So I hear you wish to know of the phantom of the opera. A mysterious and legendary figure that is still talked about to this day. I assure you though, the phantom was no mere legend. He was very real, and the story surrounding him is far deeper than anyone would guess. I can tell you though, for I was there, and I knew the people involved.
In paris where our story begins, there was a young Austrian violinist with the last name of Edelstein. Though he was young he was quite famous throughout the country for his skills on the violin, and he was paid quite a lot to play in concerts and other performances. This violinist however, was a single father. His first and only wife had born him a son before passing away soon after of an illness. He raised his son lovingly though, and from a very young age began to search for an instrument for him to play. The violinist was disappointed when his son showed no aptitude whatsoever for the violin, but he was consoled not long after, by the fact that he took an immediate liking to the piano. His son turned out to be a childhood prodigy, playing extremely complex pieces on the piano by the mere age of seven, his father supporting him the entire way.
The violinist was a good man, but he was very frail, and his heart was weak. After a particularly brutal heart attack, the violinist laid on his deathbed. Roderich, only nine years old at the time, was with him. In his final moments, the violinist swore he would send an angel to Roderich to watch over him. After he had passed, many people mourned him, and he was buried in a rather impressive grave, one that Roderich would continue to visit for many years.
Roderich's care fell to a woman called Madame Hedervary, whom his father had been teaching violin. She had been good friends with him, and agreed to take on the responsibility. She continued to foster Roderich's talents and took good care of him, raising him alongside her own daughter. Eventually when Roderich was 18 and her own daughter was 16, she took the two of them to the Paris Opera House, where Roderich was to be tutored by another pianist working in the Opera's orchestra. Roderich had become cynical about the world, and now doubted that any angels existed at all. After all, though his life was fine, nothing much had happened in it. Perhaps, angels only watched from a distance.
It was another fine day in Paris, the sky bright, people going about their normal lives. Near the opera house, things were rather busy. There was to be a show that night, and it had sold out rather quickly. A full house always meant that there had to be a lot of preparation, and the crowd of people behind the stage of the opera showed it well.
Roderich looked up at the crowded stage and sighed. Practice was going to be chaos as usual from what he could tell. He had only been at the opera house for a few months, but the rehearsals before a show always tended to be far from orderly. The main soprano was being difficult as usual, demanding nothing but absolute pampering from all those around her. She usually had her every whim catered to, as she had no replacement. Roderich turned to walk away when he heard a voice. "Roderich! There you are." He turned and saw a woman with long chestnut hair adorned with a flower come walking towards him.
"Elizaveta" he said inclining his head slightly a soft smile gracing his features. Elizaveta was the daughter of Madame Hedervary, and the girl he had been raised with. Though they weren't related, and people often attempted to pair them as a couple, they had mainly seen eachother as siblings and friends. Elizaveta now worked as a choir girl, and her voice was rather lovely. Though their positions were rather different, they often sat around together after performances.
"I've been looking everywhere for you, and I find you here staring at the stage. Shouldn't you be in the pit?" She said putting her hands on her hips smiling as well.
Roderich let the smile drop at the mention of "the pit". The pit was the area underneath the stage where the orchestra was kept. Roderich had spent far too many hours in it then he would care to count. He was never fond of being kept under the stage, it made him feel claustrophobic at times. He shook his head before stating bluntly "Monsieur Bonnefoy, is taking the roll of lead pianist in this production." He didn't even bother to hide the contempt in his voice. Though Bonnefoy was supposed to be his tutor, Roderich had found that the man knew very little past Roderich's own skill. The man also happened to be quite the lecher, as Roderich had quickly learned. He had always made a mental note to never be left alone with him. While the man never forced himself upon anyone, he would make some very unwanted suggestions and advances at times, especially when he was alone with someone.
Elizaveta crossed her arms at the sentence. "That's ridiculous, you are far more talented and he knows it" she said crossly. Roderich smiled again, it was always nice to have someone on your side in things. He was about to respond when a cross voice came from the small podium in front of the stage just below its level.
"Would you please all calm down?" Roderich looked over at the podium. Standing at it was the orchestra's conducter, Ludwig Beilschmidt. A tall blonde irritated looking German man, but a remarkable conducter as Roderich knew. He often was the only one trying to restore a sense of order to the practices. The soprano, named Amelia, huffed at the words, but stopped nagging at the people holding the train of her dress.
"Which page were we on again?" Called a lighter voice from the pit. Roderich had to supress a chuckle, he knew that voice belonged to one Feliciano Vargas, an Italian chellist, skilled but often a little behind. Ludwig sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Page 20" he said shortly looking down at his own page. As the music started up and Amelia started to sing, a few more people suddenly came out onto the stage. Roderich looked at them curiously. One was Madame Hedervary, who now trained many of the choir girls, another was the owner of the Operahouse, Monsieur Moliere, and two others Roderich did not know.
