Title: Slowly Drag Me Down
Series: Halloween 2012
Author: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Summary: Or, the five times that Erik struggled to find a foothold in his life and the one time he finally let himself fall.
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Warning(s): AU, minor character deaths (a lot of them actually)
Word Count: 5,165
A/N: This is what happens when I randomly get the urge to read about the opera house on Wikipedia. Who knew? Also, craziness, but guess when the cornerstone of our favorite Palais Garnier was laid. :) More importantly though, my brain needs a break. Thank goodness Halloween is tomorrow. I don't even think I have anything left to post though. DX
Story note: This is mostly book!verse shockingly enough, so Erik has a literal house down there. Of course, I fudged a few things as always but yeah, a house. It feels more book!verse plausible than musical!verse anyway.
o.o 01 o.o
Erik never planned on living in Paris, but Charles Garnier had won the architectural design competition and news of the excavation and building of the grand opera house had piqued his interest. Construction was well on its way. The foundation had been poured and the substructure masonry had been cast. It would be years yet, but Paris waited with bated breath to see what masterpiece awaited them upon its completion.
For Erik though, it had been less the design and more about the news of the wells and eight steam pumps that had been installed in its foundations. He was interested in the groundwater that simply refused to be drained completely and the engineers who had calculated and assured Garnier that they would be able to clear it. Even when they failed, it was no matter to the construction workers save for the extra step of being forced to further secure the foundations before continuing to build Garnier's masterpiece.
When he arrived, the double foundation, watercourse, and cistern were almost completed; they were still working their way section by section to the back of the opera house. The just completed reservoir had been sold as an advantage instead of the setback that it truly had been and everyone was pleased about the progress. With all construction sites however, accidents and deaths were bound to happen; so, even though the reservoir was generally forgotten about, the rumours that the waters it held were cursed and haunted by an evil spirit thrived.
Erik decided to build his home there.
The place was dark, dank, and rocky. Its slippery slopes were natural traps that would easily plunge incautious or unsuspecting individuals into the rocky shore of the lake. Erik almost fell prey to one such perilous drop upon his first perusal of the location. He immediately liked it.
His own construction progressed as steadily as the opera house up above, which Erik also assisted when it suited his person. It was in his home, now five cellars beneath the surface in a tunnel he knew would be quite useful as a trap when the floor simply crumbled beneath him. Rock, dirt, and Erik crashed down into the lake below.
The fall did not kill him. Rather it was the large stone that chased him down, which providence and water slowed enough that the impact as it connected to his head was only enough to unmask him and leave him unconscious instead of killing him immediately. Still, the stone assisted in propelling his body further down.
He would have drowned, helpless as he was, and he should have died, but as the bubbles cleared, a second person was revealed in the water. Eyes bluer than the sky, watched Erik float suspended between life and death. Even though he took the shape of a man, it was obvious this was a creature of water, born to it, made for it, and Erik, like many others, had intruded upon his domain.
And, like the others, he would die. Except, with a kick and a burst of speed that no human could achieve in the water, the creature grabbed him around his waist and sped to the surface.
Erik eventually awoke half on the shore, shadows dancing upon the stone walls by the few candles he had lit and the lake lapping at his legs. Blood sluggishly flowed down his face and neck and he gingerly felt along his head around the injury as he sat up.
A faint memory of a voice he could not recognize echoed in his head. "You should die." And that was a sentiment that Erik was all too used to hearing. He could almost claim it to be a dream or a memory from his less than optimal past, but the voice had continued with something that might have been pity. "But you must hear that all the time." Maybe it had been understanding in his voice because here Erik was, alive.
He looked out onto the lake. He did not believe in luck, but he did have his share of experiences that made him wary of spirits and curses.
Even though he did not die that night, he assumed the mantle of a ghost and made sure new rumours arose along with the walls of the Palais Garnier. Erik, the man, never looked at the lake the same way ever again.
o.o 02 o.o
The opera house had been completed and so too had his home. He had crafted another porcelain mask to replace the one he had lost in the lake and was ready for the opera house to open to the general public. The orchestra had already conducted their first acoustical test of the new auditorium and he would have his next experience dealing with more than the construction workers soon. The first had gone without incident. The second test was going to be witnessed by officials, guests, and members of the press. He would yet make a name for himself, though he considered toning down his presence until the opera house found its stride. The house was his and the owners would eventually come to know that.
He had already traversed and memorized all the tunnels, hallways, rooms, and catwalks of the building. The only aspect of the land he purposely avoided exploring was the lake. He rather considered obtaining a boat in order to travel the waterways and cross the wide expanse. As much as he avoided it, he found that his eyes always raked the surface of the water, searching – always searching. He had yet to see anything or anyone though.
The second acoustical test came and went with much fanfare from the press, but truly, when the opera house opened and became filled with people regularly, Erik was ill prepared for the ruckus and disorder. They were like locusts, claiming everything for their own. Then, there was the fact that these people were simply too curious for their own good; it was as though none of them had any self-preservation instincts whatsoever.
He had thought the press to be bad with their interests in the ingenuity that was the double foundation and the waterways. It was worse once the stagehands and ballet corps arrived. They were people who, unlike the others who had built the place, did not know not to go too far down, not to investigate too closely.
Erik was forced to go up and watch them. The tunnels and trap doors worked beautifully. However, he made the extra effort to be seen when it had become second nature to be otherwise simply to ward them off. Glimpses were a warning but they were also helpful in continuing the rumours. He knew with enough time and effort no one would give in to curiosity and attempt to travel further than need be. Unfortunately, those warnings seemed to serve as both a deterrent and a challenge, depending upon who heard them.
One such evening, Erik was staring out over the lake. The portcullis was raised and a cadre of candles meticulously lit. It was only because he had been lost in thought and not at his organ that he heard the trampling footsteps and voices as they approached his home. They were far closer than anyone had dared or managed to in a long while. They must have followed a waterway from one of the entrances by the Seine. There were no entrances in the opera house that did not have a trap that would either deter or kill anyone who dared to go deeper than the fourth cellar.
Rocks splashed into the lake. It was followed by a shaky laugh, and Erik sneered at the rude and raucous noise made by the men who obviously had too much to prove as they teased their friend about his clumsiness.
He grabbed rope and quickly moved to the ledge against the far wall that was barely large enough to walk on without plunging into the rocky lake below. It would lead him to the other side. In the darkness, even he had to take it slowly, and stealth was of utmost importance at the moment. He knotted the rope into a lasso from rote as he focused on what he would do to those men. They would have to get into the water or find this ledge in order to reach his home, but they needed to be punished for their intrusion.
Before he reached the small party, another splash echoed loudly. The sound was quickly followed by a gurgled scream. The other men began shouting to one another. Splashing, no, thrashing soon managed to drown out the frightened yells and retreating footsteps until all was silent once more.
Erik rushed the last few meters, nearly slipping. He arrived just in time to see the ripples in the lake beginning to settle. Dropped lanterns from the men laid scattered on the shore. There was no body, but as Erik scanned the lake further, he saw a flash of silvery white as something swam away from him, something that was too large to be a fish.
He tried to convince himself otherwise, but neither he nor the opera house occupants believed a fish had killed two men. Rumours of the siren of the lake mixed with that of mythical creatures and the one Erik found most interesting, was of the opera ghost who had brought a beast from hell with him.
There were significantly fewer disruptions to his home after that and Erik now knew what to search for whenever he spent hours looking at the lake.
o.o 03 o.o
The rumours not only persisted but also grew more detailed with the passing years, both about the ghost who frequented Box 5 and of the demon of the lake who needed human flesh to survive.
Erik obtained a boat but still avoided going on the lake unless it was absolutely necessary. The flash of scaly, pale skin – it had to be skin – was always on his mind whenever he was near the water and more so when he was on it. It was not fear he felt toward whatever lived in the lake that made him avoid dislike the use of the boat; it was curiosity, perhaps prudence not fear. He mainly used the boat for Christine's sake.
He was fairly certain that whatever had saved him all those years ago was the same creature that was ostensibly protecting his home. He did not know what he had done to garner such protection but he did not let his mind wonder upon such things. It simply was. He had more important concerns of that aboveground with the opera than beneath it. He had his pupil, his angel who was to be performing soon. He had sent the notes that would make it so and those new managers would listen to him. He had promised they would be disappointed if they did not.
He ignored the lake and the creature within it up until the moment that he was forced to confront both. Christine arrived at his home one night, hysterical and soaked to the skin. She had been coming to be tutored, a new development that Erik had been rather pleased about. Having her seek him out was a gift that he never wanted to lose. She had managed the journey alone several times already and nothing of this sort had ever happened.
