Disclaimer: Please don't sue. I don't own POTO... All I own is an overactive imagination.

Summary: ErikRaoul slash impending. Time, a 3parts Series. Installment 02. Misery loves company, but are they really miserable?

Warning(s): slash (that's homosexual content for those of you who don't know)

Pairing(s): ErikRaoul

A/N: Hi. I'm back. A little quicker this time, too, right? Okay, so it takes me (I think) a little more than a day each to write these chapters (sad isn't it, that it takes me that long just for less than 2,000 words?). So expect a four day turn around. The first few installments (ie this one and probably the next one) are a little quicker just because they were hashed out a little more. Maybe I'll post faster. Who knows? Don't forget to review.

Story note: Haha… who knows what will happen in this installment. What does the title 'middles' mean? You'll just have to read and find out.

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Time: Middles

Part01:Change of Hearts

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By: Lucifer Rosemaunt

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"How's business?" Raoul inquired as he stepped into the managers' office.

Andre and Firmin looked up from their respective desks. They had not heard Raoul enter. In fact, if Firmin thought about it, the Vicomte was always catching them by surprise lately. Their patron had been surprisingly stealthy lately, as though he was always sneaking from place to place expecting to be caught off guard. Firmin figured that it was because of the opera ghost. That ghost always put him on edge. With Christine gone, who knew who the next target for the ghost's attention was. The patron was probably just becoming paranoid. As long as the Vicomte provided them with the funds they needed, Firmin did not care how eccentric he became.

Firmin wordlessly acknowledged him before returning to the papers on his desk.

Andre responded cheerfully, "We've still sold out for the next several performances."

"Christine's disappearance was quite beneficial," Firmin murmured.

Raoul frowned at his comment, but Firmin ignored it. Andre looked at the Vicomte apologetically, but Raoul knew he should not be so touchy on the subject of Christine's disappearance. He had come to terms that she had left months ago, but sometimes he liked to think that her leaving was not so voluntary. It had been half a year though and, well, even he knew that that the hope he had that she might return was unfounded.

"How is that even still possible?" Raoul asked.

Firmin stared at the papers on his desk more closely. He refused to look up. So what if every now and then rumours about the whereabouts of Christine Daae somehow slipped out into the gossip chains.

Seeing that Firmin was not going to answer his question, Raoul knew he did not have a reason to stay any longer. The managers were competent when it came to money. Other matters, Raoul would worry about and look over a second time, but right now, he had a meeting to go to. He had already spent the whole morning here before having to leave for other business unrelated to the opera house; however, Raoul found himself returning to the opera house as often as possible. Closing the door behind him softly, Raoul bumped into Meg upon turning around.

He wondered how long she had been waiting there. There was no way that she could have sneaked up on him – not lately at least. Having to keep an eye out for the opera ghost had made Raoul rather sensitive to every sound he heard. He had heard no footsteps, and Meg had a distinctive set of footfalls. She must have been waiting for him to leave the office.

"Monsieur, how are you today?" Meg smiled and tilted her head to one side. She looked up at him with wide eyes and a sweet smile.

Raoul forced a smile. He knew that Meg was only trying to be nice. At least, he hoped that she was only trying to be nice. Ever since Christine's disappearance, Meg had begun to talk to him more and more. When he had been moping those few days after he had told the opera ghost that they should stop fighting, her presence had helped somewhat.

"I'm fine, Mlle Giry. How are you this fine evening?"

Raoul began to walk and Meg joined him.

"I am well. The other girls were picking on me though."

"Oh," Raoul commented offhandedly.

Before, it had not been that bad talking to her. Before, it had not been everyday that she was just waiting for him. Raoul could handle speaking to her every now and then. She was a sweet girl who was full of life. He could talk about Christine, and Meg would share stories about their childhood. He could only take so much of their conversations though. He did not want her to think of them the wrong way. He was used to women fawning over him, but for some reason, this was a slightly different situation. He and Meg did have something deeper than just being acquaintances. They had both held Christine close as dear friends, and even though Christine was not here anymore, was that not reason enough for Raoul to be kind to Meg.

There were times when he would think that she was trying to seduce him or she was flirting with him, but then she would do something completely contrary to that thought and then Raoul would feel stupid for even beginning to think she might have felt that way about him. But right now, he wanted to be away from her.

"Aren't you supposed to be at rehearsal, Mlle Giry?"

She looked at him guiltily. "Yes. I just wanted to say hello."

