sin·gu·lar (sĭnggyə-lər), adj.
Being only one; individual.
Being the only one of a kind; unique.
Being beyond what is ordinary or usual; remarkable.
Deviating from the usual or expected; odd. See synonyms at strange.

In astrophysics, a singularity is a point at which space and time become infinitely distorted. In other words, a point at which the usual rules don't apply.

(A/N - This story takes place a few months after the Final Lair scene from the 2004 POTO movie, though there will be some nods to Leroux. Erik has gone off the rails a bit...farther, following the loss of Christine to Raoul. Apologies to those who warned me to be careful when mixing universes. Abundant thanks, as always, to my amazing beta, Polly Moopers. A caution: she's only had one pass at this, so any remaining mistakes and awkwardness are my very own. Thank you as well to the person who wishes not to be named, but whose email brainstorming session with me was more inspiring than I can express.)

Ch 1: Observation

I like watching you sleep.

The idea that a single pane of glass and a brief distance are all that separates us gives me an odd kind of satisfaction. The knowledge that I may watch you unobserved gives me a greater thrill.

You shift in your sleep, baring your neck to the moonlight. How pale and how vulnerable it looks; almost like a woman's. It would be the work of but a minute to snap it, or to throttle you while you lie unconscious. I could overpower you instantly and do anything I chose. My strength is the greater; we both know it.

But what sport would there be in that? If anything further is to happen between us, M. le Vicomte, I want you awake and aware. I want you to know my name, not as Opera Ghost, or Angel, or Phantom, but as Erik. I want you to look into my eyes and know me as your undoing.

A sigh. These thoughts are merely amusements; I hold back, not for your sake, nor for mine, but for hers. To harm you now would be to harm her. I gave my word, and I shall keep it.

But thoughts harm no one…

I could have been you, you know. Whatever force or fate it is that pairs bodies with souls could so easily have switched the two of us, it seems to me. What would you do in my place? I know what I'd do in yours. I'd revel in my victory, exult in my prize. Would I give you a second thought, were our positions reversed? Would you think of me? Do you, even now?

The man on the balcony put a hand near the glass, not touching it. Look, but don't touch. That was ever my lot, he thought. Love is a thief. It takes your peace of mind, your dreams, your sleep. You are a thief, too, M. le Vicomte. What did you take from me? Shall I ask for something in return? Shall I take?

Perhaps, but not now. Now, I've had enough of this game for one night.

The Vicomte de Chagny stirred in his sleep again; the dark figure watching from the shadows of the balcony grew restless as well. This manner of play would lose its appeal if the prey became aware of it too quickly. There was a movement of shadow against the darkness, and the figure was gone.

Raoul sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes, unsure what had awakened him. He blinked, ran a hand through his hair, and thought for an instant that through the double glass doors at the end of his bed he had seen a flash of something light in color. It was gone before he was certain he'd seen anything

A cat, a loose piece of paper blown from an open window? Nothing more than that, surely. It had to be only in his mind that the thing had taken the shape of part of a face…or a mask…

He got up and looked out the doors leading to the balcony to make sure. There was nothing there, as he'd suspected. He drew the drapes, double-checking the door lock before doing so. Locked and bolted, exactly as it had been when he had gone to bed.

Raoul groaned as he sank back against his feather mattress, feeling automatically for the pistol he'd kept beneath his pillow since the horror beneath the Opera House a few months ago. It was past time to let that struggle go, though it still plagued his dreams. He was becoming as bad as Christine, attributing almost supernatural powers to the man; though it was difficult at times to think of someone he'd known only as the Phantom as a human being. Phantom, he'd called himself, but his physical presence and his almost-tangible desire for Christine had marked him absolutely as a creature of flesh and blood.

He did have a way of haunting one's thoughts. What was he doing now? Was he out there, plotting revenge? Was he still in Paris? Did he live? Raoul had an odd feeling that he did; that if the other man had died he should somehow know about it.

Which meant…what? That they were connected somehow? By Christine, yes; but that choice had been made, and her tie to him severed. Did the other accept that, or was he a danger, even yet? He hadn't seemed the type to give up easily. Perhaps the tears and change of heart had been a sham. Christine would never believe that the monster had been anything but sincere, but she tended to be too trusting.

No: Not monster. Man. Monsters are rarely defeatable. Men have weaknesses. Men change…

Raoul thumped the pillow in frustration. He wanted to be able to stop thinking about this other, this shadow, but still he wondered.

Not my business any more, he finally decided. He was in town to consult with various family solicitors and clerks about arrangements pertaining to the wedding. He'd think about that: the boring details to be gotten through at present, and his future happiness. These things were all that should be occupying his mind.

The dark shape dropped lightly to the ground beneath the balcony. Erik froze for a few minutes to make certain he hadn't been seen or heard, then quietly proceeded on his way through the deserted Paris street.

In appearance, he had changed little from the time of his first meeting with the Vicomte. In public, he still wore formal attire, cloak, wig, gloves, and mask: all were dead black now, as if he were in mourning, for so he felt himself to be. Mourning the loss of his love, and the life for which he'd labored and lost.

The man I once was died that night under the Opera, he thought. He was not yet sure what manner of creature had taken his place. In the half-light, his black mask had the curious effect of highlighting the uncovered side of his face, so that his own pale skin appeared white and mask-like.

He walked with quick, silent strides, lost in thought. There were times when he regretted not killing the Vicomte when he'd had the chance. Many times. He was certain that the Vicomte mentally paid him the same compliment, possibly as often.

No matter now. What had been, was gone. Now there was only the game, and figuring out what came next.