A/N: Hey guys! Thanks so much for the feedback. On a related note, I did not realize that the FF default must be to disable anonymous reviews, which I think is just silly. Anyway, I fixed it and anonymous reviews are now possible and welcomed—I apologize to anyone who tried to give feedback and got that rude, "this person does not accept anonymous reviews" message. I hate that thing. :)

Anyway, this chapter is going to be a bit different from my normal ones; I'm going to shift perspective just slightly. I haven't left Christine out of a lot of scenes thus far, but there are a couple of scenes in this one that she needn't be part of but you guys obviously need to be privy to, so… POV shift will be implemented temporarily. This was just the only way I could explore this situation thoroughly enough, and next chapter everything will be snapped back to the normal/appropriate Erik and Christine Points of View.

FortunesFavour; You are totally right—Desmond would indeed be nifty to be stranded on an island with! Lol, glad you liked the reference! :) Sawyer was always my favorite, but Desmond was pretty darn awesome!

Fifteen: A Dharma initiative shirt? ? ? That is so cool! lol

Debkay: TOTALLY with you on the phantom angst thing—that's part of why I wrote this story. I understand that a certain level of angst is to be expected, but come on. Erik deserves a bit o' happy, and so do POTO phans. :) I'm glad you like the shadowing—I like to play on some essentials of the original story, even in my modern day setting, and I figured what better way than to use humor? :)

-o-

When Christine came creeping into her apartment the next morning, she was as careful as could be to be quiet and keep from waking Meg.

Since she and Erik had slept in until nearly 11, even Meg was already up, watching in amusement as she sat on the couch with a cup of coffee, watching Christine try to tiptoe into her bedroom.

"Young lady, where do you think you're going?"

Spinning around guiltily, Christine gave her friend a wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look. "You're awake," she said with forced brightness.

"Of course I am. My little girl is all grown up," she said, making an exaggerated pout.

Rolling her eyes, Christine said, "Don't get too far ahead of yourself, Mom."

"You totally spent the night with him. You don't just spend the night with guys you've been dating for a freaking day, Christine."

Giving in to the urge to be girly, Christine grinned and made her way over to plop down on the couch next to her best friend, sighing heavily and throwing herself back into the soft couch cushions. "I like him so much. I can't even comprehend or express why or how. I mean, by all rights, I should not be this comfortable around him, but… I don't know, it's just… it's so natural, like we were meant to… like we're supposed to be together, like we were fated by destiny to be that way or something."

"Ew, you're in love," Meg said, wrinkling her nose up, but amused all the same.

Shoving her friend lightly, Christine said, "I can't be in love, I haven't known him long enough. But… assuming nothing drags me off this path, I do imagine that's where I'll end up. I just wish I could somehow explain it to you so that it would make sense… it's like my feelings for Erik are a higher order or something, not so shallow as merely being in love. It's like our very souls were designed to complement each other."

Quirking her eyebrow, Meg said, "Hon, you can't spout shit like that and try to say you aren't in love. You totally slept with him."

"I did not sleep with him," Christine stated.

"You've lied to me before to try to protect him—don't lie to me about this. If my best friend finally gave it up, I deserve to know that."

"I didn't," she insisted, shaking her head. "It's not like that, Meg. It isn't just about sex. I mean, don't get me wrong, we flirt shamelessly and talk about sex as if we're the most experienced of lovers, but it's all play. I've certainly never been with anyone, and… well, according to Erik, his own experience is limited, although I don't know precisely how limited. He might have slept with this one bitch who dumped him the next day because he took off his mask, but I'm not sure. Either way, neither of us is exactly Don Juan, if you know what I mean."

"Are, you guys will be so cute, fumbling around in the dark together."

"Stop," Christine said, smiling nonetheless.

"So you really didn't have sex?"

"Really didn't have sex. We fell asleep watching this boring French film and then when you called we relocated to his bedroom just to be more comfortable, but I could barely coax a goodnight kiss out of him."

"Maybe he's gay," Meg offered.

