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Beauty and the Phantom

Chapter Text

 

 

 

A summer storm had unexpectedly descended on Paris, the wind causing great drops of rain to fall against the windows, making them rattle loudly.  This only added to the chaos at the Royal Palace of France. Queen Madeline had gone into labor quite unexpectedly, and the commissioned doctors were nowhere to be found. King Charles was in a nervous rage and had ordered almost all of his guard to leave in search of them. He paced for what felt like hours, frequently pausing at a window to glare out at the storm.

 

An anguished cry from the Royal Chamber brought him running. He burst into the room, rushing to his wife’s bedside. Her young, beautiful face was pale and sweaty, filled with agonized pain.

 

“The doctors…” she gasped.

 

“No sign of them yet, my love,” he said, kissing her forehead.

 

She clasped his hands tightly, painfully. “The baby…. there is something wrong…”

 

“Shsh, please, everything will be fine,” King Charles said, almost choking on the lie. He looked towards the foot of the bed where the midwives huddled. Useless, the lot of them, he thought darkly.

 

More time passed. The King fretted and paced. The Queen writhed and moaned.  And still, they waited.

 

“I’ll have their heads for this!” the King growled.

 

Queen Madeline suddenly let out a terrible scream. There came a sound of gushing liquid, and then silence. One of the midwives fainted. The others gasped in fright and fled the room.

 

The King stood frozen in his spot, startled and fearing the worst.

 

“Charles…. the baby….” Madeline cried.

 

Charles squeezed her hand and stepped to the foot of the bed. He tried to keep the horror from his face at what he saw.

 

Laying in a spreading pool of blood and afterbirth lay a monstrous creature, barely recognizable as human. It’s flesh was snow white and twisted like a wrung out cloth, with blue veins bulging out like worms. And it’s face- it’s terrible face! No nose, no ears, no hair, just a pair of mismatched eyes blinking up at him. He could see clearly that the thing, for he could not think of it as human, was a male of some kind.

 

I am being punished, he thought bitterly. I am being punished by God for choosing a wife so many years my junior, for destroying her innocence. I have been cursed with the devil’s child!

 

“Charles, is the baby alive?” he heard Madeline ask weakly. “Bring it to me.”

 

For one terrible moment the King entertained the thought of smothering the creature and whisking it away, telling Madeline it was stillborn.

 

And bring upon myself further condemnation? No!

 

Knowing just enough about birth to sever the umbilical, Charles did so and grabbed a nearby cloth. With trembling hands he wrapped the thing in it and slowly brought it towards her.

 

“Madeline… I am afraid that… it is not…. normal.”

 

“What do you mean?” Her pale face was a mask of confusion. She strained to see what was in his hands.

 

“It has an illness of some kind,” Charles said, thinking quickly. “I daresay it will not live long.”

 

Madeline held out her arms. Charles hesitated, then placed the bundle in her arms. He watched her face intently as she parted the cloth. To his surprise she did not cry out in despair or shock, only shed tears, tears of joy, he thought.

 

“He has your eyes,” Madeline said softly.

 

Charles stiffened. “He does?”

 

“Your left eye a greyish blue, your right an emerald green,” she said. “His are exactly the same." She pressed the baby gently to her chest and closed her eyes.

 

“Madeline…. Madeline?” Charles asked, his panic rising.

 

She reached out a hand to him and he grasped it tightly. “Call him Erik,” she said wearily. “And always tell him that his mother loved him.”

 

She sank into the bed and breathed no more, her hand becoming limp in Charles’ grip. With a cry of despair he fell upon her, trying desperately to rouse her. “Madeline! Madeline! Please, please don’t leave me!”

 

And for the very first time, the baby cried.

 

 

 

 


Chapter Text



 

 

I'm tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
I don't know what you're expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Can't you see that you're smothering me?
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control
'Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
And every second I waste is more than I can take!
And I know I may end up failing too
But I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
By becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there
I'm tired of being what you want me to be
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there
I'm tired of being what you want me to be

 

-  Linkin Park, “Numb”

 







Christine





“Christine! Christine!”

