Phantom of the Opera
Disclaimer: Please don't sue. I don't own *insert fandom name from above*... All I own is an overactive imagination.
Summary: AU. I shoved the POTO characters into a hospital setting. Slash btw, as though I write anything but.
Warning(s): slash, AU
Word Count: 6,855
Finally it's done. Not quite. You'll see what I mean.
Story note: Raoul's interest has been piqued. What's Christine's master plan? She's a sneaky one. How could anything possibly finish in just this one chapter? How!?
Hospital – Cure
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt
The night air was tepid.
Raoul claimed that the scrubs he brought were meant to serve a twofold purpose of keeping Erik warmer than the hospital gown would have and to keep their night time outings less conspicuous – as though wheeling a man whose face was completely bandaged could possibly be any less conspicuous than it already was. Erik was almost certain that Raoul did it just to see him in scrubs; then again, it could be to stop the lewd comments he'd begun to make about Raoul's desire to have easy access to what was beneath the gown. Erik did so enjoy watching Raoul's face redden, and those particular comments never seemed to fail.
He doubted that anyone would have stopped them regardless of his clothing. After all, everyone knew well enough to leave him alone, and if they hadn't experienced his wrath firsthand, the gossip mills always worked overtime to compensate for such things. He knew what they called him: mad, a terror, a nuisance, and from those firsthand sources, a monster. He didn't care too much about what they said but his reputation had proven useful in many ways: it kept others away, made Raoul stay, and now made these outings of theirs go unquestioned.
The outings made him realize that he'd missed a lot more than just being able to eat real food. He missed being able to go places and do things without being chaperoned – although admittedly, he didn't mind his current chaperone. He still missed the places he'd once seen; the four walls of his hospital room provided little for distraction. He missed the simple freedoms that he'd once had, and yet, he was still reluctant to believe he deserved it anymore.
The cold of the stone bench was seeping through the thin linen pants, but it was a feeling he welcomed. Not only did it distract him from his thoughts, but he'd grown appreciative of the stark contrast of the stone bench from the padded hospital bed. It was different; it was outside. He couldn't really see the trees or even the sky through all the gauze and bandages on his face; all he saw were blurry shapes and in the dark of night, they all blended together to form one large grayish chimera.
But he could feel it and that somehow managed to dull the pain he constantly felt to a dull ache. Even those piercing pains were somehow more manageable when they weren't the only things he could focus on. He could hear the trees rustling, the cars driving. He could smell something other than medicine and bodily fluids. Rather surprisingly, he could even smell Raoul. He'd never really noticed it before, but there was a subtle scent coming from his doctor that had been easily covered by the sterilized, alcohol smell within the hospital. It was enough to tempt him, draw him closer in an attempt to figure out what that was: cologne, shampoo? It made it so that even though Raoul sat beside him, close but not touching, it wasn't close enough.
With his wayward thoughts concerning Raoul, Erik wasn't sure if there was a close enough. He could still feel him though. The steady warmth beside him, the near-quiet exhales, it was all becoming so commonplace that when Raoul was gone, everything was simply too quiet.
Erik was just beginning to accept as part of his daily schedule their nightly ventures outside – though the fifth level terrace area hardly counted for outside the hospital, potted plants and the lingering smell of cigarette smoke clearly disrupted that illusion. Still, these moments had quickly become his favorite part of the day, even more than their physical therapy sessions, which said quite a lot since there was significantly less touching during these outings. And, the anticipation of Raoul's next touch weighed heavily on his Erik's thoughts quite persistently.
As such, Erik waited for the moment when Raoul would begin to fidget, his leg usually bouncing up and down while he leaned back, slouching. Their legs would brush, shoulders bump, and Erik would suddenly feel too warm despite the mild evening. It was almost scripted, from Raoul's fidgeting to Erik's reaction; there was nothing he could do to change anything, even as he tried to control his own reactions.
"Pleasant evening we're having," Raoul said suddenly, startling Erik out of his thoughts.
"Pleasant evening?" Erik intoned.
"Well, yeah," Raoul shrugged, nudging Erik's arm in the process, trying and failing to sound conversational. "It's nice… and pleasant."
