PLEASE READ! Okay, so I'm finally reposting the story! I've basically finished with all the editing; there's still a few more chapters to do. Most the chapters were altered almost completely (this one not QUITE as much as the others; and towards the end of the previously posted chapters, there's less editing). Please be sure to read it all, because A LOT has really changed. Thanks! And I'm so sorry for the delay.
And I need a new beta; if anyone is interested, let me know, thanks!
Disclaimer: I don't own any aspect of The Phantom of the Opera, be it by Leroux, Kay, or Webber (though all three aspects are found in this story). Sadly enough, I don't even own my main character, Ria, who is the slave girl from Kay's book (though I completely invented the type of character she is thank you very much).
A/N: This story is based a great deal off of Susan Kay's Phantom, but of course, there's much Leroux and ALW fun involved. Yes, it's an E/OW. My take on what would have happened if, when the Shah gave Erik the slave girl in Persia, she said yes instead of no.
Something you guys should know, so you don't wonder where my head is at, Erik is younger in this story. Even though he's still in his early 20's during the Persia bit (as it was in Kay), the amount of time that passes between Persia and a year after the Opera Garnier events is only six years. I desperately wanted to keep a certain other character very, VERY young (you'll see who and why).
Now, without further ado, I give you…
A Match Made in Persia
Chapter One: The First Night
Please don't let it hurt…
It was the only thing I could think…a mantra that echoed in my mind with such childish continuity, growing and grasping more desperately towards those shreds of sanity that slipped further and further from my mind with each step we took towards that door…the door that was sure to lead me straight to hell.
What more could I expect but hell and pain when I was being given to a murder? A monster. He was sure to take my innocence without so much as a shred of guilt, and he was sure to make my ordeal a painful one.
The very thought sent bouts of fearful shivers down my spine.
This shivering, this traitorous testament to the fear and degradation that I felt, continued as we neared the door, and for a moment I failed to decide if this walk to monstrosity was taking centuries too long, or taking but mere seconds of what little time I so bitterly had left to myself. But then, time wasn't truly my concern right then. Time was only a bystander to my plight; simply there to tick past the moments of raging emotions, the anger and fright that filled my mind with each second that trickled by. These emotions consumed me so utterly; left me bitter and unable to think of anything else but the injustice of it all.
Until the door opened.
I wanted very much to close my eyes and just look away, imagine that I was somewhere else, anywhere else, besides this room. But my eyes refused to move away from the man I saw. The monster that was now my master.
I had seen him once before at the harem; he'd been leaving the khanum's private chambers with a frown upon his lips and his black robes snapping with each crisp stride he took. His eyes had passed over me with distracted indifference as he brushed by my rather short figure, throwing not so much as a glance in my direction. After he'd left I had lingered behind, staring after his rapidly retreating figure, and I remember thinking to myself that I would be fortunate indeed if I never came across him again.
The only thing I'd really been able to see of him at the time was his half-mask; a black one that stretched across his forehead and covered his right cheek, extending down to his chin as it slimed into a dull point, and covering his entire nose. The left side of his face was bare.
Now that I stood so near him I could see the uncovered side more clearly, and despite myself, my breath caught. His visible brow was dark and arched gracefully in a permanent expression of mockery, and the rest of his face was defined with high cheekbones and a slightly pointed jaw. Next to the black mask his skin looked starkly pale, making his thin lips appear darker than I knew they really were. And on the side of that uncovered face, a small, oddly shaped scar stretched across his temple, hardly even an inch long.
After all the tales I'd heard of his deformity, I'd expected him to be rather…well, ugly. And while he wasn't handsome, not exactly, in truth he had a certain attractiveness to him; a striking uniqueness; a dark, elegant beauty. If not for the gauntness of his cheeks and that ever-forbidding expression, if not for the abruptness of his mask, he might have been called a decent looking man.
The man I was studying so shamelessly was at the moment sitting at a desk, hand leaping across a page as he wrote with quick dexterity, wearing thick black robes that enshrouded his entire frame; and a very thin frame it was at that. His hair, as raven dark as my own, looked mussed and fell over his brow, charming despite its disarray. His face lifted only slightly to glare upon the intruders that had disrupted his private time with an expression that looked grim and lips that frowned their displeasure, the quill in his hand never pausing; but at the sight of our entourage he froze. The quill fell from his suddenly limp fingers, clanking quietly against his desk.
I glimpsed from beneath my lashes his gaze on the daroga who stood next to me, just before his eyes landed on my trembling figure, burning with such incessant fire into my form as his narrow shoulders hunched over. But I quickly averted my gaze from his face, not daring to look into my master's eyes.
Instead my eyes dropped to his hands beneath the desk, and I watched transfixed as his long fingers clawed into his knees. Allah, they were so pale! I could see each delicate vein in his hands, see the long strength of his fingers as they started to twist into his robes; they churned the silken material with such desperation, dragging the fabric along his skin and clenching it tight into his stomach, as if to just contain himself; And I could feel the burn of his eyes as they glared upon my figure, as if devouring me from sight alone.
