Disclaimer: I do not own any Phantom of the Opera Characters.
Somebody Else's Face
Long fingers wrapped themselves around the glass, the amber liquid within capturing the light. For a moment he examined the contents before sipping, allowing the taste of ages past to flow over his tongue before placing it carefully on the wooden table beside him. He leant back in his chair and arched those long fingers in front of him as he listened to the recording of a woman singing.
Of Christine singing.
Erik Cassius smiled and then stopped as the motion sent a jarring pain up his face. His fingers slid across the surface of the mask and then fell into his lap as the door opened and his servant, Rashid, entered, bowing as he did so.
The manservant peered through the darkness. The room, decorated in dark reds and mahogany woods, was always dismal but with the curtains drawn and the only light coming from the fireplace, it was like a cave. The slim figure in the chair glanced at him, only the mask showing at that angle and voice spoke as if from nowhere.
"What do you want?"
"I have a message from the hospital." An elegant hand waved at the table beside him. Rashid moved forward and placed the piece of paper beside the glass. He stood for a moment but when no further orders came he backed out of the room, bowing again.
Erik sipped the drink again and then lifted the paper.
Dear Mr Cassius,
We wish to inform you that your procedure will take place on…
Erik read the letter twice through before tossing it aside, mixed feelings swelling in his chest as he sank further back into his chair. Once again his fingers caressed the smooth, cool surface of the mask as he imagined the agony that he was to endure. The exposed nerve endings caused almost constant suffering and this… procedure would surely only aggravate it the pain almost unbearably.
He used the small remote control to play the track back again. The recording was amateur, made on a handheld recorder by Rashid as he had slipped into a university concert. But the clarity and beauty of the voice was unmistakable. For a man who lived as intently for music as Erik did, it was impossible to live without having that voice. He could not, would not suffer the rest of his life if it did not have Christine in it.
Money was no object for Erik. He did not know the exact amount that graced his bank accounts, but it was well within the millions. Therefore he was not going to lie in some despicable ward and be gawped at by passers-by. No, Erik Cassius would have nothing less than a set of rooms to himself, a privately employed doctor from Europe (the finest to be found, of course), two nurses who were forbidden to discuss their patient with anyone except the doctor, not even to each other. His own chef would supply meals to his rooms and he would have access to the internet at all times. With a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom, Erik established nothing less than a private apartment to endure the time spent this despicable place.
Doctor Marot had never seen anything like it. This man was more than an eccentric millionaire – he was the most private, more of a recluse than anyone he had ever met. And to perform such an operation… the pressure was almost too much for Doctor Marot. More than once he had thought about taking the next flight back to Paris but only his sense of accomplishment held him in place.
He would never forget the moment when Cassius had removed his mask. The hideous anger that burned from his eyes and had almost distracted Marot from the deformity, daring him to comment upon the distortion and threatening a lifetime of agony if he did. But Marot was not the foremost expert in skin grafts and muscle restoration for nothing. He was unmatched in his field and that was why he had flown out here.
Erik Cassius's deformity was like none he had ever soon. Maybe not the most severe he had seen, but certainly one of the most unusual. His medical notes explained that this freak distortion had been present from birth and early operations to repair the damage had done nothing but worsen the situation and cause severe nerve damage. As he leaned forward to examine it, Cassius almost flinched. But Marot did nothing more than look.
Eventually he straightened and tried to give a smile, tried to ignore those burning eyes.
"Well, Mr Cassius, I'm confident. The damage is certainly extensive and it won't be easy but I believe the operation should go without many complications. Would you like me to explain the procedure?"
"No. When will we start?" He spoke so shortly Marot was momentarily thrown, but he recuperated and looked down at his clipboard.
"Well, since you seem to have… paid for the private use of an operating theatre, I can begin in an hour. I'll send the nurse in to prepare you." He paused, expecting a comment but Cassius merely lifted the mask back to his face and stood, walking to look out of the window. Marot felt a little lost but cleared his throat and then left.
