Disclaimer: Don't own any version of Notre Dame de Paris or Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.
A/N: Disney version with some things from the book and the play thrown in. The gypsies are now Hispanic and Paris is now an exaggerated and fictional, and I suppose a rather dystopic "future" Las Vegas. The cathedral, a very important main character, has unfortunately disappeared from this story, but there are many chapels in Vegas… ;) The main pairing will most likely be Esmeralda/Phoebus.
PS: Clopin's name is spelled differently for a reason. Due to Spanish rules of pronunciation; the Spanish Clopen sounds much closer to the French Clopin, than the Spanish Clopin would.
Clopen held his puppets up and told the children beautiful tales of faraway lands, of outcasts fighting corrupt officials and people struggling to hold onto even the barest scrap of dignity when all civil rights had been stripped from them, of hero and heroines who fought evil and came out on top. He realized the deliberate irony of these tales even as he told them. For he knew that while the children now sympathized with the oppressed, these rich suburban children would one day grow up to become the very things they despised in these tales. Though of course, they wouldn't necessarily see it that way or maybe even take part unintentionally, but most of them would soon be the very people he now hated; their parents. They couldn't help their upbringing and to some degree, he could understand misunderstanding due to propaganda, but that certainly did not make them blameless of their crimes; not now, not ever. In fact if they weren't a part of an active resistance against these injustices, they were just as guilty as the active perpetrators.
Some of the children he met would grow a conscience and a brain enough to make good use of it, but most of them would become proud clones of their proud parents. Of course they would bicker pettily enough along the way to convince themselves and others that they were true "individuals," but in the end, the results were generally the same. Despite his bitter cynicism though, Clopen still loved the little kids. He loved watching their eyes widen in wonder as each of them imagined something completely different and yet similar to the ones next to them. Storytelling was one of his favorite arts, and he was particularly talented at it. Even the parents of the children would stop and listen occasionally as enraptured as their own children. He always wondered at that, he would tell stories of gypsies in eras past homeless and foreign to every country they traveled to. He would tell the children how the gypsies were unaccepted because they were accused of thievery, inciting violence, witchcraft, and other devilries, not always false, but not always true either. The parents, who might shake their head in pity and scorn at the ignorance of such prejudices, would often then go home only to tell their children to fear and hate those who were not "American" or "Christian" enough for their liking for very similar reasons.
Clopen wondered about the blatant hypocrisy and if they even realized it existed. He slowly shook his head as he packed up his puppet show and started to leave the daycare. He had been paid very well for his short visit and he suspected the only reason they had allowed him inside, once they noticed his Hispanic features was due to his mastery of the English language. Clopen had tanned skin and shoulder length brown hair. His dark eyes always had the look of intelligence, with a smidgeon of mischief and he was very fond of extremely bright clothing. He had a feeling if he had even the slightest Hispanic accent, he probably would have been asked for his identification papers. Ahh, good old Sin City. If Clopen had wanted a hometown, Las Vegas would be it, or at least it would have been. Ever since the U.S. had adopted even harsher rulings on "illegal aliens" than Arizona and Alabama had, hatred of Hispanics and xenophobia had spread quicker than he had originally thought it would. The United States was finally "cracking down" on the immigration "problem." And all those of Hispanic descent were paying for it, legal or not.
Ever since John Jackson had taken presidency with his fierce anti-immigration campaign, America had turned from the land of the free to the land of the locked down in a matter of months. Of course he probably wouldn't have gotten very far had the economy not taken a huge turn for the worse a year before he started his run for office. People were looking for something, anything, to blame and the illegal immigrants had been a prominent focus already, so it wasn't hard to cast them as the scapegoats. Jackson quickly made his campaign slogans about the issue and won enough swing votes to get elected. Under his reign, the "crack down" began, and he had most people's hearty support. As he started to implement harsher laws, he needed more executive power to get what he, and the people, wanted done quicker. He quickly attained it, and just as quickly became the most powerful President in U.S. history.
When people finally realized the extent of power they had given him and recoiled from it, they no longer had the chance to resist him. He was easily able to override Congress and the Supreme Court, now, and he had the entire U.S. army behind him, due to the great care he took in enlarging their forces, while siphoning money from certain social services to take care of them. The country had been quickly militarized under his reign and the police were given much more freedom in how they interrogated "suspicious persons" as a part of his other obsession, cracking down on those who he deemed to be criminals. It was also now even more dangerous to house or help illegal immigrants, because it could get you arrested and/or an even more severe punishment, depending on the situation and how much money or political influence you had. The governors were hand-picked by either the President himself or his close cabinet members, instead of being elected, and each was given enough power to run their states like a dictatorship, so long as they followed his general orders. Most of which, if not all, held the same political views he did.
Enough people supported him that, no matter how much the opposition resisted his advances; it never mattered in the long run. It had been 20 long years since he first came into power, for he had also done away with elections, with the majority of the nation supporting his proposal. After all, by the time his eight years were up the economy had recovered a bit, as it's wont to do, and everyone attributed it to him and his leadership. They came to believe that without him heading the country, the economy would fall again. Due to copious amounts of vicious propaganda and harsh laws on "seditious" literature, news, and media taking away the opposition's rights to say much of anything useful, America had quickly become his playground. And though people would not admit it, they also enjoyed on some level, the fact that they could blame someone for everything that had gone drastically wrong over the past few years, and that they didn't have to think too deeply about it, nor could they even should they wish to at this point, public policies. They were "free" to live as dumbly as they wished without having to worry about "outside threats" since their government took care of them so well. They could also "freely" look down on and hate an entire race of people without having to worry about much recrimination from their peers or from the law.
Another side effect of John Jackson's rein was that the religious right gained immense power and support, along with the Protestant Church. Since the largest concentration of Catholics in the world resided in Latin America the Protestant church took its chance to villainize the Catholic Church and everything they stood for. Catholics were seen as sympathizers with the illegal immigrants and were soon just as despised by most of society. Jackson's main support group consisted of the religious right party and since Catholics tended to vote in a more democratic vein, he encouraged their condemnation. Protestant theocracy was now a practical reality and the most oppressive reign that America had experienced.
The governor, who happened to be one of Jackson's most radical supporters, also just happened to be the governor of Nevada, Governor Claude Frollo. He hated and detested the Spanish with a fervor that was as irrational, but just as strong, as his intense fear and dislike of women. He was well known for being extremely intelligent and for being especially efficient in hunting down and fettering out the Hispanics. His methods were unusually harsh and torture was often paired with death for any Hispanic with the misfortune to meet him.
Even though all of the fuss was over "illegal immigrants" the group targeted was anyone with Latin American background. It became much harder for Latinos to get work, to get their children educated in good schools, or to get them into decent colleges. When Latino citizens moved or relocated to a new area they would be shown the poorer neighborhoods whether or not they had the means to live elsewhere. Poverty rates rose due to both blatant and hidden discrimination. Hate crimes against anyone of Latino blood rose in frequency and violence and the punishments for those crimes were usually mitigated, overlooked, or even ignored. Sometimes the crimes were even committed by the police sworn to protect them, or at the very least people in general. Clopen couldn't stand living under the thumb of these pretentious, hypocritical bastards, but he also had many reasons for staying here in America as did the Hispanics who traveled here.
As Clopen put the last tools of his trade away, he was tipped handsomely by the woman who ran the daycare. "This isn't necessary; you've already paid your fee."
"I know, but the stories you told were so amazing and so beautifully told, I had gotten as carried away as the children." The plump middle-aged woman smiled so brightly, Clopen felt like he was looking at a flashback of how she was when she was still young. "You truly do have a gift. I'm just sorry you look Hispanic; people must get the wrong idea about you, poor thing. I know I certainly did."
"Gracias por su simpatia,¹ it is so difficult when people mistake me for a filthy hispano,²" Clopen sneered, his dripping sarcasm not missed by his hostess. "Muchas gracias por su patrocinio, ³ you've just helped to feed all my homeless relatives," He smiled mockingly and walked out the door, his head held high. He hated most of the yuppie gringo scum, but this job had paid well and he wasn't about to let his pride get too much in the way of profit. He pulled the check she had written for the initial fee from his pocket and wanted to tear it up, but he had a hard enough time trying to make ends meet as it was. It was rough trying to get work when the world saw most of your kinsmen as being filthy leeches come to suck the country's economy dry, steal American jobs, and instigate gang fights.
As he neared Esmeralda's typical hangout, he heard a beautifully rich alto voice calling out to him. He looked up with his first genuine smile of the day to see a gorgeous tanned Spanish beauty run his way. Her bright green eyes alight with happiness that he had returned, and her thick black hair blowing in the wind. She hugged him as he ruffled her long curly hair affectionately. "Where have you been all afternoon, enanito⁴?" She asked as she pulled away from him and ruffled his hair playfully in return.
Clopen glared at her for the nickname, but he could never be mad, even playfully so, with her for long, "Entertaining, of course. And shouldn't you be practicing, Esmeralda?" Clopen then smiled at his favorite. She was only a little taller than he was, but he was older than she was by ten years. Ever since she had gained that final inch on him she had called him enanito, and while it would probably annoy or even insult almost anyone else, Clopen knew it as a term of endearment.
Esmeralda, while only eighteen looked much more like a woman than a teenager. She had matured earlier than most other girls her age both physically and mentally. She was currently wearing her red dancing dress and her black flamenco heels, so he figured she had probably either just finished a performance or just finished practicing, since she was sweating so much. She gave him a wry smile and adopted a shocked expression. And it was at times like this that it was very clear to Clopen just how young and bright she was. "You mean I, the best flamenco dancer in all of Las Vegas, need to actually practice? And here I thought I was just born this way…" she stomped out a quick and easy rhythm while holding onto her skirt and flourishing it to the rhythm she created. As she finished, she shot him a sarcastic grin.
