Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Disclaimer: Please don't sue. I don't own *insert fandom name from above*... All I own is an overactive imagination.
Summary: Continuation to Imaginary Friends. Erik and Raoul are trying to make things work between them, but can they really just be friends?
Word Count: 4,437
A/N: It took a while, but here this is. I hate diverging so much from canon's plotline (as you well should notice), but seeing how the opera house is burned down already, there's little else I can do about that. So enjoy this rather big project (in my mind, it is).
Story note: Some points…
1) You should read Imaginary Friends before reading this or else you'll just miss a lot of the references and characterizations and you'll probably think Raoul's really insane instead of… endearing.
2) Expect the rating to go up (eventually). Since there was no smut in IF, you'll get it here.
3) It's filled with OC's (something I'm naturally wary of, but they're moving away from Opera Populaire life and I don't see why they'd want to socialize with those people anymore after everything's that's happened.)
4) There's an Alphabet Game insert in this story (a pretty damn promising one too); if you take a guess in a review (only one chance), I'll tell you if you're right (and then you can wait with bated breath for it to appear).
Now, if I didn't dissuade you with all that, here's the fic. Sorry (truly) and Thanks to all the people who've been waiting for this sequel (it's just five months late).
More Than Friends
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt
Chapter 01 – A Day Off
Raoul groaned, tugging the blankets closer to himself high enough to cover his face. The sun was already shining through the windows of his room. He cursed himself for forgetting to close the curtains the night before. A couple more hours seemed like a good plan; he didn't have anything pressing to attend to. Then maybe, he'd be ready to face the day.
You should probably wake up regardless, Erik suggested.
It's early. Raoul rolled onto his stomach, wrapping himself tighter into the blankets.
True, Erik admitted, but weren't you going to spend the day with Philippe today?
Raoul paused to think about that. His brother had been busy the weeks since Erik's return, which Raoul understood. Philippe had been focused only on him during the entire fiasco, and Raoul couldn't help but feel guilty that Philippe was now inundated with work. In fact, Erik had been busy as well. He was constantly out of the house, though he never mentioned what he was doing. And while Raoul did have his own work to keep him busy, frequently, he found himself with free time without anyone with whom to spend it. The Opera Populaire had been his biggest venture, and without that, he barely needed time to maintain his other businesses.
Since Philippe owned all the Chagny property, Raoul's own efforts at offering his support to maintain their lifestyle was rather superfluous. Philippe had always taken care of them, Raoul and his sisters. After their parents had died, instead of taking their inheritance, they'd willingly given it to Philippe to maintain. His brother had given each of them a stipend as well as providing them with food, clothing, and shelter.
His sisters no longer needed the help, having been married off to well-to-do men. To this day, Philippe checked on them every other month to make sure they were still happy and without any want. Raoul, on the other hand, still received that stipend, and not needing any use for it, spent it on charities, supporting the arts, and other business ventures he saw fit. He always believed that it was his duty to help uphold the Chagny name while Philippe was busy in ensuring their futures. Any money Raoul did earn ultimately went straight to the Chagny estate again, but he hadn't been able to imagine a life where he spent his days doing nothing. He'd been trying to emulate Philippe for so long it only seemed right for him to try his hand at business as well.
Raoul had never found anything that interested him though. He'd never truly invested his time and effort in a project like he had with the Opera Populaire.
But that had only been because of us, Erik commented.
Raoul rolled his eyes. You mean because of the other Erik. You were notably absent for a long while, remember?
I remember. He replied unapologetically, and Raoul knew without asking that he believed it was better when he wasn't around. They'd been having the same argument over his existence ever since Erik, the once opera ghost, moved into the house. Of course Raoul could see his side of the argument, he simply refused to accept the conclusion that he'd be left alone.
You're not alone anymore, Erik said, eavesdropping on Raoul's thoughts. He added, And it's not eavesdropping.
Raoul grinned for a brief moment before he answered, The other Erik's just a friend. Well, we're going to be friends… eventually. You and I on the other hand, are something else.
Erik gave a dramatic sigh, How many times have we gone over this? Make him something more than a friend then.
Raoul. You are attracted to him. You can't deny that. Erik said pointedly.
Raoul, stiff-lipped, replied, I think I can.
It was momentary and just a knee-jerk reaction to his proximity, Raoul continued to argue, and how can I possibly think of him in such a manner? He knew me as a child.
So? Erik pressed.
Erik scoffed, speechless for a second. You don't even believe that.
But I can argue it, and that's all that matters. Raoul stated.
You aren't four anymore, Raoul.
