Unfortunately, I've decided to abandon Culpabilitie. I no longer have any interest in writing fanfiction for LND, and while I'm sad to scrap this, I simply haven't had any fun writing it anymore. I've decided to post the majority of what I'd had written for chapters twelve and thirteen and simply say goodbye to this fic there. Thanks to all my readers, I greatly appreciated the feedback!

XXxxXX

Her hands were fisted into her skirt, twisting the fabric between her fingers as she walked down the hallway.

Click, click, click, her shoes seemed too loud, the sound as the heel touching the floor echoing around her. It clicked in tandem with her rapidly beating heart.

She caught her reflection in a passing ballerina's hand mirror. She looked as exhausted as she felt. She had gotten no sleep the previous night, nor barely any the night before. She had used a substantial amount of makeup to cover up the dark bags beneath her eyes as well as brushed out her unruly mane, but even she wasn't sure it helped any.

Oh, why did the rehearsal have to be at the other end of the building? She was more than ready to begin and simply get it all over with. Christine wanted to go home, and finally be able to sleep. Sleep for another decade, preferably.

Her hand grasped the doorknob before she even realized.

Nausea tugged at her stomach as she turned it, opening the door to reveal the small studio. There was a couch on one side, plush persian carpeting below, and a grand piano on the other end.

On the piano bench sat a man. His suit was neatly pressed, and clearly expensive- and then he turned to face her, standing up.

"...Madame," was all Erik said, bowing ever so slightly as she came to stand before him. How did her legs manage to work? Her tongue felt as if pressed down by a thousand weights, yet her mind was spinning.

"Maestro," she murmured, curtsying.

He did not appear to waste any time, stepping away to face the piano once more.

"Shall we begin? You have a mere three weeks until the performance." he pressed a key on the keyboard, indicating for her warm ups to begin.

Easily she fell back into the role of student and him as instructor, almost feeling as if she were back once more at the Populaire and he stood behind her mirror, her ange, and she was simply Christine Daae, a pitiful chorus girl aiming for the stars.

Then she opened her eyes and drank in his form and realized that those days were long gone.

Yet his skill was unchanged, his ease as his fingers flew across the piano still breathtaking. She had not forgotten how talented he was (never that,) but it was one thing to remember it, and another to re experience it.

"Shall we stop for a break?" his voice cut into her thoughts, shaking her from her revere. Two hours at least must have passed- a break was much needed.

"I… that sounds like a good idea," she replied, and moved to sit on the couch. Her poured her a glass of water from a pitcher she had not realized was there, and held it out to her.

Her heart pounded as their fingers brushed for a millisecond. She thanked him quietly, sipping the glass he had given her.

Once she had finished her water and had rested for a few minutes, he beckoned to her with a hand.

"We have around an hour left," he said. "Let's resume."

And so they did. Another sixty minutes flew by, and she found herself puzzled when, later, he stopped playing (and she singing) and stretched.

"Is that all?" she blinked. He cast her an amused glance.

"Do you want to go on? It's getting rather late, you should return to your flat for the evening."

It was getting rather late after all, as the clock on the wall (yes, she had just noticed that as well) told her. She would have to return home sooner than later, in fear that Raoul would have a repeat of the last time she came home late.

She began to bid goodbye, stretching her legs a little when he spoke again.

"Wait."

She did so, watching him as he turned fully to face her. For the first time that evening, the unmasked side of his face was filled with apprehension.

"I'm sorry, Christine," that had been the first time that night he had called her anything other than Madame, "I have to know, how is Gustave doing? Is he recovering well?" His voice cracked ever so slightly at the last sentence.

Her blues eyes widened a little at his question, but she wasn't offended.

A small part of her whispered her that he had a right to enquire after Gustave. After all, he was his birth father- but Erik did not know that. That was why she found his worry for Gustave so confusing.

What a morbidly funny situation theirs was.

"Gustave is doing fine, he is very excited for the performance," she feigned a smile.

She closed the door behind her, and immediately sunk against the frame and slid onto the floor. She was trembling all over, and no matter what she did she could not seem to stop herself.

This was going to be a long three weeks.

XXxxXX

That night she sat up in her bed, making sure Raoul was fast asleep before carefully extracting herself from the tangled sheets and tiptoeing over to the desk, sliding the bottom drawer open as silently as possible to look at the contents.

She was sure the desk had gotten more use in the past three days than it had over the span of their entire stay, what with her stopping to reread the letter and the rose stored within constantly, so it seemed.

"It's not a dream," she whispered to herself, reaching forward to gently pinch the black satin between her thumb and forefinger. She rubbed the fabric absentmindedly. "It's not a dream."

XXxxXX

The agreement was two days a week, and sure enough, forty-eight hours later she showed up once more at the small room.

Christine opened the door, and there he stood. Erik raised his visible eyebrow as she neared, yet only spoke once she came to stand directly before him.

"You are early," he commented. She blinked a few times before glancing up at the clock. He was correct, she had arrived nearly ten minutes early.

"Is that so surprising?" she dared to give him a small smile. "I thought it would take me longer to arrive, but I suppose I was incorrect."

He nodded, stepping away to press a few keys on the piano.

"Shall we begin?"

It wasn't as if there was much else to do. She warmed up, and they immediately began with the first section of the song.

Love Never Dies… she hadn't realized how pretty the aria had been until he was accompanying her. The piano seemed to lift her voice, spreading life to it once more and letting her… what was the word? Soar. Yes, her voice was soaring.

And she loved it. Singing was like a drug, once she began she could not stop, and even when she managed to break away the urge, the need threatened to devour her.

