Title: One More Night
Series: Halloween 2012
Author: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Summary: Companion piece to Lost Days of the Dead. You probably want to read that first. An entire year passes and Raoul finally has the chance to do the ritual right.
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Warning(s): AU, ghost!Erik
Word Count: 3,323
A/N: I almost made this last post on time and then life had to go and happen. Last of the Halloween series. I did nothing this weekend that was related to editing until just now. XD I think I burned myself out.
Story note: I also had to jump a year because all the time in the middle required something longer than a oneshot. When I was trying to flesh this one out, it turned out to be some huge supernatural tv-like adventure with crazy things happening and like three seasons already in my head. What's up with these plotbunnies getting out of control? This is a oneshot though. Plotbunnies as always are up for grabs. Just PM me.
Raoul watched Christine sprint away from him, her blue cloak flaring up as she careened into her father. The moment was so reminiscent of the first time they had done this ritual that he could hardly believe that an entire year had already passed. Christine was reunited with her father. Fog obscured the meager moonlight. It was colder tonight than a year ago, but Raoul was also properly prepared, scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, fur-lined leather gloves, thick winter coat keeping the chill at bay. He even made sure to wear long under garments since he knew much of the night would be spent sitting on the unforgiving ground.
Christine had been positively incorrigible the past week, hardly paying attention to the rehearsals leading up to the huge masquerade gala they had thrown for Halloween. Luckily, amidst the sheer intoxication of lights, music, and alcohol almost no one noticed her mistakes. The only reason he had noticed was because Erik had been unable to keep silent in his disappointment. Christine had been so excited to see her father that even Erik had not the heart to censure her though.
Raoul had once thought that seeing her father would make it harder for her for the rest of the year, but the contrary had happened instead. Monsieur Daae had encouraged her to move on, to pursue her own life because he always looked over her. She had taken his words to heart and had gradually become more self-assured. Her passion for singing returned and everyone was taking notice. That combined with Erik's tutoring and she was soon going to be the prima donna of the Opera Populaire even without the ghost's threats to the opera house – something Raoul was still in the process of trying to convince Erik to do less of. Everything had changed in that single night for both of them.
Leaving Christine to her reunion, he absentmindedly wrapped the bandage tightly around his forearm where he had cut himself for the ritual. He had a scar on his right palm that served as a good reminder as to why he should only ever cut himself with his dominant hand and when he could actually feel the part of his body that he was cutting. He looked for Erik.
The opera ghost had hardly spared Christine and her father a passing glance once the hour struck midnight. He walked around Raoul, eyes searching the empty cemetery. Raoul followed his movements in confusion. The ghost indeed was intent on searching behind every gravestone and mausoleum, his shoes crunching the gravel as he moved about. An owl hooted his displeasure at the grating noise and Raoul could not help but smirk.
This was different. If he thought about it, so much had happened, but he still did not know where the time had gone. He had rather unsuccessfully helped the opera ghost move on and in the process almost got himself killed. Unraveling the ghost's past had been time-consuming and unpleasant, and Erik was still not being any help to him. He knew enough that it was little wonder to him why Erik had been trapped here and it pained him to even think that the man had no happy memories to hold him over the long years. He had never felt a kind touch in his life and now was unable to do so in death, yet was taunted by it every moment.
Erik's back was still turned to him and Raoul placed a hand on his arm to get his attention.
The ghost whirled at the touch, angry for a reason Raoul could not fathom, though Raoul had gotten used to not questioning the ghost's rages. Obviously, whatever curiosity had been driving him had turned to anger as time passed without any big reveal.
"Where is your dead?" Erik reached out and he hesitated a mere second before realizing that they were already touching; he grabbed Raoul's biceps and shook him slightly. "Why is your mother not here?"
Raoul ducked his head, staring at where the ghost held him in response and mostly because he did not think he could verbalize his answer just yet.