Can we please not talk about this right now? At least wait until I'm fully awake. Rolling onto his back, Raoul flung his arms out, unraveling the blanket from himself. He looked up at his ceiling and paused in confusion.
Why am I upside down on my bed? Raoul asked, not really expecting Erik to know the answer. He actually expected Erik to ignore his request and continue with their previous conversation; so, he was pleasantly surprised when Erik suggested, A nightmare?
Raoul frowned. I think we would've remembered a nightmare. At least, he was almost certain he would've remembered a nightmare that managed to make him move so that his head was where his feet should be. We don't move when we sleep, Erik. This is… unsettling.
Erik agreed but was surprisingly subdued about the whole affair besides parroting, Truly unsettling.
Shaking his head, Raoul pushed himself up and out of bed. What do you think we're going to do today?
I'm not sure. Do you think we will be free today as well? Erik managed to ask the question without provoking another argument; it was only because Raoul had gotten used to him referring to the opera ghost as 'we' that he didn't bring up his word choice.
Raoul shrugged, I hope. He hasn't even been telling me what he's been up to lately. He pouted, And you know that isn't very fair. He talks to Philippe all the time.
Jealous? Erik asked.
No, Raoul was quick to respond. Just curious. Let's not talk about that either. Breakfast, right?
You do realize that you talk about us constantly, Erik pointed out, and yet you're always telling me not to talk about him. I'm getting mixed signals.
Raoul refused to respond and Erik was quiet the whole trip to the breakfast nook; Raoul could still easily tell that he was smug. Quickly before entering the room, he remarked, It's just unfair that Philippe is closer to him is all.
After all, Erik's only your friend, right? Erik scoffed in Raoul's head. You hold the monopoly on him even while avoiding him at times.
"Good morning, brother," Raoul said a little too loudly while walking to the table. Philippe lowered the paper for a second before returning the greeting with a smile.
I do not avoid him, Raoul retorted.
He took a second to take in the scene before him. The breakfast area was small, more intimate than the dining room. The table was rectangular that could comfortably seat six; it was by a large window and was lit by the morning light. Food, an assortment of pastries and fruit, was already on the table with an empty plate waiting for him at a seat next to his brother. Philippe sat at his customary spot at the head of the table while Erik sat directly opposite him; each was reading the newspaper. It had already become their custom to do so since they'd all settled after Erik's return, but Raoul still had to smile.
Well, you don't treat him very well. Erik pointed out.
"Good morning, Erik," he said while sitting down.
I treat him exactly like I treat my brother. Erik scoffed and Raoul amended that statement, Well, maybe not exactly like my brother, but close. Don't I?
Erik folded the newspaper and placed it on the table beside him. He was wearing his mask; something both Philippe and Raoul had yet to be able to dissuade him from doing even though both of them had already seen his face. They'd only agreed to it in the beginning so that Erik could become accustomed to his surroundings and the servants would become accustomed to his presence. However, considering several weeks had already passed, they'd rather expected Erik to show up one morning without the mask.
"Good morning, Raoul," Erik said, not smiling but bowing his head slightly. "How was your rest?" he asked, and Raoul knew he had his entire attention even though Erik was seemingly focused on his breakfast. Erik never ate a bite of the food on his plate until he arrived. Raoul couldn't help but feel a little self-conscious when he'd first realized that, but he did have to admit, it was a little nice.
Of course he'd wait for you, Erik retorted.
Raoul ignored him and filled his plate with food. He wondered if he should tell the truth when answering Erik's question. "Actually, it was odd."
Philippe lowered his newspaper completely. "Odd?" He and Erik asked at the same time.
They shared a look before focusing on Raoul again. Philippe never trusted 'odd' when it came to his brother. Odd usually entailed losing large pieces of memory and then finding an opera ghost. Odd entailed being kidnapped by several people and having to chase him across the country. Odd was never good.
Rolling his eyes, Raoul spared Philippe only a glance before looking back at Erik. "I… moved in my sleep."
"You moved?" Erik asked, not quite understanding how that was notable. "Is that uncommon?"
"Raoul doesn't move when he sleeps. Well, he used to," Philippe said, eyes narrowing in memory, "that was, until after…"
"… until after I was kidnapped and returned," Raoul finished, already knowing that Philippe would falter.
"Yes," Philippe cleared his throat, trying to lighten the mood, "he used to fall out of bed all the time. For the longest time, our parents thought I didn't like him and gave him those bruises."
Erik grinned, seeing Raoul blush at the anecdote.
"He used to call out my name, too, which didn't help the situation," Philippe continued. He smirked when Raoul glared at him.