A few minutes later the nurse arrived with the anaesthetic.
…Of his parents. In the small apartment in New York City, where two people shouted at each other constantly. Of a beautiful woman who cried too often, of a man who slammed the door. Of a mother who threw a rough cloth mask at him and told him to go away, to leave her life, to let her die.
All he wanted was for her to touch him. A hand on his cheek, a kiss on his mouth. A caress, an embrace, to be held close and be told that he was not as worthless as they had implied.
That the terrifying face in the glass was not his.
…piles of books surrounded him and he delved into them, starving for knowledge. The agony of his face subsided when he was learning. The failed operations were forgotten as he learned of mathematics, of far away countries, of incredible people accomplishing impossible feats.
And of music. Oh, how he loved music! He had broken into a school, found his way to a piano and had slowly taught himself to play, had run his fingers over the glistening ivory keys, learning to caress and love them as he had loved before. He went every night and played more intricate melodies, every song he could find in the classroom. But it wasn't enough. Soon he was writing his own harmonies, composed his own music, using every imaginable style. He discovered a dusty violin in a cupboard, neglected and worn, but he gave it life and it sang to him with mournful beauty.
He was twelve years old.
…the sun beat down upon him and he lowered his head, thankful for the cotton mask that kept his face from throbbing in the heat. He was twenty-three years of age was on his way to making a fortune. His compositions had been subtly circulated through New York, passed from agent to director to company. An anonymous bank account had been opened and royalties were flooding into it as his music was used in soundtracks and performed in some of the smaller theatres on the West Coast.
And privacy was becoming hard to come by. His name had slipped into conversation somewhere along the line and he had awoken to find fan letters and dinner invitations pouring through his door. He thanked his good sense at not having a telephone. An abrupt letter email to the agent who he had originally sent his work to established his opinion of publicity and he informed that he would be leaving the country. If, and when, he returned, he would send no more work to them unless his name was kept away from the public eye.
He had gone immediately to JFK and boarded the first flight. It was to Tajikistan.
And now he stood on the balcony of his rented apartment and watched the market place below. So many people… the smells of frying food and sweets, ripe oranges with their sharp tang as the flesh was exposed. A bar down the street gave whiffs of spirits and the distant blare of a television screen as the football took place.
He would stay here for some months to come. He had hired a young man to fetch him food and other necessities and in his spare time he had turned to drawing. Sketches of people below at first, but they gave him no pleasure with their shining faces and tedious lives. Still life held no interest for him and it was only as he had walked one night down the empty streets of Dushanbe that he paused to look at a building. And then another on the next street.
He had hurried back to his apartment and feverishly sketched the buildings from memory. When Rashid had arrived the next day, he had sent him to a store for a book on blue prints and building plans.
Six months later his work was submitted to a wealthy businessman looking to upgrade his Western style home and was accepted without question. Money changed hands and Erik would walk to the building site at 3 am to inspect it without being bothered.
When he finally returned to America, he took Rashid with him without the guarantee of money and security.
… of the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Of sweet lips curved to a smile of pure joy, and skin so pale it was luminous in the noisy background of the restaurant. Lovely golden curls, tied back for practicality but with wisps escaping to from her face. And of eyes so bright and true that he had almost wept.
Even he occasionally felt the need to be among people and had gone to a secluded restaurant, serving expensive but flavoursome meals, not to mention excellent wine. He took a table in a dark corner where no eye could pry, but from where he could observe the other diners. A young couple, sulking at an earlier fight with harsh words still not quite forgotten. A business dinner, with vigorous hand movements and stereotyped phrases.
And a lovely girl who poured his wine and smiled politely, looking him in the eye and not acknowledging the mask. Who spoke to him with kind words and soft laughs at his replies and who gave him such a wonderful look of admiration when he told her that he was a composer. Her final words to him as he left…
"I have never loved anything in my life as much as I love music. I don't think I ever shall."
