Title: Whose Lair Is It Anyway?
A/N: This was supposed to be a one-shot, but it got too long, so I halved it. I'll post the second part in a few days— or when I write it, whichever comes first. I have to say, this whole thing reminds me of the auditioning scene from "The Producers." "Will the dancing Hitlers please wait over there? We are only seeing singing Hitlers!" Also I must say that Leroux Erik is my favourite... and Gerry Phantom is the one that gets stuck in my head... :)
This is how it happened.
Erik— the original Erik, that is, the Phantom of the Opera, the Opera Ghost, the Angel of Music, the Angel of Death, Red Death, Just Plain Angel, Monsieur le Fantome, or the Phantom Fop Killer, for it has been mentioned elsewhere that he is a lover of pseudonyms as well as trap-doors, and, well, people named Christine— Erik sat at home one evening, as he usually did, brooding on the general ickiness of life.
Life, the thought, was, generally, very icky.
He could be forgiven for holding this rather pessimistic view, considering who he was and what history lay foremost in his mind. His deep love for the young ingenue Christine Daae, her subsequent rejection of him in favor of the— well— more conventionally-handsome young Viscomte de Chagny, was all well-known. Erik thought, bitterly, that life had not only failed to get betters ince that fool Leroux had written his story, it had gotten considerably worse. And more icky.
He cast a dark and brooding glance at the pile of punjabbed phangirls in the corner. The latest one had come only that morning, fighting her way through the various obstacles. She'd had bright hazel eyes, long messy hair, and a notebook, with a pen clutched tightly in her left hand. On talking to her for a few minutes, he had discovered that she was a writer of phan-fiction. Whereupon he had killed her instantly.
Erik left off brooding about the murdered phangirls and returned to brooding about life.
Suddenly a sound hit his alert ears and his head snapped up. Someone was coming, swimming the lake He was quite used to phans attempting to reach his lair, but two in one day was almost unheard of. it was too much. With a feral growl, Erik stood and moved to one side of the entrance, the Punjab held ready. No talking this time, just sweet violence and another body slumping to the floor.
His plan was spoiled somewhat by the fact that, for the first time ever, someone had heeded the advice given and was holding their hand at the level of their eyes.
Erik fought— Erik struggled— then he got a good look at the man he was trying to kill and stopped dead.
It was him.
It was Erik.
Erik was trying to kill Erik.
Even I his madman's mind, he briefly acknowledged that this might indicate he had finally gone off the deep end, and he began slowly to back away in horror. It took him several minutes to realize that the other Erik was doing the same thing.
"Who are you!" they both shouted at the same time. "What are you doing here?"
In the depths of his distraction, Erik noted that this new Erik had a more refined and lovely speaking voice than Erik himself. He was also slightly taller, and his suit was of a different cut. The mask was the same, however, and the wild eyes staring out from behind it—
No, these eyes were different. Only slightly, but still, the difference was there.
"What are you doing in my home?" rasped Erik, the Punjab once more held at the ready.
"Your home?" said the other Erik. "It isn't your home! It is mine!" Definitely a British accent, though the newcomer spoke fluent French. Momentarily perplexed by this, Erik tensed himself.
"It is not your home— it is mine! How dare you have the audacity to attempt to claim it!" He frowned mightily, his eyes glittering. "By what right are you here? Who are you?"
The other man stood up straight and bowed deeply. "I am Erik."
"Nonsense. I am Erik!"
"Monsieur, that cannot be, for I am Erik."
"You are mad!"
The new-Erik bowed again. "And have been these many years. Tell me, does a sane person live beneath the Opera House, all alone in the darkness?"
"I am not insane!" Erik bellowed.
"Then you cannot be Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. Everyone knows he— I, that is— is quite mad."
"I am not mad!"
The other Erik stiffened and looked behind the original Erik's shoulder. "Have you invited guests?"
Erik clutched at his hair. The other one did the same, making a low moaning noise that sounded more animalistic than human.
Another Erik, coming through the door, tilted his head to one side in shock at the tableau that met his eyes. After a moment, he recovered and roared, in a deep voice, "What are you doing in my home?"
For a few moments, all was pandemonium. The original Erik— at least, he thought he was the original Erik— he was not mad! He was not mad! He was quite sane and soon he would deal with these usurpers—
Briefly, he wondered what kind of man it would take to attempt to usurp the position of Opera Ghost—
The ordeal was by no means over. There now trickled through the entrance a steady stream of Eriks— most wearing a strange version of the mask that covered only the right half of the face. Erik stared at these newcomers. It was a travesty— only half a mask! Surely they would not claim to be the fabled Phantom of the Opera—
One of the figures found Erik's cane and rapped it on the wall, clearing his throat and waiting till he had people's attention.
