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 #6: Raoul has the misfortune of being framed for a crime. Darkfic.
Warning(s): slash, violence, (it's a dark fic)
Pairing(s): Erik/Raoul pre-slash, it's hardly even pre-slash. It's the promise of pre-slash.
Word Count: 5,012
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 do believe re-harakhti (who's been quite persistent actually) and I (and I'm sure some others of you as well) have been waiting for this plotbunny to sink its teeth further into me. This was supposed to be LROH #7, but #6 refused to be edited (although it's such a good fic IMO; I'm sure you'll all hate me for posting it).
Story note: This story is only slightly hashed out in my head, and I'd had no plan to write it (or this oneshot) save for the fact that when I woke this morning, it was being written in my head already. And it's wordy. Very background story, which I think I should've avoided since it's mean. This seems much more like a first chapter than a oneshot, but no. Just no, you guys. DX Don't make me start a multi only to end up failing to finish it again.
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt
This second transfer had been orchestrated specifically to facilitate his death. There could be no doubt of that, not when he had been secreted away in the middle of the night then gagged and chained. Having recognized the daytime turnkeys, he had been certain they were finally going to finish him off right then since the numerous attempts from his peers had failed; instead, they had tossed him into a carriage for transport.
He could not rightly recount how many days or weeks it had taken to be moved from the relative safety of the prison in Lyon to the one situated in this stone quarry, but it had been four months since he had arrived. It had taken him one of those months to learn that he had been moved to Angers. This was no place to start idle conversation. Speaking with the other prisoners or the turnkeys had not been an option, not when it was an obvious admission of weakness. There was a price for everything, especially information, and Raoul refused to be indebted. More importantly, he refused to trust anyone.
While he'd been in transport, he had consoled himself with the hope that perhaps he would be safer in this new location. Since this transfer seemed rather… unofficial, perhaps word of who he was or rather, who he had been would not have travelled with him. He was not the Vicomte de Chagny; it had been a while since he'd even been formerly that. Before this had all began, he had not thought his title to be something one would kill for. They had had money though little power, but the money had proved to be reason enough. At least, that was what he had gathered from his own meager inquiries. When he had barely been a few months in the navy, his family had been targeted. He had been targeted and had only discovered the treachery until it was too late.
At least, he had been correct. No one knew of his defunct title, but anonymity hardly provided him with more safety in this new place.
This prison was different. He had felt it the moment he had arrived, not only for the even bleaker future with which it presented him now that he was certain eight years of prison had somehow become a lifetime but for the atmosphere. It was an assault on the senses, offensive in every manner possible as though the land itself, along with society, would be pleased to be rid of them all.
The crack of whips and the strike of tools against stone were a constant aural background even when away from the quarry, the noise echoing in ones thoughts. The shouts of men were lost in the shuffling of feet and clanking of chains, the groaning of bodies too worn from abuse. The stench of hard labour, heat, and sweat pervaded the air. The dust covered everything: clothes, hair, fingers; it was impossible not to fill ones lungs with particles of dust and stone. Everything was harsh and rough beneath one's hands: their beds, their tools and clothes, everything save for the sweat and grime that accumulated with the hours. Grey, rock walls rose above their heads, rising ever higher with each drop of their picks, and beyond that, uniform bricks, products of the quarry in which they worked, barricaded them in.
This was desolation, an eternity of unkind days blurring together under a patina of suffering.
Raoul found that he adjusted to life in Angers as well as he had to the other two prisons; that is, to say, better than he would have liked. The labour was straining. His back ached constantly, but his hands had thankfully formed calluses already so that they bled less so than at the start. He was surviving. The true struggle, he found, was within himself, with a savage nature whose existence dishonoured the very memory of his family. He had travelled too far down the path that would lead him to become a vicious murderer, although he had yet to reach that destination.
He was no longer the sweet boy whose mother had gladly accepted the flowers he had picked from their garden nor was he the optimistic fool whose father indulged him by using the money intended for his birthday celebration to purchase new clothes for the orphanage not five blocks from their home. He was no longer the gentle soul whose brother had teased yet hugged him ever-so-tightly when he shed tears at the death of his favorite mare nor was he the hopeless romantic whose sisters coddled him when he denigrated suitors he felt were not good enough for them.
He would like to say that those characteristics died along with his relations, but he knew otherwise. It was his own doing, his own choices. The only thing that remained of who he had once been was some of the innocence of youth. He was still growing, body more lean and muscled than nature would have once dictated, but still too slight. It was his eyes though; they were simply too blue, though defiant they were. He had been told that the last time someone had tried to pry them out of his sockets with a blade. The scar directly below his right eye served as a constant reminder to keep his gaze hard, to meet their stares unflinchingly, and to not allow anyone to take advantage of him as inmates were wont to do. They poked and prodded to see how much they could take away from you, and it usually always came down to the first violent encounter.