 

Christine covered her mouth with both of her hands as she struggled to hold in her giggles. Her father had passed not two feet in front of the bushes where she was hiding, and was now calling for her from over a hundred feet away, she guessed. She slipped silently from underneath the brush and ran as fast as her little legs would take her in the opposite direction, further into the surrounding forest. She was not afraid, for she knew this forest well, having spent most of her waking hours exploring it’s wonders. When she reached a small stream she burst out laughing as she splashed into it, knowing now that her father would never find her. The ice cold water felt refreshing on her hot skin and soothed her bare feet as she walked among the moss covered rocks on the stream bottom.

 

She had not been there long before she had the uneasy feeling of being watched. She shaded her eyes with a hand and searched the forest around her. At first she saw nothing but trees swaying in the gentle breeze, then as she looked closer at a large boulder she could see a pair of mismatched eyes staring back at her from the tall grass surrounding it.

 

She smiled. “It’s alright,” she called. “Don’t be afraid. My name is Christine.”

 

“I’m not afraid,” a youthful voice said firmly.

 

Christine stepped from the stream and shook water from her arms. “Then show yourself,” she said, laughing lightly.

 

The eyes disappeared, and the muffled voice said, “I can’t.”

 

Christine put her hands on her hips, slightly frustrated. “And why is that?”

 

“Because…. people don’t like to look at me.”

 

Christine began walking towards the boulder, then stopped when she heard light footsteps retreating from her. “Wait!” she called. “I’m not afraid to look at you!”

 

“You say that because you haven’t seen me,” the voice growled back.

 

Christine folded her arms and frowned. “I’m eleven years old. I’m not afraid of anything!” she boasted.

 

Christine waited as she heard rustling through leaves and branches, then a tall and skinny young boy emerged from behind the boulder. His mismatched eyes regarded her warily.

 

Christine huffed indignantly. “You’re wearing a mask. Is that what I’m supposed to be afraid of?”

 

The young boy shook his head. “It is what lies beneath it that is hideous to look at.”

 

Christine again looked doubtful. “Let me be the judge of that.” She took a step towards him.

 

He looked as if he were about to run again, but he allowed her to approach him. When she reached out a hand towards the mask, he grabbed her wrist.

 

“Promise me that you won’t scream.”

 

Christine nodded.

 

The boy did not release his hold on her wrist. “Promise that you won’t cry or run away.”

 

“I promise,” Christine said firmly, trying to reassure him.

 

The boy released his hold on her. He took a deep breath and held it as Christine slowly pulled the soft leather mask away.

 

He heard a soft gasp and squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable scream. When he heard nothing, he slowly opened one eye, then the other.

 

Christine was staring at him, but not with disgust or horror. She studied his face with intense curiosity.

 

“Were you born like that- without a nose, formed ears, eyebrows- nothing?”

 

The boy nodded, casting his eyes at his feet. He bit his lip to keep from crying.

 

“What’s your name?” Christine asked.

 

“Erik,” the boy mumbled.

 

“You have beautiful eyes.”

 

Erik’s head shot up and he stared at her in shock. Of all the words he had heard used to describe him, beautiful had never been among them.

 

“What?”

 

Catching on to his disbelief, Christine said, “I wouldn’t lie to you, Erik. Your left eye is the color of how I imagine a stormy sea to be, your right the color of emeralds. They’re beautiful.”

 

Feeling slightly embarrassed, Erik retrieved his mask from her hand and replaced it. “Forgive me, I feel rather naked without it.”

 

“Where did you come from?” Christine asked. “I’ve never seen you in Villeneuve.”

 

“Oh… uh…. my father and I, we are just passing through,” Erik stammered.

 

Christine gave him a skeptical look. “Villeneuve isn’t on the way to anywhere, Erik.”

 

Erik thought for a moment, then said, “My father likes to hunt, but it does not interest me.”

 

Christine again looked skeptical. “I would think that one would not dress so formally to go hunting,” she said, gesturing towards his clothes.

 

Erik looked down at his once impeccable dark suit and started brushing away the leaves, grass and dust that had accumulated on his sleeves and trousers.