"Greetings," he said in a slightly nasal but very attractive British accent. His voice was light and though the mask hid only half his face, his lips were clearly twisted by his deformity. Erik began to warm to him. "Hello. Um, allow me to say, briefly, that I realize many of you are perplexed by all this, and I must own to being a bit confused by it myself. I do not know how this has happened, but I do know how to explain the fact that there are so many of us here, all seeking the same position, all claiming to reside here in this—" He looked about him. "Rather damp, if I may say, lair." He paused, and cleared his throat again. "Gentlemen, we all claim to be the Phantom of the Opera— and rightly so. For we all are."
There were various mutterings of "What?" and "Ridiculous!" and a dying maniacal cackle from the man who kept speaking in italics. The Erik who had been holding forth cleared his throat again.
"When I say we are all the Phantom, I mean we are all different versions of the same man. I myself am the version from the musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, specifically the originator of the character in the play, Michael Crawford." He broke off and gestured uselessly towards his face. "And I do not go by the name Erik, as many of you seem to do. I am only 'The Phantom.'"
A small silence greeted this statement, as many of the Eriks tried to take it in. Finally the second Erik, who proved on later acquaintance to be the Kay Erik, spoke—
"What, do you mean to say you are only called 'The Phantom?'"
"That is what I mean to say, yes. Indeed."
"The Phantom," murmured Kay Erik to himself, a small smile on his lips. "What did Christine call you, then, when she found out you were not an angel? 'The?'"
There was a small wave of laughter from various Eriks.
"That is assuming you have a Christine, and do not call her 'The Ingenue,'" Kay Erik added.
Crawford Phantom flushed. "Of course I have a Christine," he said. "And what is more, she only left with that despicable Raoul de Chagny because—" Here he was forced to pause, as he hadn't thought that far ahead. "Well, she didn't want to, believe you me."
There were more Phantoms and Eriks pouring in by the minute, and Crawford Phantom looked about him desperately. Finally he spied Leroux, or Original, Erik over in the corner and took him by the arm. Leroux Erik shook him off and stared at him with wild eyes.
"Do not touch me!"
"Phaw," said Crawford Phantom, wrinkling his nose, "What is that smell?" He looked about him for a moment, then focused on Leroux Erik once again. "Oh, its you. Beg pardon, I'm sure."
"It's the smell of death," said Kay Erik from behind him. "Is it not on you?"
Crawford Phantom sniffed his own hands experimentally, then said, "No, thank God, it is not. I appear to have missed that part of the characterization."
Kay Erik snorted.
"Can we not go somewhere quieter and sort this out?" asked Crawford Phantom of Leroux Erik. "I am getting quite a headache from the senseless babbling of this lot, brothers though we may be."
Leroux Erik's head was pounding as well— he clutched his spidery fingers about his head and nodded wordlessly. Crawford Phantom took him by the arm and led him to another room, Kay Erik following along, closing the door behind them. It turned out to be Christine's room, the bed neat and plain, the furnishings dusty and neglected.
Crawford Phantom looked about.
"What happened here?"
"What do you mean?" asked Kay Erik sharply.
"I mean it is quite different. Where is the special bed? Where did all this furniture come from?"
"It was my mother's," said Kay Erik, at the same time as Leroux Erik groaned, "It is a secret!" They looked at each other in surprise, Leroux Erik still clutching at his head.
Slowly his arms came down. "You knew your mother?"
"Did you not know yours?" Kay Erik said softly, his eyes filling with a deep sorrow.
Crawford Phantom sighed sharply and said, "Since when do mothers enter into the story? We cannot have mothers cluttering up the scenery— there's far too much plot as it is."
The two Eriks looked at him as though he was mad, which was quite appropriate.
"Come, we must figure out why we have all been forcefully congregated," said Crawford Phantom, ignoring the look.
"Who," said Kay Erik testily, "died and made you God?"
Crawford Phantom looked down his nose at him.
Kay Erik made it painfully clear that he did not possess a nose to look down at anyone.
Crawford Phantom conceded the point wordlessly.
Kay Erik made an elaborate and mocking bow.
This silent dance of insults completed, they returned to the task at hand, only to find that Leroux Erik, while still protesting his sanity, was looking even wilder than he had at the start. To make matters worse, at that moment, the door banged open and a tall, well-shaped, and extremely handsome man stood there, mouth open, breathing rapidly. He wore a very tiny mask, more as an afterthought than anything.