It was then that he knew he must have her. This exquisite woman who sang like an angel (he sent Rashid to record her after learning that she was a music student at Juilliard) and who would adore him for his music.
But that night, after walking home in a state of utter bliss, he had gone to the bathroom and looked at his reflection in the mirror. At the torn skin and deformed muscle, dragging his lower eyelid and painting the right side of his face varying shades of scarlet, purple and black. Even as a breeze entered the open window and danced across the skin, it ached agonisingly and Erik sank to his knees, resting his forehead against the marble sink.
He was a monster!
He had known this for so long and yet now it mattered more than ever. Of course he could seduce Christine with music alone, but she deserved better than that! She deserved a man as handsome as she was beautiful. Not this beast that wept on a cold stone floor.
He would change. Whatever it took, however close it came to killing him… he would change.
The light that came through the blinds was far too bright. Erik flinched and almost screamed, for when he had screwed up his face ripples of fire had shot down his cheek, knives had stabbed into his flesh and eye and he prayed for death for nothing could be worse than this pain. A tear rolled down from his eye onto the bandages and even that miniscule pressure made him moan with agony.
A nurse appeared beside him.
"Does it hurt?" She asked stupidly but he could not reply, did not dare to speak in case it jarred the muscles again. She began to set up another drip bag, sliding the needle into his arm as his sight faded and he sank back into sleep.
It was more than a month before he could leave the hospital. Rashid ran his affairs from his home but Erik could do little more than lie in bed, listening to music and forcing himself to remember the reason for this torture.
After he returned to his home, he avoided any room with a mirror. He had Rashid cover any reflective surface with heavy cloths and it was only on a bright morning when he was finally able to press a damp flannel to his cheek without it seeming to tear the fragile skin that he forced himself to look in the mirror. A stranger looked back.
There were still scars, pink and swollen, but the rawness, the misshapen lumps were gone, to be replaced with smooth skin. The torn corner of his mouth had been substituted with a carefully styled lip and implants of hair covered the empty patches on the side of his head. It was something Erik could never have imagined – he looked like a man.
Erik waited another six weeks before going back to the restaurant, ensuring the scars were almost completely faded. He dressed slowly, running through what he would say to her, what he would offer her and he summoned her face up in his mind, forcing the features into a smile, a laugh, a nod.
It had been raining and the air was still damp as he walked to the restaurant, timing it so that he would catch her coming out of the back door at the end of her shift. What he had to say was for her alone, not to be gawped at by curious fools. He waited in the narrow alley, a single rose clasped in his hand. She was a few minutes late and when the door finally opening, spilling light into the alley and Erik was dazzled for a moment before his eyes adjusted and settled upon Christine. She was buttoning up her coat, for it was chilly but she paused at the sight of him.
"Can I help you, sir?" She asked politely, bestowing that lovely smile upon him. For a moment he was struck, unable to think, speak, move. But then he lifted the red rose and held to her. She stared at it for a moment and then looked back at his face.
"For you." He murmured and she smiled again, but more widely as he handed her the flower.
"That's so kind of you… sorry, I don't know…"
"I didn't think you would, Christine. I ate here some time ago… several months now and you graced me with you presence for a few moments." She still looked bemused and he cleared his throat. "I covered my face that night."
"Why…? Oh!" Realisation hit her and she laughed, a charming sound that seemed to brighten the dark lane. "Of course, you're the composer! I'm sorry; I didn't recognise you for a moment there!"
Erik smiled at the surprised happiness in her face.
"I'm glad you remember me, Christine." Every time he spoke her name it felt like gold in his mouth, a sound that begged to be spoken again and again. She continued to smile at him as she brushed the curls out of her face.
"Well, what on earth are you doing in this horrible alleyway?"
