Disclaimer: I do not own Phantom of the Opera nor the characters. This is my first Phantom fic, please r/r for me! Let me know how I'm doing with Erik!
A/N: In this story, there's the Phantom Erik and the street boy Eric. I know it's going to be a little confusing, but it will all be tied together eventually. Also, this timeline is supposed to be occurring around the same as the original Erik/Christine story line. To avoid an unnecessarily long fic, I skip through years to progress both aspects of the story. Hope that clears up some of the confusion.
Father Once Spoke of an Angel
Chapter 1: La Rue Scribe
It was dark. But he was used to it. It didn't matter anyway; he knew these streets like they were the back of his hand. Not that he knew the back of his hand very well; it was merely a phrase. They were simply words put together to mean something. And he knew that words were not something to be used lightly. He had heard the same words over and over again - "Monster!" "Beast!" "My God, that can't be human!" - but each time it had a new layer of hate, fear, or horror. Each time the words took on a new meaning, reminding him of his ugliness. Well, he need not be reminded any more.
This was the one time he dared roam the streets - under the familiar cloak of night. None questioned his mask and none questioned his presence. He was in control, choosing when he was seen, choosing where his voice was heard. He liked to think there was no one quite as talented as he in this department.
At that moment, he heard a small patter on the cobblestones, not far from where he was ambling. He drew back into the shadows, seeing a woman - not old, but not young either - dart into the alleyway. Her clothes were in tatters, and her arms sported numerous bruises, illuminated by the faint light from the street. She held a crudely wrapped bundle in her arms, which she lay in the corner, against the stone building. Quickly glancing about her, the woman darted off, her dirty feet only softly gracing the cobblestones as she went the way she had come.
He stepped from the shadow and moved towards the ball of rags. His curiosity was piqued, and he could not help but peel back the top layer of filth to reveal the contents. It was a small child; from what he could see, he supposed it was a girl. He looked at the face critically, angered that he could find nothing wrong with it.
"Why did she leave you, little girl? Aren't mothers supposed to love their children?" The baby was sleeping peacefully, blonde strands framing its face. "You angel… she should not have left you. No, you are not like Erik, not at all. You are so beautiful..." He felt his hand reaching out to touch its hair, but he pulled it back. Unfortunately, he had woken the child, who let out a piteous shriek. He stepped back, caught off guard. The shriek subsided into sobs - loud, wracking sobs. He was furious.
"Do I scare you?! You scream when you see Erik, the same as everyone does!" He threw the rag he had taken off at the child. "You're just like the rest! Even a child sees me for the beast I am…" He felt himself breaking, his control sliding. He choked out a horrific cry, then swept his cloak about him, running from the alley.
The child kept shrieking, but its mother never came.
* * *
5 years later
"Nothing." He showed his empty hands to the girl leaning against the building. She sighed heavily.
"Today is not our day, is it?" He slumped against the wall next to her, feeling his bony spine scrape against the stone. He winced, but didn't say anything. It wouldn't be the first day they had gone without food. The streets were merciless, and it was a known fact that only the strong survive. Times had been particularly hard, ever since Jacques had caught the chest sickness.
Jacques had been Eric's mentor, so to speak. Jacques had protected him, and the girl from the alley for as long as Eric could remember. He had also taught Eric, who was now at the proud pick-pocketing age of eight, all the tricks of the trade. Magic tricks, illusions, all sorts of deceptive maneuvers that Jacques had been taught when he was a boy. Not that he had been that old when he died - he had been sixteen. But the streets have no mercy.
Jacques had been a combination of father and brother to little Eric, who was abandoned to the streets when his mother died in a machinery accident. Jacques had asked no questions when the filthy toddler wandered into his alley one night, he led the boy to a fountain and cleaned him. The ten year old gave him new rags which did not smell, and burned the parasite infested ones Eric had been wearing.
One night, Jacques brought home a softly crying bundle. He proudly displayed it to Eric, and asked if he would like a sister. Eric had laughed and said yes, he wanted someone to play in the streets with him. Jacques had laughed too, a deep laugh for so young a boy. He was now eleven, and already caring for two abandoned children. He seemed so much older, so much wiser. He always managed to bring home at least 100 francs a day, and then he would buy the scraps left over from the farmer's market. He always fed them, by whatever secret means he used. Jacques was flawless; he could do no wrong. Until he caught the chest sickness.
Even then, Jacques had brought money to them, but it slowly dwindled. A strange girl dressed in factory clothes stopped by frequently during his last weeks. She begged him to come to the boarding house with her, but he refused. He said he would take nothing from the pig of a foreman. She entreated him to seek a doctor, but again he refused. He told her any money he had left would go to Eric and his little angel. She had cried for over an hour. He slowly deteriorated, coughing his last breath of life away.