Raoul's first word when he'd been thrown in the carriage had been Philippe's name. Erik's grin faltered. He didn't understand why that thought had come to mind. He tried to focus on the present.
Clearing his throat, Raoul tried to end Philippe's tangent, "I'm sure it's nothing important. I slept well otherwise."
"That's good." Erik gladly accepted the continuation of their original conversation. As much as he wanted to hear more of Raoul's childhood, he wanted to do so without Philippe present at first, although he had a feeling he'd be able to hear all the really humorous stories from Raoul's brother.
"And you?" Raoul asked.
"How was your rest? Are you… are you comfortable here?" Raoul asked hesitantly. He generally avoided questions of how Erik was felt about staying at the Chagny estate, not wanting to seem like he was pressuring the older man. Some days he was just afraid that Erik would wake up one day and say to them that he was leaving.
Which is quite the unfounded fear, Erik replied.
I can't help it if I'm afraid he'll disappear. He doesn't have a reason to… Raoul could just sense Erik waiting for him to say the words that he would immediately argue against. So, he changed his statement, He's used to living without us. Blood doesn't tie us together and we've been separated a long time.
And yet he still remembered you. It was Erik's usual argument. Doesn't that mean anything to you?
It's not as though our relationship is normal.
You don't need to tell me that, Erik sulked.
Raoul already knew that Erik was getting impatient; he just didn't know why. It was true that he wasn't as comfortable around Erik as he was Philippe, but he thought that was understandable since he'd lived with Philippe his entire life. He barely knew where to begin with Erik now that they'd been reunited for an undetermined length of time. He was already mortified with how he'd greeted him when he'd returned; he was simply grateful that the whole experience hadn't been completely offputting to Erik.
Offputting is the furthest thing we'd been thinking, Erik noted.
I can't believe I hugged him.
We hugged you back if you recall.
Well, of course. Raoul nearly rolled his eyes. Hugging back is reflex.
Erik laughed loudly. I highly doubt we have that reflex.
"Raoul?" Erik tried to get his attention.
Philippe let the newspaper sag a bit so that he could watch their interaction. He gave a soundless sigh before returning to the same paragraph he'd been reading since Raoul had arrived for breakfast.
"Sorry, Erik," Raoul ducked his head, "I was a little distracted. You were saying?"
Erik tried to be gracious about it. He'd been coming to realize in the weeks they'd lived together that there was nothing he could do about losing Raoul's attention at random intervals in the day. It even happened to Philippe – though less than it happened to Erik, he'd noted with no small amount of annoyance. Raoul simply thought about whoever he thought about during those moments, much to Erik's chagrin.
"Well. I appreciate the accommodations that have been provided."
Philippe scoffed behind his newspaper. He didn't need to look over his newspaper to know that Erik was glaring at him.
He'd been keeping an eye on Erik just in case he tried anything with Raoul. Now in hindsight, he almost laughed at the thought. There was nothing to watch. Erik never tried to get Raoul alone and usually waited for Philippe to be in the same room before engaging in any sort of interaction with him. Philippe could almost swear that Erik spent more time with him than with his brother, and when Erik and Raoul were together, they were overly civil. In fact, Philippe had seen Raoul more familiar with complete strangers than he was with Erik.
He'd thought that after everything that had happened maybe things would get better. Admittedly, Raoul seemed well, better than he had been before Erik had come into their lives. It was just that when his brother and Erik were together, Philippe wanted to yell at them to resolve whatever was between them. He couldn't be the only who noticed it. The stagnation was starting to grate on his nerves.
They weren't friends. They weren't more than friends, maybe a little less than friends with the potential to be more, or old friends that were separated for a long time. They had a connection. Period. Philippe understood that. After all, it was that connection that had probably saved Raoul's life on more than once occasion, and while he wasn't pleased with its existence, he wasn't going to wish it away – not that he believed that would work.
He couldn't define what they were to each other, but he was certain that until they defined it, Erik and Raoul would continue their tentative interactions that they'd been doing so far and neither of them would truly be happy. Philippe was tired of Raoul being unhappy – he'd had more than his lifetime's quota of seeing his brother unhappy – and now that Erik was with them, he could only hope for the same happiness for him, too.
"Do you have work today?" Raoul asked, biting back his curiosity and ignoring the urge to ask Erik what it was he did when he left.
Erik's eyes flickered towards Philippe. "No. I was going to spend the day here."
"You're welcome to join us today," Philippe put down the paper. It wasn't as though he was reading.
Raoul couldn't help but smile, excited at the prospect. "What are we doing today, brother?"
"Something relaxing," Philippe replied, "Maybe just a walk on the grounds and a picnic outside. Unless you want to do something else?"
