Title: Heartbeat in the Darkness
Time Period: Picks up at the very end of the movie
Pairing: Not what you think
Rating: PG-13-ish+ Reader discression for violence and language
Plot Synopsis: Love and luck are not always what they seem.
This is dedicated to our beautiful lourdesmontand her love of "icky bits." I wrote this story several years ago, but never posted it. She read the outline and adored the twists it took. I've been working on a manuscript so this story has been pretty much abandoned to my archives. Over the weekend, four of us LJers got together for a writer's reunion of sorts. I watched the expressions on my friends faces as I gave a light overview of this story and their eyes lit up at the same twist. So, here you go. The story is several years old. Not sure how regularly I will update the chapters, however, it will be a welcomed distraction to keep my muse entertained while working on my manuscript.
Hopefully, this community isn't dead and those who read will comment. Enjoy!
Still dressed in a costume of men’s riding breeches, Meg Giry moved easily through the narrow passages under the opera house. Splashing through the shallow water, she made her way under the moss-draped portcullis toward the lakeshore. The smell of old wax and smoke mixed with the must of time hung heavily in the air. Her teeth bit into the soft flesh of her lower lip as she surveyed the space. The magnificence of the pipe organ gave her pause. Piles of papers, sheet music, and artists brushes cluttered every available surface. Dusty tapestry, faded from years of neglect, draped carelessly against the cold stone walls.
A glimpse of white in the dim torch light caught her eye. The frozen glare of a mask, abandoned on the edge of a small table, challenged her trespassing. It reminded her of the stories her mother shared about a man of unfortunate circumstances. A man deformed from birth, abandoned, and left to suffer the torment of brutal caretakers. No longer able to bear the taunting, he eventually escaped and spent the rest of his life hiding from the world. Meg’s heart broke every time her mother told the story. Meg once asked if she could meet him, but her mother insisted they were only stories, scolding it was impolite to pry. Startled by her mother’s reaction, she never pressed the issue again but always believed the stories were true.
Next to the mask rested a barrel organ. Ornate in its trappings, a monkey dressed in Persian regalia perched upon the box housing the mechanism. Meg stooped to admire the magnificence of its detailing. Her fingers found the key and cautiously wound it several revolutions. A delicate melody tinkled lightly as the barrel turned, plucking at the tines hidden inside. She smiled sadly listening to the music slow to its final note.
Returning her attention to the mask, she lifted it from the table. The finish of the soft leather under her fingers proved the care of its crafting. It glared back, as if reflecting years of anger and torment from the deformity its owner had concealed behind it. She pressed it to her chest as if to cradle its pain—his pain. Her pain—knowing what would happen if the mob found him.
From her vantage, Meg watched what remained of the mob journeying further down the canal. She trotted down the ramp and turned in the opposite direction. Torch in hand, she stepped slowly along the narrow walkway until the sound of glass crunching under her boot drew her attention downward. Shards of mirror lay scattered across the floor, disappearing beneath a hem of frayed bullion fringe. She reached to pull back the tattered panel of drapery. The light from her torch revealed a passageway, its entrance edged with a large, gilded frame. Careful to avoid the jagged bits of polished surface still embedded in the wood, Meg turned to see if anyone noticed her presence before taking a breath and stepping over the threshold into the darkness of the chamber.
“Hello?” Meg stepped further into the passage. “Hello? I know you are here.”
Her footsteps treaded silently over the soft earth as she inched her way further into the narrow corridor until a faint movement in the shadows caught her eye.
A light note escaped the back of her throat. Reason told her to run, but her feet fused themselves in place.
“Show yourself.” Meg thought her heart would burst through her chest.
Slowly, the silhouette of a man appeared.
“That is far enough.” Meg thrust the torch in front of her. Pretending authority, she could not stop her voice from trembling.
“I am not armed.”
The flicker of flames from the torch cast a soft glow on his solitary figure, exaggerating the deformity of the right side of his face. Unable to look away, she winced at the roping flesh stretched across the plain of his cheekbone. Jagged locks of hair strung forward, framing his face; a polarity of the man she had watched, earlier, perform with Christine.
Meg clutched the white mask more tightly. “Monsieur,” she whispered bravely. “You are…were…the one on stage, were you not?”
Long moments passed before he spoke.
“You are Madame Giry’s daughter…I would recognize you anywhere…you do not have to be afraid, Mademoiselle, I will not harm you.”
Meg startled at the man’s observation.
“Your name is Meg, is it not?”
“How do you know my name?”
“It is an honor to finally meet you in person, although I would have preferred it under different circumstances.”
Erik moved to wipe the palms of his hands on his trousers.
Meg stepped back, widening the buffer between them. “You are…you are the man my mother told me stories about.”
“Told you stories?”
“Yes. She told me about a man—a friend—of unfortunate circumstances.”
“Ah.” He nodded. “That could possibly be me.”