Erik scoffed, turning his head slightly to look in Raoul's direction. "What do you want to know?"
Raoul was quick to respond, "What are you talking about?" He turned away so that Erik wouldn't be able to see his features, not knowing that Erik could barely decipher one eye from the other in the dim lighting.
"You don't talk about the weather," Erik explained, "unless you want to ask me something."
"Well," Raoul crossed his arms and said petulantly, "Maybe the weather's just really nice and I wanted to share that with you."
"You're already sharing it with me," he pointed out.
Raoul didn't have an immediate response to that. Erik was right of course, but he didn't have to know that. Erik probably also knew he was simply biding his time before asking the real question he'd wanted to ask because if he asked it too quickly, it would be proving him right.
There was only so much time he could waste though. "So, this brain tumor…"
"Very smooth segue, Raoul."
Raoul was certain that statement had been accompanied by an eye roll. He asked his question anyway, "It's inoperable?"
"Of course not," Erik retorted, "I just like it there. I think it's a good conversation starter."
Raoul sighed, taking that as a 'yes.' Erik's sarcasm was better than his anger, but Raoul could already feel his agitation. Erik had tensed, moving slightly away from him. It wasn't a surprise that he wouldn't want to talk about himself. Still, Raoul persisted, knowing there would probably never come a time when Erik would willingly share this information. "Where exactly is it?"
Erik knew that was a roundabout way of asking what it did to him. He deflected, annoyance colouring his response, "Is this an interview?"
"No," Raoul said just as defensively, inevitably carried along with Erik's mood. He couldn't understand why he simply couldn't share what had happened. Didn't he know that there was nothing he could say that would scare him away? "This is us talking as Raoul and Erik." Before Erik could respond, he added, voice edging on mocking, "You hate doctors after all."
"That hasn't changed." Erik shot back.
Realizing that they were heading towards a full-blown argument, Raoul was quickly apologetic. Changing tactics, he tried to explain, "I just…"
"You just nothing, Raoul." Erik didn't want to deal with Raoul's curiosity or the fact that a part of him believed that he should just tell Raoul everything already. That part was easily overwhelmed by the fear of rejection, though Erik refused to acknowledge that – although it couldn't be called a fear when said rejection was statistically proven true. He just needed Raoul to accept him as he was, and currently, that was with his bandages. "This is a topic we do not talk about."
"How can we not talk about it?" Raoul demanded to know. "You're the one who brought it up when you told me you had a brain tumor."
"And obviously, I shouldn't have told you."
"No," Raoul stifled the desire to physically shake some sense into Erik, "I'm your doctor. I should know these things."
"And here I thought we were speaking as just Raoul and Erik," he spat the words back at him.
Raoul flinched. He should have seen that one coming. "Well, as Raoul, just as me, I want to know, too."
Erik took a moment to take a deep breath. "There's nothing you can do."
"Maybe there isn't, but maybe there is."
"There isn't," Erik stated with finality. Raoul was ever the optimist, and Erik didn't want to give him any delusions that he could be helped. Once he started believing that, there would be no way to dissuade him from his efforts, and then Raoul would never see anything besides the accident, besides his illness. If there was anything Erik refused to be, it was being just another of Raoul's patients.
"Erik…" Raoul started.
"Where's Christine?" Even with the desire to somehow bind Raoul to him, he would never settle for just that, not when they'd been doing so well to avoid all conventional doctor-patient interactions, not when they were already more.
"God, will you just let me finish a sentence?" Raoul raised his voice in exasperation.
Such thin layers separated him from Raoul and yet it seemed so far. "Call Christine."
Raoul shook his head. "She's doing her job."
"Call her. I want to go back to the room." When Raoul didn't move, his tone of voice changed, one that demanded to be listened to, the one that everyone responded to. "Bring me back."
Raoul shook his head just as firmly as he declared, "You know I won't do that, Erik."
Everyone but Raoul. Erik knew that. Raoul didn't do anything but what he wanted; it was still a mystery that he stayed to help him at all.
"We should talk about this," Raoul insisted.
"I don't think we should."
Raoul scooted closer as Erik turned from him.
