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

Summary: ErikRaoul slash. Post-POTO. A bit of R/C (yeah). General discontent runs through the characters as they are forced to adjust their views of happily ever after.

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

Pairing(s): ErikRaoul

A/N: Hi all. waves sheepishly. I'm only doing this out of an obligation of a deal I made with a friend. So, I figure you shouldn't be too mad that I'll be writing two different fics instead of finishing one twice as fast. It wouldn't work that well. I promise – trust me. So I hope you can enjoy this.

Story note: This is an ErikRaoul fic (surprise, do I write anything else?). Technically, I have only mentally prepared for the first two chapters of this story (That's what happens when I'm rushed). We'll just have to find out together where these guys take us.

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Reluctantly Willing

Chapter 01 - … to wait

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By: Lucifer Rosemaunt

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"I'm just not ready," Christine yelled. "How many times do I have to tell you?"

She stood by the fireplace glaring at him. Raoul stared at her in disbelief; you would think that he had just asked her to have premarital relations. He had just asked if she wanted to have a picnic tomorrow. He turned away from her to gather his thoughts; this was getting absurd. No, it had been absurd for a while; it was just now getting tiring.

Christine had moved into his household shortly after the fire engulfed the Opera Populaire; he had offered and she had, at the time, gladly accepted with a hug. He had been excited, but perhaps it had only been the adrenaline that made her accept.

Their flight from the tunnels of the opera house had been a blur. In fact, the happenings in the recesses of the opera house had gone by in a blink of the eye. One second he had been there trying to save Christine and the next Christine trying to save him. Then they were gone.

While he couldn't exactly agree with her methods to save him, the jealousy and disgust he had felt at seeing her kissing the opera ghost hadn't been enough to make Raoul stop loving her. It didn't exactly make him love her more, even though such compassion was admirable, but whenever Raoul saw her, he would think of the opera ghost and the price of their freedom. Simply put, Raoul was a man whose mind refused to forget past transgressions.

He would never forget that Christine kissed the man, and yes, Raoul was willing to admit that the ghost was a man and not some monster. "Poor wretched man", as Christine had taken to calling him at times, however, was a title that Raoul would never give him. His past was heartrending; or at least, it would be if the man hadn't turned out how he had. Raoul couldn't pity a man who had decided the best way to continue with his life was to trick a young girl into believing he was an angel. He had built his life on lies and deceit, not to mention murder. Yet, in the end, he had tried to redeem himself. Raoul scoffed. Too little, too late. The damage was done, really.

Raoul would never forget the kiss, but he thought himself strong enough that he could live with it and move on with their life together. Or, he would live with it and move on with their life together if Christine let them. It had been weeks since the fire. Christine barely allowed him to touch her much less kiss her and even that had grown more infrequent. He thought he had given her enough time to get over the stress, over the trauma. A week after had seemed sufficient for at least some hand holding or maybe even sitting side by side or something.

She had pulled away though, was still pulling away from. Maybe the space he had given her in the beginning had only proved to hurt her more, hurt them more.

He loved her. It should've been enough that they were now together. However, the room that was supposed to be hers, the one right beside his bedroom with a door between them (not like he would have used it right now), was now his den. Christine had requested that she have the actual den, the room that was on the opposite end of the second floor from his own bedroom. He'd conceded of course. It would have seemed like he was going to do something if he had insisted otherwise.

He thought he knew why she had wanted that room though. It was the nightmares. Sometimes when he couldn't sleep, which was often nowadays, he would walk the hallways. His feet automatically went to her room and there, he would hear her whimpers and sometimes tears. He didn't know if hers were actually nightmares. Perhaps, she cried because she had left behind her angel. Raoul couldn't tell, almost didn't want to be able to. But his were nightmares. His nights were filled with the opera ghost succeeding, killing him, stealing Christine. They were of Christine being happy with making the other choice, the choice that wasn't life with him. It felt like she was making that choice now, regardless. He loved her though and love persisted, didn't it? He pushed aside his doubts, refused to sleep so that those doubts wouldn't' be flaunted in his face, and tried to make her understand.

