Title: Don't Fear the Reaper
#: 06. You are Killing Yourself
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
Pairing(s): Erik/Raoul
Warning(s)
: AU, reaper!Erik, angst, OC death, violence
Word Count
: 6,648
Rating: T

A/N: Well, that's more of the usual update timeframe, huh? Which is horrible. D: Also, btw, I'm sure you noticed that the timeframe is a little shifty in these two chapters, too, something I definitely should fix, but haven't.
Story note: Poor Raoul. Need I say more? Well, there is more, but you'll just have to keep reading. (When is it not Poor Raoul?)

o.o.o.o

Raoul is twenty-one when his ship makes its way through open sea en route to the North.

The weather is frigid, the seas choppy. The cold settles in his bones no matter how many layers he wears, so he no longer bothers attempting to feel warm. He is certain warmth is just a distant memory he buried in Chagny anyway.

The captain has been worriedly muttering to his confidant, the ship's surgeon, of the unseasonably cold weather. He questions the prudence of continuing with the expedition and Raoul almost oversteps his position several times, wanting to convince them that they must go on. It is imperative. Those poor souls depend on them; they cannot turn back now. He is willing to do almost anything to convince the captain of this, but luckily, he need not utter a single word because fate or mercy is on his side. Their supplies would not sustain a journey back. Any decision now will have to be made at the next port.

They press forward through the snow flurries that obscure their visibility, through the skies that are as chaotic as the rough seas that toss their ship about with ease, making progress difficult. They are buffeted, but they are able to continue onward and Raoul is glad for it. He needs to keep moving forward.

That particular need is different this time, different because there is no returning home after this. His sisters have their own lives that he has long since not been a part of no matter what they tell him. He refuses to be an interloper, and distance is the only gift he can truly give them. He would keep the love for their spouses, for their children apart from what he has known all his life.

His sisters know of the contract, of reapers and the path they must all eventually take. They know, but he does not know if they truly believe how present Erik is. He can think of no other reason for why they have somehow been kept separate from it all. It is most likely their mother's doing. Their mother had been the more practical of their parents, more able to live in the moment than worry about the past or of things out of her control. Life had been almost normal with her efforts, of what he can remember of that time.

Hope beyond all reason, to futility, seems to be a fault of the men of their family. His sisters have been spared the false hope that drove their father and Philippe to distraction. They have been spared the false hope that fills Raoul about his existence, about what the reaper could never do for him.

His only comfort now is the knowledge that his sisters will be able to move on and be happy. Even though they no longer carry the name, they are and have always been the strongest and most versatile of the Chagnys. Philippe may have been the cornerstone upon which their family of four had been laid upon, but his sisters have done the near impossible and forged a life of their own despite the trials they have faced. As such, there is no going back.

Raoul no longer worries about the fact that he is still running. There is no brother to stop him now, no brother to watch over him or worry for his health. There is no brother at all, save for the body in the mausoleum and the one that haunts him in his dreams. Months later and his dreams mock him with glimpses, snippets of what should have been tedium: a laugh, a hand upon his head, a look in his eyes and the sound that follows him into his waking hours, a heartbeat that never slows to a stop. He fears that he will go mad long before he dies.

So, on nights when the sea does not rest neither does he. His shipmates are able to disregard the violent motions that make the hammocks upon which they slumber swing and jerk; he allows the motion to keep him awake. He listens to the cacophony of the snores that manage to overpower even the wailing winds. There are some nights when Raoul has no choice, however, and he does not slumber so much as he falls into a consuming darkness filled with memories. Usually, he is lucky enough that the exhaustion that weighs him down does nothing more than deepen the dark circles around his eyes.

As with tonight, he willingly chooses the night watch to relieve those more willing to rest. He huddles within his coat, not bothering with the blankets in the crow's nest. Staring unseeingly into the frenetic darkness, hands clutching his coat stiffly, he does his best to keep his mind similarly numb.

"You are killing yourself," Erik says to him, appearing from where Raoul can only assume is from reaping yet another unfortunate soul nearby.

Raoul has had enough practice ignoring him that it is second nature not to respond. He does not even give the reaper the satisfaction of acknowledgment; however, if he thinks about it, he has never truly ignored Erik. Erik has always been there at the center of his attention, a beacon that Raoul simply pretends he does not see.

