A/N: This is based on the Disney character Judge Frollo, but inspired by the musical. And yes, I wrote this with Hellfire on repeat: watch?v=NG7kfW4gWKc (& The Musical: watch?v=lKZbtLxxPfg).
Inspired by all the lovely Frollo/Esmeralda works I really did not mean to stumble upon (I have long lost count of my ships) but specifically by 'Take Me To Church' by therisingharvestmoon, 'Ruthless is a Man&She Loved Him' Somber_Resplendence and all of afterandalasia's works. (On ao3)
If you enjoy, leave me a comment?
"I know what you are imagining", she whispers lowly, furiously as she twists herself free. For a moment he feels oddly bereft of her warmth, but then he is distracted by his smarting cheek as the sound of flesh hitting flesh echoes in the cathedral.
He raises a hand to his face in a slow, measured movement. Rises to the size of a man of his status, chin up and nose in the air and looks down at her with all the imperialness and disgust he can manage. He contains a smile as she gasps and cowers away slightly.
"What I am imagining?" he says, slight emphasis on the 'I', "then tell me this, my dear...," and takes a quick step towards her, just one, "why did you dance for me?"
"I-"she hesitates and does not deny it, confirming his theory that she had purposely singled him out. He smells the blood of an easy prey.
"Come, come my child. We are in the house of God. Even a gypsy girl should know better than to deliberate a lie in this holy place. It might be that you wanted me to imagine this, for the sake of your people... or maybe your reasons are not that honourable at all and you simply feel drawn to my power and control when you have none of your own. Like a moth drawn to a flame."
He speaks these words in gentle tones, depicts kindness on his face and triumph overwhelms him when he sees the anguish flicker over her visage. Part of his words has rung true then, and she cannot deny them as much as she cannot deny the bells of Notre Dame.
In that moment he decides. He will not burn down Paris in his desperate hunt for her; she will be the one that comes to him.
Turning abruptly he starts to leave, pauses only to tell her: "you are free to go."
Astonished, she asks: "I thought I was under arrest."
He laughs: "For what? I cannot very well charge you for the tricks of your people on the day of the festival of fools. As for not respecting my orders... well, perhaps I should thank you."
"Why yes," he says, turning back to face her again, "for the kindness you showed my ward, Quasimodo. He is a fragile boy, and as you saw, people don't take well to him. It is why I keep him here: to protect him."
The absolute bewilderment on her face is a sight to see. Frollo is a judge, and after so many years he can read people's heart with a mere glance. But this girl, Esmeralda, she does not even make an effort to hide her feelings from him, so open is her gaze.
"I promise you," he says silkily, "you are free to leave. Should you ever disrespect my orders again though, I will not be so merciful." He adds coldly, and sweeps through the cathedral doors, mounts his horse and only pauses to give his men the new order before he gallops away.
He is no fool, noticed the lingering gazes between Phoebus and Esmeralda, so he simply disposes of him. Tells the King about his talents, about how he is wasted as guard of Notre Dame and could achieve so much more as a member of the King's guard elite.
Phoebus will have what his heart desires: women, wine, fine clothes and ample time for rest and recreation.
Frollo knows that he could be a powerful enemy to have, so he simply does not make him an enemy. He has no need to do so.
This was the first lesson his father ever taught him: know whom to make friend and whom to make fiend.
Phoebus leaves with stuttered words of gratefulness and a gaze full of adoration, and Frollo knows he has won again.
He starts showing a little more leniency to her people, always a spur of the moment decision. Some he does not execute but put in jail, some he lets go. He is utterly unpredictable in the way he does this, and he always revels in the astonishment that follows such a decision. He starts seeing something else too- hope.
He knows they are talking of this change in the Court Of Miracles, it is what he wants.
They meet again two weeks later, as he has been summoned by his guards, who have found a caravan full of illegal gypsies on the docks of the Seine, trying to enter his city illegally. He pretends not to have seen her, watching from the shadow. He laments the fact that she is not out in the sun; that he cannot see the sun catch on her golden skin and illuminate her eyes and hair as it does the sparkling water of the river.
