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

Summary: ErikRaoul slash. Time, a 3parts Series. Installment 06. A healthy dose of courting. Fluff/crack alert.

Warning(s): slash (that's homosexual content for those of you who don't know), may be a little too fluffy.

Pairing(s): ErikRaoul

A/N: Installment 06 is here. Not that bad of a turnover rate, not that great of one either, but a post is a post. I shall work on actually writing on the weekends, which I unfortunately didn't do this past weekend, so that you don't have to wait as long.

Story note: I blame the existence of crack in this installment on Erik's insanity. You can't blame me for that, can you?

o.o.o.o

Time: Weeks

Part01:Courting

o.o.o.o

By: Lucifer Rosemaunt

o.o.o.o

o.o.o

After Erik had confessed to Raoul, things began to change in a way that Raoul had not quite expected.

He had not been wrong when he took Erik's words to be a love confession. He just had not known that it would also be the start of a courting period the likes of which Raoul had never experienced. After all, Raoul was a man. He was supposed to chase, not be chased. Then again, Raoul wondered if he really was to blame for the turn of events considering he had invited Erik to 'catch him.'

It all started with a single rose that somehow found its way into his bedroom, onto his pillow, dangerously close to his head. Raoul woke up with a start when his nose caught the fragrance and his hand found a thorn. He sat up and looked around suspiciously, the bloody finger in his mouth. He half expected to find the ghost there standing in some dark corner of his room just watching him, but he saw no one.

After last night, he was still unsure of what to think. Erik had seemed earnest, but in the months that they had spent together, Erik had also seemed like he had not known where Christine was. Raoul figured that the best course of action would be to wait Erik out. If he were playing, then it would become obvious as time went on and if he saw how stalwart Raoul could be, then perhaps he would give up his ruse completely.

If he was not playing… Raoul did not want to think about that option. He had to assume that every action was a plan to lull him into a false sense of security so that Erik would be able to easily manipulate him.

Raoul had grabbed the offending rose careful of its thorns and had every intention of throwing it away. That was what he should have done. It did smell good though, and Raoul was fond of roses. It had never really caught his eye very much in the past, but he had bought enough of them to be able to appreciate their fragrance and the soft texture of its petals. Instead of the rose ending up scattered into pieces outside of his balcony, it ended up on Raoul's nightstand.

He had stared at it for a long moment after having put it down, not realizing that he was grinning. He really should throw it away to make a point.

He was supposed to be angry or annoyed or disappointed or betrayed, but he was not any of those things. He was just confused. He also knew he was supposed to hate Erik because of his betrayal, but it was hard to hate someone he liked. And missed. And had the sudden urge to see now.

Sighing, Raoul reminded himself of all the reasons he should distrust Erik. The man snuck into his house… and left him a rose. The man had stolen his clothes… but nothing too important. The man had lied to him… he had also shared a lot of himself in the past months they had spent together. It had been a rather big lie, Raoul reminded himself. This was Christine's betrayal they were talking about. Well, that was the past and it had to have been an even bigger step for the infamous ghost to tell Raoul anything about himself.

Raoul stared at the rose with a frown.

Erik used to give Christine roses. He remembered seeing them. Luckily, Erik had not placed a black ribbon on it or else it would have definitely been ripped apart before being thrown it out of the window. He was not Christine.

Neither was Erik. Christine was the manipulator. And Erik was too in a way. Christine had tried to manipulate the managers, and Erik did not try so much as succeed in doing so most of the time. Both had confessed their feelings for him. He had considered both of them rather close. So, what was the difference? Only one stuck out.

Erik was still here.

But that was not fair because Erik had nowhere else to go. Then again, Erik was still trying to maintain whatever connection they had with each other while Christine had just left at the first sign of Raoul's doubt.

No.

Raoul refused to believe it. It had only been one rose. Erik was manipulating him and Raoul was not even putting up a fight. Who cared if Raoul might be attracted to the man? He was being played for a fool. Raoul scoffed, disappointed in himself. One rose and he was ready to fall at the man's feet. How easy did that make him?

He was about to grab the rose to throw away, again but he could not bring himself to take his frustrations out on an innocent plant. At least, that was what he told himself. He placed the rose back down before leaving the room and slamming the door shut to ease some of his frustrations.

He had spent the rest of the morning thinking of that rose. When he arrived at the opera house in the afternoon to avoid any unpleasant memories of early mornings in the opera house, he met with the managers, did a good job avoiding Meg for her sake of course, and finished all the relevant business. He was quick and efficient and glad that he had yet to run into Erik.