"No, he's just a good teacher," Christine explained. "Plus, he isn't the affectionate type. That's hard to deal with. You know me; I'm affectionate even when I'm not dating a guy. Raoul and I weren't even dating and he loved to cuddle with me, even right out in public at the club. I'm not at all used to someone who stiffens every time I touch him."

"Well, in all fairness, Raoul is hot as hell and he doesn't have anything worth hiding under a mask. Being extremely attractive probably makes him a lot more confident."

"Erik's attractive," Christine argued sullenly.

"What you can see of him," Meg said practically. "Did he take the mask off? He wouldn't have slept in the damn thing, right?"

Shaking her head with a regretful sigh, Christine said, "He slept in the damn thing. Like I said, the last girl apparently ditched him the day after he let her see or something like that. Now he thinks I'll run screaming in horror when I see whatever he has hidden under there."

"What do you think it is?" Meg asked, making a delicate face. "I mean… if he makes such a fuss about it, it probably is pretty bad, right? Half of his face is decent, so why resort to such extreme measures to hide the other half?"

"I really wish I knew," Christine admitted. "I'm imagining it is bad, and I wish I could be prepared, that way in case it's… more awful than I can imagine, I'm prepared when he does open up to me. He's too sensitive about it; one wrong reaction and I could ruin everything."

"Should've looked while he was sleeping," Meg stated.

"No, that would be cheating. He'll show me when he's ready. Next time I get Meredith alone I might ask her if she thinks I need preparing."

"Great idea." She missed a beat, then she said, "So, now that you and the Naughty Professor have officially gone hot and heavy, am I ever going to get another weekend with you again?"

"Of course; I had to work last night and it was our first chance to do that."

"I know. I just want to make sure you're not going to be one of those girls that ditches her friends when she gets a boyfriend. I love you, so I'd hate to have to kick your ass."

"No ass-kicking will be required."

Meg paused again, assessing her friend, then she said, "He was asking about you last night."

"Prince William? I swear, the poor boy will never understand why I refuse to be his princess."

"I'm pretty sure he's perfectly content with Kate Middleton, but Raoul was more interested in finding out why you weren't around than attending to one of his little groupies."

"Well… Erik made it very clear that Raoul is a no-go; I can't hang out with him when Erik's not around, and I'm certainly not going to hang out with him with Erik around, so…"

"Well, I don't like that. Boyfriends shouldn't tell you who you're allowed to hang out with."

"It's not Erik's fault, it's mine for kissing Raoul and sort of using him to irk Erik. It wasn't very nice to me, but I think Machiavelli would have approved whole-heartedly."

"The end justified the means, huh? Well, I still don't like it. It's not like you'd ever cheat on Erik—you have your head so far up his ass that I already miss you."

"Hey! I do not. I'm allowed to be smitten—you're smitten all the time, don't I get a free pass just once?"

"All right, all right, you have a point," Meg allowed, rolling her eyes. "Still."

"Still nothing. Erik isn't keeping me from doing anything I want to do; Raoul and I aren't kids in a Wizard of Oz play anymore, Meg, we have nothing in common."

"All I'm saying is, Raoul isn't going to like it. For whatever reason, the guy still has a thing for you. It's like the worse you treat him, the more he likes you."

"Well, he will just have to get over that," Christine stated primly. "I finally have Erik, and I can assure you Raoul isn't going to be the downfall of that."

-o-

Raoul Chagny could not possibly explain why he couldn't leave Christine Daaé alone…

Well, no, that wasn't true. He had talked about her as extensively as he ever talked about women to his therapist, and together they had concluded that his growing attraction to Christine was not at all outside the realm of his personality; being extremely spoiled by absent parents with oversized bank accounts, Raoul could have pretty much anything that he wanted at any time that he wanted it. If his father said no—which was rare—then he would turn to his mother, who at times felt guilty for focusing more on her career than her children, and she would inevitably give him the okay. When he wrecked his new car three months after his 16th birthday, it had been no problem to get a replacement by the following week. When Tracy Chapman already had a date to prom junior year, no expense had been spared to change her mind, which he did with almost disappointing ease.

Getting what he wanted wasn't even fun anymore.