 

“Well, I…. uh…”

 

Christine smiled and laughed. “If it is such a big secret, you do not have to tell me.” She gestured towards the stream. “Come sit with me.”

 

Erik followed her to the bank of the stream. Christine sat and stretched her feet out to dangle in the water, leaning back on her hands. Erik hesitated briefly, then removed his boots and socks and plopped his feet in the water. He hissed involuntarily at the ice cold water.

 

Christine placed her hand on his knee. “It is cold, but refreshing, yes? Just leave your feet there, you’ll get used to it.”

 

Erik’s leg stiffened underneath her touch-  he was not used to human contact. Christine did not notice, instead her gaze was drawn to the twisted flesh of his bare feet.

 

“So it is not only your face that is affected?” she asked.

 

Erik only nodded.

 

Christine accepted his answer, then abruptly changed the subject. She spoke of how her father was an inventor and painter, but he also like to play his old violin when he had the time. They would often take long walks into the forest, and he would tell her the names of all the trees, plants and animals.

 

“We do not spend much time in the village,” she said, frowning slightly. “The people there are somewhat old fashioned, and they think us odd.”

 

Christine continued to speak of how her mother had died at her birth, but that her father spoke of her often, and had painted her several times. Erik listened intently, marveling at how animated and excited she was about life in general, and he found himself relaxing and genuinely enjoying her presence.

 

“Father is working on a music box now,” she said. “He hopes to travel to the fairs and fetch a good price for it. And he always brings me back a rose, a beautiful red one. He says I remind him so much of mother, and she loved roses.”

 

Suddenly the sound of men shouting and the thundering of horse hooves filled the air.

 

“Erik! Erik!”

 

Erik looked toward the sounds fearfully, then hurriedly pulled on his socks and boots.

 

“I have to go, Christine,” he said urgently.

 

“But-” Christine tried to protest.

 

Erik pulled something from his pocket and pressed it into her hand. “For your kindness.”

 

He turned from her and bolted into the trees. She stared after him, wishing that she hadn’t spent their whole time together jabbering about nothing. She opened her hand and gazed with wonder at the gift Erik had given her.

 

It was a rose, intricately carved into a smooth piece of ivory. The detail of it was astonishing, it looked as if it had just been freshly plucked from a rose bush.

 

“Christine! There you are!”

 

Christine looked to where her father stood a few feet away from her. “I wish you wouldn’t run so far into these woods. There are dangerous things out here.”

 

Christine ran to him and put her arms around his waist. “I’m sorry, Papa. I will be more careful in the future.”

 

Christine took her father's hand and they walked back towards their small cottage, her mind filled with thoughts of the strange boy in the forest.

 

 

 

 





Chapter Text

10 years later




Erik was startled awake by loud pounding on the door of his room. He rubbed his eyes and yawned, recognizing the irritated voice of Cogsworth, his father’s butler.

 

“Your Highness, your father demands your presence immediately!”

 

Erik blew out a frustrated sigh and slowly pushed himself away from the two women lying next to him. Rising from the bed, he tiptoed around the other women in the room, all of them in various states of undress.

 

The pounding on the door continued until Erik reached it and yanked it open. Cogsworth stood there, his round face becoming more scarlet by the second.

 

“Cogsworth,” Erik growled, “It is past two. Why not let me sleep and I will return to the palace in the morning?”

 

Cogsworth grabbed his arm before he could shut the door. “I am afraid that your Highness must come this very moment,” he said urgently. “The King is waiting outside in his carriage.”

 

Erik shrugged indifferently and grabbed his mask, shirt, and jacket that lay on a nearby chair. He clenched them tightly in his fists, not bothering to put them on. He followed Cogsworth down the stairs and outside to his father’s outlandishly decorated carriage. Cogsworth opened the door for him and he gritted his teeth before climbing inside.

 

“For God’s sake, cover yourself!” King Charles roared at him before he had the chance to sit down. “Have you no propriety?”

 

Erik made no move to comply as the carriage leapt forward. “It is good to see you too, father. I did not know that you had returned from England.”