"Attention everyone, I have an announcement" Madame Hedervary said loudly efficiently getting everyone's attention and drawing a worn sigh from Ludwig. He knew it would take forever to get everyone together again. "Now I'm sure you have all heard the rumours that Monsieur Moliere is selling the operahouse..." She trailed off as the people on the stage burst into excited twitters. Roderich blinked in surprise. He had heard the rumours, but he had not set much store by them. "Well I'm sure you're all proud to know you were correct, and these two, Monsieurs Fournier and Morel, now own the operahouse" she finished gesturing at the two mean standing next to her. They both bowed slightly and the surrounding actors and operahouse workers broke into tenative applause. Roderich clapped as well, though only softly. He wondered how these two would handle the Operahouse. They looked more like bank managers than lovers of the arts.
Amelia looked at the two disdainfully until Monsieur Moliere introduced her grandly. Her little chest puffed up with pride, but Roderich had really lost all interest in what they were talking about on the stage. He was sure there would be a lot of talk involving the opera that night, and this time it did not concern him much. He looked back at Elizaveta about to say something when a shriek came from the stage. Roderich looked back again quickly and it appeared a sandbag used to weigh down the backdrops had fallen from above. It had very nearly fallen on Amelia who was shaking slightly. Then a letter appeared to flutter down from the beams, Roderich looked up curiously, but all he could see was shadow. Madame Hedervary picked up the letter and read it. Roderich was only half listening still looking up, but he caught something about the letter being from the Phantom of the Opera and almost shuddered. When he had first come to the Operahouse the other people who worked there had told him of a ghost who dwelled in darkness. The Phantom who haunted the operahouse, and held the owner at ransom. He had refused to believe such silly stories at first, but after several strange incidents, he had to admit there was something or someone living in the Operahouse.
"That's it! I've had it, these things have gone on long enough" Amelia shouted storming off the stage. The newer owners ran after her pleading and offering her anything she wanted to stay. Roderich was sure she'd come back, she always did.
"So the phantom strikes again!" Elizaveta said looking up at the stage "I'm going to go calm down some of the girls they look a little frightened. You stay safe alright Roderich?" She added running up to the side of the stage to talk to some very pale looking choir girls. Roderich nodded walking through a side door still glancing back at the dark area above the stage, unaware that he was being watched from a walkway high above him near the top of the room.
Roderich walked down the hallway before taking a turn to go into the large preparation room behind the stage. It was crowded back here, people climbing all over the rafters, setting up costumes, checking that they were fully ready for that night. Roderich's bed was past a few other areas, alongside several others. Generally only the lead soprano had her own room, most of everyone else slept together in bunkbeds. He wasn't tired or anything though so he kept walking past until he came to a staircase. The staircase led to some deeper rooms of the Operahouse, and Roderich had been spending time down there in relative solitude. He could at times, hear a voice, talking not to him but to itself. He wondered vaguely as he descended the staircase if that meant he were going insane. He had not mentioned it to anyone else. The voice had talked as if it were completely alone, but also spoke of music and of things of beauty that it had apparently not yet seen, at times he had even heard it singing. Maybe he held some small hope that it was an angel speaking.
Roderich got to the bottom of the staircase and entered a sideroom. The walls were all stone down here and candles lit the rooms up. He sat in a small chair and watched the light flicker across the wall. He found it relaxing to be away from the normal crowds, there was a relative peace in solitude. He had sat there for some time when he heard that voice again. It was talking softly, and seemed to be coming from behind a wall, though he could not tell which. He strained his ears to listen when he heard something that froze him in his place.
"I know you're listening" the voice said, addressing him for the very first time. A shiver went down Roderich's spine. He hadn't expected that.
"Who are you?" he said after a moment of silence. In one way, he actually hoped for an answer, in another, he was frightened of what the answer would be.
The silence pervaded for a moment longer before the voice came again " I am an echo of what some seek and others fear." Roderich furrowed his brow in confusion.
"Well that doesn't explain much, oh mysterious echo" he quipped back sarcastically. For some reason the odd answer had just mildly irritated him and he lost that nervous feeling he'd had before.
There was silence again before the voice came back "Well I have given my answer, and who might you be?" Roderich raised an eyebrow. He couldn't quite tell why, but there was a feeling that the way the voice was speaking, wasn't how it naturally sounded.
"I am Roderich Edelstein, a pianist" he answered shortly crossing his arms. "I apologize for my answer not being so nearly as confusing as yours."
The voice hummed in affirmation before asking another question "Why are you down here?" Roderich wondered if it was wise to continue talking to a faceless voice, after all he could still be insane.
He answered anyway "I like having a few moments of solitude." He waited again for the voice's reply but was distracted by the sound of footsteps walking past. It was just a few of the maids coming down to relight the candles, but with their passing sounds the voice seemed to have left as well. Roderich waited for any sign of it reappearing but after a few minutes there was still nothing. He stood up and walked out of the room and back up the staircase. After all, he may not be in the opera, but he would watch it for Elizaveta's sake.
Later on in the evening after the opera, Roderich had said goodnight to Elizaveta, and was sitting on his bed. The other members of the orchestra were wide awake however, chatting about the opera and more specifically, the phantom.
"I hear he looks like a monster! With a visage that looks hideous and scarred" chipped in one of the flutists.
