Fandom: 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: There are more things frightening than Erik's face (not that he'd believe that). Raoul is haunted. Kind of dark but fluffy (isn't that contradictory?).
Warning(s): slash, portrayal of… not an ideal relationship
Pairing(s)
: Erik/Raoul
Word Count: 2,188

A/N: I'm a little late to the party but this is my Halloween fic (it's not quite Halloween-ish). I'm trying to do the holidays, particularly because it's easier to write one-shots and because I probably won't have chapter 4 of More than Friends ready to post this week (so maybe next week… or else you'll all get another one-shot).
Story note: For new fans and old fans who keep me writing… or at least guilty enough to post sooner than I would without such an incentive. :D This wouldn't have come to pass without you guys.

o.o.o.o

Lingering Ghosts
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt

o.o.o.o

Raoul was nowhere near Erik's home when the Punjab lasso fell around his neck. He hadn't kept his hand at the level of his eyes despite knowing better, despite not knowing whether his presence would be welcomed.

He'd rather expected such a welcome though, because Erik was predictable if only in his immediate inclination towards violence. So, he didn't struggle when Erik yanked just hard enough for the coarse rope to bite into the skin of his neck; struggling always escalated altercations with the ghost. The noose didn't get any tighter than he could breathe though, and Raoul considered his chances of surviving this encounter better than what he'd initially calculated.

"What are you doing here?"

Erik staying in the shadows where Raoul couldn't see him, however, was a bad sign. The disembodied voice could've come from anywhere since they were deep enough in the tunnels for there to be an echo. It was sad when Raoul realized he could pinpoint the ghost exactly by the disproportionate weight caused by the knot of the lasso – Erik was behind him, slightly to his left.

It took a second before Raoul processed the question. It took even longer before he could respond.

There were a lot of reasons why he'd willingly come back into the tunnels in search of a ghost, but it came down to one simple fact. The truth was harder to admit than he thought it would be though. His voice was thick with emotion, and the words came out harsher than intended. "I had to come back." And, that was the only way Raoul could view this visit. He had to. If he wanted some semblance of sanity left, he had to be here.

Erik scoffed, tugging the lasso a bit so that Raoul took several steps backwards. "After your so hard won freedom, you come back?"

The flare of anger that consumed his body should have been surprising, but Raoul simply felt justified in his fury. Glancing over his shoulder to where Erik was cowardly hiding, he spat back, "You forget, ghost, that I willingly came to you the first time. The subsequent imprisonment was enforced because I simply wanted to return home."

"Imprisonment?" Erik exclaimed. He was unwilling to concede the fact that he'd made Raoul do anything he hadn't already wanted to do. The blonde going down to stay with him those first few days had been an implicit concession to stay as long as Erik desired.

Raoul let out a cruel bark of laughter because Erik would, of course, somehow not consider keeping him beneath the opera house against his will anything other than imprisonment.

Erik stated with certainty, "You belong with me. Though," he added with venom in his voice, "it was apparently best that I'd kept you since we didn't have to wait years before your contempt for me came to light."

"Did you not feel animosity for your captors?" Raoul asked pointedly. He actually felt Erik withdraw further into the shadows.

Erik had forgotten that they were still connected to each other though by the lasso; so, Raoul was forced to take the same steps back. He waited patiently for Erik to speak again. He hadn't come to argue, but he didn't want to speak out of turn. This silence meant Erik was mulling over their exchange; after all, the lasso wasn't tightening.

Finally, Erik spoke, "You would have left," admitting the true motivator behind his actions. It wasn't as though it mattered anymore. Raoul had grown to hate him in his supposed imprisonment before leaving. Whatever reason the Vicomte had for returning would be unfavorable.

"And come back. I would have come back," Raoul tried to explain, but Erik hadn't listened for those weeks he'd been held captive, and he didn't think it would matter now. He added reluctantly, "And, I don't hate you, despite what you believe."

"What else am I to believe?" Erik's hold on the lasso tightened, as though he could keep Raoul with him again if he held on tightly enough. "When you left, you said you were never coming back."

Raoul sighed. He'd meant every word, too. "I wasn't going to."

"And yet," Erik narrowed his eyes at the blonde. From his angle, he couldn't see Raoul's facial expression and that put him on guard. "Here you are," he said suspiciously.

"Here I am." Raoul conceded. It was awkward having this conversation essentially blind and turned away from him, but even with Erik at the advantage, he preferred it this way. He didn't want to see Erik, didn't want to have to face this, whatever it was between them. This way, he could pretend the words he was about to say held no power, no actual bearing even though he was inextricably drawn to say them.

Not hearing the venom he expected, Erik asked, desperate to know, "Why did you leave? Why did you run?"

Raoul took a deep breath and steeled himself before finally admitting, "You frighten me."

Despite having heard that all his life, Erik was still taken off guard; it was the last thing he'd expected from Raoul, not after what they'd shared. He quickly berated himself for his naiveté and for reacting at all, knowing he'd long since gotten used to the sting that came with such words. It just somehow hurt worse this time.

He couldn't hide the hostility in his voice, didn't attempt to even though he was surprisingly restrained. "There aren't many that I do not frighten, and you are one of the few who have seen my true face."

This was the moment Raoul had been thinking of for almost an entire month. He finally loosened the noose from around his neck, pulling it slowly over his head so that he could turn around and face Erik. He could make out his silhouette and even see a bit of the mask as it caught the meager light in the tunnel. "That… that is only almost true."

"Almost?" Erik didn't want to keep talking about this; he didn't know why he'd allowed Raoul to loosen the noose from his neck when his hands had twitched to tighten it. "You ran from me because you were afraid."