It took him near an hour of coaxing her to calm down and breathe, to accept the blanket he offered and a seat by the fireplace in order to obtain the full story from her. She had been crossing the lake to his house when she heard a noise nearby, a splash and immediately she had thought of the siren – the one that Erik had told her time and again did not exist. Having no other choice, she simply continued onward and tried to convince herself that it had simply been her imagination. Not three strokes of the oar later though, she claimed someone had grabbed her leg and pulled her into the lake, capsizing the boat. Hands had clutched her dress and began to drag her down. She had made the mistake of screaming underwater and thought that would be the end of her, but when she kicked once more, she managed to make it to the surface. In that time, the boat had somehow righted itself. It floated nearby and both the oars had been placed inside. She had simply climbed in and continued rowing to Erik's home.
Erik had listened to her tale in silence. In her state, singing lessons to rehearse for the upcoming opera were out of the question. Erik himself could hardly focus on the young girl in front of him. He accompanied her back, all the while assuring her that her dress must have caught on something when she fell. He insisted that it had probably been her own hysterics that had led her to fall off the boat since it had obviously not capsized because how else could she explain the fact that it had righted itself once she resurfaced. He took the long route back to her dressing room, avoiding the lake entirely at her behest. Making sure she was safe once there, he left immediately for his home.
He took a lamp and the boat and rowed to the center of the lake. Steadying himself, he bellowed, "Show yourself."
His voice echoing was his only response. The water was as still as it had ever been and he should have felt silly for shouting to a creature that he had no concrete proof existed, but the lake creature was as real to him as the steam pumps, as the water in the waterways.
"You leave Christine alone or else I swear I shall find you and kill you."
He thought he heard a splash behind him. He turned quickly, almost flipping the boat over, but he managed to steady himself. By the time he was sure he was not going to fall into the lake, the water was calm save for the ripples he was creating. He froze and continued to stare at the location he thought he heard the splash come from certain that if he waited long enough the creature would make the mistake of reemerging.
He gave up after long minutes and making a slow circle, he scanned the lake. He was not even angry, even though Christine's life had been endangered. The creature had simply done what it had been doing for years, and it still confused Erik because that thing was protecting him. Anything protecting him was odd, and he had tried denying it. There simply was no other way to explain everything that had happened.
The fact remained though that he simply could not allow any harm to come upon Christine. He shouted once more, "Do you hear…" he faltered and muttered softly, "me?"
Just at the border of the circle of light from his lantern, Erik saw him. A young man, half in shadow, bobbed in the water. His shoulders peeked out from the lake, pale skin shimmering opalescent in the candlelight. His blond hair was slicked back. It was long enough to trail down the nape of his slim neck. They met eyes, green met sky blue eyes that Erik could see even in the diminished light and he simply forgot how to breathe, forgot how to think because it was only after the man dove down into the lake that Erik took a gasped inhale and moved. He finally moved and tried to speak, tried to call the creature back to him. He leaned too far over the side and overturned the boat. He flailed in the water for several moments, fully expecting hands to grab him and drag him down into the lake to drown him, but he was left alone.
He tried not to be disappointed.
Not several nights later, the chandelier fell.
o.o 04 o.o
The mob drew ever closer and Erik momentarily wished that Christine was present so that he could throw her into the lake. She had not only denied his affections, but she had sent men after him to destroy his home, his livelihood, to kill him. His dear Christine had broken his heart and then fled to the safety of some other man's arms. The only thing she had given him was a single word. She'd had the decency to look him in the eyes, tears brimming in her own, and told him goodbye.
Her last words to him, I do not love you and goodbye. He had been able to do nothing else but let her go, and if he had not believed the expression of finality, there was no denying that this was the end when he was forced to run from the dozens of men who had chased him down the tunnels, chased him into the cellars through the waterways and now across the lake.
It was the end. There was nothing left for him and he waited to be destroyed. They were well prepared with lanterns and boats. They had guns. At least, his death would be quick.
He stood on the shore and stared out at the lake, hoping to catch one last sight of the creature who had been a silent companion and protector. He saw the floating dots of light that were the lanterns on the mob's boats before he saw him though. He sighed and watched them progress closer, but the closest of them suddenly turned over, tossing the three men in it overboard. Piercing, frantic cries filled the air, soon followed by what he knew to be a death-gurgle. Before the first three had fallen silent, the others not understanding what was happening just yet, another boat flipped and more bodies fell in the water, kicking and screaming for help.
Erik watched it in shock. There were too many people for one creature to take on. It was impossible. Then the first gunshot sounded and Erik was tearing his way into the water, ripping off his jacket and kicking off his shoes and diving into the lake because they were not firing at him, they were shooting at the water. Between the splashing and the screaming, he knew that at least one of them would be lucky enough and the lake creature would be hit. He could not let that happen.