For a moment, just one brief, unafraid moment, I could imagine what it would feel like to have those pale hands upon my skin, with fingers so long they could stretch across the extent of my neck. But at the thought of those hands set upon such a vulnerable place, the moment died, and all of my inhibitions came crashing back down upon myself. This man was a murderer! He could quite easily stretch those hands across my neck…right before he choked the life from my body once he finished with me.
With that thought preying on my mind I stared down at my toes, clenching and unclenching my hands. As the seconds dragged by I vaguely heard the daroga stuttering over his speech, and I burned with shame as he told the man in front of me, Erik, what he was to do with me. Tears filled my eyes as the word slave fell upon my ears, reminding me of my inability to protect myself…my inability to be free. I was spoken of as if I was not there…as if I was not even a person!
I tried to remember the courage I promised myself I would always keep, I really tried, and with painstaking effort I blinked back the tears burning on the brims of my eyelids. I would not cry. I wouldn't!
My attention was drawn back up to my masked master as he rose from his seat, his stature tall and imposing as he inadvertently stepped around his desk and in front of the lamp that sat upon it, causing the room to dim and an ethereal glow to surrounded his frame. His robes fluttered momentarily as he stood, and then stilled as they settled back over his booted feet.
And then quite unwittingly, in a brainless moment of uncertainty, my eyes traveled to his; and everything seemed to stop as I stared into those unfathomable depths; I hardly even dared to breathe! A gaze of pure gold stared back at me; like hopeless little pools of shimmering, most brightest amber, glowing through the darkness that so clouded him, a gaze more intense then the sun itself, turning the force of it's power and passion upon myself. Not even the most beautiful thing in the world could compare to that look of gold, for those eyes were pure beauty themselves. And oh, how full of anguish and sadness they were.
But they too were filled with incomparable desire.
And how I loathed the thought of lust.
Involuntarily I shrank against the eunuch, trying to hold back the whimper that pushed past my tightly clamped lips. My master flinched at the sound; his hand rose to touch his mask in an agonized gesture, but only for a brief moment before the hand slipped back down, and those indescribably long fingers slid themselves up into the cover of his sleeves. His eyes glowered at the daroga.
"Bring her forward."
I trembled at the sound of his voice. It sounded raw from the desire he fought so hard to suppress. Dissonant and cruel. He nodded brusquely to the eunuch and I was forced across the room; shoved to my knees before him. I stared at his feet determinedly, refusing to look up. Allah save me, I could not look into those eyes again.
Thin fingers curled around my veiled chin, and as much as I tried to resist he forced my gaze up. I bit my lip nervously as he bent forward towards me, his other hand rising to strip away my veil. When I tried to pull away from him, wishing desperately to keep my face hidden, his grip tightened. And so I could only watch his narrowed eyes as he pulled the veil away.
His hand fisted the material tightly as he stared at me, and his amber eyes roved over every feature of my face so intensely it was as if he was committing each detail to memory. The veil fluttered lightly to the ground as he brought his hand up again.
Instead of touching me however, he traced the air over my cheek with one finger, his hand so close I could almost feel its movement. My breath caught, my eyes I followed the movement of his hand closely, mesmerized by its grace and yet terrified that it would breach the gap and touch my face.
And then, even through all my fear and disgust, my eyes slid shut and my lips parted in shameful submission at the release of a trembling little sigh. One of his shaking fingers lay upon my bottom lip, and with the softest glide they trailed across the pouting flesh, like a stroke of the purest silk across my lip, sending a spark straight down my spine and to my toes. It felt cold…and so-
"What age are you?" he asked severely as his hand fell from my face. My eyes snapped open and I dropped my gaze back down to his feet, ashamed of myself for reacting to his touch in such a manner.
"Fifteen, master," I whispered with a voice gone so quiet that I doubted he heard me. But as I peered up at him from beneath my lashes, I saw him nod curtly.
"And you know what you are here for?"
The images his question conjured in my mind set a nauseated churn to flip through my stomach. My fingers clenched tightly as I muttered my assent.
"Very well. I have seen your face, my dear," the corners of my lips turned down at the endearment. "You may remove my mask." His words sounded brisk and cold as he watched my reaction intently, but I could not have forced my hands to move even if I wanted them to. I shook my head forcefully, remaining silent.
"To refuse me is to refuse the Shah himself. You will be killed," He said simply, and his words were met with a shudder that ran through me.
Allah, I do not want to die. But…I do not want to do this either.
Confusion and uncertainty was spreading like wildfire through my mind. What he said was true; I would be killed if I did not acquiesce. But the thought of giving myself to him sickened me so greatly that I was starting to feel vaguely faint.
"Come to me willingly for this one night and I swear to you that you shall go free at dawn. You have my word," chills spread over my body as his voice turned to a low whisper, soft and alluring, like the delicate hint of a purr. I hadn't realized, until then, what a beautiful voice he had; a voice that could have charmed the angels themselves. "And perhaps, after all, the night will not be so terrible as you fear…"
As his words trailed away he bent forward, extending his hand in an eloquent gesture of acquiescence. I stared at the outstretched fingers hesitantly, even as my own shaking hand rose to meet his. I paused for a moment, my eyes unwittingly rising to his. The imploring look I saw in those amber depths made the last vestiges of my resolve crumble, and I finally placed my hand in his. My eyelids lowered as his fingers curled around my hand, and my legs obeyed, albeit shakily, as he gently pulled me to my feet.