"I've heard that he can pass through any wall and vanish instantly!" Added Feliciano brightly, not appearing very frightened of the notion at all.
"I know that he can talk from anywhere, his voice seeming to come from the walls or the ceiling" Viktor, a Romanian violinist, added almost sombrely. Roderich's ears perked up.
"What makes you say that?" Roderich said still trying to appear uninterested. The other musicians looked at him in surprise. He had been utterly silent up until that moment.
Viktor blinked for a moment before explaining "Some of the choir girls heard a voice coming from nowhere one night. I went to investigate for myself and I could hear it too, but I could not tell from where it came. It talked menacingly though" he finished nodding.
Roderich had almost snorted, "menacing" wouldn't have been how he would have described the voice at all. A little confusing perhaps, but far from threatening. Though it was a relief to know he wasn't the only one hearing it.
"Are you scared of the phantom Roderich?" Feliciano said lightly. Roderich shook his head.
"Such talk is for children. I am no more scared of any phantom than I am of monsters underneath the stairs" he said sternly. It was the truth, especially if the voice he had heard had been the phantom. The musicians went back to talking for a while before turning in for the night. Roderich, however, was unable to sleep. If that voice had been the phantom, he wanted to talk to it again. Roderich had never pegged himself the curious type, but he wanted to know more about it. Was it a man? A ghost? A monster? it wasn't a very threatening monster if it was. He sat up in the bed. This was ridiculous, he would just go down there and ask the voice if it was the phantom. That seemed practical enough. He didn't even know if it would be there, but it seemed worth a try.
He slipped out of bed, grabbing his glasses that were on the nightstand and haphazardly putting them on. Still in his nightshirt, he walked out of the room and down the hallway. Descending the stairs seemed far more ominous at night, but he walked down them trying not to show his apprehension. When he made it to the bottom and into the sideroom, he stood in silence for a moment. He thought for a moment that it had been pointless to come down here, when he was proven wrong.
"You're back" the voice said almost softly. Roderich looked around but he still couldn't pinpoint where the voice came from.
"Yes I am" he responded simply pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
"You aren't afraid?" The voice tremored for a second unless Roderich was imagining it.
"You haven't given me any reason to be" Roderich answered crossing his arms.
"A voice coming from the walls isn't a reason to be afraid?" It said sounding almost amused.
"No" Roderich said shortly. He had never been one to fear things that seemed mysterious or strange. He knew full well that there would always be things that he would not quite understand, but there was no reason to be afraid of them. Fear seemed to be a ridiculous notion.
"Even if I told you I was the ghost that so many in this operahouse fear?" Roderich paused for a moment at that question. It was a so to say "creepy" notion that he might be talking to someone who was dead. Then again, he had never really believed in ghosts.
"Not really" Roderich said firmly. Well at least he had his answer. Though now that he had it, he wasn't sure what to do with the knowledge. He shifted awkwardly on the spot, unsure of what to say next.
"Do you play the piano well?" the voice asked suddenly. Roderich blinked in surprise, he hadn't been expecting that.
"Yes I would say so" he said almost pridefully sticking his nose up slightly. The voice chuckled and Roderich wondered briefly if ghosts could chuckle.
"You seem a spoiled prissy brat" it said bluntly. Roderich huffed and glared at the walls since he didn't have anything else to glare at.
"And you seem like a coward" He shot back.
"Well you seem entirely stuck up."
"Well you seem like a right lunatic."
"I'm not the one talking to walls."
"Well if you showed yourself I wouldn't be!" Roderic snapped getting rather irritated. The room fell into utter silence and Roderich started to almost get worried. He was about to speak up again when...
"Do you want me to?" drifted from the wall. Roderich stared, he hadn't expected to be taken seriously. But now the real question was, did he? He supposed he actually did, he wanted to know what he was talking to.
He nodded slightly getting nervous all of a sudden. "Yes" he said before swallowing almost anxiously. Maybe he had no real clue what he was getting into, this could be a very bad idea. No response came from the voice and Roderich thought maybe it had simply left again when he heard a rustling out in the hallway. Roderich turned around swiftly and gasped inaudibly when he saw a figure move past the doorway. It kept going though and did not come inside the room. He ran out into the hallway and looked around, but there was nothing there. He stood there confused before focusing on what he had seen. It had been a figure draped in black. There had been a flash of white though, had he been wearing a mask? Ghosts didn't wear masks, at least Roderich didn't think they did.
He stood in the hallway a while longer before going back up the stairs. He was actually less frightened now and a little more irritated. This phantom, or whatever, was by all means obnoxious. He resolved in his head that he would definitely get a clearer look at it sometime. As he left a pair of curious eyes watched him go.
A few days later Roderich was getting frustrated. The elusive voice seemed to have vanished altogether and Roderich could find no trace of it anywhere. He wondered if it had been that frightened of the prospect of being seen. There was to be another Opera that night, but this time Roderich would be the main pianist. Bonnefoy apparently had business in another part of Paris. Roderich was still looking for the phantom though, when he got an idea. Perhaps he would be in the beams above the stage, he'd often caused many a strange occurance from up there. Roderich walked to the side of the stage and climbed up the ladder there. The beams were thick, and there were walkways up here among the various pulleys for backdrops and the like. Roderich walked out carefully on one of the walkways. It was rather quiet up here, the people usually up here had gone to take a break.