She would be lying if she said it did not frighten her. He played the instrument with such intensity- looked at her with such fire- sometimes she felt as if she were about to drown in it all.

And then something peculiar happened.

Erik moved to stand up, placing his hands on the lid of the instrument as if he were about to right himself. He must not have seen the glass pitcher, for he accidentally knocked it over and it shattered on impact. Sharp slivers of glass spread across the floor.

Surprise flitted across the unblemished half of his face as he reached down, most likely to grab the larger shards. Was he crazy? Grabbing broken glass with bare hands was practically begging for an injury!

Christine raced forward. "No, don't touch it, the glass-"

He picked a piece up and dropped it immediately as it scored across his palm, leaving long scratches in its wake. Blood slowly welled in the cut.

He hissed beneath his breath, and she took his hand gently in hers.

"Erik!" she scolded. "You know you're not supposed to touch broken glass. Do you want to get hurt?"

He stiffened- she assumed it was due to the pain. Judging from how quickly he was bleeding, he was probably in a lot.

Christine led him over to the chaise and had him sit, pulling out her own handkerchief from a pocket and began tying it around his palm. It would have to do until she could get him an actual bandage.

And already his blood was staining through her handkerchief. God, how deep did he manage to cut his hand? As well as the fact he was barely responding to her. Erik still seemed to be frozen.

What if he lost too much blood? Christine was no medical professional, she only used what little information she knew and pressed her thumb to his wrist to make sure his pulse was still alright. His heart was beating a little fast, but other than that he seemed to be okay.

She looked up into his eyes, his shocked, golden irises as they stared down at her. His mouth moved as if he wanted to speak, but no words came to his tongue.

She meant to move her hand back, but he gripped her with such fierceness she could not pull away. It wasn't hard enough to hurt, but still tight enough to be a little uncomfortable.

"I... you…" he gulped, his Adam's apple bobbing. She waited patiently.

"Y-you called me Erik."

"That is your name, is it not?" she tilted her head.

"Yes… but I never told you my name."

Oh. In her rush she had not even realized she had said his name, or that it was the first time she had ever called him Erik.

"Madame Giry told me, when I went to see her." Christine explained softly, her thumb rubbing small circles on his wrist now. "I hope you do not mind?"

"N-no, it doesn't bother me." From the way his voice shook and his un-cut hand reached to ghost her hair, he seemed to rather like it. She shivered.

"In fact," he pulled his good hand away, resting it in his lap. "I would not be opposed to you calling me Erik in our lessons. I believe we've long passed the stage of cold formalities. That is- if you want. It's all up to you... Madame."

He was right, they had long passed the stage of 'Madame' and 'monsieur.' They had gone through so much, seen so much together, it almost felt comedic.

"And you may call me Christine," she replied, patting the handkerchief lightly before standing up and away from his grip. In turn she received a small smile from him.

"Now," she changed the subject. "We ought to get you an actual bandage. I don't think the handkerchief will hold for much longer."

XXxxXX

That night Gustave requested that she sing a few lines from her aria.

"You don't want me to keep it a surprise?" she raised an eyebrow, her lips upturned in a sly smile.

"Well, don't sing me the FULL song, just a little bit, Mama."

She would have obliged even if he had begged for her to sing the entire song. But the very beginning of it sufficed as well, and she found herself grinning at the awed expression on Gustave's face when she finished. Even if it was barely sixty seconds long.

"You liked it?" she asked, though the question did not need to be said- Gustave was nodding up and down enthusiastically in agreement.

"You sound great!" he gasped. Her grin widened, if possible. Christine looked up to meet Raoul's gaze… but his had a different expression on it.

"Is something wrong?" she asked. Had she been too pitchy? She knew she was still straining on those high notes, her two lessons with Erik had already helped her improve. Hopefully she would be able to achieve the same level of skill she had reached back when she was younger, at the Opera house.

"I… no," he shrugged. "You sounded fine. I just thought it was a bit of a weird song selection. Stupid, I know. Just ignore me."

She pursed her lips together for a moment, thinking of a way to reply and approach this topic gingerly.

"Weird?" she tilted her head. "How so?"

"Really, It's nothing." he waved his hand dismissively, and while her curiosity was in full swing, she dropped it. It wasn't worth starting a fight over.

XXxxXX

The next few rehearsals went without issue. Erik stayed as stoic and professional as ever, and Christine returned to pretending everything was fine.

Except it wasn't.

"Christine," he exhaled, running a hand through his wig. "You are distracted, and it is near impossible to instruct you when you are unable to listen."

"I'm sorry," she looked down at her feet.

"Don't apologize- just do. Shall we begin again?" he tapped a few experimental keys on the piano.

Christine nodded, straightening her back and taking a deep breath as he played the intro of the song.

She barely got a minute into the aria, however, before he stopped her once more.

"Is there something on your mind? A reason you cannot focus?"

She bit her tongue when she began to apologize once more. "I wasn't able to sleep very well last night." Nor the night before.

"As you have mentioned previously." A frown appeared on his face, and he turned to face her, now. "Christine… you need a sufficient amount of sleep in order for your voice to be the best it can."

"I know. Really, Erik, I do. I promise that I will get enough sleep from now on."

"Good," he said, standing up and walking towards her. "Perhaps you should go rest for a bit. I do not want to wear out your voice."

"Are you sure?" she tilted her head. "We have so few rehearsals left."

"Two more weeks, to be specific." he put his hand over hers. She glanced down at it and then up at his eyes. "And that's plenty of time. You've been doing well- we can spare one rehearsal." Erik said.

"Thank you, Erik," she gave him a small smile. She was very tired, after all. "I'll come back Wednesday, then."

He made a small bow. "If it pleases you, Madame."

It did.