"What did I miss?" he said. They noted his Scottish accent at once. All three looked at him with distaste.
"Who are you?" asked Crawford Phantom.
"I'm the Phantom," said the newcomer.
"You are not," said Crawford Phantom. "I am."
"Ah, but according to your little speech, which I was fortunate as to overhear on my way down to this place, there are apparently as many different versions of the Phantom as there are ways to kill a man."
The three erstwhile Opera Ghosts looked at each other.
"Punjab—" said Crawford Phantom, counting on his fingers.
"Torture room," whispered Leroux Erik.
"Poison," supplied Kay Erik, "and of course if we were to go into the different sorts of poison, and count each for itself, there would be thousands— millions—"
"Rapier," whispered Leroux Erik, falling to the bed and twisting the covers in his hands.
"Rapier, yes, and—" said Crawford Phantom, still counting.
"Er, pistol?" said Kay Erik.
The new Phantom stared at them with undisguised amusement plain in his piercing blue eyes.
"Yes, pistol, what else?"
"I said that already."
"What," said the new Phantom, "is a Punjab?"
Slowly the two of them looked at him.
"Who are you, anyway?" inquired Crawford Phantom.
"Gerry Phantom," said the handsome man, making a slight bow. "Or Movie Phantom. Or Butler Phantom. Or Handsome Phantom. Or Gerik, not to put too fine a point on it. I am a lover of pseudonyms, it seems, as well as trap-doors—"
"Yes, thank you," said Kay Erik, rolling his eyes. "That point has been made. Shall we move on?"
"Stab! Stab!" shouted Leroux Erik, pounding his fist onto the bed. "Stab stab stab slash stab!"
"What," inquired Gerry Phantom, pointing at Leroux Erik, "is wrong with him?"
"He's not insane," said Crawford Phantom. "I'm sure he would want you to know that."
"I believe," said Kay Erik, watching Leroux Erik closely, "he is reliving the fight with the Fop."
"Ah!" cried Crawford Phantom, "you call him the Fop as well, do you?"
"Of course, dear sir. That is what he is."
"Couldn't agree more," said Crawford Phantom with evident pleasure, clapping Kay Erik on the back. Kay Erik went stone-still and made it evident that such physical contact was not in the least welcome.
"I call him the Fop also," Gerry Phantom put in, and was ignored.
"I thought Leroux Erik did not have a fight with the Fop," said Crawford Phantom, frowning slightly.
Kay Erik thought about this. "You're right, I do not recall one— admittedly my version is still rather different from his— what is it you suppose he is doing then?"
They stared at him.
"Slash! Slash! Stabbity!" Leroux Erik cried. "I KEEL YOU, FABIO!"
"Aha," said Gerry Phantom, clearing his throat importantly, "I can help there. He is having overtones of phan-fiction brought into his character— POTO in 15 minutes, at the moment."
The other two stared in horrified amazement at Leroux Erik.
"He's being phictionized? That's awful!"
"I agree," said Kay Erik, agreeing, "we must do something about it."
"Yes, we must."
Nevertheless, they stood for a few more moments, watching Leroux Erik make deadly assaults on a defenseless pillow.
"It is quite entertaining," spoke up Crawford Phantom.
"It is," said Kay Erik, agreeing for the second time.
"Just wait till he starts going into 'True Saga of Weak-Willed Christine,' and drinking everything he can get his hands on," said Gerry Phantom, rolling his eyes. The attentions of the two cognizant Eriks returned to him.
"What are you doing here, anyway?"
"I am one of the most easily-recognized versions of the Phantom, these days," said Gerry Phantom easily, "and as such I thought I had a part in this discussion."
The older Eriks glared at him, and were about to say something quite scathing, when Leroux Erik howled "Mop the Fop!" at the top of his voice, and fell back on the bed, exhausted.
"Poor thing," said Kay Erik, with another sudden surge of pity.
"Should we, perhaps get him something to drink?" suggested Crawford Phantom.
Gerry Phantom had been humming aimlessly for a bit and he chose this moment to start singing.
"Flooooating— faaaalling— sweet intoxi—ca—shun—"
"I say!" shouted Crawford Phantom, standing up straight and wheeling on him. "That's my song!"
"It's not just your song," said Gerry Phantom mildly. "It belongs to the character. Come to that, it belongs to Andrew Lloyd Webber."
