Title: The Gift of Taking
Author: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Summary: Raoul is always good at giving and giving Christmas gifts especially, but this year's necessitates a pre-gift warning; too bad they've gotten in an argument just before the holiday.
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Warning(s): mild inebriation
Word Count: 3,511
A/N: Obligatory Christmas fic that's late, right? However, it's Christmas until Three Kings' Day (when you're supposed to get your presents), so I'm not late yet. :D I'm also kind of sucking at summaries right now. :(
Story note: What is there to say about this fic other than it's a lot more angsty and considerably less playful than I expected when I first outlined it. Angst!plotbunnies just sneak their way in no matter what I do. D:
Five cellars below the opera house, Erik was doing his best to focus on anything other than the fact that almost all of Paris had been invited and were present for the Christmas gala that Firmin and Andre had decided to throw. He, himself, had even been invited partly as a formality and partly in hopes that by doing so he would not ruin yet another gala. Erik had not yet decided if the invitation had worked to prevent him from chasing everyone out of his opera house.
He had lingered about the fringes of the celebration for some time, following his viscount from the shadows as the young man mingled with the other guests, champagne glass in hand and being his usual charming and effusive self. Raoul's seeming unconcern of what had occurred between them not several days ago had driven him down back to his home, all the while cursing patrons and their fickle nature. It was Raoul's fault that he was once more secreted away from the others; it was his fault that he was now considering the different ways he could make this gala more memorable than any Christmases prior visited by the opera ghost. Even those thoughts, however, were not enough to cheer him as they had once done.
Sitting in the near darkness of his home, he stared at the unadorned walls and furniture and tried to remind himself that he was pleased that not a single Christmas decoration had made its way down from the opera house. There was a garishness to the Opera Populaire that he absolutely abhorred during this season. All sorts of greenery, tinsel, and ribbon were strewn through every corridor and hall. Brightness and cheer seemed contagious so that even the occupants of the opera house were infected with it, and it was enough of a disease to make them insolent and worse yet, make them inattentive to their rehearsals, to Madame Giry, and mostly to his demands.
He was loathe to admit that those frustrations had only been relieved by the viscount's presence. Without Raoul there to distract him, he would have resorted to petty destruction of, well, of anything within his grasp. He would have made it so that the opera house would never consider celebrating the wretched holiday ever again.
Now, he had neither the viscount nor the holiday with him. It was a surprise that Raoul had not attempted to bring some of that festivity into his home. Erik supposed that was because he had told the younger man, who seemed to love the holiday as much as the others, that he was not to do so rather directly. The viscount was not known for following his directions though and had their fight not occurred, Erik was certain Raoul would have found a way to bring Christmas into his home. As it was now, it might have been just any other day with him sitting before his organ.
He had no time to linger upon that thought because he heard footsteps approaching. Rising to his feet on instinct, he hesitated where he stood, wondering if he should attempt to intercept his visitor or wait for him to reveal himself. Undecided, he ended up somewhere between the two locations, standing awkwardly between the candelabras, just waiting. There was no doubt in his mind who approached. Only the viscount had the gall to descend this low and with good reason, seeing how Raoul was also the only one who could do so without fear of death.
The young man stopped upon entering his home, freezing when he saw Erik glaring at him and looking tense and prepared to do him physical harm. After giving him an open look of confusion, he quickly clasped his hands behind his back, but not before Erik glimpsed the sprig of a plant held within one of his hands.
Raoul opened his mouth to speak before seeing Erik narrow his eyes at him, which made him decide against it. Instead of leaving however, he moved closer and then proceeded to avert his eyes and shift onto the heels of his feet. He smelt of gingerbread and spice, but beyond the rather festive red vest he wore, he remained unadorned with bells or stocking caps as the others were so fond of.
He remained silent for longer than Erik expected, longer than he thought it possible, but when the younger man swayed slightly where he stood and began to clear his throat, Erik could not appreciate the silence, as he would have in any other circumstance.
"Why did you leave the celebration so soon?" Erik knew by speaking he had somehow lost a contest of wills between them, but he had little patience except to discover the reason for Raoul's presence. His answer would dictate how this encounter continued.
His question was only enough to make Raoul look up to meet his gaze for a second before he looked off towards the lake. Giving a one-shoulder shrug, he mumbled, "And miss Christmas with you?"
"Christmas," Erik turned his back to Raoul and replied, "is yet two days from now." He walked back to the organ, ignoring the unfamiliar sensation of being disappointed. There was no reason to be disappointed when he always expected the worst from every person. He could not comprehend why Raoul would be any different, but the fact remained that Erik was disappointed and Raoul had disrupted him for no reason. If he had not come down here to apologize, then there was little purpose for his visit other than to be a nuisance.
Raoul followed him though. When he moved to lean on the organ, he stopped when a single glare was directed his way. He placed his hands atop it instead.
Erik shuffled through some sheet music, waiting for Raoul to explain himself further, but it was to be an evening of surprising silence from the viscount. So, when Erik spoke, he attempted to make it seem as though it were a continuation from their last exchange, considering that to be less of a concession than once again being the one unable to deal with the quiet. "And your poor excuse of visiting me for Christmas is pathetic. What is your true purpose for coming here?"
"Can I not simply see you?" Raoul actually looked hurt as he asked the question. He bit his lower lip to keep him from saying more, and Erik nearly shouted his next response.
It came out strained instead. "You are no longer welcome here." He stood up, and the bench upon which he sat clattered to the floor behind him. "That should have been obvious."
Raoul took a step back but kept his hands on the organ, appearing to be more confused than frightened. Frowning when he came to a conclusion, he leaned forward again. Slightly unnerved by his composure, Erik was tempted to move further away from him.
"Our argument?" Raoul asked.
The brevity of his answer and the slight whiff of his breath made Erik look at him closely because something was very off about the viscount. He replied, "Yes, our argument."
"'Twas only an argument," Raoul asserted and Erik did take a step away from him because he could sense a tirade coming, one that would have the younger man gesticulate and raise his voice, and he need not be close to hear that. "All we needed was time apart so that we could calm ourselves. That does not mean we are no longer attached. If you think on it, it was only our first argumentif you do not count…" he paused to think back.
Erik supplied for him immediately as he took a breath, just to stop him from continuing, "All the other ones?"
Raoul seemed to deflate, hunching over as he muttered, "It was the first while we" – he gestured between them, not quite sure what to call what was between them, and once again intent on keeping his responses succinct.
"I am too busy for you," Erik intoned, and the words made Raoul flinch. The viscount had spoken those words several days prior only to start a rather large argument that he had not expected from such meaningless sentiment.
"I did not mean to say those words in so callous a manner." Raoul moved around the organ to Erik's side but stopped himself from touching him. He needed to explain he had not meant them as a dismissal.
Erik scoffed. "There is no un-callous way to say such a thing."
"No." Raoul finally did grab onto Erik's wrist. "You mistake the meaning behind the words. I had not meant to say it like that. And I am truly sorry that you thought that I might have meant something more unkind, but I cannot always be at your whim. I had… I had so much business to catch up on and you led me to distraction. You just take all of my concentration. You lead me to distraction often actually." Erik turned away from him, but not far enough to dislodge Raoul's hand. Still, the younger man amended his statement. "You are a wonderful distraction, but still a distraction and I have responsibilities that I cannot simply disregard and you were not listening to me and I became short with you because there was little I could do that…"
Unwilling to hear him try to so clumsily explain what Erik was beginning to think was truly misspoken words, he did not wait for him to continue, simply spoke louder than he did, "Return to the others." He pried Raoul's hand from his wrist, but undeterred, the younger man simply continued to speak. Erik had gotten the apology he had wanted but felt no better for it because Raoul had meant the words on some level. There were times when he did not want Erik around him and that thought did not sit well with him. "You know how you ramble pointlessly when you drink," he said pointedly.
Those words quieted Raoul immediately, and he took a step back as though struck. Turning his head, he tried to inconspicuously smell his breath.
"No. The stench does not cling to you as it does the others," Erik said, knowing he was going to hurt Raoul and was still unable to stop himself, "but I am neither blind to your stumbling nor deaf to the slight slur in your speech." He sneered. The truth of the matter was that Raoul was doing a fine job of hiding the fact that he had been drinking. Only the combination of seeing him earlier at the gala with a glass in hand, smelling his breath, and noticing his conspicuous silence was enough to clue him into the fact that the viscount had probably drunk something stronger before coming down to speak with him. "'Tis the season for merriment and libations. Is it not?"
Raoul stared at his hands, which were clutched together. A piece of green peeked through and he forced himself to relax his hold on it. "I had but a few."
"Spiced rum is still very much rum, Raoul," Erik retorted, watching Raoul's jaw clench tightly shut and his throat move as he swallowed. "To steel yourself perhaps? You know what cowards say, 'The only courage is liquid courage.'"
At his words, Raoul finally stopped looking ashamed of himself. He breathed in deeply through his nose and Erik knew Raoul was not just going to allow himself to be reprimanded. He was glad for it; he knew that Raoul was just as capable of cruelty as he was and it was easier that way. It was easier to know that he could be cruel and could hurt him intentionally because Raoul was no innocent. He had shown that he would do the same when pushed and, as Erik now knew, sometimes unintentionally.
Raoul's frown deepened before he looked up. "You hate the season so." He kept his words measured, controlled lest he find himself rambling once more and lose the sting of his words. "I must find my enjoyment from those who know how to."
Forcing himself to smirk, Erik waved him off as flippantly as he could manage when he wanted nothing more than to punch him. "See yourself home, viscount. You are drunk."
Without another word, Raoul turned and stormed off the way he had come, but before he left the room completely, he stopped abruptly, so abruptly that he had to steady himself on a nearby wall. Erik watched as he took several breaths in, his shoulders rising and falling with the action. Looking down at his hand at the piece of greenery he held, he nodded to himself. Erik knew what that meant and took a deep breath as well to prepare himself. Raoul was not going to leave.
Turning heel, Raoul strode towards him purposefully. He stopped directly in front of Erik and gave a glance at the plant in his hand before stating, "Perhaps I am… barely drunk, that is, but I am not going to leave. It is not reason enough to convince me to leave before I have to come to take what I have come to take for…"
Erik interrupted him almost immediately, sensing that Raoul was just about to confuse himself, "What have you come here to do?" His ramblings were usually coherent, but there were times when he managed to confuse himself and when that happened, it was an unpleasant experience for them both.
Standing taller, he said, "I plan to give you a gift."
Erik glanced down at his hand unimpressed. "Give it here and leave."
Raoul followed his glance and hid the plant behind his back again. "This is not it. Why would this be your gift? That is not…" He stopped himself and shook his head as though to clear those thoughts. "The gift is not for today."
"Then…?" Erik prompted.
"I am giving fair warning," he said slowly.
Erik grimaced and spat out, "So that I may yet purchase for you one in return?"
"No!" Raoul looked sincerely aghast at the very idea but said no more than that.
The masked man was forced to prompt, "Why tell me such a fact then?"
Ducking his head, Raoul muttered, "I am telling you so that you may take the remaining two days… fifty or so hours, I believe, to mentally prepare yourself to receive it graciously. I may have also come to seek some kind of understanding between us after our argument. I did not think that you would take it so to heart since I had not meant it so. I do think you will enjoy the gift and if we had not argued, I am certain this pre-gift message would have been considerably more pleasant as well. Certainly, it would have been more pleasant for me, but for you as well. I will have to wait until I see how…"
He glanced up at the interruption, looking slightly abashed. "Polite society dictates you not frown as so" – he did his best impression of Erik scowling, not sober enough to know better than to use his free hand to cover half his face as he did so – "as though receiving bitter medicine." He was also distracted enough not to notice Erik glaring at him.
Seeing him unaffected by his ire, Erik resigned himself to dealing with the viscount until he could guide him to his purpose sooner. "What is it?"
"What is what?" Raoul dropped his hand from his face.
Through clenched teeth, Erik spoke, "The gift."
"Oh." He replied as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, "It is meant to be a surprise."
"Then how shall I rehearse my expression upon seeing it?" Erik briefly wondered if leaving his home would be faster than trying to make Raoul leave, but he hated to admit that even though he was still angry with Raoul, he was glad that the man was either too stubborn or too drunk to know when to leave. He had a sneaking suspicion that had Raoul actually been sober, the young man would not have even considered leaving to be an option. He would have seen Erik's reaction to his presence for what it was, more bluster and hurt than actual anger, but since Raoul was not sober, Erik held onto what annoyance he could.