 

His father eyed him coldly. “You will turn twenty one in a month, and it is time that you took on the duties of your birthright. I have given orders to Cogsworth to have Madame Giry’s whorehouse burned to the ground if you ever return there.”

 

Erik gave a harsh laugh as he put on his shirt. “Then you will have half of the nobility of Paris complaining of their lack of entertainment, and you will be depriving yourself as well.”

 

“You will also be required to marry.”

 

Erik’s head jerked up.

 

“I must ensure that the Harcourt line will continue. You will chose a wife and provide an heir within two years,” Charles finished.

 

Erik was silent for several moments. “And if I refuse?”

 

“Our closest relation is the Marquis de Chagny. His son will take the throne in the event of my death, and you will forfeit your inheritance,” his father said with finality.

 

“Raoul de Chagny is a simpleton and a cripple!” Erik said angrily. “You are doing this to spite me!”

 

“I would much rather leave the ruling of this country to a simpleton than to the deformed disappointment of a man you have turned out to be!” the King said harshly.

 

Erik stiffened. His father never spoke of his appearance unless he expressly wanted to hurt him. Erik bit his tongue until he tasted blood. He gave a resigned sigh.

 

“Very well. I will do as you ask.”

 

Erik’s father gave him a triumphant but humorless smile. “I will leave the choice of wife to your discretion, but she must be a maid. I insist on this, and will require proof of it.”

 

Erik only nodded, and he stared out the window until they arrived at the palace.



****



Christine was busy pulling weeds in her garden when she heard the urgent voice of her father.

 

“Christine! Belle, where are you?”

 

Christine stood and brushed the grime from her dress and hands. “I’m in the garden, Papa!” she called.

 

Her father rounded the cottage and practically slammed into the garden gate. He waved a piece of parchment paper towards her.

 

“Big news, great news, belle !” he said breathlessly.

 

Christine could not help the small laugh that escaped her. Gustave Daae was a brilliant yet humble man who preferred to live a simple life, but always carried a sadness about him that he could never hide. As Christine took in his unkempt hair and sparkling eyes, she knew that this was one of those rare moments of pure joy that he sometimes showed.

 

“A Ball Masque, at the Royal Palace, no less!” he exclaimed.

 

Christine took the parchment from him and saw the official seal of the royal family near the top. This far away from Paris they rarely heard word from their rulers, except when taxes were increased. She raised her eyebrows as she read.

 

“ ‘Every eligible maiden is invited to attend, and the Crown Prince will be choosing a wife from among them’. Papa, there will be thousands of proper ladies there. What chance do I have?”

 

“The same as any, my belle ,” her father said firmly. “Come, I have a surprise for you.”

 

Christine followed him into the cottage, trying to scrape off the drying mud from her hands. The first thing she noticed was a large bright yellow box sitting on their cluttered dinner table. She opened it carefully and gasped at it’s contents.

 

A feathered owl mask sat atop a beautifully golden-colored gown. She reached out to pull it from the box, then pulled her dirtied hands back.

 

“Papa, the ball is in less than two weeks,” Christine said. “Do you think I can get cleaned up by then?”

 

“The Prince will not be able to take his eyes off of you!” Gustave said confidently.

 

“How did you afford this, Papa?” Christine asked as she rinsed her hands.

 

“I sold my violin,” Gustave said. “But it will be well worth it when I see you in that gown!”

 

“But, Papa, didn’t mother give it to you as a gift? How could you bear to be parted from it?” Christine asked in shock.

 

Gustave took her by the shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes. “You deserve so much more than this provincial life, Christine,” he said. “And when I see you on the Princes’ arm I will be repaid tenfold!”

 

“But I know so little of him,” Christine said as she pulled the gown from it’s box. She held it close to her, knowing that it would fit perfectly. “All we ever hear is gossip that is months old.”

 

“You must meet the man to judge his true character, Christine,” Gustave admonished.

 

“And what does a royal do besides raise taxes on the poor and destitute?”

 

“I am sure you will find out soon enough,” her father said, laughing.