Fandom: Phantom of the Opera & Beauty and the Beast
Disclaimer: Please don't sue. I don't own *insert fandom name from above*... All I own is an overactive imagination.
Summary: POTO take on Beauty and the Beast. So, it's technically not a crossover, just a different telling of the fairy tale.
Word Count: 3,325
A/N: Another part of the twelve days of Christmas present. Creative title, I know. I could've named it something like the Vicomte and the Phantom (in French of course), but decided against that.
Story note: Loosely based on a mix of Disney and the actual fairy tale. Multi-chaptered.
La Belle et la Bete
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Chapter 01 – a tale to be spun
Raoul pressed against the side of the inn after stumbling upon Philippe and the innkeeper speaking. He was not supposed to be out right now, but he did not think they had seen him.
"How many days again?" The man was gruff, his voice too rasping for someone only a decade older than his brother. Raoul never truly felt at ease around him, as though the man were calculating the very cost of his existence and had come up with a low number. Or a high one that he knew not to be worthwhile.
Philippe's voice was a great contrast to the innkeeper's, baritone and smooth. Raoul nodded to himself, and it was confident. He liked to think that he could tell a lot about a person by the way they spoke. Lately, he was certain there was more than a hint of worry in his brother's.
"Simply three. I need to ride to the city for some business."
"Business." The man scoffed. Pretending to consider for a moment, he suggested, "I'll continue lodging them for that horse of yours upon your return."
"No," Philippe stated firmly. Of all the things they'd lost, that horse was the only thing they truly had left to call their own. It had originally been Raoul's, who'd named it after him, and Philippe simply refused to give his namesake away. "My brother will be working in my stead and we certainly have enough funds for those three days."
"Your poor excuse of a brother will earn less than you." Raoul didn't have to look to see the disdain on the man's face.
Philippe started to defend him but even he knew it was a useless effort. Ever since learning about this last opportunity, a property that might still be considered theirs after all the debt collectors had ravaged their estate, he and the innkeeper had repeated this conversation, and each time the man denigrated his brother and tried to procure his horse. The old man simply refused to believe a man more than half Philippe's age could work just as hard.
"He will work exceptionally and it will be sufficient," Philippe stated with finality.
The innkeeper grumbled in agreement before walking away.
Raoul hung his head in shame, leaning heavily against the wall. He was always causing problems for his brother. If only he could do something in return. He clenched his jaw, lifted his head, and stood up straight. This was his chance to do something for his family; there was no time to feel sorry for himself. His brother was counting on him to take care of their sisters, and he simply couldn't let him or them down.
The bravado leaving him, he sagged against the wall again, sighing. In the least, he would try to survive the three days Philippe was gone. For now though, he had to return to the room before Philippe discovered that he'd not only followed him outside but that he'd been listening in on their conversation. Trying to sneak back, he failed to notice his shirt had caught against a bush until it broke free and the bush shook violently. He winced and stopped dead in his tracks. When he heard nothing, he was just about to try moving again when a voice called out.
"Raoul. Come here."
He wondered if he could run off, claim that it had simply been an animal and pretend he hadn't heard, but it would only unnecessarily stress Philippe. So, he turned, ready to dutifully go to his brother only to find that Philippe was already there.
"Oh, what are you doing here, brother?" Raoul asked, pretending to be surprised.
Philippe rolled his eyes but decided not to comment. Instead, he motioned for Raoul to walk with him. "Let's discuss this while I gather my pack."
Raoul followed and couldn't but help state, "I do not think you should go." He even added hopefully, "It looks like rain is heading that way."
In the silent moments that followed, Philippe wondered at Raoul's reticence. He blamed himself for the dependency his brother had on him. It wasn't all unexpected, seeing how Raoul was still young, but his younger brother always proved particularly anxious whenever he left for any duration longer than a day; though, he supposed he couldn't take all the blame, considering their family history.
So, he tried to assuage his fear, "Do not see this as a bad thing, brother. We may yet have a means to return to our old life." It was a remote chance, but it had been his responsibility to care for his siblings and so far he'd managed to ruin that. He would investigate any lead that presented itself.