"I didn't quite run." He found himself delaying.

"You ran faster than I thought possible," Erik replied bitterly. Had he been faster, Raoul would have never made it out of the labyrinthine passages and into the cold Parisian night. Had he been less arrogant, he wouldn't have shown Raoul how to move around the passages with him, but he'd realized it even then. He'd known that left on his own, Raoul would leave.

The blonde had grown skittish, unable to meet his eyes, flinching away from his touch. It hadn't been like that in the beginning. No, in the beginning, Erik had truly believed that Raoul loved him. It was in the gentle smile, the touches, the laughs. Raoul had been a steady presence, a comforting fixture for those few days.

But then, he'd wanted to leave and Erik hadn't been able to allow that to happen – not when there was the slightest chance that he wouldn't return. Even in the beginning when he'd first forbidden Raoul to leave, the Vicomte had taken it in stride. The blonde never left his sight and did not worry about the heavy gaze as Erik constantly reassured himself that he was still there. Raoul had acquiesced with an understanding smile.

It wasn't until two days into his involuntary stay did Raoul actually begin to argue and rebel. It wasn't until he realized Erik was never going to release him did he begin object to staying because Erik knew he'd glimpsed what an eternity in the darkness would be like and couldn't help but fear it. Erik had seen the progression. He'd seen what it was doing to Raoul, and he had been able to do nothing but hold on tighter, not knowing what else he could possibly do.

In the end, he lost him anyway.

It didn't take long before Raoul stopped speaking with him, stopped looking at him for longer than a mere moment. Raoul had stopped loving him. Erik had rather expected that to happen, eventually. Still, when it came to pass, it was heartrending, yet nothing compared to how the pain festered during the three month absence following Raoul's escape.

"You should never have come back if I frighten you so." He should not be so generous; he could still kill Raoul easily. The Vicomte was dangerous, one of the only person who could harm him by simply leaving. "You needn't ever look at this visage again."

"You don't understand, Erik. You don't understand anything about why I left." Raoul shook his head.

"What is there to understand?"

"Your-" Raoul struggled with the words even though they'd been well-rehearsed in his head on the way over, "Your face may be like I've never seen before, but I've grown accustomed to it. It," he false started, "You frighten me, but it's by the depth of your need, your obsession, your focus." Raoul turned away, turning already nearly useless eyes to the tunnel wall. His voice dropped low to hide the slight tremor he'd heard all too clearly in his last words. "You frighten me with your passion, with your love." He motioned weakly with hands before running them through his hair, "It feels as though I'm being overwhelmed, lost within your moods and desires. And you're not even seeing me any longer or else you wouldn't have detained me as long as you did. You must understand. I was drowning and even my love for you couldn't keep me afloat."

Erik moved to grab him, as though Raoul were indeed a drowning man. He forced Raoul to look towards him, opening his mouth several times but he could think of no appropriate response. The only words that he could summon were, "You were going to leave." As though that explained everything, but he didn't try to deny what Raoul had said. He had seen intimations of Raoul's plight, and he'd only thought to hold on even tighter.

"I was going to leave," Raoul let Erik hold him, mostly because he was certain he wouldn't have been able to break free at this time. Erik's hands were bruising as he held on. "And, I would have left time and again, but with every departure, I would have assured you a return."

"You would have." Erik easily noted the careful wording. "And now? Why have you returned?"

Raoul laughed bitterly and finally moved to shrug out of Erik's hold. Erik willingly let him go, so that he could take several steps back. Raoul's back hit the cold wall and he crossed his arms across his chest, hugging himself.

Why had he returned? What had he been expecting?

"I am haunted," Raoul finally admitted.

He hadn't been able to sleep or eat. The darkness was advantageous for it hid the dark shadows beneath his eyes, the weight he had lost and the general disarray he found himself in. Everyone had noticed but no one commented; they didn't know what to say to a Vicomte that was slowly wearying, dying for no apparent reason. He hadn't been able to work. He nearly laughed at the recollection of the previous months. He hadn't been able to close his eyes without being haunted and it was driving him insane. It was why he was standing here now. It was what had driven him to this point, but to what end?

Erik waited for Raoul to continue, but when no explanation was forthcoming, he asked, "And you sought to kill the ghost that caused it?" He barely believed his own assumption, not when Raoul looked for all the world as though he were seeing a ghost right now, his eyes vacant. Erik almost scoffed at the irony; he was speaking to a ghost this instant.

Raoul seemed to come to himself at his statement, not understanding how Erik had come to that conclusion. Realizing how far they actually were from each other, he distantly knew that was not what would solve his problems. He needed to be closer; so he dropped his hands, taking a step forward. Grabbing Erik's wrist, he tugged and Erik came compliantly despite his own uncertainties regarding his motives. But, at Raoul's hands, Erik found he didn't mind the pain he might suffer.

"I'm haunted by memories," Raoul reiterated, tugging the lasso rope that Erik still held and letting it drop to the ground. He raised Erik's hand to place against his cheek. "I'm haunted by the memory of how you used to touch me." Raoul turned slightly to kiss his thumb. "Without fear and desperation. I'm haunted by the memory of your voice," he sighed, "of your gaze, of the expectation that thrums through me when we're together." He nuzzled Erik's palm before looking up at him. "I'm haunted by you."

Erik could only stare at him in disbelief, not quite willing to let himself believe.

Raoul whispered, "And I want you back."

o.o.o.o

End ficlet

A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: Damn, twisted relationships. Raoul shouldn't have come back because I doubt Erik's ever going to change, but he might. Here's hoping to might because I hate it when fictional characters return to abusive relationships after freeing themselves from it in the first place. D: