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Because I Live

Chapter Text

Monsieur Faubergé le Directeur de l’Opéra de Paris wrinkled his nose in distaste as he entered the hospital. The stench of bile and salts caused him to bring a perfumed handkerchief to his nose as he strode past the reception desk.

“Monsieur, can I help-“

“Monsieur Faubergé for Odette de l’Opéra. Don’t bother, I know the way.”

Leaving the nurse to scramble for her visitor log, he pushed through the set of double doors behind her and mounted a flight of stairs. Past reception, up the stairs, turn right, and third door on the left, had been Thierry’s instructions.

The rooms on the second level were smaller, designed for private occupancy. No common dormitory for a prima, no matter other financial concerns. Disasters didn’t come cheap.

He found the third door on the left, and knocked.

“Come in.”

Her room was a welcome relief from the chemically saturated hallway. An open window sent a soft breeze to ruffle a large bouquet of purple lavender overflowing from a vase gracing the bedside table.

Odette was sitting up in bed, a book in hand. One arm was in a sling, but that didn’t stop her using that hand to slip a ribbon into her place in the book before setting it aside.

“Bonjour, Odette. I received word you wished to see me.”

“Thank you for coming, Monsieur Faubergé. I know you must be quite busy with the reconstruction.”

“More than the theatre was damaged in the flames. We do not forget our own. How is your recovery progressing?”

“The doctors are pleased with my progress. They say I can be discharged any day now, provided I continue my exercises on my own.”

“I am glad to hear it. May I ask where you will go, what you will do, after you are discharged? Besides your exercises, of course.”

“That is what I wished to discuss with you.”

She paused, but he merely regarded her expectantly.

“We do not forget our own,” she echoed. “I’ll never dance again, but I would very much like to remain at the Opéra. Is there a chance that it would be possible for some other place to be found for me there?”

“What kind of place do you envision, for a dancer who can no longer dance?”

“I am no longer a dancer, I have accepted this. I must begin a new chapter, and for that I need work, any work, and the Opéra is all I know.”

“We do not forget our own,” he agreed. “I can find work for you at the Opéra, but you won’t like it.”

“I’ll take it.”

“Not with the dancers, not with the orchestra. Not with patrons. Nothing in view of the guests.”

“I’ll take it.”

“It doesn’t pay well. You’ll need a second job on top of it to make ends meet, maybe a third.”

“I’ll take it.”

“I still haven’t told you what it is.”

“What is it?”

“Caretaker’s assistant. Cleaning, maintenance, odd jobs with Don Carlo.”

“Don Carlo has assistants?”

“Never for very long. The longest I remember lasted a month.”

“I’ll take it.”

“You have heard that Rochelle has taken over as prima?”

“Yes.”

“If I hear that you’re distracting or disrupting the balance of the corps, this arrangement must end.”

“I understand.”

He sighed and leaned back.

“You know that people will talk about you.”

“Monsieur?”

“If you return to the Opéra, people will know you as the dancer who was injured in a fire on stage, who now sweeps and polishes and empties waste bins. The queen of the corps turned skivvy of the Dogbreath Don.”

“People call him that?”

“One did. He didn’t last. What I’m saying is that if you left the Opéra, you could start fresh. Invent whatever history you want. Or return to your family. How long has it been since you left them to come train? Ten years? Fifteen?”

“The Opéra is my family. I wish to take the Caretaker’s Assistant position. When can I start?”

Monsieur Faubergé sighs and stands, gathering his things. She rises with him, clumsily extracting her stiff leg from the blankets and clinging to the bedrail for balance. He can see she’s determined, but how is she going to handle all the stairs and ladders of the Opera House? Nevertheless, it’s too late to retract the offer now.

“Report to Don Carlo’s office at six tomorrow morning.”