Roderich looked around, but he could see no trace of anyone. He took a few steps forward and sighed. There really wasn't anyone up here. There went another one of his brilliant ideas. He walked out onto a rather thick part of the walkway, though it was missing its railing there. He wondered what it was like to work up here before sneezing softly. Dusty, he concluded. He had turned to walk back where he came from when some of the older wood gave way and he fell forward towards the edge. He shut his eyes and braced himself for the fall when he felt an arm catch him around his waist.
"You really should be more careful Priss" said an amused sounding voice and Roderich's eyes widened in surprise, he knew that voice. As he steadied himself the arm let go and Roderich turned around sharply to glare at his rescuer. He was taller than him, Roderich noted, and he was dressed entirely in black with a cape, he even wore a black tricorn hat. The most interesting thing about him though is that he wore a mask. It was an elegant mask, the eyes darkened with some sort of fabric so you could not see them without looking closely. It covered the entire upper part of his face just stopping above the end of his nose. In fact, from what Roderich could tell, the only skin showing on him was his lower face. He even wore black gloves up to his wrists. Roderich couldn't deny that the clothes were at the very least fashionable, but that wasn't what was important. What was important, was that Roderich knew full well he was no phantom. The arm that had caught him was very much solid and part of someone who was alive. Though his skin looked very pale, Roderich had no doubt this was merely a man. the very concept that a man was running about an opera house scaring people incensed him. he narrowed his eyes at him.
"So the elusive "phantom" finally show himself" Roderich said irritably crossing his arms.
"That wasn't much of a thank you" the man said smirking at him. Roderich flushed slightly. True, he had saved him from what would have been a very nasty drop to the stage floor below.
"Thank you" Roderich quipped shortly "And I suppose I shall be off" he added pushing past the man and walking back towards the ladder he had climbed.
"Hey you were the one who came looking for me" the man said jumping up on the railing and running on it to jump in front of Roderich. Roderich took a step backward in surprise. The man certainly was acrobatic if nothing else.
"What about it?" Roderich said pushing his glasses up his nose as they had almost fallen off when he had tripped.
"So obviously you wanted to see me right? Wanted an answer to your questions?" the man added, that smirk still playing on his lips.
"Yes, and I have seen you, and my questions have been answered. It is quite clear to me that you are an arrogant man who has nothing better to do in his spare time than run about an opera house scaring people for fun." Roderich huffed still keeping his gaze in a rather tempermental glare.
The man was quiet for a moment before saying "Fine, think whatever you want." Roderich stared at him, was he pouting? The man suddenly turned and jumped to the side, grabbing onto a rope and climbing upwards, quickly disappearing into the shadows. Roderich ran to where he had jumped off and looked up, but he could see no trace of him. Roderich sighed again and went to go climb down the ladder, he had an opera to perform for anyway.
Later that evening, Roderich could not stop thinking about the so called "phantom". Which was ridiculous, he had no reason to be thinking of him whatsoever. Still the tone of voice that he'd had before running off bothered Roderich. Perhaps there was more to the phantom than he supposed.
"Roderich?" a voice pulled him from his thoughts and he looked to his side. Elizaveta was standing there looking worried. "What's wrong? You've been deathly quiet, and for the past few days you've seemed distracted" she said walking around to stand in front of him and placing a hand on his shoulder. "You know you can tell me anything."
Roderich smiled a bit, Elizaveta always had been able to see right through him. As crazy as it seemed he decided to tell her the whole story. The more he explained, the more surprised she looked. "So the phantom of the Opera really is just a man?" she said in a hushed tone.
Roderich nodded "An obnoxious man, but just a man nonetheless."
Elizaveta looked amused for a second "I think you hurt his feelings Roderich."
"What do you mean?" Roderich said furrowing his brow slightly irritated by the fact that a part of his mind was agreeing with her.
"I mean, he probably hides in an opera house and wears a mask because he's afraid of people not because he likes it" she explained softly. Roderich thought about that for a moment and realized with a pang of unwanted guilt that she was probably right.
He groaned slightly "Fine, if he shows up again I will apologize."
"There you go" she said brightly walking away to her own bed "and be sincere!" she called back.
Roderich rolled his eyes and turned to walk back to where he slept. He wondered if the man would even show up again. The next night, after a long piano practice, Roderich headed back down to the room where he had first heard his voice. He looked around it and rather hopelessly called out "If you are here I just wanted to say I apologize. I may have...misjudged you." He looked at the walls for a moment before sighing tiredly and turning around, only to be rather startled by someone standing behind him. When he recognized who it was he straightened himself. "Do you always have to pop up out of nowhere?"
"It comes with the job description" the man said gesturing a hand needlessly. "Anyway I heard your apology."