By now, there is no shock to his sudden appearance or that phrase though. Since Philippe's death, there are very few hours of the day that Erik is not by his side. He worries and Raoul cannot help but want him to do so. It is familiar and reminds him of a time when his home was not a ship upon a sea. It warms him slightly to have Erik's concern even as he outwardly shuns it.

What Erik says is too much the truth for him to admit anyway. He does not know how to explain that he no longer has an appetite, that he does not eat save meager mouthfuls because he cannot stomach anything more. The pain is accompanied by the cough that plagues him, making both his chest and throat hurt so much that swallowing is an effort unto itself. He thinks it is because of the cold, but there is no warmth for him to find anywhere. Moreover, he cannot admit to the nightmares that make his sleep fitful because then he will have to explain about the heartbeat and the heavy smell of fresh loam that had surrounded him in the cemetery. Nowadays, he feels weak and slow and everything takes too much effort. Even the thought of attempting to explain it all to Erik makes him weak; it would take energy he simply does not have.

So, instead of speaking, he brushes off the snow from his clothes and the rails. The swinging lantern overhead flickers. Whenever the light is completely swallowed by cover of snow so that it throws him in complete darkness – and he hopes that the lantern is indeed flickering because darkness has begun to creep into his vision lately when he least expects it to – he cheats and tries to look at Erik, needing to make sure he is really there. Whenever he does though, old instincts take root and he wonders, Who is next? He thinks that perhaps there is something in the ocean that will sink this ship and kill his comrades. He searches harder against the snow while the reaper's gaze seems to search him. For what, Raoul cannot fathom.

"You are killing yourself." Erik falls back upon such words because he can say nothing else. There lays a vast ocean of words left unspoken between them that neither quite knows how to properly see crossed.

Raoul has not spoken to him since the night his brother had been taken from him. He can hardly meet Erik's eyes, but it is not out of anger. It was at first, anger at Erik for not telling him sooner, for being present, for taking Philippe away. There was so much anger on that bed as morning dawned when the servants and the doctor attempted to tear him from his brother's side. He only faintly remembers the series of events that led to their separation.

Morning breaks and someone finds him, body still wracked every now and then by sobs as he lays half on Philippe. They call for the doctor even though they know; they know that Philippe is already dead because they call the undertaker as well. Efficiently, emotionlessly, they work around him, leaving him to his grief until the very moment they need to take away Philippe's body. Then, they have little choice but to deal with him.

None of them can convince him to move nor can any of them force him, but where the others fail, Erik succeeds. He is the only one who holds on tightly enough, grounding him with pained expressions and a touch long absent. Erik withstands his tears and shouting, his fists and flailing, his rage, which takes so much time before it peters down to the heavy sorrow that he will eventually carry with him to the North. It is only Erik who stands by him, but it is not enough.

Raoul knows what Erik is and has known all along in some distant manner that he will be the one to take his family's souls. He cannot begrudge the man for simply being, but he has buried his brother. When he looks at the reaper, he recalls the feeling of Philippe's breath stopping, his heart stilling. He thinks of his parents, how they did not go as peacefully but are just as dead. Then, he thinks of who is left, his sisters and their families, of the people it seems he will outlive and he cannot bear to look at himself much less at Erik. Foresight, knowing is not enough to stop the pain of their deaths.

He leaves the condolences of Paris for those of Chagny, for his brother's funeral so that he can be laid to rest next to their parents, next to their ancestors. His sisters and their families come as well. Philippe once again brings the Chagny family together in one place and Raoul wishes that it had been for anything save his funeral. By some unspoken agreement, one of his sisters is constantly by his side and the void within him seems less vast with his arm twined with one of theirs; their floral perfume, calm voice, and warm touch fill his senses.

He meets his niece and nephews. They are precious and energetic. Their tears and their laughter receive equal energy as they run about the estate, but all Raoul can see is an engraved name upon stone. All he can think is that one day, they too will die, and he cannot help but search for Erik amongst the crowd.

Of course, Erik is there. It feels like it should be a mockery of some sort but the reaper is only yet another person there to pay his respects to his brother, to the Chagny family. To him. Erik is there for him; he knows that. Erik has always been there for him and Raoul hates himself for being comforted by him more than by his sisters.

