Author: Anonymous by Preference PM
"I've no right to condemn you... In fact, you could say there's nothing you've done that I haven't." She's a widow with two children, and fear can make her dangerous. In spite of everything, even the fear of heartbreak, the Phantom loves them. Her secrets may change that. Erik/OC 2004 movieRated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Mystery - Erik - Chapters: 68 - Words: 316,299 - Reviews: 233 - Favs: 32 - Follows: 35 - Updated: 03-22-13 - Published: 01-31-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7794689
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer against any right of this story and characters. Based on the 2004 movie plot, somewhat. Here and there, I'll borrow from Leroux's version. Plot and OC characters introduced into the Phantom of the Opera are mine. And in case, someone familiar with my stories reads this, don't be confused because I reused a name from another Phantom story. This new fanfic is not related to my Nocturne story. Thank you to My Beautiful Ending for agreeing to beta this.
One last word, when you pick up reading, this first chapter is en medias re. This is like a prologue set about half way through the story. May I introduce: La Tragédienne.
The glass had fallen to the floor with a shatter. Instead of a blush, the candles around them illuminate the pallor of her face. Eyes wide, breathless, her shoulders sagging: all evidence of shock. No different a reaction than if he'd committed murder before her eyes. Her expression had been identical to Christine's, when curiosity tempted the girl to pull back the mask. This woman, half human and half mythical, made his face naked without even touching his mask. All Erik's former confidence lay in shards with the wine glass.
"You're surprised?" he said dryly, blinking, swallowing nervously.
"No," she shook her head disbelieving. "No, Erik, I've been nothing but your friend-"
"And nothing more?" Two sentences more, and the fire building within was about to produce a cry of outrage. All effort and kindness in her behalf had been for nothing.
"A friend and teacher. I only took lessons with the hope of one day repaying my debt to you."
"All for a debt?" growled Erik. "I told you, Shannon, I never wanted your money!"
Her eyes fell in a fruitless attempt to control her own temper. "This is the reason why I wanted formalities, Erik. I prefer a reasonable transaction. What you did for my daughter was too big to be a favor-"
"I did it for her."
"What of me, Erik?" His array of candles cast an eerie light over her eyes. No one could ever discern whether the irises were blue or green. "Did you believe that charity to us would bind me to you out of gratitude?"
Yes. Hateful of himself, disgusted by the discovery, he shook his head but said nothing, staring off into space. Her rejection was crushing; the force of it pressed on his lungs to the point of convulsion. Of course, to a degree, it was truth. After the loss of Christine, he cursed himself for having fallen for a lie worse than Love. Hope made him dream, and hope grew into belief, confidence. Hope treated the phantom as deceitfully as Love. Never would he cease to love Christine, but Shannon. . . to fear, to loathe, distrust without cause?
As her head bowed a second time, bitter tears fell. "Cruel, wretched man," she gasped. "You got what you wanted. I'm indebted to you, and the one payment you ask for, I can't give. After what you've done for my family, I cannot deny you kindness."
"You can tell me, Shannon. Is it my face?"
"Is it my past? My abode? To think, having to live in a stone dungeon, in the dark?" Her lips began to purse and redden. "Look at me, Shannon!" Normally would such a voice and sharp tone make a girl flinch. She obeyed, but slowly and limply did she move. One of many features about her that remind Erik she wasn't a little girl. There had been no walls or mirrors or superstitions between them. Even as he languished, the sorrows he could glimpse from such eyes touched him worse than the blade of a knife. "Cruel and wretched I am, but no different than you."
". . . I know," she nodded. "I know, Erik." Before allowed time to compose another response, she fled for the lair. Behind her, a phantom pursued, surging with guilt, betrayal, wounded pride, and ardor. But foremost was love, fed and empowered by obsession. Before the woman could reach the door, he'd seized her at the arms. By the way he held her, none of her limbs were inhibited, if she so wished to inflict injury. Perfectly capable as she was before Erik, there was no resistance. If weak enough, he could prey on it.
"I know I don't deserve anything," he rushed a speech through a husky whisper. "I've no right to ask you forgive anything I've done in the past. I don't even deserve friendship-"
"Erik, no!" she whimpered.
"I'm not asking you love me, just to give me that chance. Maybe you could love me. If you don't want me, if you want me to leave you all alone, you can have your wish. Just a chance, please. . . I love you, and Ambro and Roger. Anything you want for them, everything you couldn't give them, I'll give it. Let me. . ."
