I'm sorry about the spelling and grammar mistakes you're going to have to endure in order to read this. Still it would please me if you'd read this.
Warning: this one-shot is an alternate universe fic of Susan Kay's book "The Phantom". Even when what happens here didn't happen in the book spoilers are inevitable. I've been trying to write this so those who are not familiar of the book can read it, but I must warn you that there are spoilers ahead.
SPOILERS START HERE:
In Kay's book Erik came back to his childhood home and found out his mother had passed away only three days earlier. This is so called "what if" alternate universe fic. What if Erik and his mother had met one last time? Story is set in 1860's and Erik is in his thirties.
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to Gaston Leroux and Susan Kay.
She opened her eyes to see that it was already late morning. In years she had not slept this long and she could not believe that for all the days in her life she would sleep late this day. The day when she would start a new chapter in her life. She raised the stairs down from her bedroom to the quiet living room to found him still lying on the couch. Laudanum must have done its trick for even him to sleep this late. She moved slowly to him, checking that his bandage was alright, that the wound had not started to bleed again. She moved carefully, almost like being afraid, to his side. She softly ran her fingers in his black hair causing him to stir and open his catlike eyes.
"Mother?" he asked as if not understanding what was happening. Of course this was only to be expected as this was the first time in nine years she showed any signs of affection to him.
"Try to get back to sleep" she told him gently. "You need rest to get better".
This time she noticed how his eyes winded with confusion. "You…you're not going to shut me up to that terrible place for mad peoples?" he asked carefully.
She felt awful for scaring him with that kind of threats. "No, of course I'm not going to. Now try to sleep. And you've better take this off" she told him with that same soothing way and took the mask from his face before he had time to protest. "You don't need this anymore. Not with me" she said and gently caressed his cheek.
This is the beginning of the new life, she thought.
Madeline woke up wishing she was still asleep, dreaming of her son. But she knew wishing was useless. For the last twenty years she had seen this same dream and woke up hating herself.
It had been twenty odd years since she last time saw her son Erik and never even got to say goodbye to him. Erik had run off from home at the age of nine. She had driven him to that and ironically he had done it few hours after she had realised how important Erik was to her. A day before Erik had stormed off to save their dog Sasha from those angry villagers who hated Erik without any reason one of them had wounded Erik with a knife. After she had seen him unconscious and banded and hearing Etienne, that silly young doctor, still talking about sending boy to asylum she had realised that she loved Erik more than herself. After nine years of his birth she finally realised that, like any good mother, she also loved her son more than anything.
Madeline looked out of the window and sighed. It was still night, she had probably slept only few hours. Oh how she wished she would have been a better mother. Why did she have to realise her love for him when it was too late? After she had nine years treated him like dirt, pretending he didn't exist. She hadn't even been able to kiss him when he asked that at his birthday. He asked only one birthday gift from her, his mother who should have given it to him with an ease, and she had shouted him to never ask something like that again. He only asked so little affection, something every child should receive from their mothers, and she never gave him any.
And now twenty years later she still wondered what could have been. She wondered would Erik have forgiven her. She wondered what their life would be like. She knew at least that if Erik had stayed she would not be bedridden weak woman. The strong independent proud woman she had once been was gone and was replaced by fifty year old sick woman who looked at least ten years elder. Madeline knew she was dying. For what exactly she could not tell but if she had to guess it would be for being tired to go on. Her closest friend, her only friend who stayed after Erik was born, Marie had also realised this. She had stayed as her support all these years and for that Madeline was grateful beyond all beliefs. God only knows how she would have managed without Marie. She had moved to her sometime ago to take care of her.
God is also the only one who knows what had happened to her son. Madeline had searched Erik after he had run off but he seemed to have disappeared to thin air. No body was found, no rumours were heard of the young boy wearing a mask. What had happened to Erik? Is he alive? Is he alright? Or had the hatred of men killed him? Those were just few of the many questions Madeline feared she would never have an answer.