His sisters simply do not understand. They do not see why Raoul does not cry, why he can be so angry with himself for making his brother suffer when the doctor claimed natural causes, angry with Philippe for waiting to die, for dying when he does. They do not understand, and Raoul hopes they never do. It is enough that they, too, have lost a brother. They need not know the taker of his soul, need not know the deals made to prolong meager days and weeks just to wait for a prodigal brother, of the heavy knowledge of knowing the hour of one's death. And eventually, he does not need to worry about saying something out of turn because they finally part ways from Chagny to live their separate lives.

He thinks that is when the cold truly begins to settle. Without his sisters there pressed against his side, he feels his isolation more distinctly. Erik is there and he finds himself yearning for him to do more than watch him. He wants him to cross the distance between them, erase it and make Raoul remember what it is like to be comforted. It feels as a betrayal somehow that he yearns once more for the comfort of the reaper's touch, for peace when he should still be mourning. There is familiarity there, an ease that Raoul knows he no longer deserves. He cocoons himself in his sorrow instead and fears the only time he will be able to look Erik in the eyes is when he, too, dies.

That may be sooner than they expect, sooner than even for when Raoul has planned. The estate settlement that his brother created in the last months of his life ensures the land will always remain in Chagny hands and that his sisters and he will be well cared for; so, Raoul need not worry about that. More importantly, he has said goodbye to each of his sisters and their families and though they did not understand the import of it at the time, Raoul has sent them off with his love as well.

The truth is that he rather expects to never return from the North. There is an apology repeating in his head to Philippe for not being able to follow through with his last wishes but he would never be able to settle in Paris now. It will only ever be the city where his brother died. The remorse he feels is not enough though, not enough of an apology and not enough to keep him from going.

However, tonight is not the night he dies. The seas calm eventually. As usual, Erik leaves, without a word, to perform his necessary duties and Raoul is alone once more. The snow settles and melts upon the waters and the sun rises. Raoul does not feel any warmer but as he turns his face toward the dawn, he closes his eyes and feels the whisper of a touch against his cheek. He imagines the wind to be a reaper's touch before continuing with his own duties upon the ship.

The calm lasts only the morning because the rest of the week is spent in darkness, tossed and heaved right until they arrive at Tyskebryggen and the Bergen port. It is not their last port before the North Pole, but it is the first land in a while, a place that does not move with the fickleness of the sea and all are eager to go ashore.

Raoul stays with the ship and avoids the others who have remained as well. Most of them choose to stay below deck, sheltered from the steady drizzle as the storm that has followed them to port now dissipates. He wanders the deck listlessly, ignoring the pangs within his stomach that will soon become cramps if he does not at least take some bread and ale. He wonders if he will make it to the North Pole at all. Instead of eating though, he tries to walk off the fatigue that attempts to settle. Midway through his first circuit around deck, he stills, holding his breath against a cough that threatens to loose itself when the ship seems to spin beneath his feet. The coughing fit that ensues hurts his chest even worse than any of the other fits previously, but at least the ship attempts to right itself and the skies give him some reprieve by clearing.

He grabs onto the damp rails, hoping to steady himself and stares at the rather calm waters below, knowing that the sea could not have been the cause of his dizziness. He rather suddenly remembers the tales of how a boat is the only viable passage to the afterlife. Darkness creeps in from the edges of his vision when a vaguely familiar voice speaks.

"You are killing yourself." Instead of the usual monotone with heavily implied disappointment, this voice is almost gleeful.

Raoul turns in surprise because it is not Erik who has snuck up on him but a woman. His first thought is that it is bad luck for a woman to be on board, and he knows upon closer inspection that she will not be an exception. Standing several strides away from him, she has brown eyes and sharp features framed by long black, wavy hair, but that is not what makes her distinctive. Her cloak and gown, beaded and embroidered, are of the darkest black; they remind him faintly of Erik's clothing. Her dress fits her wrong though. The left side of her body seems concave and hollow, and Raoul has seen similar injuries from when a shipmate had been blown apart by a cannonball. She should be dead, but that is a useless observation. She is clearly alive, albeit missing one arm, and he is certain he should be able to place where he has seen her before.

