A/N: To anyone that possibly cares, I sincerely apologize for taking forever to update this dumb story. It was a fun chapter to write though, so I hope it manages to tickle you. To all lovers of Leroux!Raoul, I hope I did him sufficient justice for you. Many regards!
Special thanks and loff to Ms. Chatastic, who made this update possible. She is really and truly teh sex.
The dining room at La Prostituée De Luxe was beautifully furnished for the evening, drawing a fine assembly of prominent Parisian patrons. (Woo!) Several young couples were enjoying a seasoned variety of meats and buttered delicacies, laughing and tinkling wine glasses while they made love to each other in playful, coquettish bantering. Several exquisite tapestries were draped along the walls, each of them depicting various naked women frolicking in ponds and flower beds.
The Vicomte Raoul de Changy (who was inevitably bound to make an appearance in this story- thus completing our remarkable angst-ridden love triangle, oft repeated but never truly superseded) sat opposite Christine, watching her solemn and distant behavior with the slightest trace of concern. And annoyance. And general crabbiness.
When he had arrived earlier at her home on the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Victoires (specifically mentioned in the book for all of you insufferable purists) he was shocked to find Christine looking so pale and despondent. More so than usual, of course. Asking her what was wrong, she had told him "nothing…" which was more or less how all of their conversations went these days.
You're looking frightened Christine, is there something wrong?
Oh no! Nothing is wrong.
Is that a new perfume Christine, or have you been at the cemetery again?
It's nothing, Raoul. Let's go talk to old people and have them tell us stories.
And so on.
Reservations at the dining establishment had only been mildly interesting to her, and the food that the flamboyant waiting staff provided lay cold and uneaten on her plate. She simply sat there and stared at nothing… which seemed more evocative of her childhood soubriquet than Raoul cared to admit. Little Lotte, with her BLONDE curls and forget-me-not eyes, was plainly elsewhere this evening. It was almost like she was back at the cottage by the sea, glaring at her father in horror and glazed fascination while he told her the story of Lotte and the Singing Skeleton.
But honestly, considering what our Swedish ingénue gets herself into, (not the least of which is Erik's bathtub) can you really blame her for being a bit preoccupied?
Anyhoo, back to Raoul's irritability:
"Christine," he finally spoke when the silence became far too unbearable. (Granted, silence is never all that unbearable when conversation with Raoul is had.)
"Hmmm?" she replied, glaring at him as if she'd only just realized he was sitting there.
"You've not touched your plate," he remarked quietly. "Is the meal at all disagreeable to you, dearest? We can ask for something else, if you'd like."
She stared at him quizzically for a moment, then looked down and noticed that there was food in front of her. "Oh! Oh, no Raoul. This is wonderful! I'm just feeling a bit… full this evening. That's all."
He looked hurt. "You dined earlier, Christine?"
She looked gradually to the rare chunks of steak that were lying on her plate, thick and bleeding succulent cow juices that trickled into the prawns. "No," she remarked slowly, her hand involuntarily settling across her stomach. "I'm just… not very hungry. Please, dear… eat! Don't feel ill at ease on my account."
Raoul wanted to protest (as Raouls often do) but the nature of their conversation obviously seemed to be upsetting her. And she was indeed starting to look queasy. Deciding that a bit of overbearing attentiveness would win her over, he quickly summoned a waiter to their table.
"Monsieur? Would you be good enough to get Mademoiselle a glass of mineral water?"
The waiter stared at Raoul, then immediately broke out in a fit of laughter that carried across the entire dining area. "Certainly Monsieur le Vicomte! Would you also like me to get Mademoiselle Daaé some smelling salts? Ha-ha-ha-ha!"