Roderich flushed ever so slightly. "I was too hasty in judging you, I don't know anything about you" he said fiddling with his cravat and trying very hard to get over his pride. The man was quiet for a while, Roderich couldn't tell if he was surprised or thoughtful.
"Yeah, I guess I did the same thing with you" he said, which surprised Roderich. "Though you still seem like kind of a snob." Roderich scowled at him.
"At least I don't throw apologies in people's face, and since I have apologized, there is no reason for me to stay here" Roderich growled going to move past the man who grabbed him by the arm suddenly. Roderich looked down at his arm placidly "Will you let go of me?"
The man seemed to fumble for words "No I..I'm sorry, just, please don't leave?" he seemed to literally force out of his throat. Roderich was caught by surprise again and his eyes widened a fraction.
"Okay, what is it?" he said noticing that the man had yet to relinquish his arm.
"It's just, no one else talks to me, you're the first in a long while so...can't we just...talk?" He said finally letting go of Roderich's arm.
"I don't talk to strangers" Roderich said simply pursing his lips. He was trying to cover up the sympathy he had just felt. No one deserved to be that alone, no matter how irritating at times.
"I...My name is Gilbert" the man said looking to the side. Roderich looked up at the mask.
"Well that's an...interesting name" Roderich said unable to think of much else. He had once again been surprised by the response he'd gotten.
"So can we talk?" Gilbert asked looking back at Roderich. Roderich nodded slightly and went to sit in a chair. Gilbert took the one across from him. For a moment they just looked at eachother, until Gilbert began to ask about the piano and how long Roderich had been playing it. Roderich answered and they began to talk at length about the opera and instruments. After a long while Gilbert abruptly stood up and said that it was time for him to go.
"Hm? Why?" Roderich questioned looking at him curiously. He never would have believed it, but he had actually been enjoying their conversation. He'd been a little annoying at times, but overall he seemed rather intelligent.
"It's already around 4 in the morning"
"How do you know that?"
"I watch the candles" He said rather vaguely before heading to the door.
"Wait!" Roderich said rather suddenly standing up from the chair. Gilbert looked back at him questioningly. "Can we..talk again?" Roderich couldn't see his eyes with the mask, but by the way the muscles in his jaw went almost slack, though not quite opening his mouth, he was surprised. He stood there for a moment as though contemplating it before nodding shortly and gliding out of the room. Roderich walked out into the hall after him and looked around, but he had vanished once again. Though before he had left, Roderich could have sworn he saw a shock of white underneath the hat. He shook his head, perhaps it had been his imagination.
The next few days, Roderich had slipped away almost every night to talk with Gilbert. Every night Roderich found himself enjoying the company of the man, he wondered how it had become so easy to talk to him. He found himself thinking about him often, and when he played the piano his thoughts would drift to him. He wondered if it was abnormal to be thinking about him so much. It wasn't long until Elizaveta was asking him what was the matter again. Although this time when he explained she got a smile on her face. "That's actually really nice, you talking to the phantom. He sounded like he was lonely."
"What about the phantom?" came a voice from behind them and they both flinched. When they turned however they were surprised to find Ludwig standing there. Now Roderich and Elizaveta had both known Ludwig a long time since before they came to the opera house. He had often visited the same places they had for training as a conducter. They did know that he had often been in and out of the opera house since he was a child, but he had always been dedicated to his work. So it came as an immense surprise that he would even pay attention to them talking about a phantom. He had always seemed a very no nonsense sort of person.
"Why Ludwig, I never knew you were interested in the phantom" Elizaveta said looking at him curiously.
"I'm not" Ludwig said shortly, but by the way he looked to the side and tensed slightly both Roderich and Elizaveta could tell that wasn't quite true. "I just wanted to know why you were talking about something so ridiculous" he added hastily.
"Ludwig you are a terrible liar" Roderich said raising an eyebrow at him. Ludwig flushed and seemed to be searching for something to say when Elizaveta piped in again.
"What do you know about him?" Ludwig sighed knowing he was caught.
"It's really nothing important" he said as a last bid to try and discourage them, but when they kept looking at him expectantly he caved.
"He's my brother." Elizaveta gasped and Roderich raised his eyebrows. He definitely had not been expecting that.
"Your brother?" Elizaveta said almost blankly "But what is he doing running around pretending to be a ghost for?"
Ludwig looked around making sure no one else was near before telling them. "He...he doesn't exactly, look normal. I had to save him a long time ago from a traveling sideshow. They were horifically cruel to him, called him a freak, a devil. Our own parents didn't want him, so I did the only thing I could. I hid him here, in the operahouse. The phantom routine was of his own creation, he wanted to appear frightening so people would stay away. He doesn't even come to talk to me anymore." When Ludwig had finished explaining both Roderich and Elizaveta just stared for a moment. Roderich was almost glad Ludwig was not a descriptive sort of person, he didn't want to hear the specifics of what they had done to Gilbert. He felt almost sick, he clenched his fists.
"That's terrible how could th...Roderich? Are you alright?" Elizaveta started before noticing Roderich's expression.
Roderich forced himself to calm down and unclenched his hands. "I'm fine" he said shortly.
"Just, don't tell anyone please?" Ludwig asked looking guilty.