"I'm tired," Erik admitted, hoping to play on Raoul's rather constant empathy. But it was also the truth; he was tired, not just physically either. He was tired of this conversation and even more tired of worrying what Raoul might do once he did find out what had happened. If only he weren't so weak, he would force Raoul to stay with him. They wouldn't have this problem at all. "Just bring me back to my room."
Raoul didn't say anything, only leaned more heavily on Erik, pleased when he didn't shy away. He'd found that when they were arguing, although his first impulse was to leave so that he didn't become physically violent, the best thing to do actually was stay. If he stayed by Erik long enough, his own anger would dissipate no matter what was said or done. He wasn't sure why that happened; just as quickly as he could be angry at the man, he could relax. The insufferable man just made him defensive; it felt like everything he said was an attack.
But despite his first impulse, he realized he didn't want to leave Erik's side. No matter how hard Erik tried to push him away, Raoul knew he had to push back. He'd long since decided that there was nothing Erik could do to chase him away as a doctor or as anything more. And, that anything more was what had taken the longest to decide upon – he defined what that meant as vague as possible.
Lately though, he'd been more frustrated. His mind constantly lingered on Erik, his mysterious past, and its connection to his face. It might have been better had Erik never said anything at all because knowing nothing was proving to be mentally easier than knowing just a little. This piece of the mystery only showed how little Raoul knew and made him think that he would never be able to see the big picture.
"How much can you actually see?" Raoul mused aloud.
"What?" Erik answered faster and calmer than Raoul expected. Him answering at all was already unexpected.
Clearing his throat, Raoul shrugged and floundered, trying to make sense of his previous statement, "You have gauze and bandages on your face. Can you see very much?"
Erik paused, wondering at the change of topic. "I can see enough."
Realizing that he'd never really thought about how much Erik could see, Raoul asked, "Do you know what I look like?"
It was difficult to see Raoul clearly in this darkness. Usually, Erik could see just fine; his eyes had grown so accustomed to the hospital room that he could do well enough to decipher expressions and features. He had to admit though, when Raoul had first fallen asleep in his room, he'd removed the bandages just to be able to see Raoul unhindered. Even though he'd been paranoid that Raoul would wake or someone would walk in while he was so naked, he'd taken long moments just to let his eyes trace every feature from the slender neck to each eyelash.
Raoul wasn't made of sharp angles; he had a softness about him. Perhaps it was because he smiled too much, and his expressions were so easily displayed on his face. Erik had decided it wasn't such a bad thing except for the fact that it made him want to reach out and touch Raoul. And, Erik had poor impulse control. He knew what it felt like to run his fingers through Raoul's hair, knew the feel of his cheeks, had even dared to trail his fingertips over his lips.
But those thoughts weren't helping him stay mad at Raoul.
He answered gruffly, "A fop with blonde hair."
Raoul actually laughed, unable to contain it, "Did you just call me a fop? Who even uses…?" He stopped himself, "All you ever see me in are scrubs or my white coat. How can you even tell if I am?"
"I can just tell," Erik insisted, unwilling to concede.
Still grinning, Raoul replied, "So you can see through all those bandages. It seems rather unfair that you know what I look like and I have no idea what you look like."
"Life's not fair."
As though to take the sting off the fact that he was still refusing to show his face, Erik leaned a little heavily on him. Raoul appreciated the steady weight. Erik was gradually getting better, and while that was a good thing, he wondered what would happen when the day came that Erik could leave the hospital. What would happen then?
"And everything has an end," Raoul added. To hide the wistful tone of his voice then, he added quickly, "Oh, weren't we sharing clichés?"
"You know. Your bark is worse than your bite," Raoul continued, grinning.
Already aware of Raoul's propensity to fasten onto jokes and repartees that he deemed to be less vulgar than the ones he usually tended towards, Erik was quick to warn, "Stop right there."
"When hell freezes over," Raoul answered too cheerfully. It was easier to lose himself in their banter than it was to linger on the many things he didn't know about Erik, the many things he might never learn about him.
"Really," Erik leaned more heavily on Raoul; he wasn't quite sure what he hoped to accomplish by doing so. "Stop. You're not as witty as you think you are."