It was difficult when Raoul seemed to ignore his glares and threatening posturing and even more difficult when he looked so earnest in wanting to give Erik a gift, as though they had not been fighting previously.
Raoul tilted his head slightly and grinned widely at him. "You shall have to simply learn to smile."
Erik stared at him unamused for a long moment, but his grin did not waver. "If that is all you need to say, then leave my home and be prepared for disappointment on Christmas day."
"No," Raoul spoke before Erik finished his sentence, "I am to take what I have come…"
Erik returned the favor. "Yes, you have come to take what you have come to take."
And before Erik could once again try to send him home, Raoul grabbed his hand. Curious enough at what he planned to do, Erik let him, feeling something pressed between their palms. He allowed Raoul to raise their clasped hands, albeit awkwardly, over their heads.
"What…?" Erik glanced up at their hands and when he looked down, Raoul pressed their lips together for an all-too-brief kiss. Raoul pulled away so quickly that Erik did not even have the chance to truly respond.
After Raoul released his hand, the item remained in Erik's grasp. It was a sprig of holly, not even mistletoe. Erik snorted, imagining Raoul grabbing the first green plant he saw, too embarrassed to ask anyone which was mistletoe.
"I have taken what I have come to take what…" Raoul stopped himself and smiled tentatively. "Now, I am to bid you a good eve." He bowed down low at the waist.
While he was bent, Erik grabbed the collar of his shirt and dragged him up because if Raoul was going to kiss him, then they were going to kiss properly so that he could return being angry with him.
He growled, "You need not take what I have already given freely." He crushed their lips together, bruisingly so. He cared not much about finesse or the slight pain that always accompanied such abrupt actions, when teeth met lips. He cared only that the pain was a segue into Raoul submitting to such treatment, hands clutching against his back, mouth opening eagerly, and tongue enticingly teasing his own.
When they parted, Erik was pleased to see the wetness of Raoul's lips, the color upon his cheeks and the shortness of his breath.
"There." He considered his mood and how easy it was to forget he was mad with Raoul when they were together. "We have reached an understanding for now."
But Raoul licked his lips and did not smile as he normally did after they shared a kiss.
"Are you not satisfied?"
Raoul shook his head and absently placed his hand upon Erik's cheek as he spoke. "You mistake giving for taking, dear Erik. I have taken but a few kisses from you because you will never allow me to, as you did not allow me to work that day. The all…"
Just to quiet him, Erik kissed him again and they were so close that giving into that temptation was easy. That did not mean he did not think upon what Raoul had said. It was simply difficult to think too deeply when Raoul was pressed against him so, but before he could lose himself in the ability to let his hands wander where they would, Raoul pulled away.
He remained close enough that Erik could still smell a hint of the spiced rum he had drunk. Their lips were but a hairsbreadth from touching still and Erik would have continued to kiss him, impatient as he was, if Raoul did not decide to turn his head in order to nuzzle his cheek before whispering. "You have but two days to learn how to submit to what I plan to take from you." He punctuated his statement with a brush of his lips against Erik's jawline. "It is more of a gift for us both."
With those words, Raoul walked off into the darkness while Erik debated whether to give into the impulse to follow him. Staring at the holly in his hand, he placed it atop the organ where he could see it while he played. It was the only green in his home, the only sign of Christmas.
The viscount had been correct though; this would have been a more pleasant pre-gift warning had they not been fighting, but Erik supposed the two were related somehow. There was a lesson to be learned here.
He had two more days before he learned it well.
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Fic Review: Faint hints of Raoul's problems with alcohol (since that will always be head!canon for me now because of freaking LND. D:) Erik has some major double standards when it comes to attention because you know there are times when Erik's composing that he completely ignores Raoul and will totally rage at him for interrupting. Hmph, the thing is that Raoul knows better than to interrupt him. Angst, why angst? :(
Also, this is a oneshot. You get to figure out what Raoul's going to do with Erik for his present. :D