"No," Raoul glanced out the window. He could see a few clouds outside, but nothing that would ruin the beautiful day. "That sounds perfect. Who needs more excitement?" He laughed at his own joke.
Philippe gave him an indulgent smile even as his side gave a sympathetic twinge while Erik scowled at the memory of what had happened.
Seeing the expression, Philippe waved it off, "I need a break from all that. I'm too old for such things."
That set off Raoul into laughter. "You are not an old man, brother." He leaned over and grabbed food off Philippe's plate. "But if you don't eat more, you won't have enough energy to keep up with my youthful energy."
Philippe ruffled his hair affectionately, knowing that it would annoy him. Sure enough, Raoul quickly retreated to fix his hair. Philippe glanced at Erik and saw a look that he could almost call jealousy, but it wasn't quite. Yearning, perhaps? As soon as he'd seen it, Erik had recovered. He'd expected anger of some sort, but Erik had been proving him wrong time and again. Philippe often had to chastise himself for thinking so poorly of him; it was reflex though when concerning Raoul. It wasn't his fault that he was usually right when he considered the worse of the people around Raoul. He already knew he had to adjust his opinion of Erik though.
"A picnic it is then," Philippe repeated. He had been well aware of the fact that if they'd chosen to do something off the estate, Erik would refuse to accompany them. And Philippe was not about to wait for the resolution between them because he'd come to the conclusion that it would take a miracle before Erik or Raoul acted on their own. He was going to make them define what they were to each other so that he could finally relax.
This waiting was giving him undue stress.
After breakfast, they'd returned to their respective rooms to change into more appropriate clothing and to bring whatever they needed for the rest of the day.
They took a leisurely pace walking around the estate. Raoul and Philippe walking close together even though few words were shared while Erik lagged behind them. Raoul kept glancing backwards and any attempt at conversation Philippe tried went unnoticed.
So, once they were far enough from the main building, he just stopped walking before lying upon the grass and declaring, "I believe it is time for a nap."
"A nap?" Raoul looked at him incredulously, "We've just barely woken up. We just finished breakfast."
I think I love your brother. Erik randomly declared.
Ignoring the non sequitur, Raoul spared a moment to reply, I almost thought you'd finally run out of things to say.
Perish the thought.
"Food makes one sleepy," Philippe responded, shielding his eyes from the sun with his arms.
"You're going to get dirty," Raoul pointed out. "Grass and dirt all over your clothing."
"Which is why I changed into clothes with just that consideration in mind," Philippe spared Raoul a look that said 'I'm not moving.' "Take a seat Raoul. Nap, read, or talk to me. It's your choice. I just want to enjoy this beautiful day with you."
Raoul was about to complain some more when he saw Erik had already taken a seat on the grass behind him. He had a notebook of sorts out and was writing.
See, Erik said, we're even sitting down. You brought a book for a reason, right?
Raoul sighed and glanced at Erik curiously before giving in and sitting down rather gracelessly. "What would you like to speak about?" he asked Philippe. He grabbed several blades of grass before snapping them off.
Philippe grinned though he kept his eyes closed. "Whatever you see fit. We haven't been able to talk in a while; I just want to hear what you've been doing."
Raoul rolled his eyes but began to talk about his more recent business ventures.
Erik watched the brothers, his notebook laying forgotten on his lap. Raoul sat close to Philippe though he was sitting so that he could see both Philippe and Erik if he just turned his head. Erik knew it was his way of trying to keep him in the conversation. Raoul sat with his legs in front of him, both arms behind him supporting his weight. Philippe was sprawled out on the grass, and true to Raoul's warning had already dirtied his clothing. Erik was certain it was one of the reasons why he could tolerate the Chagny brothers. They were unlike anyone he'd ever met before in his life. Philippe pretended to act childish simply so that his brother would dote on him even though he was the one that often hovered around Raoul protectively. They were busy, yet made the effort to spend time with each other, made the effort to eat breakfast together. They were both relaxed and generous.
Too generous, Erik thought while looking around the estate. He didn't belong in this place. It was obvious to him already, but he was selfish. He knew it already. He was unwilling to leave Raoul again. Yet, at the same time, he was unwilling to get too close. He didn't think he'd be able to control himself. Raoul only looked at him as an old friend, maybe not even that. After that one hug upon his return, Raoul, though civil, hadn't shown any other reaction to his presence.
It was understandable. Erik wasn't expecting anything from him. Maybe he wanted more, maybe he wanted Raoul to feel comfortable around him, but he held those hopes with a fair amount of skepticism. Whatever Raoul wanted, Erik told himself, he would accept. With one exception: Erik refused to let Raoul push him away completely.
