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: Let's Rewrite Our History Assumption #1: Christine's father doesn't die. Raoul has his eyes set on a new soprano; Erik has his doubts.
Word Count: 2,804
Series: Let's Rewrite Our History (The series where anything is fair game, huge assumptions are made, and you simply have to accept them as fact.)
A/N: I was thinking of putting this series into a single story until I realized that they really don't have anything in common except for the fact that they're all AU (and what story of mine isn't already AU?). They're long enough to be oneshots regardless and don't need each other to be read and enjoyed.
Story note: I consider this fic the one where Erik's mocking leads an affronted!Raoul to take rather surprising measures.
Walk the Walk
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt
The rehearsals were, as always, being overseen by Msr. Reyer. It was common knowledge that although he started off in the wings of the stage, given half an hour, he would eventually take to hovering near Piangi. His record was a little under an hour, but it was as though he had long since concluded that shadowing the tenor was where he was most needed.
The managers were currently indisposed. Their absence was rather noticeable since the ballet corps was having a dress rehearsal, and whenever that day came around, Andre and Firmin were only held at bay in the wings of the stage by the force of Madame Giry's glare. The presence of a new soprano, understudy to Carlotta – after that unexplainable mix-up with her throat spray – served as the reason why the two men were still in their office buried under paperwork.
It was also common knowledge that, it being Wednesday, the rehearsals were being overseen offstage by the occupants of Box 5, despite the fact that it was only sparingly lit. Two men were seated beside each other, arms touching as they endeavored to remain in the section of the box that provided both an unobstructed view of the stage and the ability to be completely hidden from curious glances cast their way. The normal murmured conversation had halted; the silence was punctuated only by the voices onstage. They had just been discussing this new find of theirs, and Raoul unthinkingly had made a confession of sorts.
To him, Box 5 was a type of haven, one where he rarely had to censor his own thoughts, and two years of shared company meant a lot to him. At Erik's continued silence, however, he was beginning to think he had just discovered a topic that he should not broach. After all, their companionship was not easy, had never been easy. They rarely found common ground – the opera house provided as much contention as it did agreement – but they had managed to find a way to coexist rather well. Their combined faults and strengths offset each other enough to create a balance less precarious than if they had been left to clash against one another.
Sometimes, Raoul was certain it was because he was the only one who willingly spent time with the once mysterious and sinister Opera Ghost that such harmony had come to pass. Erik had stopped insulting him on a daily basis. The opera house had survived that one mishap when the stage curtain had caught fire, and Raoul had learned that suspending the ghost's pay was dangerous on more than one count. They may have even reached the point where Erik might have considered him a friend.
Most of the time though, Raoul did not know how someone who shied away from human interaction and who was shunned by others could be so overwhelmingly arrogant. And Erik's response was a perfect example of such a time when Raoul did not know how they managed continued civility with each other, much less be what he considered good friends.
"The new soprano? Her?" The masked man scoffed, amusement warring with mocking incredulity.
"Yes. Her." Raoul stood abruptly when he heard just how defensive he sounded. Taking several steps away, he leaned against the wall behind Erik, arms crossed at chest level. He had grown accustomed enough to Erik's so obvious disdain to know not to storm off, but he also knew that his reactions spurred on Erik's poor behaviour. Leaving the man's line of sight was the only way to continue their conversation, and Raoul was always glad for an opportunity to openly glare at the insufferable man. This time it seemed as though it hardly mattered where he stood since Erik's attention was fixed on the stage, at the individual who was the focus of their conversation.
Erik made a dismissive sound from the base of his throat.
"I do not know what you find so humorous." Raoul glanced at the woman he had yet to actually meet in person. Only several years younger than he, she was the daughter of a famous Swedish violinist and from what gossip they had heard, famous in her own right. He did not doubt it now that he was witnessing her talent firsthand, and it was this line of thought that provided a reason for Erik's response. "You think she is too good for me."
Erik rolled his eyes before giving him a sidelong glare. "Desist fishing for compliments. She is a mere singer." And Raoul was actually a little surprised that he could say that word with such derision since Erik had more invested in the leads than he and the managers combined. There was no such thing as a 'mere singer' in Erik's book; if there was, Raoul was certain he would hear less complaints about Carlotta.
"You are a viscount," Erik continued, attention turning back towards the stage. The beautiful brunette had curly hair, tamed rather artfully with several pins. It fell, just so, around a thin face, sharp chin, and fine cheekbones. Her petite form managed to glide across the distance that Carlotta would have strutted. "There is little she can do to even reach the level of the dirt you walk upon much less be 'too good' for you."