"Take them back outside the city and set them free."
"Are you disobeying a direct order, captain?"
The man averts his eyes. That's what he thought.
"Do make sure they cannot enter Paris again. Take them away."
He does not stay to see them carry out his order, he knows they will. With a mighty tug at Diablo's reins he turns him and spurs him into a canter back to the palace of justice.
That evening he gives the order to execute three gypsies. He ensures ample evidence of their thievery and remains impassive to their pleas.
He sweeps away as they are led to the gallows, content to have established his power once again. People do still need to fear him.
But as he enters the palace of justice, he notices that alongside that fear and loathing on the crowds faces, there is something else: grudging respect.
It makes his step slow down, such is his surprise, before he recomposes and continues on.
The next time Frollo meets Esmeralda, a month has passed.
In that month he has been able to see a change in the people of Paris. Unpredictableness of his part has made the gypsies more wary than they were before. His ever present fear and scorn in the past made them fear him, yes, but also more willing to break his laws, since they knew that whatever they did he would sentence them anyway. But now that he shows mercy sometimes and even rules some of them innocent, they are less inclined to defy him, knowing that if they don't, there is a small possibility he'll let them be.
He still scorns them all, thinks they are filth and vermin, but he cannot deny that it is most convenient to have them bend for him. Most convenient indeed.
Gypsy children are playing on the street, and she is sitting nearby, clearly watching over them. He gives no sign of recognition at all as he approaches, his soldiers behind him, ready to act at his signal.
"Shall we arrest them, sir?"
"I do not believe they have done any harm. Kind sir and lady," he redirects his gaze to the pair about to enter a house, "are these children bothering you?"
They startle at being spoken at by the Judge and look from him to his soldiers to the gypsies, assessing the situation, carefully evaluating the like hood of this being a trap. In Paris, fraternising with gypsies is almost worse than being one; he has made sure people know this.
"No sir Judge Claude Frollo," the man answers, bowing to him, "we have not noticed them do any harm."
"Though they could be less loud", his wife is quick to add, as she curtseys.
"Very well. I am sure their mother will see to that." He nods at Esmeralda, who has stood up and has approached them. He notices her feet are bare on the dark grey cobblestones.
"Oh, I am not their mother. I have neither husband nor children." She answers, perhaps a tad too quickly.
"But you are looking after them, are you not, girl?"
She bows her head. "Yes, Judge Frollo."
"Then see to it," and as quickly as he came, he leaves, his soldiers following with a mere hand gesture.
That very same afternoon, he has Clopin arrested.
She barges into his chambers not an hour later, and he holds a hand up to the guard that ran after her.
"Wait outside," he tells him, "I shall listen."
"Please," she begs of him as soon as they are alone, "please let him go."
He sees it in her gaze, her willingness to do anything for the man currently locked away under their feet in this very building.
Outside, the sun is sitting, and the rosy tones illuminate her raven hair. It is like fire blazing him out of all control- she is a vision, an angel or a demon he cannot decide. He could have her here, he knows, here and now on this very desk, under the watchful eyes of a marble Jesus on his mahogany cross, the burning wood in the fire place depicting their damnation.
But he does not want her to give herself to him as a bargain or a plea. He wants her to surrender completely, to give in only because her desire urges her to. His victory won't taste as sweet with the bitter knowledge of being a mere obstacle to overcome, so he turns away.
"And why should I grant you this?"
She is silent, and it resonates in the vast room as he turns to face her again, having himself once more under complete control. At her expression he puts on a mask of realisation, raising his eyebrows and opening his mouth slightly, pretending to have just understood something, and he laughs.
"You thought I was being kind to your people because of you." He conjures a disbelieving, amused tone in his voice.
Naturally that was exactly what she believed, because it is the truth. But all his effort will be lost if he admits this, and there is still a game to finish.
As she is led away, he speaks: "I will not make a bargain with a gypsy, and allow myself to become corrupt. If you want him to go free, you shall have to prove his innocence. You have until tomorrow night."