Unless the thing he wanted proved difficult to grasp. Even the thought of the very selective law school program—which at first had excited him, since getting into such a selective program would be a challenge—lost its appeal once he learned that his way was paved by his parents, and he was what you might call a "shoo in."

If you could have anything you wanted, where was the thrill? Where was the feeling of accomplishment once you held it in your arms?

Incidentally, he had gone through a fair amount of casual, incredibly short-lived relationships with social climbers who looked at Raoul and saw the Chagny name with starry eyes.

Those girls didn't interest him at all. They became, in a sense, interchangeable. Sometimes he would be talking to one of them on the phone—dutiful boyfriend duty—and completely forget which one she was. Was it Monica, or Jocelyn? Did it matter? Not really.

But there were some girls, the ones who weren't at all impressed by him, the ones that didn't know who he was, or the ones who were already interested in someone else, therefore not interested in him, that he enjoyed pursuing. He didn't think it made him a bad person, or spoke poorly of his character; as his therapist seemed to agree, it really made sense. He had learned to expect instant gratification, so only when that gratification was delayed did he stand up and take notice.

Christine Daaé was just such an example.

From the very start, he had felt like she was disinterested in him. There was no starry-eyed look on her face, no adoration, not even a particular partiality to him over, say, the sweater-vest-wearing geek that walked past them while they talked. At no point did she seem impressed, and she made a habit of completely blowing him off.

Not that he was a fool, of course. Despite her indifference toward him, she still agreed to come to the club with him, still let him kiss her, still seemed to like him… just not as much as he expected her to.

He liked that about her.

As masochistic as it seemed, the more she acted like she didn't care, the more he wanted her to care.

He liked the challenge.

Sure, he liked her, too; he would never waste his time if he didn't.

But it was the challenge she represented that kept reeling him back in when he would decide to call up a more amenable girl to go out with.

Why didn't she like him enough? Why wasn't she impressed?

It all seemed rather egotistical, he realized, so he never acknowledged it aloud outside of his therapist's office—not that he needed to see one of those, either, it was just something his mother had the whole family do for as long as he could remember. Since she didn't have time to keep tabs on her kids much of the time, she wanted someone else to make sure they were all right.

All of that, it seemed, was what convinced him that even after that disastrous movie date, it would be a good idea to "bump into her" after class on Monday with that Juliet girl from his German philosophy class. She was pretty, blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect figure, and she was smart, too, not that Christine would probably get to see that. Still, if Christine liked him enough to get jealous, it would mean all hope wasn't lost. On the other hand, if she appeared sincerely unconcerned, he might have to accept that he had simply lost that one and move on. They would still be friends, of course, so the future could hold any number of possibilities, but he was only interested in her, not obsessed.

Desperate, clingy people were obsessed.

Raoul Chagny was never that.

He would allow that it might be vaguely pathetic to actually wait outside of her music theory class, talking to that blonde girl, but he would forgive himself that little lapse, and no one else ever needed to know about it.

"I just think Heidegger is brilliant, I don't care what anyone says. I mean, I understand how some people could get distressed about his opinions concerning Hitler, but I think if you look at them within the context that he meant them…"

Raoul nodded, tuning her out as he spotted a small but steady flow of people out of the music theory classroom. Of course, as he watched each person, he saw that none of them were Christine.

She was always the last person out of the damn classroom.

"I mean, okay, I understand that being a Nazi—not such a good thing, but that doesn't mean…"

Good God, did that girl ever shut up? She had been yapping nonstop ever since they left class—and she was still talking about class.

"And another thing," she said passionately, while Raoul briefly smiled at her, wordlessly encouraging her to go on before he returned his attention back to the doorway.

For another minute—that felt like ten—no one else filed out of the room, and then, finally Christine came out, backing out of the doorway since she was turned around, talking to someone. Raoul smiled slightly at her dark bouncy curls—she really was so beautiful, and he truly, truly enjoyed her. If he could just manage to catch her, it would be perfect. She could be his girlfriend, and… she would hopefully not talk about German philosophers for hours on end, because that would be really great.

"Yeah, you know, Nazis… are people, too," he offered weakly.