Boat after boat flipped over, the screams dwindled, and the gunshots slowed. By the time Erik reached the boats, they were all overturned, bobbing in now deafening silence. He could not see much in the darkness of his home. All the lanterns had been extinguished in the frenzy, but he did not need light to know that there were no bodies to swim into and there were no other sounds other than his own.
He inadvertently got water in his mouth and he spit it out quickly, faintly tasting blood from it. He could only imagine how much blood he treaded in in order to be able to taste it. He felt his way around the boats, searching for anyone, any remnant of the mob that had come to kill him. There was nothing and he heard no one else coming.
Going around the last boat, he thought he had found the sole survivor left from the mob when his hand fell upon chilled skin. Except instead of a dead body or even an injured one seeking for help, a hand grabbed his own and steadied him. Beneath his fingertips was not skin but fine scales that felt smooth to the touch. He held onto claws instead of blunt fingertips and even that was quickly slipping away from him.
Before the creature could swim away, Erik scrambled to grab its wrist, hand floundering in the darkness but he managed to hold onto him. And though he knew it could easily break free, the creature stayed. Erik stared into the darkness and could not see him at all but just holding him was enough. He did not know what to say and rather hoped the creature would speak for him, but the heavy moment passed and sure enough, scaled, chilled skin slipped from his grasp and Erik was alone.
No one was willing to venture near the lake any longer because it was common knowledge that death awaited those who trespassed. Christine left Paris and in the middle of the watery grave of the mob, Erik took off his mask and let it sink to the bottom of the lake.
o.o 05 o.o
Erik was alive but living a mere shadow of what his life had once been. He was mad at the world, angry with Christine for not loving him, for leaving, for not being what he wanted. But, even his anger could not be sustained. He was glad that she had escaped from him while she could. He had gotten word that she would soon be married and it was a relief even though it hurt to think of her with another. She did not belong down here.
Perhaps he was less angry at the world than he wanted to believe because he was done being angry about his face, about the lot he had drawn. The man in the lake held all of his ire for killing the mob, for saving him only to force him to live in misery and die all alone. His inspiration had left him. Without it, he could not compose; he could not draw; he could not paint. Food held no interest to him and the only activity he indulged in was sleeping.
If he was lucky, he dreamt of drowning. Those were the best dreams he had. He could see the creature then, could feel his skin, and watch how the water slid off in large droplets. Touch was so easy between them, planes of muscles and skin becoming familiar. And there was his mouth; Erik could imagine how his lips would feel, how he would taste, so very unlike the last time he had been in the lake.
And when he woke, he was torn between hating the creature of the lake for having saved him that very first time decades ago and for having saved him from the mob just days ago.
The real problem was that he could not bring himself to leave the opera house. He contemplated the different ways he could die, but instead of enacting any of them, he spent much of his time in the middle of the lake, sitting in the bottom of a boat just thinking, listening to the water lap against the wood. He drifted for hours and found it odd that no matter how still the lake was, he always eventually ran aground.
Today was no different. He leaned over the edge. The ripples looked orange in the candlelight and he lost himself to the hypnotic pattern. One arm dangled over the edge, fingertips skimming the surface. He dipped a finger in the water and watched the ringed ripples expand. He started when the next time he dipped a finger into the lake, a clawed fingertip came out as well.
Sitting up, Erik stared. The man treaded water effortlessly and Erik realized he looked young, much younger than would make sense if he had been the one who saved him all those years ago, unless he never aged.
"You." Erik had hoped that he would appear, but now that he was here, he was at a loss for words. He was sure he owed this being in front of him his life, and a part of him wanted to throw it back in his face because of how useless it had become. The rest of him was simply curious.
The creature looked at him and backed away from the boat, lingering barely within the purview of the lantern.
Afraid that he was going to leave, Erik spoke, "What… who are you?" At times, he was creature in Erik's mind and others he was man. Maybe he was ademon of some sort. There were so many things he wanted to know.
"Why save me? What do you want?"
The blond ducked low, hiding his pale shoulders and down further until his mouth was underwater. Erik lunged down to grab at him.
"Don't leave. Answer me."
The creature did not leave, but he did grab Erik's arms and drag him into the lake. He did not stop there and Erik swallowed mouthfuls of water, kicking frantically to stay afloat when the creature kept insisting on pulling him under. One wild kick in particular and Erik managed to catch the creature's body, effectively separating them.
The creature released his arms and Erik stayed afloat but did not attempt to swim away. Not an arm's length away, they stared at each other. Erik was not sure which of them looked more betrayed, but it was the creature that swam away first.
