Title: Don't Fear the Reaper
#: 01. A Small Thing, Truly
Author: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Summary: A fic about death - as in, everyone you care about dies; this is not an exaggeration. A fic wherein the Chagny family is of intense interest to a soul reaper.
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Warning(s): AU, reaper!Erik, both canonical/non-canonical deaths
Word Count: 2,515
A/N: The title had to be that. Also… don't hate me. It's sad. Warning, warning, warning. Read the warnings.
Story note: This was supposed to be a 5+1 type story that didn't seem finished after that +1. So, you get 10 chapters. It's not happy at all. There's fluff, but generally… Not happy.
Raoul is just out of his mother's womb when they first meet.
His brother and sisters are downstairs in the sitting room, waiting in various stages of unease. Philippe is old enough to keep them calm and busy. He is used to the excitement of a birth and tells his sisters to be calm and patient even when they hear the baby's cries.
"It is normal," he tells them. He senses however, that this birth is quite unlike the others. Their father is not rushing out to tell them the sex of the baby, to introduce the newborn. He is not reassuring them that their mother is well. It is taking too long and the baby will not stop crying. His sisters will soon see through his forced smile. He suspects that Matilde already knows.
The count is a fixture by his wife's side. He clutches her hand as he had throughout the birthing process, but now, instead of encouragement, he pleads with her to live. He pleads with her to fight to stay with the family they have made. He promises her the world, promises to be more present, promises that he will stop buying those candles that she despises. His smile is shaky; his laugh is weak and sounds more like a choked sob.
He is deaf to Raoul's wailing as he is cleaned and swaddled in the midwife's arms. They are on the other side of the bed across the room, but the count does not see that his son shares in his misery, that Raoul sheds the tears that he cannot. He is more concerned about his wife who has lost too much blood, who is becoming paler, weaker, and whose breaths are becoming shallower.
The Comte de Chagny's jacket has long since been tossed to the side. His sleeves are rolled up to his elbows. Both his hands and his white shirt are stained with his wife's blood. His hair is streaked with some as well in his inattention, fingers tangling in his hair in frustration. It is only the love he has for her, the connection they share that allows him to even see the reaper who will take her away from him, that allows him to speak with him.
"Please." He is unused to begging, unused to the possibility of being denied, but for her, the words are easy.
The midwife fears the worst for the count when he speaks to nothing but air, but a moment later, a man shimmers into view and her screams join the babe's whose have yet to diminish.
The man looks clearly out of place in the room. He is the only one pristine and clean from the blood that seems to have stained everything. He is tall, poised and utterly uninterested in the barely controlled chaos of the room. His body is hidden within his clothes; even his hands are covered in black leather gloves. His black suit is a color that seems unnatural, as though the light shining upon it is simply absorbed completely. Instead of illuminating the suit, it creates a deeper shadow. He looks paler for it. Only the skin on his face, smooth and unblemished, is visible. He is handsome, but just like everything else about him, unnaturally so.
The count runs to him and grabs his arm, and finally the man looks something other than bored. He sneers down at him and shrugs off his touch, easily pushing him backwards several steps. Seeing his expression, the count moves reluctantly back to his wife's side, but he is a businessman if nothing else. He now knows a show of weakness like that will not help his wife and he desperately searches for some other means to make this being reconsider taking her. He grasps her hand. It is limp and he knows he is running out of time, but he can hardly think for fear of losing her.
"Do not take my wife," he states. It is somewhere between a plea and a demand, but even he can hear the tinge of desperation in his voice.
The man moves closer to the countess, unmoved by the normally stoic man's obvious plight. "I must take a soul," he intones and his voice is like velvet, smooth and sensual without any effort. It is a voice meant to calm and soothe, and the count rather despises him the more for it. He neither wants to be calmed nor soothed. The reaper continues, "I cannot leave without one."