His first inclination was to leave immediately but he managed to convince himself that he should visit the hallway that had been redone. He had yet to inspect the workmanship. Touching the walls that had been repainted, it looked like nothing had happened here at all. Christine's presence once again erased, but Erik's… this place now reminded Raoul of the man. He no longer doubted that Erik had tried to kill Christine. She had betrayed him, lied to him, and had just been about to use Raoul against him. Raoul sighed once more. He really was too dense not to realize anything suspicious. He had given her the benefit of the doubt.

A part of him wondered why he was not giving the ghost the same benefit of doubt.

"Good evening, Raoul."

The voice seemed to wash over him and Raoul felt his body respond. That was why he could not allow himself to give the ghost the benefit of doubt. There was so much more he could lose this time around.

He turned around to see Erik leaning casually on the wall opposite his. He noted the distance that Erik had respected, but he still felt like that was too close.

"Good evening, Erik," he managed to say with a calm he did not feel. He did not know what Erik was planning, but there was no point in getting excited over nothing. He had just said hello.

Erik smiled and it was the oddest thing Raoul had seen in a while. Erik did not smile at people. He smirked or grinned. Or if he did smile, there was a sense of mockery in it. This one though looked like an attempt to be genuine, and though Raoul knew it should be comforting, it was rather disturbing. For a moment, he could not pinpoint why.

When Erik realized that Raoul was not going to return his smile, he stopped trying so hard. It was annoying that he was even trying so hard anyway. Raoul had spent enough time in his presence to know that Erik did not smile like that.

When the familiar frown replaced the smile, Raoul felt bad that he had not tried to return the smile. It was obvious to him that Erik was trying to be civil. It was perhaps a vast improvement from avoiding each other, which Raoul had to admit, was mostly his fault. It was increasingly better than the time that Erik had easily walked into his personal space.

Looking at Erik again, Raoul just realized why the smile did not look right with him. It was the mask. It blocked too much of Erik's face and the smooth, blank surface contrasted so greatly with the attempt at mirth in the smile that it seemed wrong. Raoul shrugged or maybe it was because Erik never smiled. Seeing that Erik was in fact not moving, he wondered if he could walk out of whatever conversation Erik was going to force upon him.

"Did you receive the rose I sent to you?" Erik asked even though he had been outside Raoul's window watching him just that morning.

Raoul scowled. He was not going to give him reason to be smug. In fact, Raoul decided to give him as hard a time with whatever he was planning. "No."

Erik smirked and Raoul almost smiled at the familiar expression. Unfortunately, he knew what it meant. Erik knew he was lying, but maybe he did not know exactly what he was lying about.

"And the rose by your bed?" Erik pushed off the wall and approached Raoul. So, the boy would lie to him, and quite badly too. He was not so blind or deaf to notice that pause before he spoke.

Raoul blushed, but refused to back down. He knew he should have thrown that rose away. "Was that from you?" He pretended to think about it. "I thought it was from one of my female admirers," he added pointedly.

This time Erik scowled. It was not as though he did not know Raoul was lying. It was simply disappointing that Raoul would resort to such juvenile actions.

"Oh," Erik replied stiffly, "I see. I'll have to make sure you get the next one."

He walked away from Raoul even though he had wanted to stay. However, he had considered it at length the night before. He was going to court Raoul and make the man fall in love with him. It was a simple plan. Start small. A rose, maybe a song, maybe something more. He was not quite sure how it was supposed to go, but the women in the opera house always received flowers before a gentleman caller came.

Raoul would receive so many flowers that he would not know what to do with them.

He had time now and Raoul's lack of outright refusal only fueled his desire to be successful in this chase.

o.o.o

The next morning, Raoul was careful waking up. He did not want to find another thorn in his finger. However, he was slightly disappointed to find that there was no rose on the pillow. He chastised himself for looking forward to seeing how far Erik would go in this ruse of his supposed affection toward him. Apparently not far at all.

Raoul went through the motions of his morning routine in a bad mood. He was about to stomp out of the house when he stopped himself. There was a bouquet of roses on his front step. Raoul fought the smile that was forming. He was not supposed to be this pleased and knowing Erik, he was probably watching. However, Raoul did not know who it was from just yet, so he allowed himself to smile. Biting his lip, Raoul slowly bent down to caress the petals with his fingers. Counting them, he saw twelve roses. He picked them up smelling them in the process. A small note that Raoul had not seen dropped to the floor.

Crouching, Raoul picked up the note and opened it.

I wanted to make certain you found this present.