"It's alright Ludwig we won't tell a soul" Elizaveta consoled him.
"No" Roderich said shaking his head slightly "We won't."
The next evening Gilbert had requested they meet on the roof, and Roderich had willingly complied. "It's beautiful up here at night" he said looking up at the few stars he could see. Gilbert nodded in reply.
"I thought you'd like it" Gilbert said softly looking up at the sky as well. "I come up here all the time to just think." Roderich watched him curiously wondering how many years he had been mainly alone in this opera house. "I heard you play the piano" Gilbert added looking back at him.
"Oh? And how was it?" Roderich said waiting for some sort of snarky comment on how he could have done better.
"You were right, you play it amazingly" he said simply. Roderich gaped for a moment before shutting his mouth abruptly.
"Thank you" he said trying to will away the sudden blush that had appeared on his face. Gilbert turned and took a step towards him. Roderich's pulse sped up for a moment and he didn't quite understand why so he did his best to ignore it.
"I just wanted to thank you...for talking to me normally and all...it means a lot" Gilbert said quietly.
"It was no problem, I have enjoyed talking to you" Roderich said shortly feeling irritated again when he thought about the people who had treated Gilbert poorly. Gilbert smiled at him and Roderich's heart fluttered oddly. He did his best to keep ignoring it though, and they spent the rest of the night talking about the various people they had seen over the years, Roderich explaining most of the people he had known.
The next morning, Amelia the soprano was back after much bribing. She had been replaced temporarily with a random choir girl, but that girl'd had no real intention of staying in the lead. She didn't like the extra attention. Roderich, after much coercing, had managed to convince Gilbert to leave her alone. Gilbert had revealed that he messed around with her because he didn't like her attitude. He had also managed to get Gilbert to stop demanding money from the opera house owners.
"You must've saved up enough to buy anything you wanted by now! Why ask for more?"
"It's fun to mess around with them!"
"I could just stop coming to talk to you, you know?"
"Is that blackmail?"
"Maybe it is!"
He'd finally caved after that argument. Roderich often enlightened Elizaveta of their conversations, and she liked to provide her own commentary on them. Ludwig had learned of Roderich's meetings with his brother after overhearing Elizaveta commenting on "How cute it was that they were getting along so well." He now came and asked Roderich how his brother was doing from time to time.
After one particularly long set of questions, Roderich had gone to Gilbert and asked him why he didn't visit his brother anymore.
"He doesn't care."
"He spent over an hour questioning me on how you were, I think he cares."
"Yes, now go talk to him and calm his worries for Christ's sake"
The next morning Ludwig had thanked him gratefully as his brother had come to visit him in the night. "Thank you for talking to him, he seems to be a lot happier."
"I doubt I had anything to do with that"
"He said you're important to him"
After that Roderich had fallen into a stuttering fit and Ludwig'd had to go get him a glass of water to calm him down.
One night, while they were talking about the different places Roderich had stayed, Gilbert asked if Roderich would like to see where he lived.
"Where you live?" Roderich repeated blankly.
Gilbert nodded "Yes, I thought it might have some things you'd like to see."
Roderich thought for a moment before nodding as well "If you don't mind." Gilbert stood up and walked over to the opposite wall. He pushed a certain stone on it and, when Roderich stood up, the wall opened to reveal a passageway. "I did wonder how you were getting around." Gilbert walked into the passage Roderich following close behind.
Roderich gasped slightly when simultaneously the wall behind them closed plunging them into darkness and Gilbert had reached down and taken his hand. "Watch your step Priss" Gilbert said and Roderich could hear how amused he sounded.
"My name. is. Roderich." He said irritably in the dark. He wondered for a moment how Gilbert could get around with no light when they suddenly turned a corner and up ahead there were candles on the walls. He thought that perhaps Gilbert would let go of his hand now but he didn't, causing Roderich to flush slightly and look around at the candle holders on the walls. They walked for a long while all the time going downwards until eventually they came to a large room and Roderich didn't even try to hide his gasp of amazement. It was a room filled with hundreds of candles, drapes hung around several areas, an organ on the farside of the room and a shallow looking almost literal lake of water farther down. "You live here?" Roderich questioned looking around fascinated.
"Yes, I have for a long while" Gilbert said sounding almost proud and releasing Roderich's hand. Roderich walked further in and looked around at the various draperies and notice that there was a miniature model of the operahouse sitting on a table.
"Did you make this?" Roderich said walking up to it.
"Yes, I...have a lot of spare time" Gilbert answered in an almost sorrowful tone. Roderich turned to look at him when he heard the tone change.
"It does seem an awful lonely place to stay with no one to share it with" Roderich said softly, feeling that familiar pang of sympathy for him, and wondering just why it bothered him so much that Gilbert was alone, but perhaps, he already knew.
"True...but you don't have to worry about that at least" Gilbert said an odd moody tone coming into his voice.
"What do you mean?" Roderich said confusedly.
"You've got that girl, up there in the opera house" he explained still looking very much like he was pouting. Roderich shook his head at the very familiar old confusion. It wasn't the first time he and Elizaveta had been mistake as being together, and it probably wouldn't be the last.