"Sure, and, I mean, just because that was his personal decision in his personal life…"

Christine turned, briefly glancing in Raoul's direction, and for some reason he found himself ducking back a little, letting the back of Jill's head be the only thing she saw.

Wait, that hadn't been his plan.

But who was she talking to? He was supposed to casually bump into her, "Oh, hey, Christine, this is Julia," but… she wasn't supposed to be absorbed in conversation.

The man she was talking to closed the class room door, smiling slightly at whatever she was saying, and he realized it was her professor—that weird masked guy who always gave her a hard time and a bad grade on her papers. She hated that bastard, didn't she? Why was she talking to him? Maybe trying to soften him up so she didn't fail, he thought sympathetically.

Toning out the girl he was standing with, he listened as Christine said, "I knew that, too, that's what really kills me. I mean… I really knew that."

"I'm sure you did," the masked man said.

"I… I've never gotten such a terrible grade in my life," she stated, looking down at the paper she was clutching as they made their way out of the alcove and in the opposite direction down the hall.

Impulsively deciding to follow—she would lose the prof once they got to the end of the hall, and bumping into her farther away from her own classroom would look less planned anyway—Raoul motioned for Juliet to walk with him, making some murmured excuse about coffee as he more quietly told her to continue.

Following his lead, she lowered her voice as she continued to talk about… was she really talking about Nazis? Good lord, no wonder he had stopped listening.

"Yeah, sure, just misunderstood," he murmured, frowning a little at how fast Christine and the professor seemed to be walking.

Picking up his pace and tuning out his classmate yet again, he finally picked up on Christine's much lovelier tones again as she appealed to the man, "This is going to demolish my grade in your class; are you still willing to work something out with a do-over or extra credit or something?"

"We'll work something out," he agreed, nodding. Raoul couldn't see either of their faces, obviously, but he was finally close enough to hear them clearly over the droning beside him.

"Okay. When?"

"Well, I have some things to do right now, but perhaps we can work it out later when you come by my apartment."

Christine nodded mutely.

"I know you're busy with everything, but if you want to keep your grades up in my class, you are going to have to make some more time to work at it. I did warn you up front that I was a strict taskmaster."

"I know, I know, I was just… distracted that day."

"I know you were. Like I said, don't worry. You'll come over tonight, we'll get everything straightened out. Next time, just study more, ask questions if you have them… then you can avoid this situation."

Christine nodded again, then she said, "Thank you. I know you don't normally… give extra credit, and I—"

The professor cut her off, saying, "It isn't preferential treatment; this was my idea, remember?"

Christine's curls bounced, indicating another nod.

"Well, thanks anyway," she said.

That time he nodded, slowing down, and he said, "I have a faculty meeting, but I'll see you later. Is six o'clock okay, or should we wait until later?"

"I don't have a lot of homework; six is fine," Christine answered. Then, with a little smile, she said, "Hasta la vista."

"A tout à l'heure," he responded.

With that, she hoisted her bag on her shoulder and turned left at the stair well while the masked man continued down the hall, glancing back at her briefly before she disappeared down the stair well.

For a moment, once Christine descended the stairs, Raoul could only stand there, dumb-founded, eyebrows knit together in confusion.

What the hell…

Why would Christine be meeting the professor she didn't even like at his apartment, of all places? Raoul had met with professors in their offices, but you didn't meet with a professor in their apartment.

And that guy? The weird guy who wore a mask every day—who the hell wore masks unless they were in a hospital or at a costume party? Obviously the guy was a few cards short of a deck, but of course plenty of brilliant people were, so he was probably some damn Nobel Prize winner or something…

Letting that thought go, a new one slammed into his head.

Christine was getting horrible grades in the weird guy's class. Christine, a gorgeous young student of his, one with promise and intelligence, but sadly no family of any standing. She couldn't even afford to be at Columbia—was running herself ragged trying to make ends meet even as her tuition bills sent her spiraling into debt. The poor girl wasn't getting bad grades because she was stupid, but because she didn't have the time to invest…

Stopping himself, he irritably reminded himself it didn't matter why she was getting bad grades, but she was. That professor probably saw her struggling, saw her desperation to do well in school…

His "aha!" moment came when he laced together the sheer improbability of a beauty like Christine ever paying even a second glance to someone who looked like her professor if he wasn't in some position of authority over her, with Christine's desperate circumstances and their appointed meeting at his apartment later that evening for extra credit.