Turning his attention back to his notebook, Erik continued his work. His mind had been filled with ideas. Not having to worry about surviving or worrying about Raoul – though it was more like trying to keep Raoul from filling his every thought – gave him time to focus on all the designs and inspiration he had.
So caught up in his work, Erik only realized that Raoul was staring at him when he noted the silence. He looked up to see Raoul giving him a hopeful look. He leaned backwards far enough to see Philippe, who to his estimation had fallen asleep.
"Yes, Raoul?" Erik asked indulgently, straightening again.
Raoul shifted closer to him. He pouted. "Philippe fell asleep."
"I'm sure he was interested in the new bakery you helped open," Erik said, "but he's just tired from working so hard."
"You were listening?" Raoul smiled. He'd been certain that Erik was too busy working to hear what he'd been saying.
"Of course." Of course. They replied at the same time. Raoul's smile almost faltered. Almost, but somehow, the fact that they both responded simultaneously made him a little more happy.
Erik decided that Raoul looked too pleased. "I…" He wasn't certain he liked Raoul's full attention on him like this. "I can multi-task, Raoul," he tried for flippant but ended up sounding almost derisive. Raoul didn't seem to react poorly though.
In fact, Raoul was too close, close enough to touch, to smell. All Erik had to do was reach out and pull him closer. He had a feeling that if he did, Raoul would only continue to look at him with guileless albeit confused eyes and let him lead him. Erik could already imagine the gentle warmth and soft skin beneath his fingers, the wisps of hair that would brush against the back of his hand. He'd be able to press a gentle kiss on Raoul's lips once more, and Raoul would allow it, only to ask afterwards what he was doing – not accusatorily or angrily though, just confused – while Erik still had his hand upon his cheek.
His grip tightened on his notebook. He'd betrayed Raoul one too many times already though. He refused to do so again, so he forced himself to remain still as Raoul moved even closer.
"I've been meaning to ask," Raoul started, "What have you been doing these past weeks?"
Erik cleared his throat and tried to control his physical reaction to Raoul's proximity. It was a losing battle. "I did not wish to impose upon you."
Raoul interrupted unapologetically, "You'd never be an imposition, Erik. I-we want you here."
Erik bit his tongue to suppress the flood of emotion as well as the errant inappropriate thought at Raoul's statement. "Nevertheless," he steadied his voice, "I was in search of employment because while I do have a large sum of money, I desired to do more." He fought a grin when Raoul nodded encouragingly. He glanced once more behind Raoul to his brother, "Philippe offered me a position as an architect on a project he's been working on."
"So you work with Philippe?" Raoul asked.
Jealous? Erik asked smugly.
"No. I work in conjunction with his manservant to communicate with the construction workers." Erik explained. He'd been uncertain of its efficacy when they first started, but Erik had to admit that he was able to keep an eye on the construction, have his wishes heard, and still remain hidden. It was a very effective arrangement.
"Oh," Raoul couldn't help but admit he felt a little better at the thought. "I'll let you keep working then," he said, lying down before Erik could say that he wouldn't mind speaking with him any longer. He was still closer to Erik than Philippe though.
Honestly, Raoul hadn't known what else to say to him. He'd been building up his courage just to ask that one question; besides inquiries on health and business, they rarely spoke to each other. Raoul was too afraid he'd say something stupid or manage to make him angry.
Coward. Erik accused, the annoyance clear in his voice. Just talk to us like you normally would.
What's there to say? Raoul said helplessly, Where do we even begin? Another apology, our past, what had happened? I don't know. I really don't.
You have to start somewhere. Erik encouraged, the annoyance completely gone. Just say whatever comes to mind.
Raoul still hesitated.
Trust me, Erik said earnestly. You do trust me, right?
"Erik." Raoul rolled to his side, pillowing his head on one arm. His heart was beating erratically. He couldn't believe he was going to do this, but Erik was right. It was time he started talking to him.
Erik glanced down at him before tensing at the sight. Raoul looked too inviting, and it ached not to be able to reach out and touch him. It took him a long moment before he could respond, "Yes?"
"Could you," Raoul worried his bottom lip, "I don't know, could I hear you sing again? I've been waiting a while just to remember you."
Nodding wordlessly, Erik had to turn away a moment to gather himself.
A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: What do you know, I kept the corny title. Was that enough Daw and fluff to offset the angst that's lurking under the surface? This domesticity and false calm can't last forever with Philippe and imaginary!Erik getting so impatient with them. :) Do I sense a team up in the future? (How?) But how did Erik not just ravish Raoul right there at the end?