The midwife gasps, finally comprehending who and what the stranger is. Her eyes are completely focused on him as she attempts to move as far away from him as possible. Her back slams into the wall behind her and she stills. Even her motions to calm the baby have stopped.
The count knows exactly what he can do. "Then take my soul." Bargain. He knows how to bargain.
His words fall upon deaf ears because Raoul's desperate cries are finally noticed. The reaper turns at the sound and slowly walks over to the midwife, curious about the bundle, about the source of such piercing screeches. He gives her a withering look when she turns to protect the baby and she cringes further. Raoul continues to wail. She finds that she cannot even look to the count for assistance because the man seems to fill her entire vision. There is no beyond the reaper; there is only him.
"Take mine," the count shouts again louder. He rounds the bed to get to them, but a simple flick of the reaper's wrist and the count is stopped.
Realizing that she will not be saved, the midwife reluctantly reveals the bundle who only cries louder. The man places a finger to his lips, shushes him, and when that fails, he leans down. The midwife tries to pull the baby away but stops when the Comtess de Chagny lets out a weak moan. She has nowhere to go, nowhere to turn and they might all die given this man's whims. The reaper traces a gloved finger across the baby's forehead, and Raoul suddenly quiets and coos instead. The midwife is too shocked to see the smile that attempts to pull at the reaper's lips.
"This one." His features are schooled into a bored mien again. He turns only far enough to look the count in the eyes, and once he does, the count can move again.
"What?" He hopes he has not heard correctly. He takes a step forward, but when the reaper gives him a warning look, he stops.
"I want this one," he states explicitly. When he glances over at the countess, the count follows his gaze. She looks too still upon the bed and the count almost wishes to go to her to make sure she still lives. He knows she must be alive because the reaper is still here. He has heard stories of these beings from his brother-in-law who was in the navy. He knows what this man is and knows what he was created to do.
"No," he decides. He cannot sacrifice his son.
The reaper's attention has already returned to the baby though, seemingly uninterested with his response. "A contract, then?" With a wave of his hand, he produces a sheet of paper from air. "Your wife will live if you sign your child's soul to me."
"I said no." The count does take another step forward, prepared to fight the reaper if need be for his son's life; however, he is frozen in place once again. His jaw clenches. "Never."
His wife moans and the baby begins to cry again. The count looks between the two, torn because he can help neither. In his inattention, the reaper fixes the midwife with a glare so that he can take the bundle within her arms. The contract disappears so that he can hold Raoul properly. He traces a finger over the child's forehead, smoothing the lines there, and soon the baby quiets once more.
"It is a small thing, truly," he says and the count is unsure if he is speaking of his son or the contract.
He cannot help but glare accusingly at the midwife though, angry that she has let the reaper take his child. He almost fears that he will simply decide to take them both.
Distractedly, the reaper explains as he sways for the baby in his arms. "It is only a promise that I and only I will be able to collect his soul. No other."
It is a strange sight, seeing a man of death be gentle, but the count has little time to think on it because the contract appears in his hands. He reads it over and what the being says is true. His wife will live if he allows only this reaper to take his son's soul upon his death.
"I will not kill him." The reaper looks up and whatever gentleness the count might have seen is gone. "Your wife, on the other hand" – they both look to her – "I need not kill. If you wait long enough, you will have more than my presence to worry about."
The count skims through the contract again and falters at his son's name on the bottom. Raoul de Chagny. His wife has long since known what to name their child, sure in her pregnancy that he would be a boy. She could not foresee however that she would not be able to name him herself. They have barely given him a name and death already knows it. "Take my soul instead," he tries again. "I will sign my soul over willingly."
The man scoffs and glances down at the baby who sleeps peacefully in his arms. "I do not want yours. I have already seen your soul."
"Do not hurt my son," he begs.
"Do listen," the reaper snaps. He sneers at the count, staring at him as though he were naught but a pest that must be eradicated. His aura darkens and the room feels heavy with malice. "I have already said that I will not harm him."
