DISCLAIMER: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and all related characters and situations belong to Victor Hugo and the Walt Disney Company.

Song tune and lyrics belong to Carly Rae Jepsen and 604 Records.

Cover art belongs to Howlingmojo. Used with permission.

This is a not-for-profit work. I am not making any money, nor am I attempting to negatively affect the market for any of the materials shown, or take proceeds from their creators, but rather to expand the fanbase and keep the pre-existing fanbase strong.

RATING: T (for coarse language, tobacco and alcohol use, and some suggestive adult themes)

SHIPS: OC x Claude Frollo (one-sided?), One-sided Claude Frollo x Esmeralda

AU - Modern Day

CHARACTERS FEATURED: Claude Frollo, Esmeralda, OC

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This fanfic was inspired by the cover art, and the artist's comment on it: "Mmm, imagine meeting him in your favorite bar." Also, the idea for this fanfic is really how I began liking this song.


The Worst Song Ever

The noise of the bar swells all around me, snippets of conversation here and there clear above the drone, heard and then forgotten in a moment. The scent of alcohol and sweat hangs thick in the air. The walls are adorned with sports memorabilia and kitschy decor: framed bottle caps, a Big-Mouth Billy Bass, celebrity caricatures. I sit at the high bar, nursing my Mike's Hard Lemonade, idly examining the scratches on the worn wooden surface. In the background, someone is singing a karaoke rendition of "A Hard Day's Night" by The Beatles.

I'm bored. Why I go to these places is beyond me. Bars are vaguely fun with friends, at best, and alone, they just suck. I guess I'm secretly hoping to meet someone cool, maybe even someone special, but all that ever happens is I sit there and nurse my drink for a couple hours and watch the crowd. There's never anyone remotely interesting. Worst part is, I don't even like alcohol.

And then something changes. For the first time ever on these excursions, I see someone interesting.

He's sitting at the bar too, a few spots down from me. An older gentleman, his hair silver-grey, his frame tall and slender. His black dress shirt is impeccably clean, and a few buttons are open at the neck, giving just a glimpse of his silver chest hair. His thin, pale face is intelligent and sophisticated. A pair of glasses is perched on his long roman nose. Behind the glasses, his eyes are framed by a spray of fine lines. And the eyes themselves… they are clear and deep as a rainstorm, full of tumult and power. Those eyes… they take my breath away.

A hot coil of lust suddenly twists in my abdomen. All the air seems to have been sucked out of the room, leaving me panting shallow, painful breaths. My god, he is beautiful.

The man doesn't know he is being watched, and appears lost deeply in thought. I wish he'd notice me. He doesn't. After a few minutes spent dying quietly on my barstool, I tell myself I'm going to go mad if he leaves without my saying something. I get up, focusing on breathing normally, and wander over, trying to appear casual, like, "Oh, I just wanted to go over here for a bit, no particular reason." I pause indecisively; then, gathering my courage, close the remaining distance and stand in front of him, shifting awkwardly.

He finally notices me, and something in his face closes up. Those silvery-grey eyes are like doors being slammed shut. His whole body tenses. Not a good sign. He looks up, his face impassive as stone, and says in a flat, emotionless voice, "…Yes?"

I clear my throat nervously. "Um… hi."

"Hello." His voice is smooth and finely articulate, with a hint of a bass growl to it. Also utterly cold. He may have said "hello," but the greeting's tone makes it obvious that what he means is, "goodbye." His eyes stare at me in a way that clearly reads I am not wanted here.

Why the hell I push on, I don't know. But I do. "Er, yeah, hi. Um…" I have absolutely nothing at all to say to this man. I have to find something. "…I uh, like your bracelet." I gesture to it. As a matter of fact, it is cool… a string of oddly shaped beads that gives him an informal edge, contrasting with the dignified aura he gives off.

"Thank you," he says, his voice marble. He looks very much as if he wants to say "go away," but is too polite. Instead, he pointedly turns his back to me, effectively closing the conversation.

Oh well… I wander back to my stool, cursing silently. I order another drink, because being drunk sounds like a viable plan right about now. I watch him relax and sink back into his reverie. That's when I notice that he is watching someone too… the bartender, a young woman perhaps a few years older than me. Her skin is dark, the colour of caramel, her eyes bright green. Her long, wild raven hair cascades around her bare shoulders. She doesn't appear to notice him, but yes, he definitely notices her. Fuck fuck fuck.

This is the point where I should let it drop. White flag, admit defeat, surrender.

Of course I don't. Instead, I go and page through the karaoke song listings. I find one. It's a song I usually hate—Top Forty and I tend to be like oil and water—but something (most likely the alcohol) tells me that's the song. I sign up for the next available spot, then sit down to gather my courage, listen anxiously to the people ahead of me render passable-at-best renditions of various songs, and pray that he doesn't leave until it's my turn. (Once he gets up and my heart literally stops, but it turns out he's only going to the men's room, and returns momentarily.)