He returned home and tried not to think of hurt feelings and lake creatures, but he could not help but feel like he had done something wrong by not drowning.
o.o +1 o.o
Not thinking about their brief encounter was impossible though. Erik only ever thought of the creature's parting expression, and he could not help but wonder when all he had been thinking about lately was death, why he could not let the one who had the most right to kill him, do it. It was an easy decision once thinking about it like that.
He allowed himself one last night of rest and was lucky enough to dream about drowning. When he woke, he was ready. He ignored the hunger pang in his stomach and waded into the lake. He would not take a boat this time, was rather expecting not to come back. He swam until he was far enough from shore, so that if he stayed long enough treading water that even if the creature refused to appear and kill him, he would simply drown.
He truly wanted to see him though.
"Hello," he called, and just like always, the echo was his response. "I am ready." He briefly wondered if the man could not speak, but that made no sense since he remembered his voice. There was always the possibility that his first encounter had been a dream, a result of the stone to his head. He preferred to think otherwise.
After a while, he did not bother calling out again. In fact, he treaded water for so long that he had stopped searching completely and was instead focused on the ache in his limbs, the stitch in his side, and the difficulty in breathing that had gradually gotten worse. He stared blankly into the darkness and it was only when the creature appeared with a small splash that Erik knew was solely for his benefit that he tried to peer into the darkness once more even though it was still with little success.
"You," Erik breathed out, but the creature stayed well out of reaching distance and Erik snorted because he was about to drown; he did not have time for his caution. He just wanted to touch him one last time.
"I will not attack you. I swear it."
His head fell beneath the surface and he choked on the water. Then there was a hand on his elbow and another one gripping the shirt on his side to keep him afloat. However, Erik was done staying afloat, refused to hesitate. He grabbed onto the claws and scaly smooth skin of the hand that held him, and he was pleased to discover slight webbing between his fingers because he had not thought to imagine that.
He did not let himself linger on such discovery though. He stated firmly, "I am ready." He nodded even though he was not certain the creature could see him in the darkness.
The hand on his side moved up and Erik inhaled in shock when he felt a fingertip on his lips. He had little else to do but hold his breath because the creature submerged and Erik did not fight following him down. They stopped much sooner than he expected, at least within arm's reach of the surface. He could still feel the shift of water above him.
"You needed to be saved."
Erik exhaled in shock, letting go most of his oxygen upon hearing the familiar voice, and inhaled before he could stop himself. Choking, he attempted to kick up to the surface, but the creature still held him down. He feared for a moment that the creature had only spoken to him to then kill him.
Before he could even have a dilemma between wanting to live or die, he was tugged forward and lips were pressed against his in his first kiss. He hardly had any time to contemplate how they felt before a webbed hand cupped his jaw and his tongue sought entry and Erik opened his mouth, thinking there was no better way to die. Instead of the heady rush that inevitably led to unconsciousness, the creature breathed out into his mouth and it was like taking a breath of the freshest air he has ever breathed. It was like standing on the rooftop in October, all crisp and refreshing, cool air. When they separated, Erik wanted nothing more than to exhale out all his air simply to do that again.
"My name is Raoul." He stated, and Erik wished more than ever that he could see through the water. He had a feeling that Raoul could see him. "What I want…" he hesitated. "I want nothing more than for you to continue to live."
Erik blindly reached out and Raoul grabbed his hand, holding onto it tightly, but that was not what he wanted. He intentionally exhaled, the bubbles floating up to the surface and Raoul did not question the act, just willingly gave him his next breath. It was Erik's tongue that sought out Raoul's this time and his mouth opened willingly to him. When his lungs were full, he did not pull away, simply pressed his lips against Raoul's in a chaste kiss. He held him close until he was certain that Raoul was kissing him back.
He could not help but grin when they pulled apart and when Erik kicked up to the surface, Raoul allowed it.
He could not put into words how badly he wanted to see Raoul's face, to question their shared past, but Erik let him keep them both afloat and said, "I can do that."
Raoul pecked him on the lips again before sliding beneath his arm, placing it around his shoulders. When he pressed a finger to Erik's lips, he immediately took a breath and let Raoul dive into the water to swim them to shore.
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Fic Review: Could this have been any longer. A day was not enough to edit this. D:
Also, just so you know, Raoul's not a lake demon so much as he's a water one, which means in my head!canon for this verse, when Erik finds out this fun fact, they leave the opera house completely and head out to sea and live there with Raoul hunting fish for Erik as food and them just happily living together away from society entirely. Human society? Overrated.