"I was waiting-" He broke off, his heart beating suddenly twice as fast. When she had lifted her hand to move her hair, the faint light of the kitchen had glistened on a diamond ring on her finger. An engagement ring.
She looked at him a moment, expecting an end to the sentence, but none came. After a moment she reached out to touch his arm.
"Sir? Are you alright?"
"Christine!" Footsteps thudded up the path and an attractive young man stepped into the light, puffs of white breath appearing in the crisp air. He paused and looked curiously at the dark haired man, staring so intently at his fiancée.
"Sorry I'm late… I… Christine?" He looked at her questioningly and she shrugged slightly, unsure of what to make of the situation. After an awkward moment, the young man held out his hand to Erik.
"Hey there… I'm Raoul. Are you alright, you look a bit pale?"
Erik turned his face to Raoul and the younger man almost stepped back at the concentrated hatred in his eyes. Erik looked back to Christine.
"This is your fiancé, I take it?"
"Oh, yes. This is Raoul de Chagny. Raoul, this is Mr…?" She looked at him for his name and he gave it reluctantly. "Mr Cassius is a composer, we got chatting last time he was in the restaurant."
"I see, trying to get a foot in the door already." Raoul teased, slipping his hand into hers. "She's going to be a big name on the opera scene one day. Better keep a look out for her."
Christine laughed again, a flush gracing her cheeks.
"Stop it, darling, you're embarrassing me. Anyway, we'd better get going. It was lovely to meet you again, Mr Cassius." They turned to leave but Erik spoke without meaning to. Or maybe he did mean to, for the words were tinged with anger.
"But I did it for you!"
Raoul and Christine stopped in their tracks and turned back. Christine's face creased in confusion.
"You have no idea what I… what I endured and now you're just…" He couldn't finish his sentences, was so filled with rage and sorrow that he could barely breathe. Christine swallowed nervously.
"I don't understand. I'm sorry, Mr Cassius, but… is that why you came here tonight? To find me?"
Erik didn't reply but he saw Raoul step instinctively closer to her. She continued to stare at him and he forced himself to speak again.
"Please, Christine… do not do this. Do not leave me like this, not when I did so much to be here."
"Look, sir, I don't know why you're here but I think you should go." Raoul said firmly, trying to get a handle on the situation. Erik ignored his bleats and carried on looking at the girl before him, pleading desperately with his eyes, with the face he had created just for her.
A few moments of silence before Christine spoke, smiling sadly.
"I'm sorry… you seem like a nice guy, but I barely know you. And I'm engaged now." She glanced over her shoulder at Raoul and then back to Erik. He didn't say anything, merely gazed at her as a hideous ache settled heavily in his chest. She tilted her head at him giving a gentle smile.
"Besides… a handsome guy like you? You could get any girl you wanted."
She smiled again, turned, took Raoul's hand and they walked down the alley, the blonde boy look clearly unhappy.
"It was all for you."
She was too far away to hear.
Notice of Nuptials
Mr Raoul de Chagny and Miss Christine Daaé were joined together in Holy Matrimony on the Fourteenth of November 2008.
The notice came in the newspaper two days after this. Erik threw the paper towards the fire, where it settled in the grate, the edges blackening and then curling as the flames licked at it.
He hunched in the high backed chair and put his head in his hands, unable to weep or speak. His eyes glared sorrowfully at the piano in the corner of the room, the piano that he was no longer able to play. His fingers stumbled on the keys; the music was dull and uninviting and it stabbed into his heart like a red-hot knife.
He had no music. He did not have Christine.
All he was left with was somebody else's face.
A/N: This story came to me last week whilst I was at work and I spent three day desperately trying to figure out, because it was a little bit confused in my mind! I really wanted it to turn out well, because it seemed like such a good idea at the time, like something that had to be written. It's a point I've heard made on many forums. If this was a realistic situation – Erik being extremely wealthy in a modern day environment – why would he not have surgery to fix his face? I didn't really cover the why not. I just wanted to show the consequences.