Then they call my name and I get up on the tiny stage. I stare at the crowd, terrified. The music starts, and I sing the words on the screen, in a small, unsure voice.

"I threw a wish in the well,
Don't ask me, I'll never tell,
I looked to you as it fell,
And now you're in my way..."

I look right at him as I sing it. Have I mentioned I can't sing worth a damn?

As I continue, people start giggling and looking around to see who I have dedicated the song to. After a moment, he feels the eyes on him and looks up, and I swear, all the colour drains out of his already-pale face. It actually looks really funny to my alcohol-addled brain, and for some reason that gives me confidence.

I start getting into the song, singing louder and adding gestures, even doing a little dance. My voice keeps cracking—I really suck at this song—but I don't care, swept up in the music.

"Hey, I just met you!
And this is crazy!
But here's my number,
So call me maybe?"

People are openly laughing now. The man looks as if he'd very much like the ground to open up and swallow him. The bartender, the one he was eyeing, is giggling behind her hand, amusement sparkling in her emerald eyes.

"And all the other boys
Try to chase me!
But here's my number,
So call me maybe?"

He is now making a valiant effort to pretend he has no idea I'm singing to him, turning back to the bartender to order another drink. I'll soon fix that. I hop off the stage, grinning all over, and walk over to him, still singing. He looks torn between suicide and homicide.

"You took your time with the call,
I took no time with the fall.
You gave me nothin' at all,
But still, you're in my way..."

Some other patrons start clapping in time and singing along. I may be an awful singer, but I do know how to put on a show. We all sing:

"Hey, I just met you!
And this is crazy!
But here's my number,
So call me maybe?

"It's hard to look right,
At you baby!
But here's my number,
So call me maybe?"

Everyone's now whooping and cheering, and many are still singing along with me. The man with the silver hair is glaring murderously at me as I dance around.

"Before you came into my life I missed you so bad,
I missed you so bad,
I missed you so, so bad!

"Before you came into my life I missed you so bad,
And you should know that,
I missed you so, so bad!"

The orchestration takes over, and I take a moment to pant and cool down, getting ready for the final leg of the song. The man gets up, obviously attempting to leave while he can, and in an act of utter bravado and sheer unrivaled stupidity, I grab his wrist, pinning him. He looks horrified. Ignoring this, I lean in close to him, kissing distance, and sing.

"It's hard to look right,
At you baby.
But here's my number,
So CALL ME MAYBE!"

I release him and dance around, swishing my butt in a ridiculous manner. He just stands there limply, all thoughts of escape apparently gone. Everyone around us is laughing and cheering. I sashay back up on stage to finish the song with the whole bar singing along,

"Before you came into my life I missed you so bad,
I missed you so bad,
I missed you so, so bad!

"Before you came into my life I missed you so bad,
And you should know that!
So call me, maybe?"

As the music fades, the audience applauds and whoops and hollers. The whole place is in an uproar. Flushed with my success, I look over at him, and as if for the first time, see how ashen and appalled his face is. The euphoria drains from me, leaving behind terror. I give a quick "thank you" to the crowd, and then turn to flee.

His hand on my wrist stops me, as mine had stopped him. His grip is hard and painful as he whirls me around to face him. His grey eyes are furious.

"You have succeeded in gaining my attention," he whispers through clenched teeth, his voice only just remaining level in the barely-concealed fury underneath it. He drags me out to the back deck.

The night air is hot and humid. He pulls out a pack of Newports, his hand shaking minutely with rage, and lights one with a large silver lighter. Even in my fear, fear of the sheer power of the anger that washes off this formidable man's frame like a wave, I can't help but notice the long, clever fingers holding the cigarette, the pulse beating in his throat. Everything about him both terrifies and entices me. He takes a long, shaky drag and, looking considerably calmer, turns his piercing stare on me. "What do you want?"

"Um… I'd settle for your name?"

His body tenses; then he sighs deeply in defeat. "Claude," he says simply. "And you?" he adds, after a moment.

"Sandy," I tell him. He nods slowly, taking another drag. There is silence. The smoke spirals up into the dark night.

"Er… can I bum one?" I ask him, gesturing toward the pack. I don't actually smoke anymore, haven't in months. But I know from experience the best way to keep this man talking to me is to share a cigarette. He shrugs, and wordlessly offers the pack. "Thanks," I tell him, putting it between my lips. He sees me floundering for a lighter and, still silent, lights it for me. The fact that he performs this small chivalrous act despite being furious at me makes me melt a little.

I cough a bit at the first drag, but not as much as I had expected. We smoke in silence for a bit.

"I hate that song," he says suddenly.

"Me too!" I respond, laughing. He looks at me, clearly not believing me. "No, really, usually I think it's the worst song ever. But for some reason, tonight I liked it."

"Mmph," he says noncommittally.

"So Claude…" I begin. He looks over at me, raising an eyebrow in a way that gives me chills. "Um… Oh all right. I think it's pretty obvious that I wanted to talk to you, so forget the small talk." I take a deep breath. "I want to play a game. Okay?"