A silk-lined coat floating by caught Eric's eyes. He immediately stood, and stole towards the man. He disappeared into an oncoming crowd, but reappeared triumphant moments later. He whistled a merry tune with a glint in his eyes as he tossed a packet towards the girl.
* * *
She picked it up.
It was nothing but a tarnished key. It appeared to be gold, but the grime of the street had made it lose its luster. By holding it just right, it was possible to coax the mysterious object to glint. Not knowing what else to do, she showed it to Eric.
"What's it for?" He had asked.
"How should I know? But here, can you read this?" The illiterate girl pointed to an inscription on the key. It looked like a child's scratch when first learning to write words. Eric squinted.
"La Rue Scribe…" he murmured. His brows were knit in thought. She glanced at him, unsure and a little fearful.
"What would we find there?" Eric shrugged, a tiny grin spreading over his lips.
"I do not know. Shall we take a look?" Without waiting for an answer, he began sprinting through the streets, unable to contain his excitement and lust for adventure. She trailed behind, impressed he could navigate the labyrinth of streets.
* * *
He smiled. He had been right. La Rue Scribe hadn't been that far away. And over there, in all its elegance, was the Paris Opera House. Strange stories were circulating the streets about a ghost, but no one believed them. Except for the superstitious old men with no teeth. He wondered if she believed the tales.
He stopped when he saw stairs parallel to the street, going almost directly downward to a river. The concrete walls surrounding the water were tall, the gap between them narrow. Eric looked around, surprised at how deserted the entire area was. Nonetheless, he slowly descended the stairs, wondering if the golden key was the way into the sewers. Without a word, she followed him.
It was darker by the river than he originally anticipated. The only illumination was a border of candle lamps in the tall, dank passageway. The water lapped at the stone barriers, covering the sound of their bare feet pattering along the walk.
A cast iron grate loomed before them, the only entrance an iron door made in the same fashion as the rest of the barrier. Eric bent forward, realizing the padlock was not securely fastened. He tugged on it, his lean arms barely able to exert enough force to snap it open. The gate squeaked in protest, but he turned and beckoned her to follow him.
The passageway led upstream, heading back the way they originally come down the street. The sound of babbling water was silenced, and Eric felt the darkness open wide before him. He lifted the lantern he had taken from the entrance, realizing that a glowing lake lay before him. It was lit from beneath; a haunting green rose from the murky depths. Eric could not see a way to get across, so he groped in the dark until he could make out a set of stairs leading upward. Unwilling to break the deathly silence, he took her hand to lead her. He could feel his curiosity dissolving into fear, but he could not stop his feet from moving upward. He felt her own hand shaking in his, and squeezed it reassuringly.
The stairs leveled off, into some kind of basement area. There was another hinged door, before entering. This padlock was the same as the one on the outside, and the key in his hand matched it. The interior was a dust-coated space full of crates, boxes, bags, strange pieces of wood nailed together as house fronts and elephants. It was an odd arrangement, jumbled and filled with cobwebs. Eric almost cried out when the lantern unveiled a human skeleton made of plaster lying on an imitation brick wall. He could barely keep his heart from bursting out of his chest.
Once he had artfully picked his way through the debris - it seemed as though none of this had been touched for years - he spotted another corridor, sloping back downward. He figured this one must lead to other side of the glowing lake. He bravely marched onward.
But it didn't bring them to the lake. It brought them to a fork in the corridor, one hall blocked by a crumbled ceiling. Eric could tell by the increasing pressure on his hand that she knew they were lost. But she trusted him, and let him navigate the maze as he saw fit.
At a great length, he stopped. He no longer knew where they were going, although he felt somewhat confident he could find the way back. Her grip on his hand was fading slightly; he knew she was tired. As he was about to turn back, he froze and listened. Without warning, he scrambled with her back into a larger room from which they had just come. A lining of barrels along the walls provided an adequate hiding spot. He pinched out the lantern fuse, cursing himself for having no extra matches about him. She let him hide her behind the barrels, as silent as she had been the entire time they were exploring. He sat beside her, and she felt his calming hand on her shoulder suddenly freeze.
Two glowing spheres floated through the darkness, overtaking the hiding spot of the two vagabonds. The orbs approached silently, drifting on the air in search of something, or someone. Just when the mysterious glow was near, she felt something touch her hand. A rat. She knew she couldn't cry out. She knew she couldn't scream. But despite her efforts, a whimper escaped her lips.
Before she knew what had happened, there was the sudden light of a lantern, and a hand hauling her off her feet by the ragged collar of her shirt. A gruff voice majestically roared in her ears before she was thrown to the ground.
"You will pay for this!"
*** Just a friendly reminder to r/r!