“This is quite awkward, but…she never told me your name.”
“Erik.” He paused, as if the sound of his own name caught him off guard. “My name is Erik.”
“Erik.” A shy smile curled the corners of her mouth when the voice of reason once again cautioned her comfort zone. Had she completely lost her senses? The opera house burned levels above them and she was holding a conversation with the man who caused it.
The sound of voices shattered the moment.
Meg glanced over her shoulder to see several members from the search party on the other side of the lair’s lakeshore.
“Monsieur, you must hurry. They will kill you. Do you have another way out?”
He lowered his eyes; lips pressed thinly together against his teeth, and shook his head. “I am afraid this is the one part of the lair from which there is no escape, Mademoiselle.” The whisper of his voice barely broke the silence.
“I wish my mother was here; she would know what to do. She always knows what to do.” Meg shook her head.
“Your mother is a great lady. I have known her for many years.”
“You must find a way out. I will distract them as long as I can.” Meg turned to go but a strong hand snatched at her arm. She found herself locked in Erik’s grasp. Face to face, her eyes searched his, for what, she was not sure. But, imagining what Christine must have felt in his arms made her shudder. His hair smelled of sweat and soot.
“You do not understand. This section is unfinished; there is no escape.” His grip relaxed. “Perhaps it is my time. I have hidden for too many years.”
The murmur of approaching voices caused Meg to spin around.
“Get down! They will see you!” A panicked whisper delivered her command. She turned to exit the small chamber, hoping to lead them in another direction. As her boot crossed the threshold, a heavy hand connected with her shoulder.
Her squeal echoed along the walls of the canal.
A second member of the group arrived. “In here!” He called back to his companions.
Meg threw her weight against him, driving him back through the opening. He stumbled into the second man.
“NO! No Monsieur, wait!” The authority of Meg’s delicate voice reverberated in the small space.
“Ah, and what have we hear. Are you hiding something…or should I say, someone? Out of the way, mon petite, there is justice to be served here.”
“No! I will not let you pass!” Meg moved to block the opening of the chamber.
“Mon deau! I said out of the way!” The man’s fingers encircled the roundness of her shoulders and shoved her hard.
Meg dropped her torch as she stumbled backwards towards Erik. Her balance betrayed her, and she hit the ground hard despite the soft dirt.
“You are as mad as he, Mademoiselle. This man is a murderer. Justice will be served.”
Meg scrambled towards Erik and instinctively reached for his outstretched hand.
“Stay away from her!” The first man jabbed his torch towards the general direction of Erik’s face, driving him further into the passage.
Meg, still prone in the dirt, clutched the mask against her chest as she watched Erik duck the fiery taunting.
“It is a shame; Monsieur, that you would lower yourself to shove a lady to the ground…Let her go. I am that which you seek. She has nothing to do with you and me.”
“Why then, does she protect you?” The man tossed back.
“Leave her out of this.” Erik’s reply growled low in his throat.
Meg watched Erik step forward once more. Her hand connected with his. Meg was on her feet before she could collect her balance. She stumbled into the wall when Erik shoved her behind him.
The second man yelled once more to his companions, “Come quickly! He has taken another prisoner!”
“Prisoner? That is a lie!” Meg’s voice rose in protest. “No! You cannot do this!” She ducked beneath Erik’s outstretched arms, placing her own safety between him the two men blocking their only escape. “You fool; I am no prisoner; a prisoner of yours possibly, but not his. You speak of justice. If there is justice to be served, it will not be here in this place tonight! Justice is for the courts to decide, not you.” A flush of fury arose in her cheeks.
“Come now, Mademoiselle, this is no place for a woman.” The first man reached to grab her wrist.
Meg dodged his reach.
“That did not stop you moments ago from dashing me to the ground.”
He swiped at her once more.
She ducked a shoulder.
His fingers caught the ruffled cuff of her costume.
“No!” Meg threw her weight backwards.
The sound of tearing fabric rose above the commotion as her sleeve separated at the shoulder seam.
She tugged at his fingers snaking tightly around her wrist. But like a ragdoll, Meg found herself flung towards one of his companions. Her body slammed into his, knocking the breath from her lungs. The man’s armed locked around her torso. She bucked and struggled beneath the strength of his grip. Her feet, once braced against the ground, suddenly kicked into thin air. She twisted and squirmed but could not escape from her new vantage perched over the man’s shoulder.
“No! Put me down! No!”
Each strike of Meg’s fists against the man’s back accompanied the rhythm of her words. The pummeling was received with obvious indifference for he continued on without flinching.
“Come, Mademoiselle, a woman should not bear witness to the business of this evening.”
“No! You cannot do this! You cannot kill him! Damn you, let me go!”
As the man turned to leave, Meg was able to twist her weight. Through her blonde hair stringing over her eyes, she saw Erik one last time. His lone figure trapped behind a wall of fire from the torches holding him at bay.