Knock? Somebody was knocking the door for God knows how late at night. Madeline forced herself to sit on the bed, her tired body almost refusing to obey her. She listen Marie's footsteps going to downstairs and then heard the opening of the front door. She tried to hear any sounds, wanting to know whether there was some lost merchant or some prankster wanting to know if the crazy old woman had already died. What she heard though was not what she expected. She heard Marie scream Holy Virgins name in surprise. Madeline forced herself out of the bed and dressed in her robes. She carefully walked out of the room to hear what was happening and heard clearly Marie talking to someone. She seemed to be half thrilled and half scared to death.
"I had hoped against all hopes that you would come but…but I…it seemed such a long shot trying to contact you through the paper" Madeline heard Marie stutter. Madeline was totally oblivious of what Marie was ranting about or who she was ranting to.
"I think this is only a coincidence, Mademoiselle Perrault. I do not read papers" said a man's voice and Madeline thought she would die on that place. She knew that voice. That voice was so beautiful, so superhuman like that it could not belong to anyone else. The voice didn't belong to a young boy but a grown up man and Madeline had to see him with her own eyes. She walked the stairs down to the dark hallway. She saw the little figure of Marie in the dim candle light and that she was talking to a long figure of a man who had his back to Madeline. Man was dressed all in black, with long black cape landing from his shoulders to his shoes and a black hat covering him to the dark.
Marie noticed Madeline and following her gaze the man turned around. Instead of a face Madeline found herself watching a white porcelain mask and the two catlike eyes behind the eye slits.
"Erik…"she breathed. Was this really happening? Was he truly here with her?
Silenced and awkwardness filled the dark hall and Marie asked them both to come to the living room. She lit the fire to fireplace and lighted an old lamp on the table. Then she left them alone.
Madeline sat down to an armchair and looked at her son who awkwardly sat down to a couch opposite her.
It took probably fifteen minutes before Madeline broke the silence. "You came back" she said.
"It would seem so" said a cold voice beneath the mask. Madeline couldn't help but flinch at the coldness he was showing to her.
"How have you been?" she asked next and regretted it immediately for the look she received.
"Oh life has been just peachy! Dancing on the roses and all that rubbish!" he retorted to her angrily.
Silence descended between them again.
"Still you came back" Madeline said. "Why?"
Erik sighed. "I didn't think you'd be here. I came here, thinking this house was abounded, to burn it. I wanted to burn this house and all the memories in it. But then I noticed someone was living here and I decided to pay the owner to movie out tonight and let me burn this place".
Madeline seemed curious. "Would you have had enough money to pay a family out of here?" she asked.
Erik put a hand to his pocket and revealed a valet containing several thousand francs. "You can probably imagine my surprise when Mademoiselle Perrault opened the door" he said.
Madeline smiled. "Marie moved in when my condition got worse. I'd probably be dead by now without her".
"But you're dying, aren't you?" Erik suddenly asked and something in his voice told that he already knew the answer.
"Yes" she said simply.
"Judging by your condition, obvious tiredness and symptoms you've got few days left. A week at the most" he said.
This was old news to Madeline but caught her interest. "Has my son become a doctor?" she asked.
Erik shifted uncomfortably. "Among other things. So, you're finally ready to admit I'm your son".
Madeline felt like her proud had suddenly being hurt. "I've never denied it" she said.
Erik snorted. "No, you just didn't feel like advertising about it. But then again you didn't need to. Twenty-four hours after my birth everyone already knew that demon had born to this world".
Madeline was about to say something when Erik jumped from his seat and spoke louder than before. "Why did you come back, mother? What possible reason made you decide to end your days in this accursed house with nothing but bad memories? Did he die, is that it?"
Madeline was stunned to say the least. "Come back…I never left in the first place. Did who die?"
Erik seemed to be in a mild state of shock because it took few seconds before he was able to answer her back. "That doctor person! Do you two live here? Are you saying you made this place a home for your new family?" he roared.
"New family? Erik, you're the only family I have. I never married again and Etienne moved away from the town" she managed to say, for she suddenly found herself afraid of her son. She had been afraid of him when he was little but know he was full grown man, not to mention much taller than men normally were.