She limps towards him and her next comment confirms his suspicions. "We meet again."

Raoul edges away from her, gripping the rail for support. For one so slight, her presence is almost stifling.

"Do not move away." She motions for him to come closer with her hand, one that is covered in a black leather glove. "Come, come, sweet dove."

He shudders as a chill seems to race down his spine at her words.

"If you wanted to end your life," she says pleasantly, "you need only call." Her smile is frightening, all teeth and malice. It looks as though she will relish taking his soul and he realizes that he has never seen Erik enjoy what he does. He has never thought that someone could.

He takes another step away from her, but the floor beneath his feet seems to violently move again and his knees buckle. Staying on his feet is an effort of sheer force of will. For a brief moment, his gaze focuses on the woman to an odd clarity. A disease or disfigurement seems to climb up from her torso to her neck. It reminds him faintly of something but his head is still swimming and he loses his train of thought. His vision blurs and there is three of her as she stalks toward him.

"Years." She nods to herself, practically giddy with excitement. "I have waited for this, for you to finally depart from this world." She motions vaguely around her.

She is the first reaper he has ever seen besides Erik and the wrongness of it confuses him. He clings to the rail, clings to the only thought that makes sense right now. "You will not be able to take my soul."

She laughs and her mouth yawns open in a seemingly endless black hole ready to swallow him. "Oh, but I can." Looking around, she grins widely, "I do not see that poor excuse of a reaper anywhere to stop me."

During her momentary distraction, he lurches forward, further away from her, stumbling and using the rail to propel him forward. His stomach growls and churns. Reflexively, he puts a hand to it, pressing the hunger pangs away like he normally does. The action distracts him enough that when he glances over his shoulder, he startles when he sees her close enough to touch him. Her glove is still on but he still flings himself forward, tripping on his own feet. The impact with the deck winds him and he cannot move for a long moment.

She grabs the back of his shirt and flips him over. Before he can recover, she grabs the front of his shirt, twisting it in her hand to lift him partially off the ground. She leans over him with a victorious smile. He does not know what she plans to do with her glove still in place, but he is certain he does not want to find out.

Erik's voice stops her from moving. "I thought I killed you already." He looks hesitant to approach any closer with the other reaper holding onto Raoul as she is.

It takes Raoul a moment because of his relief at seeing him before he realizes what is off about his appearance. Erik's shirt is partially untucked and it looks as though his coat and trousers have wrinkles. It is the first time Raoul has ever seen him anything but composed, and he wonders what the woman has done to delay him. She is undoubtedly the reason why he looks as such because she does not look surprised at his presence. Instead, she straightens enough to see the state of his clothing before laughing loudly.

"You disgust me," Erik comments, taking a threatening step forward.

Her hand tightens on the collar of Raoul's shirt and without any effort, she lifts him high enough that he has to scramble to his feet.

Erik stops approaching only when Raoul's feet no longer touch the deck and her hand is pressed tightly against his windpipe. Gripping her arm, Raoul is grateful that she still wears her glove but knows it will matter little if he cannot breathe properly. He cannot even spare a glance at Erik for help; he is so focused on relieving the pressure on his throat. From this angle, he can see the scarring on her neck and there is another memory he cannot reach, but he suddenly dislikes the woman more than ever for it.

"It took you long enough," she says conversationally, unfazed by Raoul's attempts to kick out of her grasp. "I thought I was going to take him without having an audience."

"Release him," Erik demands, and his voice is hard, dangerous and Raoul cannot believe Erik can sound as such.

"Oh, no." She glances at him and smirks. "I think not. I prefer to watch you both die." She drops Raoul and watches as he crumples to the ground. Erik starts forward but she wards him off with a glance, promise in her eyes that Raoul will suffer if he continues.

Moaning, Raoul turns over onto his knees. Nothing is broken but everything hurts. Despite the pain, he manages to glare at the woman; however, she is not paying attention to him. When she reaches into her cloak, both Erik and Raoul tense, but it is not a weapon as they expect. Erik catches what she throws to him, frowning at what looks like simple manacles.

"Be a dear." She grins, motioning him to continue.