Yours completely, Erik

Raoul was faintly aware of the fact that he was crouching at his front door and grinning madly, but he could not bring himself to care until he realized that he was not supposed to be pleased. Cursing himself for his lack of self-control, Raoul schooled his features to something more akin to annoyance. He crumpled the note and walked back into the house. Slamming the door behind him, Raoul handed the roses to the nearest servant and asked them to put it in a vase somewhere in a hallway that never saw the light of day. Ignoring the servant's confused expression, Raoul ran towards the hallway that ran along the stairway. He scrambled with his pocket watch on which a key was attached.

There was a room underneath the stairway that Raoul had claimed as his. It was small, had no window except for a small one on the door that had been painted over, and one side sloped along with the stairway beneath which it was situated. Fumbling with the key, he opened the door and shut it immediately after entering. He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. What little light provided by the small window on the door did nothing but cast the room in a grey hue. However, his hands easily found the matches and candle that were always waiting on the table by the door.

The room was a comfortable size. It was it was long enough that Raoul had spent more than a few nights pacing the room. A large divan took up the wall opposite the sloping one. Several pillows and an old coverlet that used to belong to his grandmother were thrown haphazardly onto it. He could not count the times that he had fallen asleep there and Philippe had been left worried sick. It was nicest when it was winter because Raoul's own body heat would be able to warm the area well. That had been of course when Philippe had been around to take care of everything in the household and Raoul could hide away for some lengths of time. He had not been able to shirk his duties in a while.

There was a small table by the wall beside the door that held candles and matches as well as some old newspapers neatly piled in one corner. Above the table, there was a small portrait of his family.

Against the wall that sloped were a dresser, several crates, and an assortment of items ranging from small wooden toys to swords to jewelry boxes that he had gathered and saved through the years. They were Raoul's past and things that he had not been able to throw away when the time had come to move on. He knew if Philippe had his way, items from their past would have long been thrown away. Raoul liked seeing Philippe's old practice sword or the riding crop that he had stolen from his brother just because he had been mad at him. He also knew that hidden in the top drawer of the dresser was a shirt whose sleeve had been torn off. He was not quite sure why he had kept it, but he was not going to throw it away any time soon.

This was Raoul's personal haven; no one else had ever entered it. He would be too embarrassed if anyone tried.

Already feeling stuffy, Raoul reached beneath the table to open the vent that was there.

He pulled the note he had crumpled out of his pocket and tried to straighten it against the table. He sighed. The note would never be the same again. The crease marks crossed through the small piece of paper.

His hand still pressing down on the note, Raoul realized how pathetic this was. He was trying to salvage a note from the ghost, from the man who was trying to manipulate him. However, he refused to let that stop him. Rummaging through the items on the floor, he cried out triumphantly when he came back to the table with a heavy statue of angel that had a large square base. Placing the statue on the note, Raoul made sure it was securely on the table before blowing out the candle. Leaving the room, Raoul glanced back one last time before securely locking the door behind him.

Raoul knew he could not show any more emotion. He told himself that he would only be hurt in the end by whatever game Erik was playing with him. On his way out, he saw the bouquet of roses set on the table. He could do this. He would not be swayed by anything the ghost did to him now. Christine had already trampled on his affections. He would not let it happen a second time no matter how nice the gestures seemed.

o.o.o

Honestly, he had not thought that Raoul would be so stubborn.

Erik had not been pleased by Raoul's reactions to his gifts. He had left a bouquet of roses at Raoul's doorstep every morning, and that first time, he really was starting to think that maybe the boy had thought it was a gift from admirers. He did not doubt that Raoul was not in want for admirers. He had not seen the smile or the absolute joy in his expression since the first bouquet he had sent. After that, Raoul just frowned, picked up the bouquet and note, and disappeared into the house again.

He had seen the Vicomte give the bouquet away to his servants. Then, after the first note, which had been crumpled to Erik's dismay, Raoul had not even bothered to read the other notes. He had a sneaking suspicion that Raoul was simply burning them.

It was quite the predicament he was in. He could try to find out who was interested in the Vicomte, but he knew that list to be quite long. He was one of the most eligible bachelors in all of France after all. What woman would not confess an interest in him? It did not help that he was handsome and good-natured. However, what woman would be bold enough to send the man flowers? It did not seem plausible, unless Raoul's admirers were actually men. Erik would not allow himself to believe that. No man would be that forward – Erik considered himself an exception to that rule.