Aha!

He understood!

And it all made sense!

Christine was being taken advantage of!

Her grades were low and her professor was odd, so he saw an opportunity to offer his beautiful student a way out of the black hole her GPA was creeping into—his bed!

The bastard!

No wonder Christine seemed disinterested in Raoul—it wasn't that she didn't like him, but that she was dealing with a complicated situation concerning her teacher. Christine was such a good, kind girl, she would never want to say anything—she probably pitied the masked bastard, and he probably played right into that.

Oh, Christine.

The messes that poor girl got herself into.

The more he thought on it—as he and Chatty Cathy made their way down the same stair well Christine had disappeared into—the more it made sense. This wasn't the first time he had seen the masked man, not even the first time he had made a mental note of her odd behavior after seeing him. The one day when he had met her after class, she had seemed pleased to see him at first, but then she had looked back over her shoulder nervously toward the classroom, then she had hustled him out of the hallway. He had thought nothing of it, but what if it was because of her professor? Had he already been making advances on her—perhaps she knew he would be threatened if he thought Christine had a young, virile boyfriend waiting for her after class, and she feared her grades would suffer even more.

That wretch. That villain!

And then there was the night at the bar—hadn't he seen Christine go off course on her way to the bathroom when she had spotted her teacher at the bar? Had he been stalking her?

Good God, had Christine been terrorized by this mad man all semester?

Why wasn't he a better listener? She might have told him, confided in him. He could have swept in and saved her somehow—or spoken to his parents, who could speak to the board, at any rate—and he could have spared Christine the attentions of that miserable, perverted old man.

Poor Christine! No wonder she was so stressed out all the time.

Well, now that he knew what was going on, he would be damned if he sat by and watched the miserable excuse for a man continue to take advantage of his poor Christine.

Oh no.

He would protect Christine from that odious monster, or his name wasn't Raoul Chagny.

-o-

That evening, as Raoul and his friends sat around at the sports bar, eating cheese sticks and having a couple of beers, it occurred to Raoul that he might want to be sure before he went charging to Christine's rescue. He couldn't think of any other logical explanation for what he had witnessed—was quite sure that he understood what was going on—but before he set out to defend her honor, he wanted to be absolutely sure he wasn't misunderstanding everything and making an ass of himself.

He would call Christine, he decided. It was a little after four, and he knew she was meeting her teacher at six. Of course, she wouldn't know that he knew that, so if he called her and asked her to hang out around the same time, he could see what her explanation was. If she seemed uncomfortable and depending on what her response was, he would feel more certain. If she very casually said she had a date or something—although that was surely a stretch, as if Christine really wanted to have a paltry affair with a professor, she would certainly at least choose an attractive one—then he would know he had read the situation wrong, miracles apparently did happen, and she didn't need rescuing, just… perhaps some counseling to deal with the daddy issues that she obviously had…

That would be creepy, and not his problem.

But a lecherous teacher preying on an innocent young girl… well, that he couldn't stand for. Especially not when the young girl was Christine, and Raoul wanted her for himself.

That prick.

Extracting his phone from his pocket, Raoul whirled around on his stool and gestured to Conor that he was going to take a call outside. Conor nodded, and Raoul walked out of the noisy bar to make his phone call.

"Hello," Christine answered, sounding none too excited.

"Hey, Christine. It's Raoul."

"Yep, I got the memo," she answered. "How are you doing?"

"Great, great. How are you?"

"Same here," she said easily enough. "Just studying a lot, you know."

"Yeah, definitely. Hey, listen. I remembered you were talking about that movie you wanted to see, and it's playing tonight at 6:15. What do you say we go see it? We could even grab some dinner before or after if you want to."

"Oh…. Yeah, I can't, sorry."