When she pulled away to run, he grasped for her hands. While he felt heat, she shivered at his cold touch. His hands, chilled and moist, quivered violently. What have I done? What have I ever done that I should deserve him? I'm as worthless as he is, she condemned herself. Having lost so much so far, he no longer fought tears. How she wished for freedom, and she could sweep the wet streak from his left cheek. In the right eye, the tear pooled around the eyehole.
"I can't - Even I know, the very thought would horrify any sane, Godly woman. But you know how I feel for them, I can't help it. I love them as my own. Forgive me-"
"Oh Erik, it's not your fault. Why should you feel guilty? I'm glad they have you. . . But not me. It's because I love you that I refuse."
Meaningless drivel! Thankless, selfish creature, thought Shannon. The debt she owed, no sum would ever wipe it away. His teaching, giving her the ability to sing took time and devotion. It took heart to teach, to motivate her. When she retreated and disappeared through the mirror of the lair, a beautiful world ceased to exist. Blind on the path before her, Shannon walked without looking behind, sobbing all the way back to the upper levels of the theater. The echoes of smashing furniture and splashes on the lake followed her. Half way back, an unearthly cry of misery sent her running up the spiraling staircase of the Communard Road. If she were stronger, she'd have turned around and gone back. But the young woman admitted to herself, that she had no strength of mind to face a livid man.
Roger began to cry. From listening to the cry however, Shannon could tell her son wasn't hungering. Even so, she lifted the year old infant from the bassinet. Perhaps he'd felt her anxiety and begged for her arms. Although he took to the rocking chair or the divan, Roger preferred the window seat. How many nights that his mother would lounge in the alcove, pushing back just enough curtain to see the sky. Especially when the moon was bright, Shannon found he went to sleep sooner. He squirmed for a minute, but once settled, she felt his heavy relax in her arm. From birth, her son developed quite the fondness of his mother's hair. Any long strands that fell over her breast, he latched onto it. Tugging it, twisting it, even tasting it when he was younger. At times, she would tease him with it, brushing little wisps over his eyes and noses to make him laugh. Tonight, none of her usual charms and routines were lulling the little one.
Her arms and back were always achy from his increasing weight, but it made her confident in his health. Erik had noted once their eyes were very alike. In different lighting, his eyes swayed between blue and green. His hair was still sparse, but very promising as a handsome dark hair. One little fist balled and rubbed at an eye. Turning into his mother, he yawned as far as his little jaws could stretch and fell asleep in less than two minutes. The sleep of an angel.
Across the room, Ambro had stretched and rolled over until her head sunk between their two pillows. All that could be seen was this pile of flaxen hair bunched over her face, but somewhere between the layers of eider, her little girl's face was smoothed by a pleasant dream. Only an arm stuck out from under the bed covers. Months ago, they each slept in a bed with their feet practically hanging off the end. So hard to sleep, Shannon usually surrendered that battle and spent many nights awake near a window or pacing the length of the room. Even the prima donna's dressing room failed to accommodate her sleep.
If he were an ordinary man, I would be able to walk away with less guilt, she told herself. An ordinary man would be able to go on living his life, meet someone else, and find happiness with her. But he's not. If he were an ordinary man, he wouldn't mean as much to me.
Once waiting a few minutes to ensure Roger would sleep, she laid her son back down to his bassinet. A white silk hung above could be pulled to wrap around the entire cradle. Wrapped and tucked into his blankets, breathing heavily, with a gossamer curtain draped over, Shannon decided against her own will to repay Erik. Then and now. Regardless what pain it gave him and herself, whatever was to become of them all tomorrow, it was necessary.
And so, indifferent to the midnight chill and the drafts creeping from the cellars, Shannon stepped through the dressing room mirror, closing it behind her. Undertaking this duty, she walked down through the dark without a single expectation. Whatever he'd give her, sympathy or resentment, she would accept it. The lamp she lit didn't cut a long path of sight. Each step was cold or damp, or both. The worst was the staircase. After three minutes barefoot on solid stone never touched by any light, her feet had numbed. Holding the lamp in one hand and steadying herself against the wall with the other, she still needed another hand to hold her nightgown out of the way of her feet. To fall would only serve more inconvenience. Contemplating the journey back was not something she thought of until half way down, and she would've rather not dwelled on that. The worst thing Erik could do would be to send her back. Although she failed to notice that the Phantom had not reset his traps for the ever-possible threat of intruders.