Sparing Raoul a single glance, Erik tests the weight of it in his hands before grudgingly putting them on. Snapping one cuff on, he grits his teeth at the sensation of weakness suffusing his body, leaving him feeling uneasy and, more importantly, unwell. When he snaps the other on, he falls to his knees as the chains pulled him to the deck, and he cannot breathe much less bring himself to his feet.

"Erik." Raoul stumbles forward, forgetting about the other reaper completely.

However, before he can get very far, she grabs his arm with an offhand, "Let me help" before tossing him in Erik's direction with enough force that he falls to the floor and slides until he crashes into Erik. The only reason they do not get any farther is because the manacles do not move from their spot on the deck. Raoul rolls half atop Erik in the abrupt stop.

"Raoul," Erik says through grit teeth when his hands jerk to a stop from where they are raised in an attempt to help him. It takes a moment before Raoul can respond, but he unsteadily drags himself off Erik.

"I am well," he promises even though he is not sure if he is. "Are you...?" he begins before the other reaper interrupts him.

"Oh!" she places a hand over her mouth in faux shock. "Did you not want your little pet with you?" She can hardly keep her glee contained because her giggles become unpleasant laughter. "You see. You cannot simply stab me," she spat out, lip curling up in disgust, "and hope I will die." She limps toward them.

Gingerly kneeling, Raoul places himself slightly in front of Erik. Between them, he knows the older man is the most disadvantaged at the moment. Feeling Erik's hands shifting in the manacles, he glances at him.

"Get behind me, Raoul," Erik hisses, but Raoul ignores him and focuses on the fact that Erik is trying to remove one of his gloves in an attempt to remove the manacles.

Raoul can do nothing but trust that he will be able to free himself and save them both given enough time. Staying firmly planted where he is, he tries to ignore the fact that his heart is pumping so hard he can hardly feel anything else.

"What do you want from us?" He surprises himself by sounding more sure of himself than he feels. All the while, he tries to will his body to listen to him, will it to be able to protect Erik even as his legs shake. He knows he will be unable to get to his feet so he does not bother trying to.

He grimaces when his efforts at distracting the other reaper from what Erik is doing is ruined when Erik growls at her. "You have gone mad." Raoul should have realized he would not have remained quiet because even in this position, Erik will not beg. He only demands, "Release him."

Thankfully, she ignores him. "You see." Her hand is hidden beneath her cloak and Raoul does not trust her at all. He doubts she has another set of manacles there for him, but the motion seems to be more habit than intent. She seems glad for the audience, pleased to be able to explain it to someone. "You cannot simply touch a reaper and expect her to die." She pauses only to pull her hand from her cloak, empty-handed as she motions at Raoul. "The touch of death will not kill one already dead." She shrugs. "Obviously."

Raoul wants to hazard a glance behind him to see how Erik is faring, but he refuses to give away whatever he may be doing. It is enough to hear Erik muttering under his breath, words that he cannot quite decipher or understand. He tells himself that it is the sound of progress.

"The bone must remain inside the body indefinitely, so that the infection can spread completely to every sinew and capillary. It takes weeks, months before the process is truly complete…" Her gaze goes distant, but quickly shaking her head, she tries to sound matter-of-factly. "No matter how well-placed an attack is the body will find a way to continue, discarding useless flesh, causing undue pain and injury." She sounds as bitter as she looks when she motions to the missing half of her body and then at Erik's face.

Erik freezes behind him when Raoul finally doesturn to look at him, so surprised that he does not even take a moment to look at his hands to note his progress. The reaper refuses to meet his eyes, saying instead, "Try to run. Please."

Ignoring his words, Raoul turns back to her to ask, "You are the one who did that to Erik?" Anger at the thought of Erik's injury gives him enough energy to let him struggle to his feet.

She tilts her head and grins. "You do not remember?" She surprises him by laughing and when she is done, there are tears at the corners of her eyes that she wipes away. "Oh, of course he would erase your memory. It would have given you nightmares for years, scarring you for life."

Erik's muttering increases behind him, but Raoul is more interested in getting answers from her. "What are you talking about?"

"He looks like that because of you." She adds, looking pleased at the thought, "And because of me of course. There was a slight disagreement between us when you were but a child."

Raoul tries to remember a time when Erik did not have the deformity on this face and simply cannot think of any.