Raoul's watch beeped before he could come up with another cliché. He got up reluctantly. Holding a hand out to Erik, it took a few moments before he accepted the help. Once Erik was situated in the wheelchair, they began their journey to Erik's room.
"You know. That's just the tip of the iceberg of the clichés I know," Raoul commented, knowing that Erik wouldn't respond. Whenever they were around others, barring Christine, Erik refused to speak. Raoul wasn't sure why, but it hardly bothered him. He was also almost certain that he'd just heard Erik sigh.
"You just opened a can of worms with that statement." Even as he smiled and nodded to all the nurses they passed on the way to Erik's room, Raoul kept his voice low enough so that only Erik could hear. "It's like being a kid in a candy store."
Before they had even reached his room though, Erik couldn't help himself. "Shut up. Why don't you take a long walk off a short pier?"
Raoul laughed loudly, garnering many confused glances from the nightshift nurses and one rather self-satisfied grin from the man he was pushing. Momentarily relieved of his burdensome thoughts, Raoul gladly responded, "Only if I'm taking you with me."
Christine entered the room shortly after Raoul left, and Erik had a sneaking suspicion that she did that intentionally. Lately, she'd been avoiding him as much as possible. He hadn't realized it until he and Raoul had gotten into an argument and Christine had simply refused to intercede.
"What were you boys talking about?" She asked, placing down a tray of bandages and some water by his bed.
"Why?" He asked suspiciously.
"Raoul was smiling to himself walking down the hallway. I think he was laughing actually." He'd been happier than she'd expected him to be. Whenever she got him to talk about Erik, it was only ever to complain about his shortcomings as a doctor since he couldn't get Erik to confide in him. It was beginning to grate on her nerves. Raoul was an excellent doctor and she knew after his family, he needed one less person to make him feel like a failure.
She thought he'd really come into his own at being a doctor. The others were treating him better, and she didn't think he realized that lately, he'd been the one to turn their company down in order to spend more time with Erik. Luckily for him, the others were well aware of the situation with Erik or else Raoul would've been disliked for a whole other reason than his name; as it were, they were rather impressed with his dedication to the 'impossible' patient. Yet, Erik was ruining all the self-confidence Raoul had managed to build at the Garnier Hospital.
"Talking about?" Erik feigned nonchalance even though he couldn't help his own amusement at their banter, "Linguistics."
"O-kay," Christine shook her head. She'd rather hoped that perhaps Erik had let go of his insecurities and told Raoul more, hopefully more than even she knew, which was admittedly so very little already. Erik would have grumbled about her meddling if he had though, so it must have been something else entirely. Sometimes, she wondered how Raoul managed to care so much for someone he didn't really know.
"Any more lies for today?" Erik accused.
Innocently, she looked at him in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"Every time you seem to say more than a few words to me, you end up lying to me." Erik stared in her direction pointedly. If he did so long enough, she would begin to fidget.
"I think you're mistaken," she said sincerely, "I don't lie to you all the time."
Erik paused before conceding, "Alright. Any more lies about Raoul?"
She had the gall to smile. "Things seem to be going well between you two."
Erik wasn't sure that was particularly true after their argument outside. However, Raoul never shied away from his advances. Raoul had voiced it best when he said that they were flirting with each other; then again, he had also been adamantly against the idea. So, Erik wasn't sure if that caring attitude and desire to be there constantly for him was simply Raoul being Raoul or Raoul treating him specially. It was one of the main reasons Erik had refrained from doing more than flirting, until he could firmly decipher whether Raoul was simply humoring him or if he was truly interested. After all, his face and past weren't the only thing that could chase Raoul away.
"I don't appreciate being lied to, Christine." The threat was clear in his voice.
She didn't flinch as Erik expected though. Instead, she scowled at him, taking a step forward. "And I don't appreciate you treating Raoul poorly."
"When have I treated him poorly?" Seeing Christine's withering look, he amended, "When have I treated him worse than anyone else?"
"Those times when I've lied to you, Erik," she said, exasperated. "Either way, Raoul isn't just anyone." She'd known the moment Erik had answered her first question that she would have to push them a little more. Raoul was good for Erik. She just hadn't realized that Erik would be the person who would be good for Raoul, too. And Raoul deserved better than to be left in the dark. She knew that he'd never push Erik to just tell him. He was above coercion and underhanded tactics when it came to Erik; luckily for him, Christine wasn't.