She finds his jewel- an emerald, cleverly concealed in the new captain's armour. There is genuine terror on his face as he denies these accusations, but Frollo has him led away to be executed at once.
The man was a little too ambitious, a little too eager to rise in the ranks. Frollo does not mind ambition, but he does mind the whispers that the captain has been feeding his soldiers. Whispers about gypsy's pawns, bewitchment and too much clemency- they'll see about that clemency now. The captain's execution is risky, but a reminder of the consequences of treason is well in order here. He'll let them decide who is to be the new captain, and in their excitement, the whispers will be soon forgotten.
As he opens the shackles on Clopin's hands himself, the expression on Esmeralda's face is pure, unaltered gratefulness, tears in her eyes. Clopin's face is a reflection of hers, albeit a lot more grudgingly.
No matter. He knows the gypsies call this man 'King', knows he would be a powerful foe to have and an even more powerful ally, certainly for keeping the gypsies in check. They may have been given an inch, but an alliance with Clopin will ensure that they do not take a mile.
He also knows that while the other gypsies call him 'King', Esmeralda calls him father. Knows that he very well might be the last obstacle she has to overcome in giving in to her desire.
Now, it is only a matter of time.
She comes to him three days later, escorted by the same guard who brought her to him the first time. He rises as she enters, giving the guard a curt nod and then he simply waits.
Standing before him, skirt swishing around her legs and delicate feet bare she gives the impression of pure innocence. He wants to unravel her.
Esmeralda takes two quick steps towards him and sinks to her knees before him, burying her face in his robes.
"Why are you here, my girl?" He is almost there, but he needs to hear her say it. He has waited months for this; he can wait a few seconds more.
"I want to offer you something in return."
"I did my duty." He says.
"Still." She answers, and her willingness is all the proof he needs. His victory is in sight.
"Can I touch your hair?" and his voice trembles.
"My hair, sir?"
"I want to feel if it is as soft as it looks," he whispers.
She is still kneeling before him, and so when she nods, he slides his hands down and into her silken raven tendrils, gripping them tight.
Esmeralda gasps and looks up at him, and he slides his hand further down, until he has a hand on each of her cheeks, and he pulls her up gently.
What have you done to me, witch? This desire he thinks, as those green eyes look into his own, it is as hellfire burning in his skin. And yet, that desire is accompanied by a feeling of reverence for this girl- he cannot understand it.
"Is that all you want?" and she is trembling too.
"You're asking the wrong question, Esmeralda." It is the first time he has ever allowed her name to leave his lips, and it feels as both a blessing and a curse.
"Is that all you want, darling?"
"Do you want to kiss me? Because- because I want to kiss you." She rushes out the last part of her sentence, as if it costs her to admit this, but Frollo needs hear no more.
He pulls her to him, finally, finally and crushes their mouths together. His moan surprises him, but she is sighing into his mouth, and it is clearly affecting her as much as it is affecting him.
Seconds, or minutes pass before the need for air grows stronger than their need for each other, but he keeps her gathered close. She sighs: "Oh Judge Frollo."
"Claude," and he shivers at the sound of it from those ruby lips.
"I'd- I'd want to do more."
Oh he wants too, but there is still one more thing to ensure.
"There has been no one else before you."
She will be his alone, or she will be no more.
"Neither has there been for me."
"We cannot marry," he tells her, "a man of my position and a gypsy would be a scandalous affair." No one would respect him again.
"And I would be an outcast even to the gypsies. But we never marry in church, sir; we simply state an union as true."
Slowly, she kneels before him again. "I promise myself to you."
A surge of lust and something he cannot name overwhelms him, and he amends the statement in his head: they cannot marry yet.
"You will be mine," he affirms, falling to his knees himself, pulling her to him again, "and I yours."
Lust and victory make his head grow dizzy, and as their hands divest the other of clothing words are no longer necessary, except for gasped pleas and names.
There is one truth that still reverberates in his head: she came to him.
Victory is always sweet, but this one might have been the sweetest yet.