"I don't understand why we cannot simply be together," Raoul replied, "I'm not pressing for marriage right now." Of course he wasn't, what was the point of the marriage if his fiancé wouldn't go any closer than arm's distance from him. "I'm asking you to allow us to speak and spend our days like we used to. I miss hearing you laugh. Can we not still be friends while we wait?"

He missed a lot of things: her laugh, her smile, her voice. He missed her light.

Christine quieted. She shook her head and in a soft voice replied, "Things aren't like they used to be, Raoul. We cannot go back to being children."

Those words were like a slap to his face. He knew they weren't children any longer, knew that they had changed. But it felt as though she had changed without him; she had changed and simply discarded her past. No more reminiscing together – without that… he felt stricken. Their past had bound them closely together. He thought that their trial with the ghost would have had the same effect, but instead, it had created a rift between them. Without their past, what else was there?

She was right, they had changed. He almost couldn't recognize this woman who stood in front of him. Where was the woman who sang her everlasting love for him? Who promised to share one love, one lifetime?

Raoul wasn't naïve enough to believe that things would have just fallen into place after they left the opera house and that man, but he had thought that after that ordeal, they would be able to overcome anything, everything. Sure, they were different people now. She had become a different person entirely, but if anything were to remain of her old self, he thought that she would still loved him

"Do you," Raoul hesitated to say the words. It was for the best though. He loved Christine still. Loved her enough to selfishly want her by his side always but also unfortunately enough to let her leave if she truly were miserable, and wasn't that what she was right now? She hardly spoke, hardly ate, hardly did anything but stare off into space, "do you wish to cancel the engagement?"

At least she looked conflicted. Christine stared at the ring Raoul had given her. Slowly taking it off, she finally approached him, closer than she had dared to come in almost two weeks.

Raoul found it ironic that it would be in a moment when she was ripping out his heart.

She smiled ruefully, "I love you, Raoul."

He laughed harshly at that, couldn't help but do so as he took the ring from her. She had made as little contact as possible.

"Can we simply be engaged to be engaged?"

Staring at her in shock, Raoul couldn't believe this woman. Engaged to be engaged? It sounded as good as an idea as the 'secret engagement' had turned out to be. Still, he found himself nodding. Hope. That was what she was giving him. She took everything of herself away, withdrawn from him. Yet, she still gave him hope that there could be something more.

"Would you like for me to stay with Meg instead?" Christine asked.

It took a second for him to respond, but Raoul shook his head. "This is your home, too, Christine." He tried smiling, but it came out as more of a grimace, "You can stay here as long as you wish."

"Thank you." She looked relieved.

He remembered a time when that thank you would have been accompanied by a simple touch to his arm. Even that small touch, he was denied.

He could wait. The love he had for her didn't burn as brightly with all the pain and suffering they had gone through; it flickered and wavered nowadays, but it still burned. He didn't want to, but he would wait. Wait even longer than was normal because she wasn't ready.

He was tired of fighting any way, but now – he looked at his Little Lotte – now, he almost couldn't bear the sight of her. Their engaged to be engaged promise settled bitterly in his chest.

This would be the first time, but this time, he chose to walk away from her and leave the conversation.

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End Chapter 01

Word count: 1,483

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

Chapter review: What the hell is Raoul's problem, being in love with her like that? She's only stringing him along (well, who knows what her motives are just yet, but dang). This makes me feel all kinds of bad for Raoul.

Author review: LOL, sorry, I know this is random, but I found it hilarious that in this story, Raoul can't forget when in Imaginary Friends it seems like that's the only thing he does consistently (forget, that is). This is a continuation of one of the Alphabet Game entries… can you guess which one. You'll know by next chapter.