Musing, she says to herself, "A declamation perhaps? You have broken rule after rule for this one, haven't you?"

Then, her eyes focus solely on Raoul, scrutinizing him, trying to see what is special about him. When she reaches out, he stands his ground only because he knows she is still wearing her glove but also because he cannot imagine stepping away to allow her to harm Erik. He flinches when her hand lands on his chest, but nothing happens besides the chains behind him clanking loudly as Erik jerks against them.

"Move, Raoul," Erik warns right before Raoul sees her lips moving and pain suddenly blooms from where her hand is pressed. His heart stutters and all the air within his lungs seems to vanish and every ache and hurt that he has felt in the past month bears down on him all at once. He does not even know when he drops to his knees but he feels the fall, and that pain multiplies and spreads. His ears are ringing and he can hardly see because black spots impede his vision. He is forced to look up when a hand grabs his chin and he distantly hears Erik screaming once more. He manages to see the woman smirking at him before she kicks him aside to get to Erik, who has not relented in his thrashing against the manacles in an attempt to get to him.

Erik is so focused on screaming at Raoul that it is Raoul who sees her pull a bone from within the folds of her clothes. It looks like the bones of a finger but her glove is still on and he cannot seem to reconcile those two facts. The only clear thing is what she intends to do with it.

Through the pain, through the ringing in his ears and the fact that he has yet to take in a badly needed breath of air, he makes his limbs listen to him.

An all-too-familiar mantra floods his thoughts. Do not leave me. Do not go. Do not die.

Erik cannot die.

Raoul uses what last bit of energy he has to throw himself at her. It is an easy decision to make, one of the easiest he has made since he was eighteen and thought he could find happiness anywhere but at home. His lunge to her is sloppy and he barely manages to grab onto the front of her dress, but once his hands find purchase, he clings on even as he feels them falling over. The way Erik is screaming like a wounded animal convinces Raoul that the other reaper was not lying earlier. His soul is going to be ripped from his body by this strange reaper and the contract that he has long since thought tied him to Erik is nothing more than a mere story. He has little time to process more than that.

But as they hit the floor and he feels the bone within her hand pressing against his chest, his only thought is to regret the fact that Erik is the only one he has not said goodbye to.

o.o.o

Raoul wakes in a bed to the fragrant smell of hot soup. There is an actual bed beneath him along with a goose-feather comforter covering him and a white-curtain canopy above his head. He immediately wonders if he has died, but the pain in his body tells him otherwise.

The bed dips to his right and he turns to see a familiar jacket, the set of the man's shoulders, the gloved hand that he takes within his own without hesitation even though he is unsure if his touch is welcome. It is more important to assure himself that he is here. It is more important to learn what has occurred.

"Why aren't I dead?" he croaks out.

Instead of answering, Erik releases his hand and leaves him only to return with a glass of water, which Raoul eagerly drinks, spilling most of it in the process since he refuses to do much more than lean forward. He does not care because he is ready to press Erik for more information when the glass is empty.

"The contract," Erik explains before Raoul can ask again. When he then takes the glass away and leaves his side once more, Raoul begins to wonder why Erik had chosen to sit on the bed in the first place if he cannot stand to be in such close proximity to him.

It takes a long moment before he realizes that is all the explanation he will get. Erik stays across the room, avoiding his gaze, and the distance hurts more than Raoul expected it to. He tears his gaze away from him to inspect the room. It is rather large with a table in the corner and a large fireplace, and Raoul wonders how exactly Erik managed to move him from the ship to this lodging, how he paid for it. He knows he is stalling, falling upon old habits when it comes to interacting with Erik because he would rather think of trivialities than speak with him. Swallowing with effort, he decides to start with facts, with figuring out how he is still alive when Erik had seemed certain he was going to die.

"Before, with the other… I should be…" He does not even know how to explain what has happened on that ship. "You thought that I was going to -"

"Before," Erik finally looks at him as he cuts him off from saying that one word that ties them together. "I dealt with her and you never need to worry about her again." He frowns, gaze flitting across the room, not focusing on anything in particular before settling once more on Raoul. "Those types of deals, contracts… they…"

He stops and looks relieved but still pained at the thought of what could have happened, pained enough that Raoul comes to his own conclusions. "You were unwilling to put my life to the test."

