A/N: I'll make this quick. I've never written a Moulin Rouge fic, never read one, and am not really sure where this came from. It's very stream-of-consciousness, a little awkward in some places, and brief. I hope you like it.
Disclaimer: Well duh, of course I'm not as brilliant as Baz Luhrmann. Whatever gave you that idea?
I'll Catch You if You Fall
I remember when I first came to the Moulin Rouge, sent there by a father who couldn't stand to raise the son of a whore, and couldn't afford it. I was just a boy, really, all stick-limbs and strange angles, but she… oh, she was already a woman. Such a woman I had never seen, and still have not seen to this day. A beguiling smile peering out from under a wash of red hair, her pale fingers took my dark hand and she welcomed me. For a silent moment, all I could was stare at that hand, that smile. In that silence, she, not Zidler, christened me.
"Le Chocolat," she said, the words dripping smoothly from her lips. At fourteen, she could already keep a man in a trance, and he would go to her willingly. I knew then the pain that is love. The heart-rending, soul-destroying agony of unrequited love.
As I grew, I nurtured that love. I trimmed it and pruned it and kept it alive, but only just. I knew that no one could match her in my mind, so I let my futile love for her burn away at my heart. At night, I would lay awake, wondering, If I grow strong, will she love me? If grow smart, will she care for me?
Even though I knew the answer, I still tried. I read every book I could find, when I wasn't dancing or working around the cabaret to build my strength. After ten years, I had read so much I thought my mind would burst from the knowledge, but still I sought more. After ten years, my muscles had grown large and rippling, and I knew more dances than half the girls in the show. But the most I ever received was that fleeting smile, a whiff of an expensive Parisian perfume that, unknown to her, Zidler had sent me to purchase. Once, using money that I had pocketed over the years, I bought a second bottle. I still have it, but I daren't touch it. It was so many years ago, now, perhaps the scent has faded. The thought pains me.
I was always so much bigger than them, those little old men with their suits and silk top hats. But to them, I was the little one. They shoved me aside with a bill or two and turned their faces up to her. They lusted after her, every one, but none had known the love I felt. It was more than just desire that drove me. It was need.
Only one other man truly knew what it was like for me.
I don't hate him, if that's what you're thinking. He loved her just as much as I did—perhaps more, because he felt her love in return. My own had been left to simmer for years, but his was fresh and flowing as an open wound. By the time the writer appeared and stole her heart, mine had already been burned and scabbed over. I know why he left the Moulin Rouge, but never really left. It was her presence, that last little glimmer of her that remained in the place. Nini's harsh words couldn't mask it, nor could Zidler's false cheer. The writer couldn't leave because he was grasping for that last little bit of her. He couldn't stay because that little bit was all that was left.
Marie thought she knew first, that her dear little actress was dying, before she even got a chance to realize her dream. But I knew first. When she gasped, harsh and heavy in the silence of the hall, I knew. When she fell, dropping to the ground, I knew. When I caught her, a dead weight paler than I'd ever seen her, I knew. As I carried her, I could smell the perfume mixed with a strange scent—flowers about to rot, perhaps, and nervous sweat. It wasn't pleasant, but it was intoxicating. Before I gave her to Marie, I drank in that scent. The memory of it is still strong, sickly-sweet and incredibly close. I imagine, sometimes, that the dying roses in the vase by the window are her ghost, but…
I don't hate him, you see. Even when she was still alive to give her heart to he who could capture it, I didn't hate him. The night the Duke tried to hurt her, I didn't take her myself. I picked her up, once again smelling of those dying flowers, and carried her to her love. I gave her to him without a word, and I like to believe he understood how difficult it was for me.
He loved her, cared for her as I did, and I could never begrudge a man that.
My strength has served me well all these years. When she fell, I caught her. When she was attacked, I defended her. When she was unconscious, I gave her up.
The smell is stronger now. Perhaps I did take that perfume out after all. Perhaps it's not just the wind whispering, silky-smooth, in my ear…