But, Raoul remained unconvinced. Philippe tried again, "Come now, dear brother. Your two sisters have already asked for clothing and jewelry. Do you not want for anything?"
What Raoul wanted was his brother's safe return and possibly the opportunity to leave this place, things Philippe would not be able to obtain from a trip to the city. There was nothing else he needed, but knowing Philippe would insist upon an answer, he said, "A rose." Their old estate had such grand rose bushes in the garden that he used to walk among. He missed their scent and the delicate beauty in their petals.
It took him a moment to realize Philippe was staring at him with such open fondness that Raoul turned away in embarrassment. Just outside their door, Philippe stopped abruptly and kissed Raoul upon his forehead. "You are much too young for this."
Raoul shrugged out of his hold, scowling at his brother's sentimentality. "I am not young."
His brother made a show of sighing wistfully. "Midway into your teens already." He truly looked at him, comparing the mental image he had of a little boy to this already young man. Philippe knew Raoul bemoaned the fact that he held much of their mother's countenance - more than either of their sisters in fact – believing it made him look too gentle for a male. It only made Philippe lament the loss of their parents and worry a little more for his brother than his sisters. It didn't help that Raoul seemed unable to harbor any truly deceitful or cunning machinations – a contrivance that even his sisters knew was necessary in order to survive.
He sighed, wondering what would happen once he was truly gone. Raoul looked at him in question. Philippe shook his head minutely and mussed Raoul's hair, which earned him another scowl.
He entered their room with a grin, saying, "Come. The sooner I depart, the sooner I shall return with your rose."
But three days came and went, as well as a fourth, and by the fifth, Raoul was sick with worry. The innkeeper threatened to evict them from their room, but the man had tempered after the first day when he'd witnessed the earnest determination Raoul had regarding his duties. Raoul realized that his threats were merely for appearance's sake.
It was late in the evening of the fifth day when Philippe returned. All it had taken was a single heavy knock upon the door and Raoul leapt from his bed immediately. Philippe stumbled in and Raoul half carried him to the bed. His sisters woke and began to light the candles.
Once illuminated, they took in Philippe's appearance with worry. His clothes were dirty, mud encrusted, and his shirt was shredded in some areas, particularly one arm. However pale he seemed, there were no visible injuries though.
"Brother." They gathered around him, and he could do little else but smile weakly at them. The frantic energy that had brought him across the countryside had dissipated, leaving him feeling unpleasantly hollow.
His elder sister seemed to come to her senses and began to order them around. They divested Philippe of his dirty clothes, bringing him night clothes and several blankets. They fussed over him, making sure he was clean and fed, and Philippe could do nothing but let them, basking in the comfort of his family. And surrounded by them piled nearly atop each other, his two sisters on one side and Raoul on his other, on his and Raoul's shared bed, he unwillingly began his story. He would find no rest with their inquiries and knew they deserved to know what had happened.
Shaking his head sadly, he began, "I arrived at Paris mid-afternoon on the second day as planned, but the news that we had somehow retained that property had been incorrect." He didn't go into the fact that he'd been misled by several individuals and nearly publicly humiliated by someone he had once thought to be a close associate. They didn't need to know that.
"By evening, I was returning when the weather worsened." He was surprised Raoul didn't give him a pointed look for being correct about it raining. All Raoul did was look at him with a mixture of relief and anxiety. He wondered if his brother could tell that something was wrong despite the fact that he had returned. "I was going to keep going but our dear horse," he grinned to his sisters, trying to keep his story light while he could. They giggled. "simply refused to cooperate. So, dismounting, I took shelter in the only building I could, an abandoned opera house."
"An opera house?" the elder sister repeated, struggling to figure why that would be significant. When her eyes fell upon his ruined shirt, she gasped, "The one that's cursed?"
Philippe nodded gravely, and his siblings moved closer to him as though to protect him. It would have been amusing if he wasn't so filled with anguish regarding the rest of the story.