"It doesn't have to be just the two of us," he added impulsively, knowing he had more success getting her to hang out in groups. "Meg and Conor could come with us. Even my friend Juliet from class, she mentioned she might like to see that one, too."

"It's nice that you're willing to suffer through a chick flick, really, but I just can't. I have to… study. Sorry."

"All by yourself?"

"Of course," she answered just a tad too quickly.

"Well, why don't I come over and help you study? We can buckle down and study hard together, then after we could catch a later showing or a bite to eat or something. We'll take Meg."

"No. No, I… prefer to study alone, thanks. Look, Raoul, I really have to go, I have a… the other line, it's beeping, or flashing, or… whatever. Anyway, thanks for the offer, bye!"

Before he had to worry about saying goodbye, she had already hung up the phone.

Well, there was his answer.

Obviously she was lying, but she had admitted she was 'studying.'

Sighing as he headed back into the bar, he contemplated how he would go about righting the situation for Christine.

-o-

The following day, as he headed into the emptying class room of some music-oriented class he had already forgotten the name of—chroma or chromatic something or other?—he squared his shoulders and stood tall as he stepped inside, turning to look at the figure seated at the front of the class. The man was still bent over his table, writing something down, and the masked side of his face was the side visible to Raoul. None of the students in that class lagged behind; the class had emptied in record time, and Raoul took another look at his opponent.

The man appeared to be tall, even sitting down, and quite thin. All he could see of his face at that angle was the mask, and for a moment, he got caught on that—why was he wearing a mask? Did he always wear a mask? Had he been injured or something and it was only temporary? Was he as odd as he seemed to Raoul?

Yes, he had to be.

A torturer of innocent young women should have a creepy appearance; it only seemed right.

Squaring his shoulders once more, he strolled directly over to Erik, his expression one of no-nonsense and righteous protectiveness.

Obviously no longer able to ignore the lingering presence in front of him, Erik drawled, "May I help you with something?"

It irked Raoul that he didn't even have the decency to look up at him when he was asking—the arrogant bastard. No wonder Christine hated this guy. He made you feel two inches tall and even less significant.

When Raoul remained silent—he would be damned if he would answer without even the courtesy of eye contact—Erik finally dropped the pen, sat back, and looked up.

For a split second, Raoul saw something else register on Erik's face—a look of distaste?—but then Erik's expression became condescendingly bland as he stated, "I don't recognize you from any of my classes."

"I'm not in any of your classes," Raoul returned. "I'm not a music major, I'm pre-law."

Erik looked briefly amused at the way Raoul felt compelled to reveal that entirely unnecessary piece of information.

"Congratulations," Erik said dryly. "Why are you in my classroom if you aren't one of my students?"

"A very good friend of mine is one of your students," Raoul stated, meeting Erik's gaze. Were his eyes gold? That was a little strange. A little… unsettling, too, and he suddenly wished he could break eye contact without it looking like he was backing down.

"Oh?" Erik responded, his face still completely clear of any expression, but his eyes still fastened to Raoul's.

Eyes beginning to burn, Raoul finally blinked, and when he did, he decided to look away. It wasn't a staring match, anyway, and the guy's eyes were really creepy.

The corner of Erik's lips twitched upward and unaccountably, Raoul felt a warm red tint creep up his neck.

Suddenly irritable, Raoul ground out, "I know what you're doing."

Even that hint of a smile disappeared and Erik merely gazed at Raoul mutely, as if to allow him to continue with his little speech or leave the room—he apparently didn't care either way.

"With Christine," Raoul specified, really wanting to get a reaction out of this guy. At first, it had just been about defending Christine, but he felt like the guy… looked down on him or something, and he just wanted to get a rise out of him, get a glimpse of fear in his gaze as he realized Raoul had figured out his game—he had been caught, and by the kid he was looking down his nose at.

Erik merely tilted his head very minutely to the side, as if trying to make sense of Raoul's spirited accusations.

Scowling a little, Raoul said, "I know that you're forcing her to…"

"Study?" Erik provided. "Yes, I am quite diabolical that way."