Grinning openly, Raoul had to admit that he did feel a little bit flattered at Erik's opinion of him. "Then, what is the problem?"
"You needn't seduce her," he sneered, using Raoul's turn of phrase against him. "She will gladly throw herself at you." He amended, "On you." The girl was perfect for the stage; she knew how to draw attention to herself, draw admirers, and Erik found himself predictably annoyed to find that even the viscount was to be counted among them. Her voice was passable, although she had the potential to be even greater. It was obvious she had been taught at quite a very young age, but that only worked against her favour. Erik knew well enough that not only did increased age lead to poor students but also ones who already had previous tutors.
Frowning at his comment, Raoul replied, "But that is not why you scoffed, is it?" He blew a wisp of hair from his face in annoyance.
Erik smirked, eyes unfocused as he refrained from making eye contact with Raoul even as he focused solely on his companion. He would best be able to rile him up if he did not grin outright. "I find the idea laughable."
"What is?" Raoul pushed off the wall a bit, approaching his seat in an effort to see Erik's expression, which was currently neutral.
Erik pointedly turned slightly to look at him. "You, attempting to seduce anyone."
It took a moment before Raoul finally realized what Erik was implying. "You do not think I can."
Managing a nonchalant shrug, Erik replied, "I think you to be too… innocent to be able to do such a thing." Innocence was part of the reason; if his inquiry into said topic was to be believed, innocence could actually be considered quite a large part of the reason. More importantly though, Raoul was too direct and honest to be able to create the necessary tension and magnetism for a successful seduction. He had no experience of such things when every person he had ever been interested in had shown interest first.
Raoul grabbed the back of the seat he had just vacated. "Innocent?" he nearly yelled but caught himself at the last moment. "You see me as innocent when that woman would be simply another conquest to me."
Surprise at that statement made it impossible to contain the harsh bark of laughter. Erik quickly stifled any subsequent sounds with a poorly restrained smirk. Raoul's anger was hardly threatening, but even Erik knew it was rather unkind to outright laugh in his face more than once. He cleared his throat before asking rather skeptically, "Another conquest?"
Huffing, Raoul couldn't hide his blush. "I've had… several."
Erik narrowed his eyes at him and stated pointedly, "You would not be able to seduce a sexually frustrated harlot with the promise of a clean bed and a thousand francs."
Raoul's mouth dropped open in a gasp at his vulgarity, which only served to further prove Erik's point. He shut it quickly knowing that Erik considered himself the victor of their argument. For long moments, he internally struggled before deciding to simply leave without comment.
Watching him go, Erik almost felt badly. He would not have company for the rest of the afternoon, and with rehearsals, there was little else to do but sit here. He had realized long ago that he had become unaccustomed to long bouts of solitude. When he desired company, he sought out the blond and demanded to be entertained, and even when he wished to be alone, Raoul would often find him regardless. Perhaps he could have worded his disbelief differently. Then again, perhaps he should not have intentionally baited him.
He was idly watching the rehearsal, attention mostly on the internal debate between finding Raoul in order to lie to him about his ability to seduce women who would readily throw themselves at him and waiting for Raoul to realize Erik was simply being truthful, as always. The decision was taken from him when the curtain parted once more.
"Raoul," Erik began, already knowing he was the only one who would dare approach him. The next words died in his throat when Raoul moved to stand before him. It was not his location so much as the way he sauntered over just to partially sit on the railing. His hair was tied neatly back, drawing attention to the pale skin of his neck and Erik was grasping at his memory, trying to determine if Raoul had loosened his cravat and undone the top buttons of his shirt in the short while he had been gone. He would have told Raoul to not even bother attempting to prove him wrong if he could just remember what his state of dress (or undress) had been less than a minute ago.
Apparently ignorant of Erik's puzzlement, Raoul sighed and glanced over his shoulder to look forlornly at the stage. "Maybe you are correct, Erik." He bit his lower lip, his brow furrowing slightly as his eyes followed the soprano moving about the stage.
Erik did not have to look away from his study of Raoul's profile to know the practiced movements that she made seem natural. Raoul did not seem as though he was acting and this sudden change of attitude was not that uncommon. Raoul had a tendency to need a moment to himself before deciding whether his immediate reaction was the correct one, and now Erik was struggling to determine if this was a ruse or simply an honest reaction. The latter was more likely because Raoul seemed completely unaware of how his hips were canted a little towards him or how leaning to his right to watch the stage had pulled his shirt open a little wider.
His attention still fixed on the stage, the blond sighed once more before he moved to settle into the seat beside Erik's. "Perhaps," he stated reluctantly, "I need more experience, but if it is as you say," he leaned closer to Erik, finally meeting his eyes, "and they all readily throw themselves at me, what can I do?"