"As I entered, I witnessed the most remarkable and frightening event." His siblings held their breath in unison, and Philippe could almost believe this were indeed simply a bedtime story and not some cruel recitation of his past. "The uniform of a steward appeared. No man within it, but it walked as though there were. It bid me to follow him."
"You didn't," the younger sister whispered.
"I could see no other option." Philippe admitted, "The doors had shut behind me. So, I followed and he led me to what must have been the dormitories for the residents of the opera house. He entered a room and upon my own entry I could not find him. However, the candles began to light one by one, revealing on a long table an abundance of food and upon a chair, a blanket. I ate my full and warmed myself by the fireplace." Philippe hesitated at this point, "And when the storm outside lessened, I grabbed our horse and moved to leave. But as I reached the gate, it closed, trapping me within its walls, and a creature unlike I've ever seen came barreling towards me. It was the ghost. A wretched spectre whose limbs are akin to smoke-like tentacles and at times I could see gnarled limbs or decaying bones." So lost in memory, he didn't realize that he was frightening his sisters. "It had no true face, only a series of macabre frozen expressions of fear and disgust, faces that ranged from children to men and women.
"They must have been the faces of the people it had consumed." Philippe looked towards the pile of clothes he'd removed, eyes unfocused as he remembered how they had gotten so filthy. "And he imprisoned me, brought me down into the bowels of the opera house, so far down that I wondered if we had not descended into hell itself. And I stayed there in the darkness." Cold and absolutely dark. He'd only known sky from ground because of the stone floor.
Coming out of his daze, he glanced at his sisters to see their horrified expressions. He rushed the ending, "He spoke to me only once and it was while he was gone did I manage to lose myself within the tunnels and by the grace of God himself find a way out.
"I rushed home as soon as I could," he concluded and smiled at them encouragingly, "I knew that I could not let you worry too much."
He wasn't certain that his sisters believed his tale. They stared at him nearly disbelieving though still just as relieved, but he'd never once told them falsities under the guise of an explanation, so there was no need to doubt him. However, he knew that it was much to comprehend so late in the evening. He had experienced it himself, and he had moments of doubt that such an event could occur. They would have more questions in the morning once it had all been digested.
"Oh, Philippe," his sisters hugged him tightly. The eldest one spoke for them, "We're relieved you are all right. You had poor Raoul here in such a fit."
He glanced over. Raoul had been too silent during his story. His sisters had gasped and h'md at the right moments, but his brother had simply held on to him. Now, he stared at the blankets, an expression of troubled contemplation upon his face.
"He shall recover," Philippe assured his sisters. "Now, off to bed," he gently ordered. He should have refused to tell them what had happened until morning, but it was too late now. "I'll still be here in the morning."
They gave him a final lingering hug before retiring to the other bed that they shared, and even through the excitement of his arrival and the tale they were still hesitant to believe, they fell asleep quickly.
Through it all, Raoul remained at his side, disconcertingly silent.
"Brother?" Philippe whispered, wondering if he had fallen asleep as well. However, the tight grasp of his arm told him otherwise. He tried again when he received no response, "Raoul?"
"You're lying," Raoul replied just as softly, confused. He frowned to himself. "Why are you lying?"
It was just as Philippe had feared. He and Raoul spent entirely too much time together if his brother knew when he lied. "It's nothing. Let's go to sleep as well."
He moved to a more comfortable position and waited for Raoul to do the same. When he didn't, Philippe sighed. "I'll tell you in the morning."
Raoul shook his head stubbornly.
"I am exhausted, Raoul. Can this not wait?" Philippe was pleased to see the stiff set of his shoulders lessen, and Raoul looked upon him with something like compassion before he shook his head again.
"It cannot, dear brother," Raoul was firm in his resolve, and Philippe knew that he believed his story completely despite its fantastical elements. "For if this ghost is as real as you described, then what prevents it from coming back to take you away?"
Philippe swallowed with some difficulty. That was a concern that Philippe actually shared, but it was not himself for whom he feared.
"Please," Raoul pleaded, his eyes imploring him as well.
"Do not ask this of me."