"Bugger Andrew Lloyd Webber—"
" It's my song! You can't even sing it correctly, you're not supposed to sing that song if you're a baritone! You have to be a tenor!"
"Some people call me the Scottish Soprano," interjected Gerry Phantom modestly.
"Well, they're stupid!"
"Brava, monsieur, on your mature response to things," said Gerry Phantom, clapping his hands.
Crawford Phantom cursed quietly to himself for a few moments while Kay Erik put in, "You really are about as far from a soprano as is possible to get, you know."
"I know, but I quite like it when people call me that. It reinforces the fact that I really didn't totally screw up on 'Music Of The Night.'"
"Totally screw up?" Kay Erik repeated, staring with baleful eyes. "What kind of monster are you?"
"Well, I didn't do it wrong," said Gerry Phantom defensively. "I did quite a good job for an amateur—"
"I probably shouldn't have mentioned that."
"They cast an amateur as the Phantom? They cast an amateur as— as— me?"
"Yes, look, about that— they needed someone younger, who could keep the attention of all the young girls in the audience—"
"I could have kept the attention of the young girls in the audience," hissed Kay Erik, advancing on Gerry Phantom with a Punjab appearing as if by magic in his hand. "I have legions of phangirls, did you not know that? more than you will ever have! More than you will ever dream of!"
"I resent that," said Gerry Phantom coldly.
"Do you?" said Kay Erik, spitting venom.
"And its not brava, its bravo!" said Crawford Phantom, re-entering the conversation from the wrong side. "Or bravi! Learn your suffixes!"
"I was just going by the script!" Gerry Phantom snarled. "You cannot blame me for that!"
"And what is with that tiny mask of yours anyway?" asked Kay Erik, now looking for any excuse to get rid of Gerry Phantom. "Oh dear— let me guess. You cut yourself shaving and were out of toilet paper."
Gerry Phantom pressed a hand to his mask. "This covers a deformity so frightening it would kill you to look on it!" he said. The earnestness in his beautiful deep voice was impressive but the moment he took his hand off the mask, Kay Erik took the mask off his face, and the moment was somewhat ruined as the three other Eriks stood and stared at Gerry Phantom impassively.
Kay Erik began to laugh first.
He laughed so hard he was unable to say anything.
Crawford Phantom stared balefully at Gerry Phantom's "deformity." "This is the face that is so frightening it will kill whoever looks at it?"
"Well, actually," said Gerry Phantom, shifting uncomfortably, "I kill whoever looks at it, so, in a way— yes."
Crawford Phantom made a sound of deep disgust.
"Hey, this took nine hours to create!" said Gerry Phantom, pointing at his eye. "The first time, anyway! And then, you know, we got it down a bit—"
Crawford Phantom ripped off his mask and wig and came close to Gerry Phantom. "This only took a few hours," he rasped. "A few hours— every day— for the entire run— sometimes twice on Sundays—"
Gerry Phantom, now receiving an extremely unwelcome close-up of the mass of twisted flesh and makeup that was Crawford Phantom's right side of his face and head, gulped in a deep breath and swayed. Kay Erik perked up immediately.
"Is he going to faint?"
"Perhaps he's going to die," said Crawford Phantom impassively. "They say that happens every once in a while."
Gerry Phantom's beautiful blue eyes rolled up into his head and with a faint sigh he collapsed onto the carpet.
The other two stared down at him.
"They really shouldn't let amateurs into this kind of situation," observed Crawford Phantom.
"Once again, I agree with you," said Kay Erik, agreeing, then did a slight double-take. "Hey, he has carpet!"
"Oh, Christine, Christine, Christine," moaned Leroux Erik, coming back to himself slightly. "Christine, Christine, Christine, Christine, Christine, Christine—"
"Make him stop that, please."
"How?" asked Crawford Phantom, throwing his arms wide.
"Put your hand over his mouth."
"He's wearing a mask!"
"Well, take it off."
Crawford Phantom said, thoughtfully, "You know, I'm not really him, but I have a feeling he wouldn't appreciate that."
Kay Erik sighed harshly and whipped Leroux Erik's mask off. There was a brief moment of silence, then Kay Erik whimpered and Crawford Phantom fainted alongside Gerry Phantom.
"And I thought I had it bad," Kay Erik whispered. Leroux Erik, eyes glaring daggers into him, ripped the mask out of Kay Erik's hand and tied it back on. Kay Erik shakily turned away and bent over the fainted Phantoms to try and revive them— he was nearly succeeding when he felt the Punjab tighten around his neck.
