Disclaimer: We don't need to tell you this, but you know, it's just here.  We don't own 'Phantom of the Opera', though we would like to. That belongs to Gaston Leroux and the rest of the wonderful (or not so wonderful… * coughcoughFORSYTHEcoughcough*…) geniuses who have brought this story to life.  Don't bother suing us; we don't make a penny off this.

Summary: A phic exploring the possibility of another person sharing Erik's face.

A Story of Love: by Lady Death & L'Ange de Folie

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The young couple known as Christine and Raoul de Chagny strolled calmly and slowly through the large, noisy fair ground.  They kept a slow, leisurely pace, content to just watch the organized chaos around them.  Children scurried here and there, giggling, laughing, and screaming in joy.  Christine and Raoul smiled as they saw the children, the thought of having their own was undeniably in both of their minds.  They walked through the crowds as if they hadn't a care in the world.

It was a perfect day for a trip to the fair.  It was a beautiful, spring afternoon with a lovely, warm breeze barely perceptible.  The air was sweet and the smell of various meals and confections drifted lazily in the wind.

"Oh! I love coming to fairs!" Christine exclaimed with a joyful giggle.  She couldn't resist hugging Raoul tightly in her excitement. "It reminds me of when we were children, and Papa and I would perform at them."

"Yes, those were wonderful times," Raoul said, a handsome smile tugging at his lips. "Do you remember the first time I came to hear you sing?  I was so entranced that I forgot to look where I was walking.  I tripped and fell against the Fortune Teller's tent; knocking the whole thing down!"  He laughed at the memory.

"And she was so angry!"  Christine managed to say through her uncontrollable mirth.  "She threatened to turn you into a toad!"

"I have an idea, darling," Raoul announced, a fresh smile appearing on his face.  "What do you say to finding a fortune teller and asking what we should name our baby?"

"I would say it's rather useless," Christine said sweetly.  "I already know what the name will be!"

"Oh, you do? Why do I get the feeling I have no say in this whatsoever?"  Raoul asked in mock dread.

"Because you don't." Christine grinned and wrapped her arm tightly around her husband's waist.  They kissed.  "Let's go anyway, Raoul.  We'll ask if it's a boy or a girl."

He nodded in agreement and held out his hand.  "If I may escort Madame?"

"Of course, Monsieur," Christine said, glanced over both shoulders and leaned down to Raoul.  "Though, I don't think my husband may approve…"

They laughed uproariously and kissed again.  They began to walk over the large grassy field that served as the fairgrounds and over toward the lavishly decorated fortuneteller. 

However, they unwittingly walked past a dimly lit tent with a large queue at the entrance.  They took no notice to it until a barker shouted out a chilling advertisement.

"COME AND SEE THE LIVING CORPSE!"

Christine's blood turned to ice and she nearly swooned.  Raoul caught her and held her steady until she had regained her balance.

"Christine? What's the matter?" His voice was tight with concern for his wife and unborn child.

"Dear God, it can't be!" Christine breathed, not hearing Raoul.

"What? Christine, what is it?" Raoul asked again, trying to calm his growing uneasiness. "I can't help if you don't-"

Ignoring him entirely, she ran over to the large tent that the voice emanated from.  Christine didn't have to read the sign on the side to know that she was walking into the freak show gallery.   She began to push her way through the onlookers that had gathered excitedly around the entry.

"HUMAN OR MONSTER? YOU BE THE JUDGE! ONLY-"

"Christine!" Raoul's cry succeeded in tearing Christine's attention away from the tent and bringing her back to her senses.   His gaze darkened as he identified the tent and worriedly led Christine away from the ever-increasing crowd. "Now will you tell me what has gotten you so upset?"

"Erik!" Christine gasped.

"What?" Raoul's voice was a tad shaky as he glanced at the melee of people around them. Christine noted the look on his face and it was obvious that memories of the Phantom's torture chamber were still fresh in his mind.  He pulled her close to him.

"Raoul, it's him… it has to be!" Christine cried, looking up into his blue eyes.

Raoul realized instantly what she meant. "No, Christine, it's impossible! It can't be him."

"Well then who, Raoul? There can't possibly be two of him!" she exclaimed, dashing back towards the tent.

Christine fought her way through the throng of people.  After trying to politely ask her way through, she resorted to both elbows and shoving, much to her chagrin.  So involved in her task, she didn't even remind herself that a comtess shouldn't be going into such a degrading place, let alone shoving her way through a line.