He nods curtly.

"Um, good. Okay. Great…" He's staring at me like I'm the dumbest thing he's ever seen, so I just go ahead and say it. "I want you to tell me a secret, something… small, but important; no big confessions, just something you'd prefer no one knew. Then I'll do the same. Okay?"

His expression has changed to look almost intrigued. "All right then…" He frowns, inhaling deeply. "I don't actually like bars. The noise, the smell, the idiots…" his lip twitches in an expression of disgust. "When I drink, I prefer to be at home with a glass of wine and a good book."

I'm dying to tell him I feel exactly the same way, but I know the question is expected of me. "So why are you here?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

"I…" he actually squirms a bit, looking for a moment like a schoolboy caught doing something against the rules. It is utterly endearing. "…I come here to see someone."

I wait, but he is silent. I may as well say it. "That bartender?"

"…yes," he answers quietly.

"You like her." It's not a question. "Does she like you?" Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease…

He shrugs. "Doesn't know I exist, actually."

YES! I cheer mentally. Aloud, I say, "Sorry."

He gives me a wry grin and grinds out his cigarette carefully in the ashtray. "No, you're not."

I chuckle. "Okay, I'm not." I pause. "Well, I am but I'm not, if that makes any sense." This earns a chuckle from him in return. Heartened, I go on. "As it happens, I don't like bars either…"

We end up talking out there on the deck until almost closing time, smoking (he keeps bumming me cigarettes, which is really nice of him considering how costly Newports are). I tell him all about how I'm an actress, which he seems to appreciate when he finds out that I plan to go into classical theater instead of Hollywood. He tells me that he's a professor of Theology at the local university, and about how irritating his students can be, and is pleased by my questions about his subject. (I am not very educated in any religion, and consider myself a more Faith-based person, not belonging to any one belief system—though I identify with Christianity most—but it is a subject that has always fascinated me.) We talk about books a lot; he mostly prefers philosophy, while I'm more of a Harry Potter type of gal—but we do find some common ground in classic literature, especially the works of George Bernard Shaw, whose plays were really more than half philosophy lectures. He also likes Poe a lot, who is one of my favorite authors, and I try to convince him to read Stephen King's work, but I don't think I'm too successful. He's a fan of some really good movies too, like A Clockwork Orange; he seems surprised I've read the book that inspired it.

By the time I hear the bartender inside proclaiming it's last call, I'm in a pleasant stupor of nicotine and conversation. I'm getting very sleepy; I keep yawning, and try hard to stay awake, not wanting to let this end. But eventually I decide I have to. "Um, so, it's getting late… I guess I should let you go…"

He puts out his last cigarette and looks at me. He seems a bit tired himself, but those eagle eyes are still penetrating. "Oh, not yet. Quid pro quo."

"Uh… huh?"

"I told you my secret. Now tell me yours."

Oh. "Um, okay…" I look at the almost-spent cigarette in my hand and take a deep breath. "I actually don't smoke." His eyebrows go up in surprise. I hurry on, "Well, I mean, I used to, but I quit… a few months ago…" I trail off.

His eyes narrow at me. "Then why," he inquires softly, his voice dripping with irony, "have you smoked half my cigarettes?"

I look down, then back up at him steadily. "Because I've learned the best way to get a hot guy to talk to me is to ask him for a cigarette." My stomach squirms. This is the first time I've actually said outright that I think he's hot.

His eyes widen, but the expression is unreadable. After a moment, he gets up. "Oh. I see," he says, his voice revealing nothing. He stretches a bit. "Well, Sandy, this has been pleasant, but I have to teach a class in the morning and—"

"Oh! Yeah, I totally get it." I smile at him, hating myself for saying anything. He offers his hand and I shake it, and he goes inside to pay his tab. I start to gather my stuff to head home myself (I already paid my bill), and then a thought strikes me. I run inside and grab a cocktail napkin, scrawl something on it, and run up to him. "Claude!" I say breathlessly, a little too loud.

He turns. "Yes?" he responds, his tone almost indiscernible from that flat, cold voice he'd had at the beginning of the night.

I shove the napkin into his hand. On it, I'd put my name and telephone number, and the words Call me maybe? :P

He looks at it expressionlessly, nods a good-bye, and walks out.

Oh well…

...

Two Days Later

I'm not expecting him to call, really I'm not. It was just one of those weird wonderful little random encounters that never lead to anything, and I know this. I'm not even that upset about it. It was a great night, even though it was just one night. I have discovered I now really like the song "Call Me Maybe," though. Why I never gave it a chance is beyond me; it's actually really good.

I'm expecting a call from my friend Andrew. He wants to meet up at my place and watch Stephen King's It, or maybe a few episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (Best. TV show. EVER!) So I'm not surprised when my cell rings. Only after I've picked up do I realize that it isn't a number I recognize. "Um, hullo?"

A cool, sophisticated, articulate voice, with a hint of a bass growl, is on the other end. A highly familiar voice. "Hello, Sandy."

THE END