crawling so that she was before him once more.
“Erik, give me your hands,” she commanded, and he complied, albeit reluctantly. She gently tugged off the gloves he wore, and was horrified by what she saw. His hands- no -his arms were covered in raw, red scratches, but the damage was the worst at his hands. They were blistered and bruised as if he had rubbed them raw then smashed them against the wall. Which, he quite possibly might have. His long, slender fingers were an angry red color, the already paper-thin skin looked almost nonexistent, revealing the muscle underneath. He whimpered when she rubbed a finger over his palms, and she immediately lightened her touch.
“Oh Erik,” she whispered, “what have you done to yourself while I’ve been away?”
His only response was a shuddering inhale, and she immediately knew something had to be done. She gently released his hands and got up quickly, moving to get something to remedy his hands. He cried out mournfully at the loss of contact.
“Of course, Christine must go. She must not look at Erik, for he is too terrible! He is too-” he broke himself off with another horrible sob, and Christine was once again kneeling in front of him. She took his head in her hands and kissed his forehead lovingly, earning her another sob.
“You are not terrible, Erik, and Christine does want to look at you. But I have to go and get something for your poor hands, alright?” He nodded, and she gave his forehead another kiss before getting up and running to the washroom as fast as she could.
She came back with a small tin filled with green paste, then looked down at her patient and realized she couldn’t possibly give it to him now, when he was cold and dirty and miserable. He needed to be cleaned up first, she mused.
“Erik, dear,” she started tentatively, “I think we should get you all cleaned up first, hmm?”
He stared up at her before nodding slowly, and she helped him to his feet. He began walking out of the room, but she quickly tugged him back.
“Oh no you don’t. I’m helping you,” she declared, ushering him into her bathroom and forcing him out of his clothes and into the bath. He barely even put up a fight, too tired to try, and simply let her gently scrub his skin and attempt to detangle his thin strands of hair.
She gently held his head as she pulled a comb through his hair, and he sighed and leaned back into her touch, his eyes fluttering closed.
“Erik, when was the last time you slept?” she questioned quietly, getting through a particularly bad knot. His eyes snapped open as he jolted upwards.
“I- Erik does not know. It has been a… while,” he said sheepishly, not daring to look up at his wife, knowing her gaze would be chiding.
“We’ve talked about this, Erik. You need to sleep. It’s not healthy! And I need you healthy and alive to stay by my side.” She hummed and pulled him back towards her, resting his head on the edge of the tub as she resumed her combing and ministrations.
“Christine… wants Erik by her side?” he asked slowly, disbelief evident in his voice. She smiled, though he couldn’t see it.
“Yes, I daresay that Christine wants him by her side for a long time yet.”
When they had finished there, Christine helped him into a dressing gown, trying to be as careful as she could with his arms and hands, though she still noticed him wincing occasionally. When that was over, she sat him down at the edge of her bed and grabbed the same tin as before. It was filled with a light green paste that smelled slightly of flowers. She gently held one of his hands in hers and rubbed a generous amount on both his arms and hands. She tried to be as gentle and careful as possible, knowing that it would hurt. When she had finished, she kissed both his hands and returned them to him. She then sat across from him, simply looking at him, concern written all over her features.
“Erik, is your face bothering you?” she asked, noticing the redness on his deformed side; how it looked much more irritated than it usually did. She also saw how his eyes were bloodshot, likely from not sleeping for weeks, and how they were rimmed red from all the crying.
He shook his head, but they both knew it was a lie. She beckoned to him silently, and he eagerly returned her embrace. She placed a soft kiss to his forehead, then took his face in her hands once more. She gently rubbed more of the cream all over his skin, taking care to be as gentle as she possibly could. He leaned into her touch, sated and content. Perhaps, if he was more lucid and less tired, then he might’ve protested horribly at her taking care of him, might’ve been horrified at how she had to do all of this for him. But he was so, so tired, and Christine was soft and warm and loving and all of the things he was not.
So, when she pulled him down to the bed with her, he did not protest. He simply let her pull him so that his head rested over her heart, and they could lay together in contentment. She wrapped her arms around him, gently, so as to not hurt him further, and he sighed happily. Everything was better now that Christine was here. He was finally safe again.
Christine resolved that she would spend the rest of the week getting her husband back to normal, whatever that took. They would have to talk about what happened, and she would have to prepare him better for any of her possible excursions in the future. Though, it was unlikely she’d be leaving even for an hour any time soon. She knew in her heart that it was likely he wouldn’t survive it.
However, they had all the time in the world to talk of those things, and right now, with her sleeping husband purring softly in her arms, she figured that they could wait.