In the small jailhouse of Toulon where he had been first arrested, the attack had come several days after his arrival. One early morning during their exercise period, a punch landed squarely on his lower back. It had only been pure luck that his assailant hadn't a knife or he would have surely died from the encounter. The blow had felled him easily, his legs giving out immediately from the shock and pain. Soon blows were raining down upon him. He could do little but raise his arms to protect himself, curl into a fetal position and wait until someone saved him.
The turnkeys had been slow to restrain the man, though eventually they did, and Raoul had spent the rest of the day wrapped in bandages, limping, and urinating blood. He became more vigilant after that, disgusted that he had needed anyone to save him at all. Someone had accused him of a crime he had not committed and had succeeded in imprisoning him. He should have known better than to think he would remain unharmed thereafter. Before another could attack him and before he had the opportunity to retaliate against his assailant, he had been moved to a larger facility in Lyon.
In Lyon, he'd still had too much fat about him. While he might have learned to be on guard, he had yet to learn that isolating oneself without first establishing one's abilities was just as dangerous as being unguarded. He had kept his head down though ears open, had refused to respond to the taunts from other prisoners who had somehow learned of his past title. Ignoring convicts proved to be a lesson in futility.
The attack came almost two weeks after he had arrived, but this time he had been prepared for it. He had learned to fight in the navy, even though he had only ever used it in jest with his shipmates. There had been a sense of urgency, of violence that crawled beneath his skin when he threw his first punch and it connected squarely with the man's jaw. He was shocked to find that he wanted to harm this stranger, not simply defend himself. This man, who was heavier than he, who revealed several missing teeth when called him Vicomte mockingly as he spat insults at his dead family, needed to be hurt.
His mind had been surprisingly clear, as though everything but this man's continued suffering was irrelevant. Somehow though, he was still aware of the others that had surrounded them, aware in a way he had never been in his life. His lesson had been learned in Toulon; a presence at his back made him uneasy. Raoul had been quicker than his opponent. His strikes had been aimed at places that would cause the most suffering: his nose, his throat, his lower back, his groin. And, he was relentless. The blows that landed on his person were afterthoughts. Bruises would heal, but he distinctly remembered having thought but my family will not return to me. By the end of it, he was bloody and bruised but the other man had a broken nose and several broken fingers. He would have had more broken if the turnkeys hadn't dragged him off snarling and cursing at the man before he could crush his other hand with the heel of his shoe.
Directly afterwards, Raoul had been able to find the privacy that he had so wanted behind one of the buildings. Once certain he would be left alone, he viciously threw up, letting the tears that welled up fall. He had dry-heaved long after he had emptied his stomach of the meager bread and water that served as nearly every meal. Curled into himself, he braced himself on the wall and forced every good thing that his family had instilled in him somewhere deep within himself, not only to protect what was left of it, but also to prevent this weakness from arising at every encounter.
That had been the first of many fights at Lyon, and he must have succeeded in his goal for he did not once break down again. He stifled his tears and his emotions when they had fixed his dislocated shoulder and broken bones. He learned to care for himself, grateful for the little he had learned of first aid from the navy and picking up the rest from his brief encounters with the doctors. It did not take too long for him to realize that the quantity of attacks on his person was abnormally high compared to the others. Someone was intent on seeing him die. Before they could succeed at Lyon, he was moved.
Here in Angers, the attack had happened the first day he had marched with the others to the quarry. Unlike the other attackers, Raoul immediately knew this boy – too young, younger than he even – had been sent to test him. There was no decidedly malicious attempt at his life, merely an examination of his skills, and it had been easy to disarm and injure him.
The boy had been too scared to attack properly and once disarmed did nothing but cower. Curiously enough though, he looked more scared at the prospect of not following through with the command given him. It was obvious since Raoul had the distinct impression of being watched, and not only by the turnkeys and other prisoners who had stood by, waiting to see the results. Somewhere amongst the crowd had been the one who had sent the boy to him.
That feeling of being watched did not lessen in the months that followed. He had a sinking suspicion that whoever it was was somehow the very architect behind all the workings of this place. Their very environment was molded by someone's hand into a likeness of a prison but not quite because of the tightly controlled chaos the existed. None of the silence that was strictly maintained at Lyon was present here; yet the random bouts of violence that did erupt between prisoners or between turnkey and prisoner seemed quite calculated.