Erik looked at her for a long moment. He seemed to be fighting some inner battle and when he spoke it was quiet but emotional. "Are you telling me that it was all for nothing? I left so that you could have your freedom and move away with him to start a new life and…and now you tell me that my running away and everything I've gone through after that has been for nothing?!" he barked.
Madeline sat silently watching him, not capable of making sound. He had left so she could live her life? Madeline felt pain in her chest. Erik had left because he cared for her. After nine years of living hell he had still cared for her. Just like she for him he also had loved her.
"I didn't leave because I didn't want to be happy" she said softly. "I couldn't be happy without you Erik. That night when Sasha was attacked I realised what a failure of a mother I've always been. I wanted us to be happy. I was going to collect all of your masks the next day and burn them to show that I was not ashamed of you. And I never hated you, Erik. Even when I said I did, I never hated you".
Silenced landed between them again and this time Erik didn't say anything. He just stood there watching her, as if seizing his options. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, he moved to the piano.
"You do forgive me that I'm not going to attend to your funerals. I wouldn't want to start another gossip plague in this village. Still I think a requiem would still be in order, wouldn't you say? Though I'm not sure if I have time later on…Maybe I should play it now?" he asked, muttering to himself more than to her.
"Yes, maybe you should" Madeline said.
Erik removed his black gloves and revealed his thin, pale and long, almost like skeleton, fingers. He moved them to the keys playing, pouring out what was inside of him. It was beautiful to listen and Madeline was surprised later on to find moisture from her cheeks. She had her son back, even if only for this night.
After he had played, which could have been few minutes or few days fro all she knew, he rose up to his full length and offered silently to help her back to her bed. She took his offer and leaned against him as they walked slowly the stairs up, passing Marie who had a strange serenity in her eyes. Erik helped Madeline to the bed and sat at the edge. Madeline hold on to Erik's hand as he sat there. She suddenly had a feeling of déjà vu. Over twenty years ago then, on the day when Erik had first saw his face from the mirror, he had cried in his bed and she had sat at the edge of it, letting him hold her hand until he slept.
But unlike Madeline that day Erik did not sat silently but talked to her. He told her about his journeys. How he had spent time with the gypsies, travelled with the fairs, lived a little while in the Roman as an architect's apprentice. He told how he travelled through Eastern-Europe and from Russia to Asia and back. He told how he spent years in Persia and build a palace to a sultan. He also told how he had endured terrible things like getting poisoned and being treated by a man who he only referred as Daroga. He told how he had done terrible things. How he had killed a gypsy master who had held him and took part of the grand vicars assassination. He told about the torture chambers he had build for the khanum, the sultan's mother, and how he had also caused deaths of some he had never wished any harm to be done.
Madeline lay silently holding her son's hand and listening to his amazing stories. He had seen and experienced more before turning thirty than many will during their lifetime and yet he spoke of his journeys like they meant nothing to him.
She felt tiredness coming and an odd sense of peace also. "Could you show me your face one last time, Erik?" she suddenly asked. Erik looked at her questioning her but then only nodded.
"Yes, it would be a proper end…" he murmured. He pulled the mask off and revealed his corpse like face. It had changed of course some in the years but it was still so much like the day he had born. His veins could still be seeing, his lips were terrible thin, his cheeks were sunken and where should be a nose was a terrible black hole.
Madeline rose to sit and was so close to Erik that it unnerved him. He seemed like wanting to get as far from her as possible. She spoke to him quietly as if fearing someone else should hear what she said. "I have your birthday gift, Erik. I'm sorry it's so delayed" she said. Before Erik had time to wonder what she meant she laid a solemn kiss to his cold cheek. Then she lay back down to her pillow. Erik didn't move nor made a sound, but she saw a lonely tear landing down his face.
Madeline kept holding his hand finally feeling happy after twenty years. She knew that when she would woke up Erik wouldn't be here anymore and she knew he wouldn't come back anymore during her short lifetime. But he had been here and forgiven her and she was happy. And maybe one day, if God wills, her poor son Erik would be happy too.
Neither Madeline nor her masked son knew that at that moment, many miles away of them, in a household of Swedish violinist, a baby girl was born.
This fic is dedicated for Michelle.