"What's going on?" slurred Gerry Phantom.
"Hekze strrnglin merr!"
"Oh." Gerry Phantom nudged at Crawford Phantom. "Wake up, I think you're needed."
Gerry Phantom waved a hand at Kay Erik. "Just a moment." He leaned over Crawford Phantom's ear and sang into it in the deepest voice he could manage, "You have come here, in pursuit of your deepest urge—"
"Good God!" bellowed Crawford Phantom, coming awake immediately. He took in the situation and leapt to his feet, detaching Leroux Erik and unwrapping the Punjab from around Kay Erik's throat. "What did you do?"
"I took off his mask," wheezed Kay Erik, "remember?"
"You took off his mask?" repeated Gerry Phantom disbelievingly. "Even I could have figured out that wouldn't make him very happy."
"You shut up," said Kay Erik furiously. He turned towards Leroux Erik, who lay wheezing on the bed, a spent old man. "If he wasn't me, I'd kill him, I swear—" He quieted his breathing. "But I won't. I— I know how he feels— I shouldn't have taken off the mask— it was a mistake, a stupid mistake!"
"You have just gone," said Gerry Phantom, pointing a finger at him, "from raging lunatic madman to compassionate, sympathetic human being in the space of five seconds."
"Yes, I have. What of it?"
"Would you stop?"
"I'm being a four-dimensional character," snapped Kay Erik testily. "That's what I do, alright?"
Gerry Phantom shook his head and got off the floor. "Well, its annoying."
"I don't bloody care if it annoys you! Its who I am, I cannot just change it!"
"No, I suppose you can't— it takes someone like Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to do that—"
"Speaking of which," said Crawford Phantom, rounding on him furiously, "will you kindly stop stealing my lines and my songs? How dare you sing 'Music Of The Night?' Not to mention 'Past the Point of No Return!'"
"What are those?" enquired Kay Erik.
"Songs from 'Don Juan Triumphant,'" snapped Crawford Phantom.
"Don Juan Triumphant? MY Don Juan Triumphant? My masterpiece? Those aren't the song titles!"
"No, no, from the Don Juan Triumphant that Lloyd Webber wrote for you," said Crawford Phantom, feeling the inexplicable need to explain in the hopes that this would help. It didn't. It just made Kay Erik more irritated.
"This Webber person dared to try and write my opera? My opera? Mine?"
"Look at all the extra punctuation," observed Gerry Phantom. "Now he's really getting mad."
"M I N E !"
"And for your information, I actually did a great job with 'Past the Point of No Return,'" Gerry Phantom informed Crawford Phantom. Crawford Phantom gave an elegant snort. "No, I mean it! My deeper voice quite lent itself to lines like 'what raging fire shall flood the soul?' It was quite a success. That is, until she ripped my mask off at the end— but that was in the script, so it wasn't like she had a choice."
"What raging fire shall flood the soul?" snarled Kay Erik.
"Yes, like that, only with more melody," said Gerry Phantom pleasedly.
"What kind of line is that? I would be ashamed to have written it! I demand that this Webber person be brought before me immediately and be made to apologize! In writing! And then I shall Punjab him!"
"You can't Punjab Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber," said Crawford Phantom, aghast.
"Why not? He's got a neck, same as anyone else, hasn't he?"
"Well— that's debatable, but—"
Gerry Phantom found this funny, and snickered. The other phantoms turned and glared at him.
"Did you just— snicker?"
"You're a Phantom, you're not allowed to laugh!"
"Unless it is an evil demoniacal laugh! Only then is it acceptable!"
"Yes, like this!" Crawford Phantom gave a demonstration. "Mwahaa-ha-ha-haaa-ha-ha! Give it a go."
"Mwa-her-hic," said Gerry Phantom, developing a bad case of the hiccups.
Crawford Phantom groaned and Kay Erik clapped a hand to his forehead.
"You can't do anything right, can you?"
Gerry Phantom hiccuped again and offered, "The phan-girls like me."
"So bloody what?"
"Well— they just do, that's all."
"Who bloody cares?"
Gerry Phantom nodded slowly, looking at Kay Erik. "You like to curse, don't you."
"So what if I bloody do?"
At that moment, there was a horrific noise from the other room. It sounded as if five hundred Christines had all descended to the lair beyond the lake and were trying to work out which Erik was which. Gerry Phantom rather bravely opened the door and found that this was, in fact, exactly what was happening.
The four Phantoms stared at the scene.
"Oh no—" they groaned.