"He's my doctor." Erik tried to gloss over his relationship with Raoul. Even to him, it sounded weak. "Of course, he's not just anyone."
She challenged, "Oh, so you don't want him as anything else?"
Erik refused to answer. She already knew that answer. She'd figured it out even before Erik thought he'd wanted Raoul around for just curiosity's sake.
"Because if you don't make your move," she threatened, knowing that if anything would work, the chance of losing Raoul again would spur Erik into action, "I was thinking that I would ask him to start dating again. I usually don't date doctors, but for him, I think I'd make an exception."
"You're lying again." Erik couldn't be sure though.
Christine shrugged. "He's the one exception, Erik." And that wasn't a lie. Raoul was the only doctor she would ever really consider dating even if she wasn't particularly interested anymore. Knowing the silence meant that Erik was either glaring at her or trying to weigh the truth of her words, she offered, "When are you going to let Raoul help you change those?"
"I don't need anyone's help anymore," Erik snapped, glad for the change of topic. "The therapy's helping."
Raoul's presence was what was helping. The pain seemed less difficult to deal with whenever the blonde was near. It was easier to get through the day, through the pain that still made him grit his teeth and curl up in himself, because he knew that when lunch time came around, Raoul would be back. Even against everything he'd ever learned from his ordeal, he was almost willing to take the pain medication because he knew now that his life didn't have to be like that, that even though life wasn't fair, he could still have something this good in his life.
He'd been considering letting Raoul help him. The idea had come to mind the first time Raoul took him outside and he realized that he didn't want to stay in the hospital room for the rest of his life. Ever since, he'd been thinking about what to do about Raoul, what to do with his life now that it could be his again. It had always been his; he'd just been… sulking? Erik wasn't about to call it that. He'd been justified to allow his body to waste away like that – it was punishment for his carelessness.
He liked to think he was smarter now; he wouldn't squander his time.
But to tell Raoul everything, to show him was something that was a little difficult to get his mind around. There was always the chance that he'd turn away from him. Even with Raoul's persistence the chance was still there.
"You should just give in." Christine said.
"Give in?" Erik absently asked.
Christine sighed. She needed to catch up with Raoul. "You're fighting something you already want."
"I don't want to ever show him my face, Christine," he stated.
She only grinned back as she was leaving the room. "If your face is covered, how are you going to be able to kiss him?"
Raoul was trying to catch his breath. Erik was definitely getting better and it was getting harder with the limited exercises they could do in the room to reach Erik's level of workout intensity. They needed to move their sessions to the actual physical therapy unit to get Erik properly started on walking again, no matter how much he argued against it.
After today's massage, Raoul knew that their post workout ritual definitely needed to be kept in the privacy of Erik's room though. Erik must have had a hard day since he'd been rather shameless today, moaning. Raoul had encouraged it in the beginning because Erik had been self-conscious enough to try and stifle the sounds. He'd told Erik it was better to just let the sound out though and slowly but surely, the groans would come out rather unbidden but at least not so controlled every now and then.
Never like this though. The sound had been worming its way into Raoul's brain, and rather unfortunately, into his pants. It was the first time that he had ever been so glad to end the massage. He didn't know how long he would've been able to keep touching him so innocuously – he blamed his reaction mostly on Christine.
As though nothing had been out of the ordinary, Erik was now on his stomach bonelessly lying on the bed, a sight that always made Raoul smile. He was just taking the simple pleasure of watching him, when Erik asked suddenly.
"What do you think of Christine?"
"Christine?" Raoul kind of froze and immediately berated himself for that reaction. He hadn't done anything wrong. Yet. Christine had found him in the morning and the subsequent conversation had put Raoul ill at ease the entire day. He wasn't sure how Erik would react at all to what he was going to do. About to respond to the question, he was interrupted when the door opened.
Confused, they both turned.
"Christine?" Erik's attention on her caused him to miss the sudden tension in Raoul.
She paused at the door, staring from one to the other. Grinning, she let the door close behind her. "Boys."