Clopen's smile grew wider as he took her hand and kissed it lightly, "You were indeed born talented and beautiful, mi reina⁵, but even those who have talent will lose their touch if they are not diligent."
Esmeralda chuckled lightly and stole her hand back, "Well, you don't have to worry much, I've been practicing in these streets for the majority of the day, and I even got some money out of it too." She then smiled wryly, "How much did you swindle off the yuppie?" She remembered his engagement was for a suburban child's birthday party and she also knew that he had very quick fingers.
"Swindle? Me? I actually did an honest day's work today thank you very much, and I'll bet you I earned even more honest money than you did." He smirked as he saw her eyes spark at the thought of a challenge.
"Exactly what are we betting on?" She looked up and caught his mischievous grin, "Not anything too outrageous Clopin…"
"Alright, alright, fair enough, how about whoever wins gets to ask any favor they wish from the other, it'll only be a small onetime thing though, how about it?" He held out his hand for her to shake.
"Alright, but it has to be something that doesn't involve money," after he raised his eyebrow in curiosity, she smiled and replied to his unvoiced question, "I'm saving up to buy a brand new dress to dance in for the festival next week and I just got enough money to buy it with today's tips."
"Alright, it's a deal." As they shook hands, Clopin smiled and reached into his pocket to show her the $250 check he had gotten from his upper class customer.
Esmeralda smirked and laughed, "Is that all? I pulled in $260 plus change with this morning and this afternoon's tips combined. So what shall I have you do for me?"
Clopin kept his face straight as she tried to figure out what she wanted while he scratched head for a moment and then gasped dramatically as if remembering some very important detail. She lifted her brow and cocked her head to the side in curiosity. Clopin then pretended to search everywhere as if looking for said important something, when he suddenly grinned and reached toward her. Esmeralda merely stood there with a suspicious glint in her eyes as he pulled out a twenty dollar bill from behind her right ear, "Ah, ah, ah, princesa⁶, I just remembered! I also got a $20 tip from the dulce mujer, tambien⁷." He laughed at the look of shocked incredulity on her face, which soon flipped to a mix of irritation and slight apprehension. "Looks like I win after all, eh?" He grinned as he waved the twenty in front of Esmeralda's eyes as she glared at him.
Esmeralda sighed and batted his hand away with a little more force than was necessary when expressing annoyance, "Alright, fine you won. What is it you want?" Her lower lip was thrust beyond her upper lip in the pout peculiar to her losing a competition. Clopen smiled as he saw the familiar expression cross her face and he let out a low chuckle as he came up with his new idea.
Clopen's twisted smirk reminded Esmeralda of a picture she'd seen of a demon once as he replied, "At the Festival of Fools next week, Governor Claude Frollo will be attending, as he does every year. When you get up to dance, I want you to make a fool of him."
She was a little surprised and her skepticism wasn't lost on Clopen, "Yeah, 'cause we all know getting on his bad side is a great idea, especially for us."
"I didn't mean anything outrageous, like openly defying him, just mess with him a little, but not enough to draw too much attention to yourself." Clopen held a particular hatred for the man and he wouldn't mind him being taken down a notch or two, but he would never want to endanger his dear Esmeralda in any way, shape or form.
"Oh? Shall I give him a kiss then?" Esmeralda's smile was easily as filled with mischief as his had been a few seconds ago.
Clopen looked horrified, "What? No! I said make a fool of him, not seduce him."
"Exactly, but you never actually specified precisely how you wished me to make a fool of him, thus I get to choose, on my own terms, how to do it. You know just as well as I do how terrified he is of women" Esmeralda's smile grew as Clopen realized just what it was she intended to do.
Clopen soon ran through all of the possible scenarios he could think of as a result of Esmeralda's actions, if there was any chance Frollo fell for his sweet Esmeralda instead of being disgusted by her, it would put her in a great deal of danger. Many legal officials, wealthy business men and even some laymen had coerced female Hispanics to become their personal sex slaves, since they would face deportation, if they were lucky, but more likely torture and eventual death, if they were taken to the proper authorities, especially since Frollo came into power. But then again, Frollo was notorious for his misogyny, so it was highly unlikely that he would take notice of Clopen's dear La Esmeralda. Indeed, he'd probably be disgusted and maybe a little affronted, but he couldn't actually arrest someone for kissing him, right? Clopen smiled as he convinced himself of Frollo's incapability of lusting after Esmeralda and finally came to the conclusion that she had actually made the perfect choice on how to make a fool of the fellow without being able to get into any trouble for it. Clopen smiled once more and wondered precisely when it was that she had become capable of outwitting him. After all, it was just a kiss, what harm could come from that?
"Thank you for your sympathy"₁
"Many thanks for your patronage"₃
"Dwarf" (well enano means "dwarf" but the "-ito" is a suffix of endearment, also meaning "little")₄
"sweet woman, as well"₇