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: Raoul decides to give up both Christine and Erik, but things don't end up the way he expects.
Word Count: 2,244
A/N: This was supposed to be the Valentine's Day fic, but as you can tell, that didn't work out very well (unless Valentine's Day was moved to March without anyone telling me).
Story note: Alphabet Game letter included. It's technically not how I initially imagined it to go when I first wrote the drabble, but it does work.
Setting Things Right
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Raoul wasn't running away from the opera house per se. He might have fled immediately after having spoken the words that he had almost hoped would hurt being received as much as it had hurt to say, but it wasn't quite running. He'd simply known his presence would no longer be welcome, and that unconcerned stare he'd been given as a response had been enough proof to verify that belief. After all, that had been his intention, distance.
Things had gotten… complicated. Very complicated, very quickly. Then again, the opera house almost always complicated what should be straightforward emotions and actions. He loved Christine. So, obviously, he had expected to marry her and have children. That was how love worked, but even though he would probably never stop loving her, it simply wasn't enough. The opera house had taught him that it wasn't enough to just love someone. And, he was embarrassed to say, it had taught him that he wasn't enough for her. The fact that he cared and wanted to dote on her meant nothing when faced with the circumstances of their situation.
How many times had he gone through this in his mind? It seemed that every step he had taken since arriving at the opera house happened to be a misstep. No matter how well-intentioned the act, how genuine the emotion, he simply could do nothing right for them.
Raoul swore that of all the things he had meant to do, he had not meant to hurt someone else. He knew he'd always been impulsive and headstrong when he set his mind to something. Life was supposed to be that simple: find out what was right, what was necessary and act. Perhaps that was an oversimplification, but it had served him well so far. Even when things had gone awry in the past, he hadn't been this conflicted.
Then again, it hadn't been his mind that had caused this situation, that had driven his actions. It had been his heart and Philippe always said to follow his heart no matter how painful.
However, when he had told Christine that he was dissolving the engagement, the hurt look in her eyes almost made him take back the words just so that he would not be the cause of that expression. He stuck with his decision though. It was best for them both. Even though she loved him – he did not doubt her declarations to him – she had enough love for more than one person. She was too kind, too gentle and caring. She could hold two people in her heart very dear to her, and Raoul couldn't do that. More importantly, he couldn't accept it.
Love was supposed to be all-consuming. His love for Christine had been close to that at one point; he was sure of it. Her affection for others was not a betrayal, especially since she never tried to deepen any relationship besides their own. Yet, he could see it as nothing but and his love had gradually been eroded by jealousy until there simply wasn't enough to keep them together. Worse still, so preoccupied with the deterioration of their relationship, he'd failed to notice that he had been losing himself piece by piece to someone else until it was too late. His love and affection had been siphoned to another.
He just found it odd that the person his heart would choose would be the same person who he had possibly hurt the deepest, and it was even worse that this person now had the opportunity to hurt him in return.
It was only fair since this was his fault anyway. If he hadn't met that man, if he hadn't made the deal, or been self-important enough to think that he understood the nature of people's hearts, none of this would have occurred. He laughed at the thought. What had been so pure about his love for Christine that the ghost couldn't experience himself? He wasn't sure any longer, but he'd thought that loneliness had driven the ghost to chase after Christine and if only he could dispel that, there wouldn't be a problem. He could show kindness and affection to Erik and demonstrate that it didn't mean something more. After all, kindness didn't necessitate love. Except, he actually did fall in love.
But, before Erik could learn of his treasonous heart, he had put an end to it. Now, he could honestly promise that he would not hurt either of them any longer, and as much as it physically pained him, he would now step out of their lives and let them be happy together. His own hurt might persist for a while, but in a way, he was preventing himself from being hurt far worse.
Things would work out for the best.
Entering his study, he loosened his cravat before throwing it onto his desk. He picked up the decanter on the side table and poured himself a generous amount of alcohol for a future he was certain would come to pass: for Christine's and Erik's relationship and for his continued solitude.
He lifted it in mock salute.
"What are we celebrating?"
Raoul turned around, spilling some brandy from the tumbler in his haste to face the man.
Erik stood, leaning against the door almost casually, though experience told Raoul the ghost was far from nonchalant.
"Uh, Erik." Raoul looked away, busying himself with cleaning up the mess he had made. Placing the tumbler on the desk, he could find nothing to clean the spill so settled on using his cravat to dry his hands. He noted they were shaking and quickly held them behind his back. Making certain his voice was firm, he met Erik's hard gaze. "I thought I had made myself clear about any further association between us."
Erik made a sound that Raoul only belatedly realized must have been a laugh. "You have made yourself abundantly clear on your feelings on the matter."
"Then…?" Raoul half sat on his desk, unsure if his legs would continue to hold him when they were shaking so badly. Erik shouldn't be here.
"You are on quite the warpath. Last week, it was Christine." Erik paused to scrutinize Raoul's demeanor before commenting, "I rather expected something of the sort to occur."
Raoul looked away, mind racing. He wondered if Erik had noticed how his behaviour had changed, if it had changed at all. That couldn't be it though. He didn't think he'd given himself the opportunity to react properly. It was only yesterday that his whole world seemed to crumble around him as his feelings for the opera ghost became painfully clear. The more Raoul analyzed their relationship, the further he could tolerate the idea of remaining simply friends. Honestly, he hadn't known exactly why he'd had to break his engagement with Christine. Until that moment of realization, it had simply been instinct.
Erik admitted rather mutedly, "And I was pleased." He cleared his throat. Pushing away from the door, he halved the distance between them. "Then today. Well, imagine my surprise," his voice rose and he stepped closer with a sweeping arm gesture, "my surprise, Raoul, when you had prepared a similar speech to give to me."