Erik laid back down; though as she approached Raoul, he made sure to keep her within his sight. She approached and leaned to whisper something in Raoul's ear. He took some consolation in the fact that Raoul had, at first, pulled slightly away from her. He strained his ears to hear what she said, but to no avail.
Those muscles that had relaxed a few moments ago tensed when he saw Raoul smile rather shyly before nodding. Before he could say anything, Christine straightened and went to leave the room. She glanced at him for a moment with a victorious smirk.
Erik turned around to lie on his back in time to see Christine give a small wave to Raoul. He frowned when he saw Raoul wave back.
"Raoul," he said sharply, not bothering to hide the annoyance in his voice.
Raoul turned to face him, struggling to remain calm. He expected this reaction; Erik would be jealous. "Yes?"
"What did she want?"
"Oh, she just mentioned something we talked about this morning," Raoul replied, and Erik was loathe to admit that he wasn't lying. His blue eyes were wide with earnestness. Erik hated that look for the sole reason that it mocked him, telling him that his anger was unwarranted. He was being unreasonable. Again.
He couldn't help himself though. "Are you going on a date with her?"
"A date?" Raoul parroted before laughing nervously. Erik heard it and knew that probably meant they did.
"She…" Erik was cut off.
"We," Raoul cleared his throat and started again, "Christine and I, aren't going on a date." He firmly stated. "She's off tomorrow and wanted to have lunch." He had tried to tell her that Erik wouldn't be happy with him if he spent too much time with her. He'd suspected from the very beginning that Erik and she had some sort of tension between them.
Erik stared at Raoul in confusion. Besides that first hesitation, Raoul had seemed just as earnest as before. Unsure if there really was a reason to remain angry, he added simply for good measure. "You can't have lunch with her."
"I know. She knows that too. Some afternoon coffee run." Raoul wondered at his reaction and began to question his assumptions. Erik was acting almost like Christine had said he would. Hesitantly, he asked, "Is there something wrong about me going out with Christine?"
Erik refused to answer that, and Raoul didn't know what else to say. He had to think some things through and maybe catch Christine before she left again. They needed to talk again.
"My bandages need to be changed," Erik stated just as Raoul got up from his seat. He knew that Raoul was about to leave, knew it and was unwilling to let it happen so soon. He didn't care that Raoul had other patients to attend to. Not when Christine might actually follow through with her idea to go after Raoul. The blonde was simply too receptive.
Raoul nodded, knowing what that meant. Erik was giving him a reason to leave; Raoul was to make himself scarce in the time being while Erik changed his bandages. It was routine enough that he didn't question the sudden dismissal. He'd barely taken a step when Erik stopped him once more.
The words stuck in his throat but with great effort, Erik managed to let out a strained. "No."
"No?" Raoul could see Erik was tense but it didn't look like he was in pain.
Erik raised a hand to touch the bandages on his face. Summing up as much courage as he could for what he was going to do, he said distantly, "Everyone leaves, Raoul."
Knowing immediately that he wasn't just talking about right now, Raoul was quick to respond, "I'm not those other doctors."
"I'm not talking about doctors," Erik said, his voice tight.
Raoul sighed. He hated it when Erik talked like this, like he was all alone in the world when there were so many people around him. "There's got to be someone else, Erik," he said reasonably, "Not everyone could have left you."
The thought, There's you, immediately came to mind, but Erik refused to voice that particular sentiment. "There's no one left to worry about me."
Erik scoffed, "Yes. Yes you do."
Raoul stood there staring at him, waiting for another outburst, another bout of self-pity. He took a step away before stopping himself.
"Erik." "Raoul." They said simultaneously.
Raoul started when it became obvious Erik wasn't going to, "Christine did come to talk about this morning and lunch." He struggled to explain. He rushed forward, "But not like you think. We're supposed to meet so that I could tell her about what happened here." He waved his hand in an indistinct manner, gesturing at them. "She told me to smile and follow her lead but more importantly, she told me to watch your reaction. She seems to think you have a crush on me." He tried for teasing but fell short at nervous. Clearing his throat, he added, "My brother does, too, by the way."