After a few moments of forcing her way through, she came to the entrance of the tent.  She reached into her handbag, handed the tent owner her charge of entry, and stepped inside.  She blinked several times to allow her eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness.

Christine darted around the tent, feverishly looking for the poor individual that brought her into this foul place to begin with.  After a moment or so, she spotted a dozen or so people clustered around a small cage sitting atop a large crate in a smaller, annexed room to the tent.  Common sense told her that this was the main attraction and what she was looking for.  She felt her pulse begin to race again as she took a few hesitating steps toward the crowd. Biting her lip, she drew close and closer.  When she could see better, she gasped in both horror and relief.  The thing in the cage was not Erik.

Crouched on the floor of the fetid wooden bottomed cage was a small boy.  He couldn't have been much older than 10 years old, but it wasn't his age that shocked Christine.  It was the boy's face!  It was nothing more than grayish skin stretched tightly over protruding bones.  His nose was nowhere to be seen, just a large, blackish hole. His eyes were sunken in and could not be seen at all; only a slight reflection of light in those empty sockets.

"Just like Erik…" something whispered in the back of her mind. "This child looks just like Erik…"

What brought tears to Christine de Chagny's eyes, however, were the bruises that covered his face and body.   She barely registered herself drifting closer, almost against her will, until only the bars separated them.

"You poor thing…" Christine whispered tearfully.

She saw now that the boy was painfully thin and his clothes could barely be recognized as clothes.  They were merely tattered rags.  He didn't look at her as Christine reached one hand between the metal bars and toward his face.  In fact, he looked as if he didn't even realize she was there; he just stared blankly ahead.  She reached closer and was nearly on the verge of touching the poor child when a man grabbed her roughly by the arm, pulling her away.  Her hand knocked against the bars and she winced briefly.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the man demanded in a thick, Italian accent that made him difficult to understand.  He gave her no chance to answer, but continued on. "Ladies should know better than to go around touching things that don't belong to them!"

"Who do you think you are?" Christine asked loudly, trying to free her delicate arm from the man's burly, calloused hand.

"The name is Aldo, Madame. I happen to own this fair," Aldo said, tightening his grasp.

"Well then, Monsieur Aldo!" she replied, succeeding in wrenching her arm away from him. "You should know that the way this boy is being treated is appalling!"

By this point, everyone in the dimly lit tent had taken their attention away from the attractions and focused on their quarrel. They were all deathly silent, listening to the woman defy the fair owner.

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Raoul de Chagny had snuck in unnoticed when he heard raised voices.  He had been temporarily stunned by the sight of the horrific looking thing in the cage, but was now fully recovered.  He made his way over to the front of the crowd in time to hear his wife demand the child's freedom.

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"Keeping him like this is positively inhuman!" Christine exclaimed, stomping a foot on the ground for emphasis.

"I don't know who you think you are, but this creature is my property, and I'll do whatever I damn well please with it!" His gaze fell on the said 'creature', who was watching them intently with a mix of fear, curiosity and amazement on his battered face.

"What are you looking at?" Aldo growled furiously.  As he raised a thick cane into view, the boy darted to the other side of the cage, as far out of reach as he could get.  Aldo nodded his head in satisfaction and lowered the stick.

Christine's mouth fell open in silent fury.

"You…beast!" she yelled, raising her hand as if to strike the man herself.

Raoul suddenly stepped between the two, startling both.  Neither Aldo nor Christine had noticed his presence.

"Please, monsieur…" he addressed the man. "I am sorry for any trouble my wife has caused…"

"Ah! She's your wife then," Aldo snorted. "Well, I think you ought to keep her on a tighter leash!"

"How dare you!" Christine cried in outrage, trying not to scream.

"Darling, please… This isn't going to solve anything," Raoul insisted gently. "Please listen to me."

No, she thought.  He's right.  Getting into a fight with this HORRIBLE man won't help the poor boy.  It might only make things worse.  But I must do something!  I can't just leave him like this… She looked at the hunched over figure in the cage and felt tears well up behind her eyes.  She fought them back, determined to not let Raoul or the fair owner see them.

She leaning down, she whispered to the child in the cage: "I'll get you help…"

Without another word to Aldo or Raoul, she turned and stormed out of the tent.

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A/N: Like it?  Hate it?  Leave a nice little review and tell us what you think…  We're just setting the stage: there will be Erik in later chapters…  Also, we don't know what strange mental images or notions are being conceived about this phic, so out of security and paranoia, we would like to mention that this story is most definitely not slash.