"Her name is Elizaveta, and she's just a close friend" he explained tiredly. "And wait what have you been doing, watching me?" he added when he realized that Elizaveta had never met Gilbert.
"Really?" Gilbert said tone brightening for reasons Roderich couldn't quite fathom "and I watch everybody" he added evasively.
"Right..." Roderich said arching an eyebrow "I don't see how Elizaveta's much your concern anyway. What would it matter if me and her were together? We could still talk." Gilbert looked down at the floor.
"It's nothing" He muttered walking to the other side of the room. Roderich was about to question further before he decided against it. He flushed slightly when he realized Gilbert was probably jealous, but he shook it off, trying not to think to hard on it. While he looked at Gilbert though he was overcome with a rather inexplicable urge to see what he looked like. Ludwig had said that he didn't look "normal" but Roderich had no idea what that could mean.
"Can I see you?" the question was out before Roderich could stop it and Gilbert looked back at him in surprise.
"I don't know, can you?" Gilbert quipped back grinning slightly.
"Oh don't be so childish you know what I meant" Roderich snapped irritably. Gilbert looked away
"I don't think you'd want to Specs" he said in the most depressed tone Roderich had ever heard.
"But I think I do" Roderich said tone softened, hearing Gilbert get depressed had somehow managed to drain away his irritation in a hearbeat. He walked over until he was standing in front of him. "I'm not the kind of person who cares for looks." Gilbert looked up, the mask still obscuring his features, hiding whatever he was feeling from Roderich's gaze.
"I-If you want to" and Roderich could hear every trace of fear and uncertainty in his voice. Very carefully, Roderich reached up and pulled on the mask. When he had it firmly held in his hands he moved it down slowly, and saw all of Gilbert's face for the first time. Roderich's eyes widened quite a bit, it wasn't his face that was startling, it was his eyes. His eyes were a deep red, and they showed up brilliantly compared to his abnormally pale skin. Noticing his eyebrows were white, Roderich let the mask fall and reached up and pulled off the hat. His hair was completely white, and it was an odd sight against a younger man's face. Roderich just took the time to stare. This was what so many people had made fun of had isolated him for? True, his colouring was different, but his face and features were perfectly handsome. Roderich could feel himself getting ticked off again when he noticed Gilbert was shaking underneath his gaze. What had they done to him to inspire such fear? Before he could stop himself, Roderich reached up and placed a hand gently against Gilbert's cheek. Gilbert looked at him in surprise and reached up tenatively to place his hand over Roderich's. Roderich looked at him sadly before smiling ever so softly, he hadn't deserved anything that had happened to him. Even if he had been deformed in some way he wouldn't have, people were far too cruel to those that were different. When he realized what he was doing Roderich hastily withdrew his hand, uncertain as to why his heartbeat had suddenly quickened, but he was slowly realizing it. He looked up at Gilbert about to say something when suddenly he leaned down, and the next thing Roderich knew there were lips pressed against his own.
His first response was to let his eyelids flutter shut, his heart racing,but in the next second he had pulled back , hand over his mouth. "Roderich I..." Gilbert said taking a step towards him but Roderich shook his head and took a few more steps back. He looked at Gilbert briefly before turning and fleeing back up the passageway, leaving him there alone. Thoughts tore through his mind, all confused and batting around against eachother. None of them forming a clear sentence. Roderich kept running all the way back up the passage, the wall opening as he approached it. He had gasped in the darkness, even though it only lasted for a moment. He ran back up the stairs and through the opera house ignoring everyone he passed. He got several strange looks, but he was blind to them all. Blind to all but one fact, that he had been kissed by a man, and no matter how hard he was trying to fight against the idea, he had liked it. He finally stopped running, and held onto one of the stage's curtains for support. When had he gotten to the stage? He couldn't quite remember. He was shaking slightly.
"Roderich!" came an anxious voice from behind him and suddenly Elizaveta was at his side. "What happened?" she questioned worriedly placing a hand on his arm. Roderich shook his head rapidly and Elizaveta, understanding somehow, pulled him away from the curtain and into a side dressing room, locking the door behind them. "Roderich, please tell me what happened" she said grabbing his arms and looking up at him. Elizaveta, Elizaveta, she had always been there for him, she was beautiful, but he felt nothing around her. He felt none of the same things he had when he was around Gilbert. How was that possible? He looked down at her for a moment before leaning forward and kissing her. Elizaveta stiffened for a moment but then stood there calmly until Roderich pulled back looking almost ashamed with himself.
"I'm sorry Elizaveta I..." He said trailing off. It hadn't been the same, he had hoped somewhere desperately that it would be. It couldn't have been true, but it was wasn't it? He put a hand over his eyes and backed away a few steps.
"It was him wasn't it?" Elizaveta questioned softly. She hadn't felt anything in the kiss, and she could tell why.
Roderich nodded still keeping his hand over his eyes and Elizaveta stepped forward.