It was not fair for the ghost to suffer. The very thought of his isolation and longing pained Raoul, and despite every action that proved the contrary, he could never completely discard the impression that Erik was very much like his mother. He never voiced the similarity because he did not know how to explain it. He could not explain how Erik's desperate attempts at trying to touch Christine equated to his mother's cool touch, or how when they had lessons, Erik would often look at Christine with such yearning that Raoul pictured his mother staring with the same yearning at their father.
When he thought of his parents, he simply could not bear the thought of the opera ghost suffering when no one suffered for his sake. Raoul's foray into Erik's past revealed enough to know that the masked man truly had no one. He had yet to find a father and his mother had given him up. At least Raoul's father had hurt and yearned for his mother in equal measures, and even though their suffering had seemed pointless, maybe that was what had released his mother in the end, a reciprocal sorrow, a bond that somehow surpassed even death.
There had been an end. So, while Raoul had yet to discover a way to help Erik move on and Erik had rather adamantly protested against his efforts, in the mean time, there was something he could give.
When Erik gripped him harder, fingers flexing against his arms, Raoul knew he had figured it out.
"I thought…" he tried to smile, but it was harder to do so the longer he thought about how close he had been to seeing his mother, to touching her instead of the ghost. He explained, "I have never in my life seen my mother. I could spare yet another year before doing so." He aimed for flippant but his voice was too strained because saying his reasoning aloud, the one he had repeated to himself time and again as this hour approached, made it so very tangible how close he had been.
He felt his eyes burn and tried to blame it on some errant gust of wind that caused his eyes to water. There was always next year. He told himself that. He would be able to finally see how poor that single portrait he had seen of her had been and how radiant her voice was. He so desperately wanted to hear her laugh, but more than anything, he wanted to hug her, to hold her and squeeze her tight in all the embraces he had missed throughout his lifetime.
"You are an idiot," Erik said even though he did not release him.
Raoul let out a shaky breath. The small cloud his exhale created clouded his vision. How he had wanted to hug her.
Erik jerked him forward and he tripped the small distance to Erik's body. Lean but strong arms wrapped around him. They were near the same height, but Erik was a little taller so Raoul's face was pressed against a bony shoulder. The masked man smelled faintly of wet earth and trees, and it only took a moment before Raoul wrapped his arms around him and hugged him tightly.
He was not crying but there was a tightness in his throat. Maybe a tear or two had finally fallen from the wind, but he was happy for his sacrifice. He would choose it again because he could feel the shuddering breaths taken by the masked man and the too-tight grip on him that was not loosening any time soon.
They stood there clinging to each other and it should have felt uncomfortable. They were two men who only grudgingly knew each other, but despite the initial discomfort, they settled against each other perfectly. Raoul did not mind that he was making this sacrifice, did not mind that they were a replacement for each other, for Raoul, his mother and for Erik, Christine. They each needed the contact, and he knew that Erik had needed the touch to further anchor himself to the moment.
When Raoul could finally convince his arms to stop clutching at Erik, he settled for holding him close, feeling more composed than he had in days. It helped that he felt warm, needed, and useful like this. Erik turned his face towards Raoul's neck and it felt more intimate than he would have imagined, feeling Erik's breath upon his neck. He shivered slightly.
The masked man seemed to startle against him and finally he pulled away. He looked almost apologetic and Raoul would have laughed if he did not believe Erik would have no qualms about physically harming him in retaliation. Such remorse looked odd on him, somehow a more false expression than his normal scowl because Raoul knew he was not sorry. He was not sorry that he could touch Raoul, that Raoul had chosen him because he could see the relief, the gratitude hidden somewhere beneath the mask, beneath his rough deeds.
Erik quickly schooled his features and took a step back, fussing with his coat and pants, fingertips lingering over the material. When he adjusted his mask, he spent long moments exploring the contours.
Raoul shivered again, but this time at the loss of shared body heat. He tried not to stare, but he could not help the numerous glances he threw Erik's way. His features softened in the way Raoul vaguely remembered. He looked younger in his rediscovery of touch, but in general, too. It looked as though as a ghost Erik was at least two decades older than in this form. It seemed odd because Christine said her father looked exactly as he did when she last saw him and he did not think ghosts could age.