"There were rumours, stories about other reapers who have made contracts with humans," Erik admits, "but none of them have ever truly been confirmed. To bind, to be bound to someone…" he lets the words hang between them, and Raoul can hear his awe despite the fact that Erik looks as stern as ever. He wonders at the reaper's phrasing and rather appreciates it. He has never thought of the contract as truly binding Erik to him, but he finds he likes it, likes the fact that they are bound to each other, that he is not so much as chained as they both are.

Erik refuses to look at him again and a silence falls upon them.

There is so much more that he needs to know and things he does not know if he wants to ask. From what Erik has implied, he is certain that the other reaper is dead. There is no way that Erik would have let her live a second time, and there is a story there about his past that he would like to question. There are so many answers he wants to force Erik to give him now that they are speaking, but he knows that means he must give answers of his own.

Grabbing the comforter to himself, Raoul realizes through the tumult within himself, that he finally feels warm. He still hurts, but he is warm and it feels like he can finally think clearly again. Here they are, both of them safe, finally talking and he knows immediately he has been a fool. Erik almost died. He can hear his voice saying, You are killing yourself, and only now realizes the terror Erik must have felt in the past months, terror that Raoul now understands.

"I wanted to die." His voice sounds loud in the silence and he wishes he had started with anything but that statement. They both know what he has been trying to do. He adds quickly when he finds Erik looking at him oddly, "I –" He squeezes his eyes shut and takes in a deep breath before continuing, "I did not want to see anyone else die. I do not know how I could survive it. I barely survived Philippe's and even that has yet to be determined, but seeing him go, losing him was too much." The words come quickly and they hardly make sense to him. He is certain he is not explaining himself well, not certain he even knows why he could not see beyond Philippe's death when all his brother had wanted for him was to live and be happy. All he knows is that there is so much he could never say that needs spoken. He stares at his hands as they clutch the blankets. "I could not imagine outliving my sisters or anyone else. And it was easy to remember Philippe's death, wallow in his loss, in what could have been. It was easy to have you close even when I did not want anyone else in fear that it would only hurt when I left. Like I hurt. I… And I was alone and you…" He looks up to see that Erik has crossed the room to stand uncertainly beside him, hands itching to touch him. "But you, you came more and more and I think I thought to myself, 'I may yet live alone, but at least… at least, I will not die alone.' And," he finished softly, "it seemed like a good way to not be alone anymore."

There is more to be said but Erik grabs him, roughly pulls him close even as he tries to gently wipe tears that Raoul does not know have fallen. And it is not easy to relax into his embrace. It feels foreign and Raoul knows he is holding back but does not know what to do about it. He does not feel like crying anymore, thinks he has cried more than enough in his lifetime. Instead, he tries to let the hurt go because even though he does not blame Erik for the deaths of his parents and brother, he cannot help but blame himself for the lives they could have lived if they had not worried about the contract. He blames his life for the pain and suffering of those dearest to him.

Holding onto Erik even closer, he knows he should not think that way. Philippe would be furious with him; Erik, too, for that matter if he knew. Raoul wants to hold onto the kernel buried somewhere within himself that was certain he could be happy. His brother wanted him to be; he believed he could be. Raoul just does not know how to begin.

"You will never be alone," Erik hoarsely whispers into his ear and Raoul is not sure if he is supposed to hear the statement at all. It sounds like Erik is promising to himself, swearing it aloud. The hand on Raoul's neck pulls him closer, tucking him against the crook of his neck while his other hand is on his back and it slowly feels like being anchored, like finding ground upon which to stand because he can breathe again. He grows more aware of the warmth, the solidness of Erik's presence, and the tightness within his chest loosening.

Raoul is twenty-one and he finally knows where to start to be happy once more.

o.o.o.o

End chapter 06

A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: Argh, I hate this chapter. With a vengeance. No more angst for me. Fluff. I demand fluff!

Oo, there's some complex backstory in my head about reapers and what they're able to do. Also, what do you know, I could have killed Erik off, but I didn't. Thinking about it, I only kill four characters off in this story and three of them are canonical.

Also, I kind of love how we are able to glimpse how some of the dramatic!Raoul we saw of him as a child managed to carry through to his adulthood.