He kept to himself as best he could, spoke to no one though he listened to everyone. In truths, he could not remember the last time he had spoken – maybe at Lyon. The taunts towards his deceased family had made it difficult to remain silent. He avoided the turnkeys who were proving to be much more liberal with their use of violence. The crack of the whip sounded at least every few minutes. It had already fallen on him several times for no reason other than the fact that he was behaving.
It took him scant a week before he recognized what was truly different. There was established a nigh tangible hierarchy that did not include the warden of the institution, who rarely stepped foot within its walls. From what he had gathered, at the very top was the man he referred to as the architect. The part of him that was still able to find enjoyment in frivolous matters thought the title Architect of Angers was quite witty. Too witty for a man the turnkeys answered to and the prisoners feared.
The others called him a ghost. No one, it seemed, had ever truly laid eyes upon the man who was quickly becoming something of a myth in Raoul's mind. He was a being always cast into darkness and though there were rumours of pale skin and horrible yellow eyes, the accounts were always conflicting. His directives were given through whispers in the darkness, symbols and names left in one's cot, and notes carved into skin. His voice was purported to be smooth like silk, the devil's charm as he slipped poison in your ear to make you do his bidding without a second thought. His touch was freezing according to some, burning according to others. He was inhumanly strong and fast, and he killed without hesitation. Raoul was only inclined to believe that last description; he did not doubt it for a moment. No one had that much control and power over people, much less convicts, without having killed several lives.
Beneath the architect was a division of both prisoners and turnkeys amongst four factions. Each faction was run by four men who called themselves counts, named for the men they despised but who lived lives they coveted with every fiber of their being. Sebastien was the youngest, a man in his late twenties with long brown hair that was never tamed. He was rarely ever seen wearing a shirt. It was vanity and a challenge; he had a large scar on his back where he had been stabbed by a traitor from within his own faction. He had survived the encounter in one piece; the traitor had not. According to the chatter, he had only risen to power within the past five years. He was the most belligerent of the four counts, having the most to prove.
Gaston was the oldest of the four, known for his terrible temper hidden under a veneer of frailty. His hair was silver and skin bronzed from too much sun. He looked too old to be any threat whatsoever, but under the oversized clothes that hung on boney shoulders, he had a wiry frame that had been forged through decades of working the quarry. He embellished his stooped form and slow, uneven gait. Raoul had been witness to the older man beating one of his men near death with his bare hands because the unfortunate minion had lost his shoes in a bet with one of Maurice's constituents.
Maurice, on the other hand, was much Gaston's foil. He was in his mid-forties, only slight graying showed in his blond hair and thick beard. His towered over much of the populace in height and in weight, which Raoul was certain was all muscle. He never spoke; he bellowed orders, demands, and insults. There was little wonder upon seeing him that he would be a count. He was openly violent and though not as belligerent as Sebastien, he was a close second. He despised weakness in his constituents, and therefore had the smallest, though strongest if only physically, faction.
Lastly was Lucien. This man put Raoul most on edge, and he did everything in his power to avoid him. Lucien, with his short, black hair always smoothed back, was all geniality and smiles. He would keep smiling even as he stabbed you in the heart – never from the back; he preferred seeing their faces. There was a manic sort of intelligence in the man's blue eyes. He was cunning and calculating, all hidden within the pretense of honesty. He was known for his… appetites, his physical appetites.
Below the counts, each faction had viscounts, right hand men. Raoul did not fail to see the wry humour in his new situation; he was not a viscount in any sense of the word it appeared – not that he desired to become some inmate's lackey. Every single convict and turnkey thereafter was aligned with one of these men in one form or another. Some were lucky enough to be too insignificant to even be recognized by them beyond the times when they felt their power was being threatened.
The counts used and abused bodies for their enjoyment. Lives were the currency with which they gauged their power, and Raoul had spent the past four months staving off the inevitable. He had nearly killed two of his cellmates who had accosted him in the night and had injured countless others in the quarry. He knew he had only managed such evasion because the four were sabotaging each other, and every time that Raoul had almost been physically branded into a faction, some distraction would save him.
It was one evening after a particularly informative discussion with four of Maurice's men that his cell was besieged with men, surprisingly none of Maurice's constituents that he could recognize in the darkness. He was carried, kicking and bucking with all his might despite his injuries out of his cell and down the darkened hallway towards one corner of the building. Which corner exactly; in his disorientation, Raoul was uncertain. He had always mused that there could never have been more than four counts lest the unlucky fifth would have no stronghold.