"I know you're forcing her to meet you at your apartment in exchange for fixing her grades," he blurted all at once, his eyes narrowing on Erik's still unresponsive face. He thought he saw a tick in Erik's jaw, but as soon as he refocused, it was gone, and he wasn't sure if it had happened or not.

"That's quite an accusation," Erik said calmly. "I certainly hope you have some kind of evidence to back up this ridiculous claim. But then… I'm sure you do, right, counselor?"

Was he mocking him? Was the bastard really mocking him when Raoul was telling him he knew he was making a student have sex with him?

"I was being nice coming to you," Raoul stated irritably. "I could have just gone to the Dean with this, but I…" Gesturing wordlessly at Erik's face, Raoul merely made a look of disgust directed at himself and he said, "I figured… I mean, obviously…"

Erik didn't say a word to help him along, and Raoul resented him for it.

"Obviously you don't have the pick of the litter, okay? And I understand that, and I felt… I empathized enough to warn you, but it doesn't make what you're doing all right, and it sure as hell doesn't mean I'm going to let you get away with it."

"So, you're warning me that you know of a fictional crime that I haven't committed… which I suppose is quite noble of you, in a certain light."

Was he still mocking him? After he had extended him the courtesy of a warning because he was some kind of pitiful freak in a mask who had to prey on innocent girls to get any attention from them at all?

Erik's expression was too clear—Raoul couldn't tell if he really was being mocked, or if he was taking everything too personally. After all, the teacher didn't even know him.

"What is the punishment for my fictional crime?"

"What?" Raoul asked, frowning.

"Well, I imagine—in light of you extending me the courtesy of this pity warning—that you have something in mind, some sort of… settlement, if you will. Some kind of compromise that I'm supposed to make if I want to keep my tracks covered."

He had to be mocking him.

"I don't want you to see Christine anymore," Raoul stated. "Outside of class, I mean. Obviously you still have to see her in class, but…you will be strictly professional, and you will make no attempts to see her outside of class, including her place of work. If I find out that you've broken this agreement, I'm going directly to the Dean with everything I know."

Leaning back in his chair as if he had never been more comfortable in his life, Erik gazed at Raoul speculatively. At first, Raoul assumed he was going to respond, agree to his terms or something, but Erik merely sat there, watching him with those odd golden eyes of his.

Just when Raoul was beginning to get extremely uncomfortable—he could swear he could see the man plotting ways to kill him and make it look like an accident—Erik gave him one more of those condescending smiles, clasping his hands together on the desk and looking up at Raoul, but not in a way that made Raoul feel like he was being looked up at.

"While it is quite heroic of you to try to save your friend from her lecherous professor, I'm afraid you have your facts all wrong, counselor. I do not trade grades for sex, even as pitiful and desperate as a masked man must be."

Again with the condescension.

"I also appreciate your humanity in feeling bad for me because of this," Erik added, gesturing toward his mask. "That being said, you're wrong, so it's probably best for everyone that you came to me instead of charging off to the Dean with these lies. Admirable, how you wish to defend your friend's honor. I'm not sure that she would be happy to hear about this; I am familiar with Miss Daaé, and quite frankly you do her a disservice to suggest that she possesses so little intelligence and talent that she has to resort to offering sex to pass a class."

The way Erik reworded everything and delivered it so scathingly made Raoul feel… foolish, and… sheepish.

Wait! That's what he was trying to do. Lead him off the trail.

"I know you made her meet up with you at your apartment last night, I overheard you two talking."

Smiling with exaggerated patience, Erik explained, "I've been giving Miss Daaé voice lessons at my apartment—while she was there, I gave her a few minutes to go over a portion of her test and correct her answers."

"At your apartment? You expect me to believe that? You could do it here at the school if it was something so innocent."

"We could, but when Miss Daaé first requested additional voice tutoring she had a different job and worked different hours; the school was not available when she was, so we met at the music room in my apartment. Now I believe her schedule has changed, but she's comfortable practicing in my music room and we saw no reason to change anything."

Raoul went over all of that in his head for a moment, then he said, "So… you're not having sex with her?"