As much as Raoul wanted to hide his pain with, perhaps, angry expletives or insults to Erik's intelligence, his immediate response was to balk at the idea that Erik expected them to remain friends when he and Christine were going to start their relationship. "You couldn't have expected us to remain as we were," he retorted instead. There was no way he was that strong. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to pretend to be friendly while having to watch them cavort. Or maybe that was the problem; he could imagine it and knew it would be torture. Erik had to understand that as well.
"Why can I not?" Erik moved closer again. "Is that not the reason you left Christine?"
Raoul looked at him in disbelief. The man truly believed that he could be that gracious, that he could give up his fiancée so that she could marry his clandestine love and still remain in both their lives? Then again, Erik didn't know he loved him.
So, he lied. "Leaving Christine had nothing to do with you. I could finally see that I could not make her happy."
"And us?" Erik pressed, still unconvinced but wavering. It was that uncertainty that drove him further into anger. Raoul rather preferred his anger. It meant that they would soon argue and Erik would leave furious with him but thankfully, still ignorant to his true motives.
Erik accused, "Without Christine you see no more reason to associate with me."
"That's not it," Raoul immediately responded and just as quickly regretted it. So much for keeping his true motives secret, but while he didn't mind Erik hating him, he couldn't bear it if the older man believed his kindness had been false, that throughout their acquaintance he'd had only selfish intentions. Even in the beginning it hadn't wholly been about his and Christine's relationship. He'd genuinely thought that what Erik felt for Christine hadn't been love, simply a way of dispelling loneliness. He hadn't sought to manipulate him.
"Then what is it?" Erik pressed, challenging Raoul to prove him wrong.
Raoul floundered. He hadn't thought to make up an excuse; after all, why would he need one? Erik should be rejoicing that he was now out of his life. "It's better this way."
"It's better this way?" Erik repeated incredulously. He grabbed Raoul's bicep, jerking him off the desk. Raoul barely managed to stay on his feet. "You can't decide these things all on your own."
Defiantly, Raoul gripped Erik's wrist in an attempt to pry his hand away but failed. "Why can't I?"
"You cannot dissolve our involvement without consulting me," Erik stated, so incensed that he tightened his grip further. His eyes darted away to focus on something over Raoul's shoulder while he added haltingly, the words foreign to him, "This isn't a mere… acquaintance." He met Raoul's eyes for a moment in such unguarded confusion and distress that Raoul nearly gasped. The expression was quickly replaced with a scowl. "At least Christine had been given a proper reason."
"I… wait." Erik's choice of words, that one moment of raw emotion made Raoul falter. He simply couldn't believe the conclusion he'd reached. "What?"
Erik's jaw clenched and he released Raoul but moved no further away. Raoul was still trying to locate the point of divergence in their argument when Erik seemed to remember just who he was. He reached out and Raoul couldn't help but flinch. Instead of an attack however, he settled a hand on Raoul's hip, the warmth easily seeping through the material. When Raoul didn't move – he'd barely been able to contain the shiver at such intimacy; the thought of removing Erik's hand had yet to occur to him – Erik stroked his side once before clutching the material of his shirt tightly and tugging him closer. Raoul stumbled into him, his hands coming up to reduce the impact by pressing against Erik's chest. But while he immediately dropped his hands once regaining his balance, Erik kept his hold on him.
With the condescension that Raoul easily associated with his normal behaviour, Erik said, "I refuse to accept your termination of our relationship. If you think you can simply cast me aside, you are sorely mistaken."
The obvious question to Raoul was 'what relationship?' but the words stuck in his throat. He was quite certain Erik did not mean a platonic one. His touch was too possessive, too familiar, and right now, it was distracting. They'd touched before of course. Raoul's affection often sought physical outlets: a hand on Erik's arm, a pat on the back. But, they'd definitely never touched like this before.
"Do you understand?" Erik asked sternly, fully expecting a response this time.
Raoul opened his mouth, trying to get anything out. He made a sound that he vaguely realized he should be embarrassed about, but it didn't even process. There was so much to say and ask. He didn't even know where to begin. Maybe, 'how long have you thought we were in a proper relationship?' but that would have to be a question for a later time since Erik obviously thought Raoul knew they were together. Besides, Erik's proximity left little unclear about what he thought they were to each other and his stomach felt dangerously unsettled; he was tempted to simply call it nausea but knew it was more attributable to disbelief and an almost fierce joy that Erik was basically refusing to leave him alone.
"Raoul?" A little concern crept into his voice as well as his expression, but just as quickly it was hidden behind another scowl. "You are not allowed to end us after everything that has happened."
Before Erik could come to his senses, Raoul forced out breathlessly, "Yes." Tentatively, he rested his own hands on Erik's hips and Erik tensed slightly. He realized that all it would take was sliding his hands a little further and they would be hugging. Glancing at Erik's expression though, he decided to wait before taking a big step like that. Biting his lower lip to hide his smile, he nodded. "I understand." He couldn't help but grin as he added though, "I don't know what I was thinking."
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: Sometimes I don't understand why I can't do straight fluff. Why must there always be angst to appease those damn plotbunnies? Either way, I call this the one where Erik thinks they're in a relationship before they actually are or the one where Erik's definition of relationship differs from Raoul's. The tone shifts in the middle and it's a bit troublesome, but I've been holding onto this fic for too long; maybe my goal should be to do a fic without all that introspection in the beginning.
Btw, I really wanted to say that Raoul 'disengaged' Christine. :D idk why that's so funny to me, but it is. That and can you imagine Erik cavorting? XD It was used as an exaggeration of course, but still, it amuses me.
The letter of course is H for Hurt.