A rapid pounding took place in my heart as he only continued to stare at me, his eyes focused on my eyes, his hand still wrapped around my hand. Without looking away, he told the daroga to leave us, and my legs quaked when I heard the door click shut, sealing my fate to this man…but still I could not force my eyes away from his.
His hand released mine and hovered above my neck, still not touching me, keeping just the barest distance that he could not seem to surpass despite how badly he might want to. And suddenly his eyes were no longer on mine, but watching his hand intently, as if willing it to lower itself.
It was disturbing that I suddenly did not know whether I wanted him to or not.
"What is your name," he said softly, his eyes flicking up to mine before lowering back to his hand. I swallowed thickly and stared down at my toes again, curling them into the soft Persian carpet beneath my feet.
"It…ahh…It i-is Ria. Ria Jahanpur," the whisper came out more quietly then I intended, and even I could hear the nervousness in it as I choked on the words. My cheeks reddened at how silly I sounded, and I shyly raised my gaze to his. When I saw that he was staring closely at my face, I quickly dropped my gaze and cleared my throat.
It was odd…I hadn't expected him to ask for my name. I'd just assumed he'd take what he wanted and kill me.
Perhaps I had judged him too quickly…perhaps everyone had judged him too quickly.
"Not many women of your circumstance have a last name."
My flush deepened and my breath caught. Had he really just called me a woman? I was only a girl, only fifteen! I peered up at him through my lashes as a surge of confidence and pride overcame me at his flattery.
"I wasn't born into the harem," I brought my eyes back to his hand as I spoke, confused at the burning feeling in my stomach that urged me to press his hand to my skin. My fingers twitched, but I did not move otherwise. "I was left at the harem doors when I was but seven years old," I shrugged lightly. "Left by my father."
He didn't seem concerned at my feigned indifference over the matter. His eyes had moved back to my neck.
"I do not have a last name," He said lightly as his hand lowered just barely, his skin almost skimming mine. I bit my lip until it stung. "Mother's are rather forgetful with such things, I suppose." He shrugged carelessly, repeating my gesture with a gracefulness I could never have managed, despite how trained I was to always keep my grace and confidence.
And suddenly I did not want to believe all the countless tales I had heard of him; all those horrible words my fellow slaves had called him, all those ghastly things he had been said to do… I could not bring myself to believe that of the man that stood before me, a man whose mother had not even cared enough to tell him his last name. I desperately wanted to think that we had all thought wrong of him, had never really understood him; and never before had I ever felt such compassion for a man…and I had not the slightest understanding as to why. My eyes lifted from his hand and stared at the unmasked side of his face, and without a moments hesitation my hand lifted too. Lifted until it touched his uncovered cheek.
And when he raised his face to glance at me, the look in his eyes stole my breath. He looked so…sohopeful. Like a little lost boy staring at the thing he wanted most in this entire world. Such an adoring look those eyes gave me…
I knew then, as I stared into his eyes, that I could not refuse him. He needed…me.
My lips tipped up tremulously, and slowly I moved my hand along his chin…down his neck…across his shoulder and along his trembling arm, until my hand reached his. With the sound of his shaking breath echoing in my ears, I lowered his hand until he touched my skin.
And then a whisper of a sigh sung past both our lips at that so simple contact; trembled in the air around us. My legs quaked until I was sure I was going to fall; I felt as if an electric current had shot all through my body, making everything in me alive, as if I was waking for the first time, feeling for the first time; I felt as if irrationally but finally I was exactly where I wanted, where I needed, to be. And as abrupt and insane as this new feeling might be, I somehow felt, deep down inside myself, that there was no one better to be with than him at that moment. And suddenly I had never felt so brave as now. I watched him from lowered lashes as I brought his hand across my skin, to the sleeve of my chemisette.
I could feel his entire body tensing as I guided his hand to lower the sleeve, and unbelievable though it was, an adorable blush spread across the one cheek that I could see. He stammered awkwardly as I lifted my hand to that heated cheek, bringing my face close to his in a leap of such courage I would have never thought capable of myself.
He was hardly making sense with his words, but no matter. My lips silenced his easily enough.
I snapped awake, my breathing loud, my heartbeat rapid. Sweat beaded across my forehead, dripping into my brows when they furrowed in confusion as I took in the surroundings of my darkened room.
Bit by bit, my senses slowly came back to me and my heart eased its pace. I sucked in a deep breath, filling my constricted lungs as I turned over onto my side, my eyes following the subtle motion of my hand as it stroked along the edge of the pillow I lay on.
For a moment I had thought I had been back there, in that dimly lit apartment. Thought all these years hadn't happened and I would turn over to see my old master, my first master, lying next to me.
But he was not. It was only another dream.
I settled back against my pillow, and as my mixed emotions rolled over me, it was disconcerting to realize that disappointment was the most evident of them all.