It wasn't until his journey had ended and a familiar voice ordered with poorly concealed glee, "On his knees," that his stomach dropped. Of all the factions, Lucien's was the last he had wanted to be forced to join. He kicked out and in the brief scuffle that followed when he managed to make them drop him, he had the satisfaction to know that he caused at least several of the men pain. He made it as far as on his feet and turned towards the entrance of the cell just to see dozens of men blocking his only exit before he was tackled down.
Forced on his knees before the count, Raoul spat out the blood that had accumulated in his mouth on the floor at his feet. The cell was only slightly brighter than the darkness of the hall. It was enough to see Lucien seated on a wooden chair, a furnishing not normally present in any of the cells, with his legs crossed and a lecherous expression directed towards him.
Raoul suppressed a shudder of disgust.
"Ah, finally," Lucien spread his hands out, "no one to disrupt us."
Raoul tried to free his arms from the others, but only managed to pinch a nerve in his shoulder.
"Still silent?" The count offered him what should have been a comforting smile, but it was all wrong with his current demeanor of unbridled elation at his victory. "You have been quite elusive and," he bit his bottom lip before continuing, "it will make this much more satisfying." He slid a hand down his chest.
Raoul averted his eyes before he was forced to watch where that hand continued to.
"Michel!" Lucien called to one of his viscounts.
Before he could react, Raoul was pushed face first into the dust covered floor and his trousers had been yanked down to his knees. He struggled, a yell almost loosing itself from his throat in his desperation. He could hear Lucien laughing and despite the fact that he knew Lucien's brand was some crude equivalent to a carving of a fleur-de-lis on his buttocks, he felt as though he was going to be violated in another manner entirely. Hearing Lucien urging them on only made him more certain of what was to come after the fire-hot knife finished with him. He struggled in vain, eyes squeezed shut as he prepared himself for the impending pain.
Several moments passed and nothing happened.
He strained his neck in order to look up. Lucien was still in his chair, but his attention was clearly focused on something at the entrance of the cell toward the hallway. He was frozen in his place, hands gripping the armrests as he struggled to keep some semblance of his good humour. His smile was beginning to look more like a grimace.
Raoul heard a lot of shuffling and the men restraining him loosened their hold enough so that he could look over his shoulder. They too had looked to see what was occurring. Lucien's constituents had begun to move and in the crowd, he spotted a man in a black cloak, its hood low over his face. The others parted quickly, moving as far away as physically possible from this man yet still be present. At least he now understood the sudden silence. Seeing an opportunity, he attempted to pull his arms free in his captor's distraction, but they held fast.
The architect, for that was surely who this was, moved forward almost languidly, except Raoul could easily see that he was aware of every single person near him. He was confident in his power over them, but not complacent. It was only when he was near enough to Raoul's captors did they release him completely. Falling forward ungracefully, Raoul hardly felt embarrassment as he hastened to pull his trousers up. After doing so, he remained low to the ground lest he garner the man's attention. It seemed he was focused completely on Lucien though and said man was pinned by his gaze.
No one dared move.
"Leave," the architect spoke. His command seemed to echo through the entire building despite the fact that he had not yelled. Immediately, there was a mad scramble to get away. It did not matter to where at the moment. Just away. When everything settled, it was just Lucien, Raoul, and the man, who seemed more like a ghost now than ever before. Raoul was not even certain he could refer to the man as anything but a ghost now that he had seen him.
He had wanted to run, but he found himself entirely unable to move. Somehow, he had known that the command had not been directed at him, just as much as Lucien had known similarly. This was to be decided now between them.
"Monsieur." Lucien's voice was steady though when he stood to bow, it was with none of his usual grace. "Do you wish to have a seat?"
"No." The hood turned downwards finally and Raoul struggled not to squirm under his attention. He wanted to stand, to dust himself off so that if need be, he could defend himself, but he did not think he would make it to his feet without unnecessarily alarming the other two. From the corner of his eye, he saw Lucien relax slightly, his hand moving to settle on his hip as he leaned heavily on the chair; the weight of the ghost's stare had obviously left him fatigued.
"I see that you have successfully defeated the others for this one." His voice had lost its sinister quality, the one that had scared a room full of murderers and thieves. He seemed almost glad for the count, as though this was simply a congratulatory visit from a friend. Lucien looked barely able to remain standing though his eyes fastidiously tracked the ghost's every movement.
When the ghost finally looked up, Raoul could understand the wave of relief one experienced when he was released from such a gaze, unseen as it was, but no less powerful for it. He released a breath he hadn't known he had been holding.