And despite all the times they had been in this exact position, seated beside one another and conversing, this time was somehow different. Raoul was different.
It was not as though Erik never noticed him before. He was not blind. The boy was handsome; that had been his main observation the day the managers had first obtained him as patron. It was difficult not to notice how Raoul moved, dressed, spoke, smiled. Even if they had not spent so much time together, Erik was certain he would have watched him regardless, and having him close all the time had actually once been too much – and had caused many unwanted dreams and thoughts. And compulsions.
At first, he had wondered at the boy's motives, wondered what the touches, the smiles, the laughs meant. To think that they were meant just for him, that there were no ulterior motives had been absurd. But even after that experimental trial period of Erik's 'good behaviour' and the subsequent period of 'bad behaviour,' Raoul had remained unchanged – a little worse for wear but relatively unchanged in his own conduct. Erik could only ascribe his confusion to the fact that he was unacquainted with the rules of engagement when it came to human interaction.
However, right now, absent was the flippancy with which Raoul usually treated their acquaintance, as though it was normal for two men to be so close, to share thoughts, secrets, near entire days with their sides practically pressed together. It was that flippancy that had taught Erik what was normal, but here the viscount was, serious and conspiratorial, intimate in a way that made no sense since Raoul was simply seeking guidance. He was trusting him with something more than the money he placed in the opera house; he was trusting him with his heart. This moment, despite the rules Erik was now better versed in, was somehow beyond the scope of what their friendship comprised and maybe was truly an invitation to something more.
Forcefully, Erik brushed the idea aside, convincing himself that he was once again assigning more meaning than what was present to the situation. How else would Raoul ask about such an embarrassing subject as his conquests? It was only their conversation that made him think that Raoul was acting abnormally. It was the conversation that made him think of Raoul in such a manner again even after having successfully managed to entertain those thoughts only when he was not present.
He second guessed himself, however, at Raoul's expectant look until he remembered that the younger man had asked a question. Suggesting the only idea he had, distasteful as he found it, Erik quickly uttered, "Anonymity would solve that problem."
He could see the exact moment Raoul accepted the idea. The viscount smiled brightly and that was perhaps the trait Erik appreciated most about him, his honest reaction, his excitability at the smallest suggestions, treating them as though they were the greatest bits of wisdom he had ever heard. At that smile, Erik could not believe he had ever entertained the thought that Raoul would even attempt to pretend to seduce him.
"That is brilliant," Raoul said.
Erik did not bother correcting his exaggeration. It was actually the obvious answer, but someone with such high regard for gentlemanly behaviour such as Raoul would never have thought of it. Already plotting to prevent such a thing from ever occurring though, he was just beginning to relax and turn his focus towards the stage again when Raoul placed a hand on his thigh. Stage forgotten, Erik stared at the point of contact. Raoul's hand was not inappropriately high, and Erik was no stranger to his touches – it was something he had resigned himself to after being unable to dissuade the blond from it even with the threat of physical violence. He wanted to look to see Raoul's expression, to gauge how he should react, to see if he was overreacting, but he could not manage it. His thigh felt unnaturally warm.
"I do not know how to thank you."
Raoul sounded sincere, but he punctuated the statement with a squeeze of his thigh. Erik tensed, hands gripping the armrests, but that was enough to convince him to finally look up. Raoul's face was uncomfortably close and though Erik leaned back, he did not move any further or attempt to dislodge his hand. He did not think he could pry his own hands away from the armrests long enough to do so.
His attention split between the earnest, eager-to-please expression and the hand that was suddenly moving higher; he could only watch Raoul's lips quirk into a charming smile. Erik held his breath when the younger man moved just a fraction closer, but Raoul only licked his own lips before saying, "If you think of anything I can do, be certain to tell me."
Then the hand on his thigh was gone and Raoul was walking out of Box 5 with a triumphant, if not a little flustered, smile on his face. His hands were shaking only slightly as he began rebuttoning his shirt.
Erik was left staring into the darkness, mind reeling with the possibilities of exactly how Raoul could thank him. More importantly, he was now plotting the best way to inform him how improper it was to be such a tease.
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Fic Review: This is actually the second story that I've outlined in the past few weeks where Raoul basically seduces Erik. XD They're similar, but not completely so; however, I'm not sure if the other one's ever going to see the light of day.
Two notes: 1. The soprano is Christine of course. :D and, 2. Personally, I think Erik's not as crazy as he should be in this story, but when I mentally traced Erik's downward spiral into insanity because he didn't have Christine to fixate on, it became quite convoluted. So, he remains relatively sane.