He shrugged off those thoughts. He could get annoyed, but what was the point. What fun was a chase if he could catch his prey with a couple of bouquets of roses? This made it that much more interesting and it would only mean catching Raoul would be that much more satisfying.

o.o.o

Raoul only allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief inside his haven. He did not know how long he could remain emotionless. Every morning he took the bouquet of roses into the house making sure to not let the note fall to the ground. By the fourth bouquet, a servant was already waiting to grab it from him while Raoul went to the only safe place away from prying eyes to read the note. He laughed and smiled every time he read the note. A different message for every morning, but Erik could be so random sometimes that Raoul had to wonder what Erik was thinking. He placed them all under the angel statue before heading out.

He managed to get through the times that Erik would suddenly appear to speak with him. Luckily, the man had kept his distance from Raoul as they spoke of small things about the opera house. Erik no longer asked about the roses, and Raoul no longer had to lie about them. Raoul hated such polite conversations and he was certain that Erik hated them too. However, Erik always kept a semi-pleasant demeanor as they spoke about the weather and the well-being of family members as well as the success of Raoul's business ventures.

Erik was being polite and it was driving Raoul mad. He did not know what Erik expected to accomplish with this new attitude. He rather liked the old Erik who would throw insults at him and they would simply fight. This way seemed even more false than any interaction they had ever had in the past.

It was almost… normal. And normal was something neither of them could ever be. Erik because, well, he was the opera ghost and he had a deformity that would always make him an outcast. Raoul because… because he was not adverse to the idea of accepting Erik's confession as something that could be more.

Raoul shook his head. He did not know what was going through the ghost's mind. Sighing what he felt was the hundredth sigh in the past week, he walked onto his estate. He just wanted to go to sleep and forget these past two weeks ever occurred. It had just been too much. He walked into his bedroom and froze. The smell of roses overpowered his senses the second he had opened his door. His room was filled with them.

Raoul immediately kept his face blank. He somehow managed to hold in his absolute shock. He even managed to look disdainful.

He had the fleeting thought that he should be worried that the ghost could easily enter his house and spend so much time decorating his room. He slowly approached his bed and found a note. Making sure that his back was to the window, Raoul let himself smile. He had to admit that the man knew how to outdo even himself. A bouquet of roses every morning had been a lot to start with. This was incredible. Opening the note, he read,

A rose for every time I thought of you this week.

Forever yours, Erik

Ps… It may be lacking because they ran out of roses.

Raoul stifled a giggle. He forced himself to frown when he turned around to inspect the roses. Their thorns had been cut off. Grabbing an armful off his bed, he walked out of the room before telling a servant to gather all the roses and make good use of them. Raoul retreated to the room beneath the stairs, somehow managing to unlock the door, and dropped the armful of roses onto the table. They would die, but until then, he wanted to breathe the smell of roses. He read the note again.

Raoul placed the note along with the others before dropping onto the divan. Stretching along it, Raoul wondered what he should do. This was not going very well. Erik did not seem to be stopping any time soon and if anything, Raoul had a sinking feeling that things would only escalate. That did not mean that Erik was not trying to manipulate him though. It only meant that he just might be Erik's new obsession.

He liked Erik, a lot. Maybe it was more than attraction, more than lust, maybe loved was even an appropriate word, but he could not be sure. He just knew that he wanted to see Erik whenever they were apart. Was that love? Maybe that combined with lust made it love. Erik claimed to love him, but he had loved Christine too and Raoul thought love could not just be forgotten. Raoul had thought that he had loved Christine as well, but he did not think what he felt for her could be called love anymore. Love was not supposed to be that weak.

He just did not know what to believe.

A knock on the door pulled Raoul from his thoughts.

"You're room is now clean, Vicomte."

The maid grinned at him as he made his way upstairs. He had heard the gossip around the house. It made it slightly embarrassing to meet their eyes sometimes, but nothing was meant maliciously. He just could not fight the blush on his cheeks when they grinned at him so knowingly. Entering his room, he frowned. They had tidied the room up taking the roses off the furniture, but instead of throwing them out they had put them in vases all around his room. Bowing his head in defeat, Raoul changed for the night.

As he climbed underneath the covers and settled, a soft voice filtered into the room. It was deep and soothing. And Raoul was pulled closer to sleep until he realized just who it was. His back stiffened and he pulled the blanket over his head in an attempt to outwardly show he was trying to block out the sound. It hardly mattered. Raoul could hear it clearly through the comforter. The only thing he was hiding was his smile.

o.o.o.o

End part 01

Word count: 4,054

o.o.o.o

o.o.o.o.o.o

o.o.o.o

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

Chapter review: So, Raoul's playing (not exactly playing) hard to get. He's getting better at lying though. Yay! Let Erik try harder.

Author review: Uh, this whole installment has been awkward to write. I think it is because the tone is different and the plot is weird and there's no big conflict besides the internal one that Raoul's experiencing (Oh and Erik too).