"Yeah?" Erik said roughly. Christine had been lying to him again. He wasn't very surprised. What did surprise him was that out of four people, the only one who didn't know he was interested was the one Erik had been rather openly trying to seduce.
"Yeah." Raoul couldn't quite look at Erik. He struggled to keep from wringing his hands together. "I told them they were wrong of course." He glanced up quickly before looking back down, "It's just how you are."
Erik nodded. "Good." He answered noncommittally. He'd been right about Raoul not understanding what was going on between them. He just couldn't bring himself to tell him outright that they were right.
"Yeah. So," Raoul smiled tight-lipped, shifting his weight slightly from leg to leg. "I just wanted to clear that up. I'll see you tomorrow?"
Raoul moved to leave again, and just the sight of Raoul's back turned to him forced the words out. "Raoul." Erik struggled to keep his voice to be even. His instincts told him to just let him go. "I need help with my bandages." The words almost jumbled together. Everything else told him otherwise.
Raoul froze, completely certain that he'd just misheard. He didn't want to voice his uncertainty, lest Erik change his mind. When he turned around though, Erik was holding out a roll of bandages to him.
Erik let his arm rest on the bed as Raoul approached the bed. He was used to Raoul touching him; in fact, he'd just had a full body massage. Yet, having Raoul this close made his heart race. He stayed as still as possible, clenching his hands at his side. He could let Raoul do this. He could be this vulnerable, more vulnerable than he'd let himself be in years.
Raoul sat on the edge of the bed, just barely finding one end of the bandage at Erik's throat when he heard Erik's breath hitch. He paused, hand still grasping the thin material. "Are you…?"
A quick jerk of Erik's head giving his assent stopped the question.
Raoul wasn't sure he wanted to do this. It felt like he was somehow doing this against Erik's will. He did want to know, desperately but not at whatever this was costing Erik. It wasn't right.
He let out a shaky breath. "I can't." He was pulling away when Erik grabbed his wrist and tugged, keeping him bent over the bed rather uncomfortably. He had to put his other hand down, near Erik's head to keep from falling over.
Erik wasn't willing to have to go through this a second time. Raoul had to do this now or else he might never be able to ask again. He knew it was his fault though. When wasn't it his fault that Raoul was pulling away from him? Struggling to sound calm, he let out, more affected than he would ever admit to, "A penny for your thoughts?"
Raoul laughed suddenly, the tension finding an outlet. "You know," he licked his lips. His heart was doing strange rhythms being this close to Erik and having the man's surprisingly firm grip on his arm. "I wasn't born yesterday. I can see you don't want to do this."
Even through his nerves, Erik managed a grin in response to Raoul's cliché. At least the blonde had stopped trying to move away, "Then you need to get your eyes checked." He could barely think quickly enough to come up with a responding cliché as poor as it was. "I'm right as rain." Before Raoul could make fun of his cliché, he tugged the hand towards his bandages.
Raoul was quick to focus on the task at hand. He moved deliberately, quite sure that if he tried to move any faster, the shaking in his hands would become too obvious. He almost laughed at himself; he was as nervous as Erik was.
In order to have more room, Erik sat up, glad that he managed the feat by himself before Raoul helped place pillows to support him. When Raoul continued with the bandage removal, Erik found himself fervently wishing that he would just go faster; he was almost tempted to just remove the bandages and gauze all at once just to get this over with. This slow pace was frustrating, but he'd told Raoul to do this and would let him do so whatever way he wanted. Instead, Erik focused on Raoul's face, so close that there was no mistaking his eagerness. Erik could only hope that he wouldn't disappoint.
As the bandages fell away leaving only the gauze, Erik found himself holding his breath even though he knew it wasn't sheer enough for Raoul to see through. He attributed the fact that Raoul hadn't shied away yet to that.
As Raoul started on the gauze moving from the neck up, Erik shut his eyes. It felt like this was taking forever.
Once his mouth was exposed, he stopped Raoul from removing any more, gripping his wrist again. The first sign of his deformity started at the lips, or at least the gnarled skin that had once been the right half of his lips. He knew Raoul could see the beginnings of the gouge defining the tendon, ligaments, and muscles that kept his lower jaw attached. He would be able to see both the missing and raised skin.