The count's heart is pounding. He wants to back away. Every instinct within him is telling him to leave and he is glad for the magicks that hold him in his place. He is not a coward but he does not want to know if he would run given the opportunity. "You will let him live his life?"
"Yes." The man responds, reaching down to stroke the baby's head, and for some reason, the count believes him. "The contract states that his soul is mine and mine alone to take when he dies." He looks at the count suspiciously. "Despite what you have heard, we do not kill people. Life simply expires and we reap what has been sown."
He has never heard of death spoken as such and it makes him pause. "And afterward?"
"Afterward?" The reaper walks towards him. "Do not ask questions about things you know nothing of. I will soon take your wife's soul and if I am near when this one is to die" – he lifts the baby up slightly – "I will take his, too. With or without the contract."
The count suddenly desperately wants to hold his son. He has yet to even look upon him; he was so distracted by his wife's health. "It is only an assurance, then." He wants to apologize to him, to a son he has already let down.
"Indeed." As though knowing what the count is thinking, the reaper turns his back, making it impossible for him to see his son.
He does not even know who Raoul looks like, if he has his mother's chin or his nose, whether he looks more Chagny than Martyniere. He does, however, know that his wife could live. They can both live. "How long will she have? Will she survive only to die an hour once you are gone?"
"There are no guarantees in life," the man says distractedly, intent on tracing the baby's features once more. "It will be longer than now." He looks at the count but his eyes are distant and the count finds that he can move again. "Does it matter? She will die now otherwise. I do not control life; I clean up the mess it makes once it is over. However," he focuses on him, "I can delay death for a certain price."
Since he cannot approach his son, the count moves to his wife's side and clutches her hand in his, jaw clenched as he stares at her. All he can think is that she is dying and he has the power to make her live.
The reaper shakes his head at the scene, and finding the midwife who is still frozen against the wall, he reluctantly returns the baby to her. "You take too long." Approaching the bed, he begins to remove one of his gloves.
Knowing what that means, the count immediately stands in front of her. "Yes." He repeats, "Yes. Give me the contract. I will agree. I agree. Do not take her."
The reaper grins and pulls the glove fully on. He beckons the midwife over.
"I said…" The count holds his hand out to stop her.
"I need but a bit of his blood," the reaper dismisses his worries easily.
Still, the count finds he cannot calm himself as the midwife brings his son to the reaper. He almost wants to take it back, but he cannot fail his wife. Yet, a part of him feels as though he is doing just that. The man produces a pin and pulls from the warm bundle a tiny hand. The count holds himself back. That is the first part of his son that he has seen.
Without fanfare, the reaper pricks the palm of his hand and Raoul wakes from his slumber simply to cry again. As a drop of blood wells up, he smears it on the paper.
The countess gasps loudly and the count turns to her, dropping to his knees to kiss her hand. He mutters encouragements to her, hoping to coax her back to the land of the living.
With a whispered apology, the reaper traces Raoul's forehead once more to quiet him.
"When will she recover?" The count turns but the reaper is gone and Raoul, sleeping peacefully, is once more with the midwife. "No! The contract. You said…"
"Love," his wife whispers. She already looks better. The color is returning to her skin, and her breaths are stronger. She has enough strength to attempt sitting up, but the count eases her back down onto the bed.
"Do not strain yourself, dearest." He beckons the midwife over and she places Raoul in his wife's arms.
Her smile is tired but relieved, and he struggles with the tears that threaten to fall when she pushes the blankets aside and he sees his son's face for the first time.
Raoul is two hours old and his soul is not his own.
End chapter 01
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: So, Erik owns Raoul's soul? Yup, that's the premise of this story. You can see why there are warnings. Soul reapers? A lot of people are bound to die.
I'm excited for this fic, but I kind of hate it for the rushed editing I have to do. I have a feeling I'm missing a lot of things.