(I wrote this in honor of the new crossover section. I just feel bad at the end of AU fics where Raoul ends up alone, so I made this for him. This is going to be an E/C fic, I just wanted to bring out the Other Woman (who is not a Mary-Sue, as you will see in later chapters. I've tried to make this palatable for as many people as possible. I'm not sure what universe this is, maybe its a mix of everything. There are no truly evil protagonists in this, everyone is just a little silly. Prepare for the unexpected, including a songfic or two, anything is possible. Anyway, I hope you're still here after reading this novel-length note, and I hope you'll enjoy.)
As much as he loved his sister, he hated having to visit her.
He knew that was very cruel to say, but he was still young. He wasn't some bored housewife with nothing to do, who wanted to invite people for tea just to create some purpose in their hollow existence.
That may have been too much. He scolded himself for not controlling his temper, and being easily flustered over the delay. The carriage seemed to have rolled into a small pothole, and the right wheels were digging into the mud.
To top these fortuitous events towards a most anticipated afternoon, it started to rain.
He cursed his fate. This was a new suit, and he had spent a good deal of money getting the waistcoat altered. Heaven knows how all this water was affecting the silk.
After twenty minutes, he was starting to sneeze. He rubbed his nose, paid the driver, and headed off to the manor...where ever that was.
After getting lost for a good twelve minutes or so, he was able to loose himself enough that he knew perfectly well where he was. After straightening the remains of his cravat, he rang the doorbell. He barely had time to register bright blue eyes with tiny creases around the edges before he was trapped in a rather improprietal, bone-crushing hug.
"Raoul! Thank goodness you've come!" Much to the relief of his lungs, she let go and inspected his clothes, "Oh, you look dreadful! Come, sit by the fire. Your trunk has already arrived, and I've made sure everything has been sent to the blue room, the one with the view of the sea. I remember how much you like it."
Now he remembered why he liked coming here. Now that he was with his sister, laughing over old stories from long ago and watching her pretty face with all of its many silly expressions as she rambled on about the latest gossip. Being with her always reminded him of his mother, and as much as he hated to admit it, she was becoming a distant, faceless blur as the years went on.
Of course, the sea was another added bonus. His brother joked that with all the time he's spent in the Navy, the last place he would want to be right now would be the coast. This was far from the case. The sea was protean and natural, unlike the rigid, stifling city life in Paris. Every time he came to that one place by the sea, his favorite place in the world, it would always be different. There would always be something new to discover, like a starfish when he was five, the the scallop shell when he was eight, and the pretty girl with the red scarf when he was ten. He wondered what happened to Little Lotte, but he knows she's somewhere out there, barefoot and collecting seashells by the beach.
"It's just like I remembered it," he smiled. He noticed how quiet the house was. "Where are the children?"
"Jeanne thought it would be a good idea to take them out on a walk after luncheon."
"Oh, yes, I forgot to mention her. She's the new governess I've hired. Quite a nice girl." She left it at that, there wasn't much of a need to say more.
The next two days were uneventful, and he loved it. After years of keeping every minute accounted for at the naval academy, loafing off was the most excitingly sinful experience. He took walks, rode one of the horses at the stable, and finally caught up on his reading.
"You cannot stay cooped up in the house for the whole week. There are a few other families vacationing here as well, with pretty daughters who will probably want to throw parties to show them off," She thought her neighbors were a bunch of inbred fools who were more pretentious than they could afford to be, she must be getting desperate. "Wouldn't it be lovely to spend an evening doing something worthwhile?"
"I wouldn't call a ball anything worthwhile, you know how much I detest them. All those giggling, simpering..."
"Laurent and I are going, so if you do not accompany us, I'm afraid you will not be able to have any dinner," she replied stiffly. "I always dismiss the servants when I go away for the evening, can't let them go snooping through my jewels and whatnot."
Raoul smiled, "I think I'll survive."
His sister gave one last dramatic sigh of defeat, (shame she wasn't born into a lower station, she would have made a brilliant actress) and walked away. Glad to have one this battle, he picked up his copy of The Count of Monte Christo, and headed outside to his favorite tree.
