The characters featured do not belong to me. This work is not for profit and meant as artistic expression inspired by the original work.
I have a strange combination of Phantom characters in my head at the moment - Erik from the Polish small-stage production and the original London Raoul. Erik in particular is a strange bird, mostly because the actor doesn't think twice about singing Raoul songs - or hell, Christine ones - during his recitals, while in the mask. A Phantom singing Twisted Every Way made an indelible impression on me.
Warnings: Heavy angst. And Erik is even more melodramatic than certain vampires.
SINGING SONGS IN MY HEADby Beth
The rain came with the dusk, heavy drops cutting through evening fog. It rained for hours, unrelenting, until the streets were empty of all but the ones most desperate to be outside.
He was one of them. He'd spent the day in the sewers, but at night the higher tunnels filled with the homeless seeking shelter and the lower routes were a path to despair even greater than the one that gripped him. If he'd wanted pain and bloodshed, he thought, all he'd had to do had been to wait for the mob weeks ago. Falling prey to the dwellers of Paris' lowest underground was not an end he would choose for himself.
Now he sat on the wide stone railing of Pont d'Alexandre, his back against a carved lantern post. Its light did not pass ten feet from the post itself, but it was enough to envelop him in a dim circle of gold, every raindrop set aflame. Below him, the Seine rolled turbulently, and on either side the city stretched in glistening darkness, circles of light outlining boulevards and windows. A barge passed under the bridge, and he watched the men who manned it, steering it through the stormy blackness.
Oh, what music could he write about a night like this - not an opera, no, but a sonata, a song, the lightless charm of a Paris rainfall trapped in words and notes. He raised his hands to sketch the notes on the wind before they escaped him.
Then his fingers faltered. There was no more music. It was over.
There was only one note left to him, and one word. It brought pain anew, but he whispered it to himself regardless. Then he sang it, rythmless, tuneless, the only song left in his head.
The wind stole the name from his lips, carried it to the river, to the clouds that still let down rain over the city. The same wind tore at him, rattling the glass of the lantern above him, sending the raindrops almost horizontally at his face through the hood of his cloak until he had to raise his hands to his face to bar their way.
When he lowered his hands, he saw a shadow moving over his little circle of light. A man, in a fashionable coat, cloakless, bare-headed. The coat made a wet sound as the man leaned over the same lantern that supported him.
"Do you have the time?"
The man who still thought of himself as the Phantom, the name he had made and lost, noticed the cultured accent, southern and refined. The voice seemed familiar, but the roughness in it spoke of tears or shouting and changed it beyond recognition.
"No," the Phantom said. "It's late. That is all that matters."
"Too late and too wet for any decent people."
He smiled within his cowl. "I have never cared about decent people."
The sound of the rain eased off slightly, letting him hear the quiet chuckle. "So what are you doing at night, in the rain?"
"I am mourning."
"My own peace of mind." The Phantom reached out, shaping notes over the water again. "My music. And my heart."
There was a hand resting on the lamppost, near enough to his back that he could feel its presence without looking around. He found himself content to sit there, in someone else's company for the first time since his last night at the Opera House. Was that Christine's touch again, making him long for another's voice even if it could not be hers? He had shadowed her for so long...
"That sounds like a story."
"Is there a story? Only someone longing for something he could never have. And in the process, all is lost. Everything."
"The woman who broke your heart, what was she like?"
The Phantom leaned his head back against the pillar, looking up at the light. The words crowded on his lips, thoughts that had whirled in his mind for so long finally given flesh. "She was springtime and light. A new life, a beacon of light that came into my darkness and blinded me to all else. I thought that I could seize her, have her sing for me, but I didn't know that when light and darkness meet, the darkness always perishes. Before I knew, it was too late. Now she'll never stop - she'll always sing in my head and govern my thoughts. I see her face wherever I turn to. I hear her voice in the crowd. I feel her hand in mine when there is no-one else around."
"You love her." The hand on the lamppost slipped a little, resting on the Phantom's shoulder, rain-cold even through his cloak.
"Yes." He had a strange urge to put his hand over the other man's, to make sure this conversation wasn't all in his imagination. It felt that way, with the rain and the darkness and the bells, somewhere, night watchmen on their rounds. "She taught me, step by step, what love is. Before I met her, I spoke of love, but it was a hollow sound only filled with the images of poets past. Now I know its splendour and its agony. I should be grateful to her."
"But the pain is too much?"
He shook his head, his cowl shifting over the hand on his shoulder. "I thought it would be over once I let her go. I thought my heart would bleed and the memories would never die, but I didn't think she wouldn't let me go in turn. She's still there-" he touched his forehead "-I still hear her. I have no music but her voice, no song but her name. I don't know if it will ever end. I used to dream she would always be there in my head. Now I'm wondering if that is not to be my punishment."
The wind woke again, throwing curtains of wind their way. A darkened carriage rattled across the bridge, adding the spray of water from under its wheels to nature's assault. The Phantom drew his cloak closer to himself, and through the shifting of the hand on his shoulder he could tell the other man was stooping down, hiding behind him from the relentless attack.
"It was worth it," he said quietly now that the other's head was close enough to hear even through the wind and the rain. It felt liberating to speak of it all, even as each word cut into his heart. "The sweetness she lent to my life even for a few short years was worth every ounce of pain. She made my heart soar with her spirit and her voice. For a moment, she loved me. If madness is the price, I pay it gladly. While she lives... while she lives, her voice will haunt me, until the day I die."
"Then it is over." The voice was little more than a whisper, hoarse and so unfamiliar.
He swallowed, clenched and unclenched his fingers. He had expected it. There was little else that could have brought this man to speak him, less to drive him into darkness and rain.
"How?" the Phantom asked, his voice just as changed with unshed tears.
"She thought she saw something in the shadows. She thought it was you - she thought she heard your voice. She tripped and fell on a glass door. It shattered under the impact. She bled- she-"
He did reach up then, clenching his fingers around the hand on his shoulder, raising it to the light. A pink sheen covered it, both less and more substantial than the rainwater that washed over it.
"Why did you come here?" he demanded.
Raoul shrugged, letting his weight slump bonelessly against the lamppost, half-leaning against the Phantom. "I think I wanted to look at the water."
The Phantom closed his eyes. He remembered his first glimpse of the new patron, the first time he saw him with Christine, the roof, the cemetery, the last confrontation. He remembered the warmth in Christine's eyes whenever she looked at Raoul.
"Then it is good I was here," he said. "It is too late for decent people."
He slipped down from the railing, shifting to support Raoul's weight as he stood up. Raoul's clutching hands were holding fast to the folds of his cloak, which shifted and slipped, the cowl falling back.
Without the shadow of the cowl, the light of the lantern was almost blinding. The Phantom idly noticed that he had thought Raoul was shorter than him, but it looked like it was the other way around.
Raoul wiped at his eyes, slicking back his wet hair. "It's good you were here," he agreed. "I need... oh God, I need to do so much. She had no-one but us."
"There are Madeleine and Meg Giry. They will have to be notified. Her friends from the corps de ballet. The innkeeper from the inn at the back of the Opera Populaire, since Christine used to help out there." The Phantom turned to look at the river again. "She had many friends."
"I didn't know her very well at all, did I?" Raoul's voice trembled as he spoke.
"I watched her for longer."
Raoul's hand rested on his shoulder again, and this time he did raise his own to cover it, both of them drawing comfort from the touch.
"She was running towards you when she fell."