At the shore of the lake, a sigh of relief left her, but fighting a need to rest, she turned a corner and took the route of a secret corridor that Erik had shown her and Ambro. He'd always light them when expecting her for their lesson. Instead of inspiring fear, the darkness rather borne down on her shoulders. An aura of gloom and depression. No music resonate from the lair. Sweet music's throne and kingdom had been deposed. It felt as though the heart of the Opera Populaire stopped beating when the Phantom's heart had broken.
Silently as possible, she entered. A toppled chair made it difficult to open the sliding doorframe, defeating her slyness. Every candelabra had burned out. Sheet music and fragments of furniture littered the floor in every direction. It almost deterred her bravery. The portcullis had been lowered, and the wall resealed. It made the whole of the place feel no different than living inside a tomb. Tentative to the best of her ability, Shannon maneuvered herself around and across the floor's obstacles. Passing his bedchamber, a short hallway stretched into smaller, more homely rooms. At last, she discovered the first light since leaving her room upstairs. The door had been left wide open, but from the doorway, she was already being warmed by the life of a rousing fire. Its flames accentuate his prominent silhouette. The profile of a reposed beast, sitting on his haunches.
"What are you doing here?" he murmured. His face didn't lift from the fire. Out of instinct, Shannon glanced about him and saw no sign of the Punjab lasso.
"I. . . Erik. . ." She bit down on her tongue for stammering. With a forced expel of air, she commenced without taking the second to think about it. "Erik, even if you deserve nothing, I think you do deserve the truth."
"Your answer sounded pretty definite." He lazily tossed another log to the hearth. "I've heard it before. 'I love you, but I never want to see you again.' "
"I didn't come down to ask forgiveness, Erik," she sighed defeated, setting her lamp to the side. Some of the most peaceful moments of her life were down here, on the floor in front of the fire. He'd always tried to insist on the chair, but she declined each time, even when another was brought in. The black cravat disappeared from his neck, floating on the lake's surface. His smoothed hair disheveled. But his state of dress remained pristine. Without the long coat and waistcoat, Shannon observed a brawn man. Lean of figure, but more than physically capable. She feared what kind of man she'd see when she knelt down beside him.
"I never considered my teaching a debt," he said wearily. "Go back, Shannon."
"You know, I could've told people and M. Van Huisen about your living down here. And from what I understand, you're still a wanted man. Sure, legally dead, but who would know? You think I was silent out of fear?"
". . . Why so silent then, madame?" he smirked, thinking his remark clever.
"I know about your past, Erik. Violent and horrific as it is, I've no right to condemn you. While it's not condonable, I understand. . . In fact. . . you could say there's nothing you've done that I haven't."
He frowned skeptically. "What do you mean?"
"Erik, what sort of things make you feel guilty? What kind of things do you regret?"
Shannon gave up hope, as he didn't answer for some minutes. When he finally turned and really looked at her, the woman beside him was trembling. The pair of folded hands over her knees clenched until the knuckles paled. Cold and nerves had caught up with her, but it was the expression on her face that suddenly robbed him of breath and made him swallow every word. Her stare conveyed no emotion. At first, he doubted that he heard correctly.
"Shannon." A frosty residue settled over her skin. Quickly, Erik retrieved his shed long coat on the divan and draped it over her shoulders. Each gesture he made, she didn't refuse. Having seated her in the chair, he knelt by her knee with all the faith of a dog. Lost hours of sleep manifest in every feature. Clearly, no fire's heat was going to stop her shaking. "Have you been dreaming things?"
"Are. . . Do you drink? Or take anything like sedatives-"
"No, Erik. You heard me right. But it's not a dream." Her eyes closed, her headshake sluggish of movement. No drunkard, dreamer, or morphine addict could match with her face. "Erik, the time I've spent here at the Opera, even on my worst day, has been the happiest years of my life. What I had, from where I came was a nightmare. . . What I tell you, promise me it goes to your grave."
"You have my word."
Her life was only worth as much as her story. On every occasion she tried to confide it, the other person dismissed it without a thought. So her life wasn't worth much, she assumed. But if anyone could find value in the life of one insignificant woman, it would be the masked man before her.