He took some bread and an apple from the kitchens and wrapped it in his a handkerchief. After locking the door, he trudged up the grassy hill by the house. From the look of the light, he guessed that he had an hour or so before sunset to read under his favorite tree. The lower branch was sturdy enough to make a nice seat.
As he got to the top of the hill, he saw someone was already up on the branch, a young woman, probably around his age, with hair that glinted gold in the sun. She had stolen his spot, and had taken upon herself to get already engrossed in her own book.
"Excuse me," he spoke softly at first, not to distress her, but she did not respond. "Excuse me!"
The woman looked up abruptly from her book, causing her to loose her balance and fall off the branch. He saw a flash of white, and heard her scream. He ran over to see if she was injured.
"My God! I'm truly sorry, Mademoiselle, I did not expect you to fall in such a manner. Are you injured?"
Her petticoats were disarrayed and rumpled, and her hair flew out of its bun into long, thin strips that trailed at least 20 centimeters away from her, creating the image of an angel in a bright blue dress. She took a moment to regain her breath, and when she saw she was in the presence of a man, she attempted to clear the hair out of her face. Raoul found it charming. "Mademoiselle? How do you feel."
Any embarrassment she might have had vanished. Her eyes were like steel. "Madame."
Raoul knew he should not be surprised that she was married. After all, she could not be younger than 20, but it still unnerved him a little. "Pardon me. Do you need me to escort you to your house?"
She nodded, "That would be lovely, thank you." He had thought about carrying her, like in the stories, but as she picked herself up and dusted off her dress, she was quite fine. Well, she had a limp, but that was to be expected. He still posed the offer, and she laughed.
"You don't have to have some misplaced sense of obligation towards me. You only have to apologize for startling me."
"Well, if you had paid attention, you would have heard me."
"How would you expect me to pay attention when I was in the middle of something?" She supported herself with the help of a smaller tree nearby. "Besides, it is never a good idea to disturb someone suspended in the air anyway. What was so important that you had to?" She winced.
"You were in my seat."
"Your seat?" She tried to look amused. "I've never seen you here before."
"I come here every year."
"And I come here every day."
"Then how have I not seen you before?" he asked. She didn't look like anyone from the neighboring families.
"I could ask you the same question." She could tell he was not from the town, his accent was too posh.
"Where do you live?" He didn't really want to tell her who he was. Interesting people always became tedious when you mention titles.
"Over there." She said, pointing to his sister's house.
"What a funny coincidence." He smiled.
So that was how he met Jeanne. Well, actually her name was something annoyingly English. She was one of those foreign governesses that would teach languages by living with them, and since Phillippe had business ties with the English, he encouraged the idea. Personally, he liked her just being there to talk to him when the children fell asleep, like his own little Jane Eyre. Sadly, he laughed at his silly literary jokes. It turns out she had a good taste in books. She particularly like Stevenson and Verne, who were among his favorites. They had similar tastes in music as well, and could talk for a while on the subject. She was funny, and had a lovely smile. Of course, his sister would have a fit if she knew he was talking to the governess, but she didn't seem like a Becky Sharp in any way. The week would be over soon anyway, and he would not see her again.
"I cannot believe you are sad about going to Paris." laughed Jeanne. She handed him a basket full of food for the carriage ride. Raoul had decided to set off early since the sky had already darkened with clouds. "With all the parties, the women, and the excitement, I thought you would be thrilled!"
"If only you knew. Phillippe is going to show me all of that. And I don't particularly like it at all. It's too loud in Paris. I suppose I wouldn't have minded going to the Opera, but he made that boring as well. He wants me to become a patron, to make my self known and active in the Paris social scene. I'll probably be stuck doing all sorts of boring supervision and paperwork." She didn't look very sympathetic. She laughed.
"I am grateful for your sympathy."
"Oh, stop being so childish."
"I am not childish!" He grinned. "For that, you are now going to have to suffer through my letters."
"Yes, I am writing to you every day now from Paris." She didn't look bothered in the least. "And you are going to write back a response."
"What about your family?"
"What they do not know cannot hurt them. Remember, I'm writing to you."
She laughed. Knowing Raoul, he would probably forget in the next hour or so.