Raoul almost felt bad for being so abrupt. He tried to reason, "There's a performance tomorrow. You all need to be at your best."

Meg nodded before scampering off. She tossed a wink over her shoulder before disappearing around the corner.

Raoul gave a hesitant smile back. It was moments like that that made him wonder about Meg. He pulled out his pocket watch to look at the time. He frowned at seeing the time. He was going to be late if he did not hurry. He hated being late. Looking around to make sure that no one was around, he walked-almost-jogged through the hallways.

o.o.o

Erik had watched the Vicomte speak with the managers.

In fact, he had been watching the Vicomte rather consistently ever since Christine's departure. There really was not anything else to do. Sure, he watched the opera house return to normal. He watched as Christine's presence easily faded – as though she had not been as great as he had thought she had become, how he had tried teaching her to become. She had not been ready for that much fame. She could not hold their attention properly. Not completely at least. He had not taught her everything that he could have; but, then again, she had been the one who chose to leave.

Without her, he was left with observing the boring, insignificant peons that remained. No one showed promise. Christine really had been the perfect pupil. The death of her father had prepared her for their meeting. No one else could compare to that.

Then, there was Raoul. Erik did not compare Raoul with Christine though similarities were there. It was just that in his mind Raoul and Christine were on complete opposite ends of a spectrum now. Where Christine held his hatred, Raoul… Erik did not know what he thought of Raoul. He also considered changing that analogy.

The Vicomte was interesting to watch. He was always so expressive with his emotions: arrogantly in one moment, supportive the next. Erik could easily read Raoul, which was odd considering that Raoul came from the elite. It was rather uncommon to find someone wealthy and unguarded.

Honestly, Erik did not know why he had been watching Raoul so much. Perhaps it was because he already knew the schedules of every single person in the opera house. The only person left to watch was Raoul.

Every morning, Erik found it unfortunate that he could not simply forget the boy. He could not forget him because of how they had fought. He could not forget the consistency that their meetings had provided when the one thing Erik had thought constant had left him. Their fights had been a break from the mundane existence that would have been his life without Christine. He would have been locked in his home bemoaning his fate.

He hated to think that Raoul had been reason enough to take him out of his misery about Christine's betrayal. He denied it several times only to make the concession that their fights had pushed him easily past the mourning period and into a mental and emotional state where he could easily think of hurting Christine. He hated to think that for that short week after learning of Christine's betrayal, Raoul had easily made a connection with him – a connection that by all rights should not have been able to exist, not with the emotional detachment and general revulsion Erik felt towards everyone.

Seeing that connection talking with the Giry girl had rubbed him the wrong way. Erik was not sure why, but he was certain it had to do with the fact that every time he watched Raoul, she would be there talking to him. Erik had never cared for the girl. She kept to the background usually observing – something she had learned from her mother. For some reason, she was now always right there in front of him, an annoyance that would not go away. The repeated appearances and her forward attitude reminded him of Carlotta. And while Carlotta currently was indispensable and had been rather discrete lately, the Giry girl, though the best of the ballet corps, was replaceable.

Erik narrowed his eyes as Raoul flirted with the Giry girl. He was glad when she finally left. He had never once thought that she would flirt so openly. Perhaps, she had been around the other girls for far too long. He also had not expected Raoul to flirt back.

Watching Raoul check his watch, Erik quickly checked his. Raoul had a meeting he was going to be late for. Erik tsked. He hated tardiness. Erik took off after Raoul as the Vicomte ventured through his opera house. Pulling out a vial from his coat, Erik pulled out his handkerchief before pouring some of the liquid onto it making sure that he inhaled none of it. Sneaking in front of Raoul's path, he waited keeping as silent as possible. It was becoming harder and harder to catch the Vicomte unawares, but Erik had had a lifetime of practice surprising people. As Raoul approached him, Erik quickly stepped behind him and placed the cloth over his mouth and nose. After a few seconds of struggling, his body limply fell into Erik's waiting arms.

He liked to think that he had learned his lesson the first time Raoul bumped his head on the floor.

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End part 01

Word count: 1,684

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A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!

Chapter review: Wow, that was short. I like the next chapter though. What's with Meg though? (I really don't like the Raoul/Meg pairing, so never worry about that)

Author review: Although these aren't supposed to be that long to begin with, when I see such a short chapter, it makes me sad. TT Like, I should have tried harder, but that's enough to set up the next chapter. The other ones might be longer (they usually do get longer as I keep writing.)