"I worry for you," Raoul stated as though that were enough of an argument. He asked again, "Please."
Glancing over at his sisters' bed, Philippe was relieved to see that they were still asleep. He turn to lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, certain he wouldn't be able to stand to meet his brother's eyes.
"As I was leaving the opera house, I noticed that to the side, there were rose bushes and remembering your request, I went to retrieve one. You see, I had not been able to return with either jewelry or dresses, but perhaps, I could at least return with a rose." He closed his eyes. Raoul would blame himself, he knew that, but for the moment, Philippe could offer him no comfort. He needed to finish his account. "It was then that the ghost revealed himself and began to drag me back into the opera house, saying that for all his hospitality, I had repaid him by stealing his most prized possession. I was to be his prisoner forever."
However, when he heard Raoul sniffle, he pushed himself up to lean against the head rest, and true enough, Raoul had unshed tears in his eyes.
"I was the cause of your suffering," he whispered to himself.
"Raoul," Philippe gathered him close, "No. You weren't."
"If you hadn't tried to get a rose…" Raoul's sentence was broken by a shaky intake of breath.
Forcing Raoul to look at him, Philippe swore, "You were not the cause of what had happened."
Still disbelieving, Raoul settled back against Philippe simply not voicing the contrary. He asked instead, "How did you escape?"
Philippe stared straight ahead. He'd begged and pleaded to return to his family. However, the ghost had been unimpressed. It was only until he explained about the rose, about Raoul's request did the beast even begin to consider releasing him. "I told him it had been a gift to a most loving and deserving little brother."
"And he released you?"
"Yes, he released me," Philippe hoped that the doubt evident in Raoul's voice wasn't strong enough to compel him to ask him more questions. He hoped that he'd spoken enough, revealed enough of the truth so that it could no longer be considered a lie.
The agreement he'd made, he had no intention of following through. In fact, he was planning to leave France with his siblings come morning.
"You're keeping something from me again," Raoul said, pulling away to look Philippe in the eyes. "Tell me."
He tried to resist, but under that guileless expression, Philippe reluctantly said, "Hearing about you, he promised my freedom if I promised to send you in my place." He quickly explained, "We're leaving this place come morning, Raoul. We needn't ever think of Paris or of ghosts ever again."
"But you promised, Philippe." Raoul looked at him, completely scandalized that his older brother would break his word, and just this once, Philippe wished he could understand that there were some lies that were beneficial, not just beneficial but necessary.
"It was not my promise to make," he stated firmly. "I will not let you go to that place, to that monster. I will not see you die at the hands of some hideous creature for my sake."
Raoul actually was taken aback by his vehemence. He looked at Philippe sadly. His brother did look tired, dark bruising beneath his eyes, a rather haunted expression and an air of fatigue. Raoul sighed. "I think you are correct. You look horrid," he teased and this time, it was him who kissed his brother on the forehead. "This conversation can wait until tomorrow."
Philippe gave his own small smile of relief. There would be no time to talk about it tomorrow. They would be leaving. "Good. Things will seem clearer in the morning."
Philippe was woken by someone shaking his shoulder roughly. He noted groggily that the sun had yet to rise, then flinched backwards when his sister spoke too loudly.
"Philippe. Wake already. You must read this." A paper was thrust into his hands and it took a second for the words to come into focus.
Dearest brother and sisters,
By the time you read, I will already have taken Philippe and be on my way to Paris. I am sorry to have taken him with me for he must already hate the place, but I had no other choice.
Brother, do not worry for me and although you will want to follow, I strongly suggest against it. Since our sisters need you, it is imperative that you do not do anything rash. Even should you try to follow, it will be too late.
I do this to protect you three. I will miss you all dearly.
With all my love,
"What has he gone to do?" His sister asked.
Philippe couldn't voice his answer.
End chapter 01
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: Honestly, I went through several versions of this fic because for some reason, although it should be obvious, I couldn't figure out who should play who.
However, here it is, and I've had to chop it into pieces just to make deadlines. It can't rightly be called a cliffhanger when you already know what's going to happen.