"Roderich, it isn't anything to be ashamed of. You shouldn't run from it, you'll only end up hurting yourself" she said putting her hands on Roderich's arms and smiling softly at him. He looked down at her again, he'd never know what on Earth he could have done to earn such a friend, he probably never would.
"I-I've fallen in love with him Elizaveta...and oh God...I left him there...after pulling his mask off. He probably thinks I hate him" Roderich said panicking slightly.
"Calm down Roderich, I'm sure you can fix it, but you need to go back" Elizaveta said calmly.
"So that's what it was?" came a voice from the corner of the room. Roderich and Elizaveta turned in surprise and Ludwig was standing there looking slightly embarrassed.
"How long have you been there?" Roderich said quietly in horror.
"Um" Ludwig coughed and turned a little red "The..entire time" Roderich flushed deeply and seemed to lose his ability to speak for a moment.
"W-Well...I...have somewhere to be" He finally stuttered out before unlocking the door and leaving the room. Ludwig and Elizaveta gave eachother a knowing look. Roderich ran back through the opera house, and down the stairs. His only thought was that he needed to get back to him, to explain why he had fled. It wasn't because of his face, how could it have been? He had been beautiful. He pressed the stone in the sideroom, and ran back down the passageway. When he finally reached the large room, the candles were still lit, but there was no one in sight. "Gilbert!" He called out, but no answer came. He looked around the room desperately, but there was no sign of him. "Gilbert?" He questioned softly walking into the room, but it was already too late. The room was abandoned. The mask he had worn for most of his days lay discarded on a table, and a nearby mirror was smashed.
It had been a year since that night, and all incidents with the Opera ghost had stopped. It was if he had vanished just as mysteriously as he had come. Roderich had spent every day since then, searching for him, but he was gone. He wasn't above the stage, in the room where they had first talked and had often talked afterwards, in the place where he had lived. Roderich had spent hours sitting in that room, hoping he would come back. He had probably hurt him beyond repair, fleeing after taking his mask off. It was the worst thing he could have done, and Roderich could not forgive himself for it. Elizaveta did her best to console him, but his heart remained heavy.
There was to be a masquerade that night in the main room of the opera house, and as the main pianist since Monsieur Bonnefoy had retired, Roderich had been invited. He did not know how he was supposed to enjoy it though, he had never been a party sort of person. Still, he showed up precisely on time, and had been rather quickly swept into the dance by a redhead in a blue mask. He himself wore the mask he had found in that room. The one he had pulled away before fleeing like the coward he was. And not even because of what was under the mask, but he could never tell him now. He danced almost sullenly, switching from partner to partner as the dance required, not even paying attention to them. Eventually he misstepped causing him to partner up with someone who was obviously a man in a solid black mask and an odd looking hat.
He apologized for the mistake but the man just chuckled and said in a low voice "That's fine mistakes happen" and continued dancing with him for some odd reason. The song changed and Roderich realized with distaste that he would be stuck with dancing with this person as this song was not one where you would change partners. Unless, he pulled out of the dance. He made to do so, but the man suddenly spun him and continued twirling around the floor with him. "So you look rather sullen tonight, why the long face around all these pretty girls?"
Roderich glared slightly up at the man before his stomach sunk like a stone at the question. "I lost my heart a while ago I'm afraid." He said looking to the side losing himself in his thoughts for a moment.
"Ah, pretty girl run away with it did she?" The man said, and Roderich was too lost in memories of what had happened to catch the sour note that had entered the man's voice.
Roderich shook his head "No, I screwed it up. I ran away at the wrong time. I never even told them how beautiful they were."
"If they were beautiful, why did you run away?" The man questioned softly, a hopeful note entering his voice.
"I was afraid of loving them, as stupid as that sounds, but when I got over it...they had already left" Roderich said bitterly, he hadn't even noticed the man had led them in the dance until they were outside the double doors which had been left open. The man stopped dancing when they were no longer surrounded by the crowd and rather suddenly hugged Roderich. "What are you..." Roderich said trying to pull away.
"I thought you were afraid of me" the man said returning his voice to normal from the deeper note he'd been holding it at. Roderich froze and his eyes widened, he looked up at he mask. Hand shaking, he reached up to pull it away, revealing those red eyes he had seen once before.
"Gilbert" he whispered, eyes threatening to water. "How could I have been? I love you" he said returning the hug desperately, never wanting to let go. "I love you, and I'm sorry, I..."
"Shhh" Gilbert interrupted "It's alright, I shouldn't have left. Roderich...I...I love you too" he said before leaning down and capturing Roderich's lips in a gentle kiss, and this time Roderich gave in. He kissed back gently allowing a teardrop to escape and gently glide down his cheek. From the doorway Elizaveta watched smiling gently before being asked to dance again by Viktor. She rolled her eyes slightly and went back inside to snap at him that she didn't want another. Ludwig had noticed the pair as well but was slightly distracted by Feliciano tugging on his arm and asking when the party would be over.
Gilbert just stood and held Roderich gently as the night passed before putting on his mask again and stepping back and extending his hand. "So, Roderich, may I have this dance?" he questioned as the next song began.
Roderich smiled before taking his hand "You know you may you idiot."