"I'm not having sex with her," Erik reiterated, practically smirking, as if amused at Raoul's expense. "Not for grades or any other reason."

"Then why does she keep blowing me off?" Raoul blurted, then immediately turned red. That part wasn't supposed to be uttered, but the question was reverberating inside of his head.

Smiling ironically, Erik suggested, "Perhaps she doesn't like lawyers."

That irritated Raoul, but as he replayed Erik's sensible explanation back to himself again, he began to feel quite… embarrassed.

"So… I guess what you said makes sense. If I find out you're lying though, I'm not warning you again, I'm going straight to the Dean."

"I'm sure Miss Daaé will appreciate that immensely; who doesn't love to be the center of a fictional sexual harassment investigation? She could be a campus celebrity—renown not for her musical ability or academic record, but for being the alleged target of the music professor who was actually only giving her voice lessons. Your plan is foolproof, boy; I'll be sure to alert Miss Daaé to her own good friend's astuteness at our next lesson, or perhaps after class tomorrow."

"No," Raoul said, the word bursting forth. "If… if I was wrong about everything, I don't want her to know that I… She'd kill me."

"How unfortunate for your future clients," Erik murmured dryly. "You know, I can't help wondering where you got all of your evidence, counselor. Why, I'm sure Miss Daaé would be delighted to know that you're so dedicated to her that you follow her after class, eavesdropping on the conversations she has with her professors. I mean, some people might find that rather… odd behavior, but I'm sure being such a good friend of yours, Miss Daaé would be flattered, wouldn't you say? Some might feel threatened by what is otherwise deemed as stalking, but she would probably feel… protected."

The tale Erik was weaving, that inexplicably persuading tone of his voice… What was I thinking? Raoul asked himself. What had seemed like a fantastic idea and a necessity to defend Christine against a predator suddenly seemed like a… poorly thought out and clumsily executed disaster. He should have asked Christine, not charged at her professor the way that he had. He should have been completely sure about what he knew…

"You won't… really tell her about this, will you?" Raoul asked a bit nervously. "I mean… this was an honest mistake—and you can see where I'm coming from. If Christine was your friend and you thought she was being taken advantage of by some bastard…"

"I have a sister," Erik stated, "so I can relate to your brotherly protectiveness. That said, I would not attempt to ruin another man's career unless I was absolutely sure of myself, and you were not so careful."

"I wouldn't have ruined your career—I was warning you. I came to you about it, not anyone else. I realize this has been… probably pretty insulting for you to listen to, and I apologize for that, but…"

"I'll tell you what. If you will cease stalking Miss Daaé, I will consider not telling her about it. However, if I find that you've broken this agreement, I will go directly to Miss Daaé with everything I know."

Having his own words delivered back to him was a bitter pill to swallow, and by the small glint in Erik's eyes, Raoul would bet that Erik knew it.

Raoul nodded sullenly, not sure of what else he could do in the corner he had backed himself into.

"I would also point out that stalking is illegal, and if I have any reason to question Christine's safety, it's entirely possible that I might have to take a leaf out of your book and go charging directly at the authorities. I admit, I never went to law school, but I imagine a lawyer with a prior charge of stalking young women… well, he probably wouldn't be a very popular choice, now would he?"

Feeling his face flush, Raoul didn't bother responding. He was so humiliated, all he wanted to do was leave and forget the whole stupid idea had never occurred to him.

"I believe the legal jargon for this situation, counselor, would be… case dismissed?"

Clenching his jaw, Raoul nodded tersely and muttered one last half-hearted apology.

"Oh, and, Mr. Chagny," Erik said, getting to his feet as Raoul hastened for the door.

Raoul turned around, looking back at Erik sullenly.

"Next time you decide to beard a lion in his own den… don't."

Seething with both humiliation and indignation at being so thoroughly embarrassed, Raoul walked stiffly from the room, hoping he never had to lay eyes on Christine's music teacher ever again.

-o-

A/N: Before the few Raoul-friendly people yell, Raoul really did have good intentions. I was not intentionally making an ass of him… well, Erik was, but… Erik would. :)

Hope you enjoyed!