"Do sit," the mysterious man suggested to Lucien. He extended an arm towards the chair, the material draped so that his hand remained unseen. It was an order, one that Lucien would not disobey. He dropped into the seat heavily, hands fidgeting at the hem of his shirt. Once he was settled, the ghost continued, "I knew that it would be you."
Raoul caught a motion from the corner of his eye and he moved instinctively forward, words spilling from his mouth before he could think, "Watch –" A gust of wind blew past him and as the cloak swept over him, the warning died in his throat. His hand grabbed air but the ghost's had grabbed Lucien's hand, which was still outstretched from having thrown a dagger at him. His other hand pinned the count against the back of the chair by his throat. It was the first time that Raoul had seen the man's hair in disarray.
"You were always one for big aspirations." The ghost tightened his hold on Lucien's neck. With his free hand, the count scratched at the ghost's hands, desperate to free himself. His eyes were tearing; his mouth worked itself open and closed though no air was coming through.
"I never doubted you for a moment." He teased the man by releasing his throat barely enough for Lucien to gasp in a breath. He only needed that one before he began to beg for his life.
"Monsieur, forgive me. Please. I had seen…" the rest was choked off once more.
"And what had you seen?"
Raoul was struck by how right the accounts had actually been of his voice. Smooth and deadly, it was one that you had to obey. Perhaps though, it was partly due to the barely restrained violence that was held in the ghost's constitution, in the severe lines of his body as he moved, somehow part of the darkness yet not.
Lucien just shook his head, desperately grabbing the hand that easily held him down.
Raoul's head snapped up in surprise, eyes wide with fear that he had somehow been found out, but the ghost hadn't turned his way, hadn't put any meaning behind the words.
"Fetch me the count's dagger."
Raoul relaxed minutely, reminding himself that the title had a different meaning here. He looked around, eyes casting about the darkness before he spotted the blade not too far from where he sat. Grabbing it, he stood. The cool blade in his hand, he realized that he, too, now had a chance to kill this man; the ghost had not removed his gaze from the count. He could be secure then; joining a faction would become unnecessary. He certainly had much to gain by this kill and Lucien was weak enough that Raoul was certain he could kill him just as easily.
When he was close enough, the ghost simply held out the hand not currently choking Lucien in his direction. The count seemed much less the man he had been mere minutes ago now that he hardly had the strength to fight.
Despite all that had been done to him, despite all that he had already done, Raoul found that he still could not do this. No, the only part he cherished of himself begged of him to not do it. It reminded him that only after he had been tested, after he had been judged by his peers could he bow his head and isolate himself from them all. He could remain always vigilant but not openly belligerent. That way, he could protect what little of himself that had remained unchanged by this ordeal. He could shelter it from this place and from himself. He supposed that part was what they saw in his eyes: the viscount, the son and brother, the youth that he would have been.
Raoul placed the dagger handle firmly in the ghost's hand. Only after he released the blade did the ghost turn towards him; Raoul looked down, more from the shame of what he had almost done than the weight of his gaze. He would suffer for his choice; he knew that already. Whether by Lucien's hand or the ghost's, he would.
The ghost turned his attention back to Lucien and whispered something in his ear that had the other man agreeing effusively.
"I am glad we understand each other," the ghost stated. His voice was no longer so pleasant, and Raoul wanted to know what had been said because he was certain it tied directly to his fate. He could not bring himself to look up though; he could not look at the man he had almost wanted to kill. Instead, he focused on the ground. The silence was broken by a long intake of breath, the breath of a man who was afraid the next occasion of suffocation was going to occur soon.
"But there is still the attempt on my life to be addressed," the ghost's voice dropped. Raoul did look up then, in time to see him grab one of Lucien's hands. He pinned it down on the armrest, and the knife came down quickly after. The count howled in pain and Raoul shut his eyes, disgusted with himself that he was no longer affected by such displays. He longed for the days when that much blood or the fact that the count's little finger was now on the floor made him ill.
His eyes were still squeezed shut when he heard the ghost walk away. He tensed but besides the brush of the man's shoulder against his own, there was nothing. When he opened his eyes, it was only he and Lucien alone. Lucien, who was clutching his hand to his chest, screamed at him, "Get out. Get out!"
Raoul did as he was told, rushing out just as several of Lucien's men came running in to his aid.
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: Raoul is much darker in this one than I had initially planned. Raoul… will always be Raoul though. This turned out much too long. Damn plotbunnies.
Oh, and note: Historical accuracy is so not even applicable here. I tried to do some research, but it didn't go so well.