A/N: Bonjour, mes amis, and welcome to my third novel-length phanfic on this site, Second Chances. I intend for this one to be darker than my usual fare, definitely darker than Love the Stars... Gareth, I think you'll enjoy this one. Something tells me that there will be quite a lot of Kay influence this time round...
The Usual Disclaimer: I do not own Erik, Christine, The Paris Opera, the town of Perros-Guirec, any songs that may crop up, et al. Anything you recognize or I cite is the property of someone else, and anything you do not recognize is mine. End Disclaimer.
Chapter 1: The Last Straw
4th April 1878
The evening was warm and pleasant for the Parisians strolling along the streets of the City of Lights. Children played in the streets, taking advantage of the spring weather and the extra daylight, worrying the carriage horses. There were even many couples walking together, hand in hand, under the gradually darkening azure sky. After all, l'amour toujours…
One man, however, was not enjoying his walk at all. In fact, he was bemoaning the pleasant weather, as it drew so many more people out of their homes and onto the streets when usually the crowds were gone.
Erik just wanted night to fall. He was comfortable in darkness. Agitatedly, he jerked the brim of his fedora hat a little lower over his mask, wishing it wasn't so glaringly white. He walked briskly, unlike the rest of the people out that evening, all of whom strolled along at a leisurely pace. Everyone he passed turned to stare at him, disconcerted by the brusque manner of the austere gentleman whose black cloak billowed around his tall, broad-shouldered form and whose half-mask glinted very slightly in the waning sunlight.
Suddenly, Erik heard the conspirings of two young boys, felt them pointing at him and laughing in anticipation. He was determined to ignore them.
One of the boys made this nearly impossible, however, as he intentionally slammed right into Erik's side, catching him off-guard for once and nearly knocking him over.
"Sorry, monsieur!" the boy said cheekily, taking hold of Erik's arm as though pretending to steady him.
Erik shrugged the boy off gruffly and continued walking, but the boy followed doggedly.
"I said I was sorry, didn' I?" he continued, jogging to keep up with Erik's long strides.
Stiffly, Erik kept walking, ignoring the little imp as best he could, but the impudent lad's taunts were beginning to be noticed by other people on the street.
"Whatsa matter, mister, cat got your tongue? I said I was sorry, aren't'cha gonna say anything?"
Erik let out a barely audible snarl. This boy was beginning to try his patience severely…
"'S'at mask on too tight for you to talk or sumthin'? C'mon, I- yaaah!"
The boy screamed as Erik whirled to face him; his eyes widened with fear at the look on the face of the man he'd been tormenting. Erik was bent low to be at eye level with the little tramp, growling low in his throat, his long fingers curled into fists.
But what was truly frightening was the look of cold fury in his black eyes. In that instant, the boy knew three things – one, that he had touched a nerve when he'd brought up the mask; two, that this man had killed before; and three, he would not hesitate to do it again.
"Ames! Oi! That man's gonna kill my friend, and he didn't do anything!"
Damn. He'd forgotten the other boy… and now had quite a lot of unwanted attention focused on him.
"I didn' do anuthing, sir, I'm sorry! Please don't kill me!" the boy called Ames whimpered.
"What's going on?" someone nearby asked nervously.
The questions suddenly erupted from everywhere around him.
"Who is that man?"
"Why is he wearing a mask?"
"That poor boy, someone help him!"
Ames, always quick to act, began to cry, blubbering apologies and pleas at Erik as he scrambled backwards, away from the scary black-cloaked figure.
"A policeman! Someone find a policeman!"
Damn, damn, and damn, Erik thought. That wretched boy was still wailing about his innocence, and people were beginning to close in on him… time to make a quick exit.
He turned and began to briskly walk away, careful to keep his cloak furled around him and the brim of his hat low in case there was a chance that he could lose himself in the next crowd that had not seen anything…
"Hey! You there! You're not getting away with that so easily!" someone shouted, running up to catch him.
So they had notified a policeman. Brilliant. The man continued to yell after Erik even when he slowed almost to a crawl and the gendarme was still shoving his way forward.
"May I help you, monsieur?" Erik said icily as the policeman reached him, not turning around.
The gendarme was visibly startled by his quarry's calm, cold tone and the fact that he had stopped to allow him to reach him…
"I've had it from several eye witnesses that you assaulted a boy, just over there…"
"Ha. I would say it was really more the other way around. Now, if you'll excuse me…"
"Not so fast, you! Hey…!"
The policeman reached out to grab Erik by the arm, but he was too slow. Sharply, Erik swung around, his fist preceding the rest of his body, and he hit the gendarme squarely in the jaw. The other man toppled over, crashing into three other people walking by, and Erik turned and ran.
Other people had seen what had happened, though, and immediately he was accosted by four other men… he easily slipped through their grasps, trying to head in the general vicinity of the darkened alley one block over… when he reached that, he would be free of this insanity.
Suddenly, something small and hard rocketed into his stomach. Instinctively, he lashed out, connecting with something, presumably the person who had hit him. This was a determined attacker, however, for no sooner had Erik regained his balance and begun to look around, sure that he had sent whoever he'd struck sprawling, that he felt small, sweaty fingers scrape against his face and tear away his hat… and his mask.
It was Ames. He should have known…
The boy stood in shock, holding the mask in his hand, staring up at the grossly disfigured face of the man in front of him. Another second passed, and suddenly the small crowd around him erupted with gasps and screams…
With a roar, Erik grabbed his mask and pulled it back on, not withholding the blow that wretched boy fully deserved this time… and this time he was sent sprawling.
As everyone looked towards the boy, Erik was finally given the diversion he needed. Not caring who he shoved aside, he raced towards the alleyway, vanishing into the black shadows the moment he stepped into them. On any other occasion, he would have laughed to hear the crowd shouting after him, the policeman's promise to find him… damn that boy!
Furious, he stormed back to the Paris Opera, slipping through a secret side entrance and swooping up the grand staircase… he had thought it was late enough to do that without being seen, but apparently he was wrong… as he turned a corner, he nearly ran headlong into a gaggle of ballet girls.
He cursed violently as they all screamed and scattered, flapping about like demented pigeons in their need to flee the Phantom. Normally, their reaction would have amused him, but now it only heightened his black mood. Was there nowhere, no one, he could turn to for solace? Damn!
Why was he even asking? Why was he even wondering? He was a monster, a murderer, a demon, a devil… there was no compassion for him, there was no sympathy or understanding! No! No, he was a thing, a creature to be despised and beaten and tormented… and he always would be…
And all because of his excuse for a face!
He had finally reached his house on the lake, a place that no longer felt like home. Enough! He had had enough of the City of Lights, of the hundreds of eyes just waiting to stare at him, of everything! Enough, enough! He would leave this dark and dismal place, walk away and never look back, just as he had always done before…
He would have to wander to the ends of the earth to find what he sought… for no human could ever care for a heartless, soulless, monster with the face of a demon!
With a roar of fury, Erik slammed his fist into the sole mirror in his house, watching with a sort of detached pleasure as it shattered into a thousand glimmering pieces that exploded out and scattered across the floor…
A/N: This is a bit of a trial chapter to see how it's received... keep in mind that it has not gone through my betas yet, so apologies in advance for any mistakes you might find. Please point them out, and I will fix them as best I can. I plan on writing like a maniac over this four-day weekend to get this fic off the ground... and of course I haven't abandoned LtS! I'll be working on that one as well; this will probably be secondary until LtS is complete. I give you fair warning for sporadic updates, and again, apologies in advance.
Ahem. I think that's all I have to blither on about. Well, as always, please let me know what you think, and thanks for reading! --Kyrie