He was interrupted from his thoughts when Erik moved to his side, one hand grabbing his elbow, his body pressed against him as he led him towards a nearby mausoleum.
Raoul spared Christine and Monsieur Daae one last glance to make sure they were fine as he was bodily moved. Erik stopped and released him only long enough to clear a spot of leaves and twigs before he tugged Raoul down to sit.
He did as he was told even though he frowned at the chill that was attempting to work its way through the layers of his clothing. He was a little relieved when Erik sat so close that Raoul almost wondered if he should move to give him more space, but he knew the ghost only wanted to maintain physical contact. He was not about to complain about the body heat.
"You are an idiot," Erik restated.
Raoul grinned, leaning into Erik. "You have mentioned it before."
"Numerous times," he quipped.
"Yes, well…" Raoul shrugged, and they were so close together that he moved Erik's arm in the process.
Erik started awkwardly, "Your mother…" He clasped and worried his hands.
Raoul shook his head. Erik would not know how to give emotional support and in this, he need not try. "She will wait for me."
He had been mentally creating a list of possible topics to speak with the ghost about to pass the time before the sun rose and his mother had not made that list. Erik knew too much about his past as it was. It was slightly disconcerting but the ghost was quite persuasive when he wanted information. Removing one of his gloves, he reached across Erik's lap without a thought to grab one of his hands.
Erik stilled for a moment and Raoul just realized that maybe the other man would not want to do this.
"I… you do not want to do what last year…" he blushed and was about to pull his hand away when Erik caught him. He turned his hand over and opened his palm. Erik shifted slightly, placing his arm over Raoul's, which made it more comfortable but also, drew them closer. Erik traced the scar on his palm over and over again.
Raoul tried to ask, "Do you…?"
But Erik cut him off, "Shh."
He wanted to feel affronted but in a way, it made sense that Erik would prefer silence now. As a ghost, all he could ever do was speak since he spent most of his time with Christine. She remained unable to see him at all. If Raoul thought about it though, Erik had been spending less time with her save for her voice lessons. They had begun to drift apart a year ago, and Raoul had never really had the nerve to ask outright if it had been because Christine finally realized that her Angel of Music was actually just a man – like he had insisted – or because Erik knew that she would always want to see her father every year. Their relationship was too complicated to understand though; it would be a miracle if Raoul could understand the relationship he had with Erik much less the one Erik shared with Christine.
"You should sleep," Erik said and Raoul scoffed before he realized that he was being serious.
"Really?" He grabbed Erik's hands so that the masked man would focus on their conversation.
Erik might have stilled, but that did not stop him from ignoring Raoul.
"Erik?" Raoul released his hands and the ghost resumed tracing the scar on his palm. "I am not going to sleep."
When he received no response, he glared at him, but Erik resolutely stared down at their hands.
"You're just going to ignore me the entire time. How does that make any sense?" Raoul considered pulling his hand away as a threat but immediately did not think silence warranted such cruelty. "You will regret it. I have planned quite many engaging topics upon which we could speak."
Erik just held his hand and Raoul shut his mouth with an audible click of his teeth. He tried to stay silent. He really did, but it was awkward to sit side-by-side with a ghost he had been chasing and trying to learn more about without trying to make him respond. To have this opportunity when said ghost had no other choice but to speak with him instead of storming out of room after room was too significant a moment to let pass. He was sure that Erik had left in the middle of a conversation with Raoul in at least every room in his house as well as the opera house.
Every conversation he started though from personal questions, which he had known were admittedly not likely to be answered, to questions about the opera house and Christine, which he thought would at least warrant some sort of response, continued to fall short though. Raoul was left staring out into the cemetery and trying not to be disappointed. He resigned himself to spending his night burdened with such silence. What he did not take into consideration was how the repetitive motion of Erik's hands on his, the warmth of him against his side, and the steady, strong heartbeat would relax him so much that he ended up dozing, leaning heavily on Erik's shoulder without even realizing it.