He opened his mouth to say something but couldn't get anything out. Raoul was still here and wanted to see more. There had to be something he could say.
"Cat got your tongue?" Raoul joked shakily.
Erik's grip just tightened. A small quirk of his lips drew Raoul's attention completely. So, he'd been wrong about the elephantitis; he'd already known that. Just by sight, Raoul knew that this was something Erik hadn't been born with. This was something that had been done to him, that had happened to him and in this day and age, he couldn't quite understand why no one had done something. He wondered belatedly if Erik had refused help from the very beginning.
He stopped himself from reaching forward by sheer force of will, Erik's grip on his wrist grounding him. He had to remind himself that Erik didn't like to be touched. But the thought of Erik refusing medical attention and drugs, of him suffering for months or years so unnecessarily, made Raoul's chest hurt; it made him want to just pull Erik to him and somehow protect him from all those hurts.
"They were right," Erik stated simply.
It took a few moments, during which time Erik's eyes had opened in uncertainty, before Raoul's mind could comprehend what that meant. When it finally did, Raoul let out a relieved breath. Erik did like him. He wasn't just showing him his face because of some obligation – though Raoul knew such obligations never applied to Erik. Still, the words made the hurt dissipate just a bit and it made the want to reach out and touch Erik that much stronger. Biting his lip to keep from smiling too brightly, he said, "Just so that we're on the same page, I like you too."
This time, Erik did grin. He searched Raoul's eyes for any signs of disgust, fear, or worse yet, pity. Instead, all he saw was that look Raoul got whenever the pain was too much for him to hide. He exhaled sharply to hide the disbelieving laugh; he should have known this was how Raoul would react.
Raoul felt the puff of air on his lips and before he thought of the repercussions of what he was doing, he closed the distance and kissed Erik chastely on the lips. He had to admit it was different, but he was glad that his first contact with what Erik had been hiding for so long was a kiss. It was like a promise, a way to convey just how much Raoul would accept everything Erik offered him. Unthinking, he placed a second peck on the corner of Erik's lips where the worst of the injuries he could see were. He pulled away suddenly when Erik tensed.
"I…" The apology died in his throat when he realized that Erik wasn't going to yell at him, that Erik had leaned forward as though to chase him when he'd backed away. Raoul grinned to himself, making a mental note to thank Christine and think of a way to break it to Philippe that he'd been right from the very beginning.
He cradled Erik's face, one hand gently cupping while the other pressed a wad of gauze against Erik's cheek, and leaned forward to capture Erik's lips in another chaste kiss, refusing to go further while Erik's face was still covered. He was afraid it would give the other man the wrong idea. He didn't move very far though, leaning his forehead against Erik's to revel in their shared affections for just a moment. His thumb gently stroked the uneven skin – it was an old injury, one that shouldn't hurt anymore but with Erik, Raoul could never be too certain. He'd have to remember to ask Erik later; right now though, he didn't want to ruin the moment they were sharing.
As their breaths intermingled, Erik asked softly, "You know the cliché I always find… relief in?"
His tone of voice, that pause, and the emphasis on the word made Raoul wary. Still, he stayed where he was and responded, "No, what?"
Even though Erik answered in all seriousness, the innuendo was still there. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
Raoul was forced to turn away before bursting out into laughter, spluttering, "I can't believe… Did you just…?" He turned back to Erik, his smile wide enough to almost hurt his cheeks. "You just killed the moment."
Erik shrugged, truly not caring, and moved to kiss Raoul again. "One more before you run away scared," he said, glad to realize he was joking. When he felt Raoul smiling again, he pulled away.
"Well," Raoul's smile became a little more teasing, "You don't have to worry about that." He pecked Erik once on the lips again. "I have to admit. I have a weakness for guys who don't beat around the bush."
Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Story Review: I am amused. I hope you are too. Still, how the hell can I leave it like that after so much time? So many loose ends!
You'll live. The prompt asked for ten chapters; I have ten chapters, but I'm not that evil. I'll figure something out. In fact, I already have.
Btw, I was going to have him have the deformity since birth, but given some details, I figured that wouldn't have worked very well because of plastic surgery; as such, there were allusions in this chapter as to what actually did occur (very vague allusions).