Raoul's cheeks blushed a crimson red. The man had both embarrassed and befuddled him, and it was with a heavy dose of consternation that our Vicomte watched him turn abruptly towards the kitchen, still laughing, without giving either of them a second glance. It was never easy trying to woo his Mademoiselle Daaé if people couldn't stop laughing at him for one damnable second. Really, it was difficult enough trying to talk to Christine without bursting into tears every time she said or did something to upset him. With respect to the nature of their relationship, dear reader, I want to emphasize that it isn't as though Raoul and Christine didn't elicit their own interesting bit of sexual tension between their two precious persons. It's just that no one really cared.
Let me rephrase that… I don't really care.
Struggling to gain some composure, he tried another topic of interest.
"I visited your mother again last night," he smiled, taking his wine glass in hand. "She kissed me fully on the lips and told me that you had been abducted by winged cherubs from heaven. Ha-ha."
"My mother is dead, Raoul," Christine said mournfully.
He frowned. "Christine, I was referring to your good Mamma Valerius."
"Oh," was her tired reply.
They sat like that for a moment in silence.
He took a sip of the wine. I will not start crying, I will not start crying, I will not start…
"We've heard reports that the northern weather is reaching record temperatures. One of the coldest winters they've seen in years. Seems a rather foolish time to be taking an expedition to the North Pole, if you think about it."
He laughed his charming happy laugh, which was neither maniacal nor horrible. (Pity.)
"Yes, I expect it to be rather dangerous," he continued, trying to catch her eye. "Heaven knows whether any of us will survive. They say that if the cold doesn't freeze us, then the unmentionable terrors of the Arctic will. Would that grieve you, Christine, if your old playfellow were torn from the frozen daylight and drowned in the unfeeling depths of the sea?"
"Yes…" she nodded, her skin beginning to turn an odd shade of green. "But… really dear, I'm sure it won't be that bad."
He smiled at her obvious concern, and decided it was time to try some more of that adorable Changy romance on her. "You know," he replied more soberly, "I've missed you these last few nights. Desperately so." He took her hand from across the table, finding it cold and clammy. "You capture my heart at every performance, and then you vanish from the face of the earth… taking my love and my heart with you. And I always wonder… will she ever return? Or is my heart gone forever?"
Christine closed her eyes and swallowed deeply. "Raoul…"
"I know that I promised to be patient," he stumbled on, "and that I promised not to question you. But I must confess that it grieves me never to see you, Christine! We both know that my ship leaves in less than a month, and every second we spend together is so precious to us. So precious to me!"
He pressed his lips to her hand (those smooth, fleshy lips of his) as she sat there in total silence. He looked up at her intently, only to discover that her gaze had drifted off in another direction entirely. It was as if she hadn't even heard him. A passing gentleman caught his eye and made little effort to hide the mocking laugh that poisoned Raoul's little kisses. Naturally, the Vicomte was starting to get angry.
But not in a sexy way.
Not in the way that your skeletal admirer builds torture chambers, garrotes people, and watches you secretly in your dressing room while you are either changing or amusing yourself in other ways.
Because that is sexy.
"Why?" he whispered in a tone that was relatively indecent, considering their current surroundings. "Why these games, Mademoiselle? Do you find them funny? Is my humiliation so gloriously amusing to you? Would you like me to just shrink and shrivel away? Don't answer that. Honestly, though! I don't know what possesses you to toy with my heart the way you do! Perhaps you'd display more feeling if I offered you my love under an exquisite canopy in an open coffin!"
Christine turned to him with a fevered look. "What did you… You've been reading my diary?"
"Yes! Because I love you!"
She closed her eyes with a small groan, placing a dainty hand to her forehead. Mistaking this as a silent encouragement for him to continue, Raoul took to more protesting and whining.
"It's ridiculous Christine, the games we play! We play at a secret engagement. We play with each other's hearts. We play at dining in your dressing room, night after night, eating naught but cookies and wine. Cookies, Christine! With a little pot of violets! I feel like such a fool! Such a sad, asinine, insignificant fool!"
He was starting to breathe more heavily now, irritating himself even more than he was irritating the reader.