He woke briefly, not long after his eyes had shut. He was still mostly asleep when Erik coaxed him to lie on his lap, but he did not fall asleep immediately despite the more comfortable position. He laid awake for long moments with his eyes closed as Erik brushed the hair from his face, fingers gently tracing his features, and he distantly wondered if he should be allowing such behaviour.
He would never allow another person to take such liberties with him. It was improper and much more so with another man. It was unnatural, but that only suffused his hazy awareness with amusement. He was currently lying on the lap of a ghost turned solid for one night with the help of gypsy magic; there was little he could consider normal about the situation. There was such aching tenderness, a reverence in his touch that made some deep part of Raoul feel wounded. It made him want nothing more than to shield Erik from the evils of the world for inspiring such feeling within him despite the fact that he had already witnessed more than his fair share of it.
Fingers smoothed the worry lines on his forehead and Erik began to hum a melody Raoul was certain he had heard before, but could not place. He felt sleep drawing him nearer. All Erik would do was trace his features and Raoul knew it to be harmless. Erik needed it because he was a ghost and maybe a friend. He was not quite sure friends made each other so angry and fought quite so often though. Nor did he think friends threatened their lives half as much as Erik threatened his, but they were a close approximation to friendship.
He sighed when Erik brushed his cheek with his thumb.
He was almost sure he heard Erik whisper, "You will be the death of me yet." It should have been funny because Erik was already dead but it was confusion that chased Raoul into his dreams into even more disjointed images.
Raoul woke up when he was unceremoniously rolled onto the ground, getting a face full of dead leaves in the process. He spit out the dirt and leaves from his mouth and glared up at Erik. He wondered where all the previous gentleness had gone.
"What was that for?" He blinked his eyes several times to clear the sleep from them. The sun was not yet up, but it would be soon.
Erik crossed his arms, unimpressed with his anger. "That was for falling asleep on the one night of the year I am actually able to touch someone."
Raoul spluttered as he scrambled to his feet. He pointed at Erik accusingly. "You… you lulled me to sleep." When he felt he needed more emphasis, he poked him on the chest. "You told me to sleep."
Erik smirked and Raoul knew he was being toyed with.
Pouting, Raoul muttered, "I like you better when you do not speak."
Erik grabbed his hand before he could even begin to think to poke him again and Raoul was distracted from his anger when Erik clasped their hands together as though it was the most natural thing to do. He blushed speechless, but Erik pressed on seemingly unaffected by the easy intimacy of such contact.
"Now you know why I suggested that you sleep."
Raoul sighed exasperatedly, rather exaggeratedly actually just so Erik would know just how unamused he was with this treatment.
Erik tugged him closer, and assuming he wanted one last hug, Raoul wrapped his arms around him. However, the masked man simply tensed in surprise. Raoul pulled away immediately, embarrassed that he kept assuming incorrectly that Erik would welcome his touch.
"Sorry," he muttered.
Erik pulled him closer before he could move away and he held him tightly. "You are an idiot," he muttered.
Raoul could not help but laugh, relieved that Erik did not take offense to his actions. "You keep saying that."
"Stop being one and I shall stop calling you as such."
Raoul breathed deeply, holding Erik close when he smiled. He leaned his cheek against Erik's shoulder, far too comfortable than he knew he should be, but unwilling to evaluate why. He muttered, "You are welcome."
He received no answer but Erik turned his face toward him again so that Raoul could feel his breath against his neck. Raoul shut his eyes and kept them shut against the rising sun.
There had to be a way to help Erik and Raoul would find it.
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Fic Review: If you want any head!canon on this one, I will just note that Erik may have fallen in love with Raoul already but that thought has yet to occur to Raoul. He cares, but what he really wants is to save Erik from suffering. It really feels like there should be more and being limited to Raoul's POV is slightly unfortunate for us, but why leave hints about a story that is very unlikely to be written?