"And all the while your sweet, crazy benefactress, who loves you dearly and who possibly loves me even more, rots in her bed at home and continues to think you're still an honorable woman. Fah! But are you honorable Christine? What would an honorable woman be doing, courting two different men at the same time? Where would an honorable woman be going, night after night, at the close of every performance? Why would an honorable woman need a closet full of scandalous and incomprehensibly erotic undergarments, Christine? WHY?"
The girl clutched at her stomach more tightly this time. "You went through my closets?"
"YES! BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!"
Someone at a nearby table started to laugh.
Their waiter approached them with the glass of mineral water, but upon seeing the peevish expression on the Vicomte's face, he decided to depart as quickly as he had come. Raoul chewed at his little moustache cantankerously, waiting for Christine to respond, not even bothering to wipe away the steady stream of tears that were already trickling down his lovely cheeks.
There was no response. No expression of pity or concern. All she seemed to be doing was turning greener.
He suddenly stood, walking to the other side of the table where he gripped Christine's arm and escorted her out into a nearby corridor. He had had enough. The restaurant's other occupants glared at him with amused expressions, for what more was the Vicomte de Changy other than the perfect object of ridicule? Everyone laughed at him. Christine laughed at him. Philippe laughed at him. Doctors… maids… Merciful heavens! Even Mama Valerius thought he had the most laughable joke of a fair moustache!
Oh yes. Raoul had had enough.
"I cannot tolerate this a moment longer!" he cried, clutching her arms in his hands. "I am mad! I am jealous! You don't even realize how severely you are tormenting me! You couldn't possibly have wounded me more if you had torn the very skin from off of my face and made it into some horrible keepsake! Oh Christine… Why? Why do you scorn the love of an innocent and heartsick young man? Why do you reduce me to tears as if I were a blossoming, adolescent girl? Is it Erik? Does he come between us? Ah! I see you turn at the mere mention of his name! That miserable wretch who gave you a ring! Oh how I despise him! And you! You're looking positively ill! Does keeping company with a Changy disturb you so? Am I so repulsive to you? What must I do? I love you Christine! I love you! Does that mean anything to you? Say you don't love me! Say you don't love me and I will leave Paris this very evening and will never look back! Say you love me, say you hate me… Say anything! But do not keep your unbearable silence! I cannot abide it a moment longer!"
He was so close to her. His face was a mere inch from hers.
What would she say?
Her lips parted.
But instead of hearing the outpour of loving assurance that our precious Vicomte so desperately craved, Raoul was met with a steady stream of slippery, sucking, rubbery squidlings. Out! Out, damned squids! They spilled from her beautiful, silken throat, a moist, rushing jet of slime that covered him in a pile of pulsing, squirming squid babies.
And then the screaming began.
"Sweet merciful Mother in Heaven! She's got the pox!"
"They're alive! They're eating the Vicomte! Run! Run!"
"Get back! GET BACK, damn you! The opera wench is possessed!"
"Edmund! Edmund! Oh horror! What did she eat? WHAT DID SHE EAT!"
Pandemonium, it seemed, had erupted as violently as Christine had.
Oozing off of Raoul's body, the squids began pouring out into the room, slurping their way into the dining area where the rich and naughty high types of Paris were choking on their fashionable expensive cheeses. The squids started bouncing off of the walls and over the ceiling, attacking restaurant patrons at will. Chaos was everywhere as the horrified masses made a mad dash for the nearest exits, kicking and shoving those who were too old or feeble to run fast enough. In a tangled mass of ties and tentacles, the sucking, searching squid beaks latched onto them as if they were tiny guppies.
Those who managed to escape left a trail of squeaking squidlings behind them. The rest, who were not quite as fortunate, were slowly and noisily devoured by a large, grey mass of throbbing sea creatures. Hmmm. La Prostituée De Luxe DOES promise variety, doesn't it?
Raoul (or what was left of Raoul) remained motionless on the floor.
Christine (who by now had stopped her heaving) took in the spectacle with all of the fascination and horror that makes her so damn loveable.
He didn't respond.
And in the din of screams and sucking squids, someone laughed at him.