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: Let's Rewrite Our History Assumption #2: Growing up together. References to Imaginary Friends history.
Warning(s): pre-slash, not even, more like Erik+Raoul interactions. They're too young to even be anything remotely slash
Pairing(s): Erik+Raoul
Word Count: 3,365
Series: Let's Rewrite Our History (The series where anything is fair game, huge assumptions are made, and you simply have to accept them as fact.)

A/N: This turned out to be a lot sadder than I'd expected.
Story note: You're going to hate me for this one. I'm certain of it. Why? Because this is a small excerpt from a fic that won't be written (there are many of those piling up nowadays). If you want to know more about that fic, go visit my xanga (link in profile) because I'm sure I'll have a blurb about it there. Otherwise, put all preconceived notions about this fic aside.

o.o.o.o

Go Where I Cannot Follow
By: Lucifer Rosemaunt

o.o.o.o

They were home; well, the first place that Erik had ever considered home. And just like when he had first been convinced to stay with the Chagnys, Erik could not help but feel like an interloper. Odd as it seemed, he felt like one more so this past week than ever before.

He paused after exiting the carriage to watch just another procession in a long series of somber processions. He had experienced enough of them this past week to last him a lifetime. Servants were unloading the carriages, taking in the luggage through the servants' entrance of the cottage. Henri, the head butler, was already entering the cottage, harried in his need to ensure that the residence was well enough prepared for the family. What was left of the family. Philippe had requested his continued presence in the journey instead of going ahead as was customary and Henri had readily agreed. It meant that he was now shouting orders to anyone who crossed his path. Although they had sent word ahead, Erik knew he worried that it had not been enough time. It had been a spur of the moment decision.

Amelie and Mathilde followed at a more sedate pace. Hands clasped tightly together, both girls were focused on the dirt footpath rather than the hasty movements around them or even the vast change of scenery from city to seaside. Time to time, Amelie, the second eldest Chagny, would glance at Mathilde; whether it was to reassure herself or her younger sister was a mystery to Erik. Behind them, Philippe and Raoul walked hand in hand as well.

Following after them, Erik could not help but focus on the small back of the young boy who had taken his hand in that dark and dirty alley and simply led him away from a life of continual suffering. He knew it had not been that simple; Philippe had been quite the champion for him once Raoul had convinced him of his innocence in the kidnapping, but he was fairly certain it had been the young boy that managed to cinch their parents' decision to allow him to stay with them. He did not know the details and whenever he tried to ask, Raoul would only give him a bright smile and Philippe would roll his eyes.

The carnival felt like a memory from decades ago, but now that life as he had known it with the Chagnys had just ended, his time away from that nightmarish place felt all too short. Had it been less than a year since everything had changed? It must be. Raoul had just turned five, though there had not been much of a celebration, what with the funeral and flurry of legalities that had ensued. Those small shoulders were slumped as they had been since the funeral, the time when Erik assumed the idea finally settled that his parents were not going to somehow come back from the dead.

The doctor's announcement of their deaths had brought with it the certainty Erik should leave them. With his benefactors gone, he wished to avoid overstaying his welcome; after all, he would be nothing but a hindrance if he stayed longer. There was so much for the siblings to do and consider that he had no right to be a part of. Moreover, they should be able to mourn as they saw fit, without having to worry about an outsider among them.

Yet, then as in now, he could not bring himself to leave. Circumstances continued to arise that kept him in tow with the mourning siblings. He had been unable to get a word in edgewise when Philippe had started babbling about how they both needed to be stronger now to care for their family. Erik was not presumptuous enough to take the words to heart; the eldest Chagny was still under heavy stress. But, it meant something when all four of them had simply assumed that he would be moving with them for their sabbatical from life, a sabbatical from tragedy.

Philippe glanced down at his brother. Seeing his already unusually silent brother brooding, he suddenly spun him and would have completely unbalanced him if it weren't for the strong grip he had on Raoul's hand. After, he continued walking as though nothing had happened. Raoul looked up at him in confusion but continued his brooding soon after until a few steps later Philippe did it again. This time Raoul frowned at him as he steadied himself and rushed to catch up to his brother's speed. He didn't remove his hand from Philippe's though.

Making eye contact with him finally, Philippe was undeterred by the blatant frown. He spun him once again before grinning down at his younger brother and Raoul could not help but grin back. Once more with flourish, Philippe spun Raoul and the young boy let out a bright laugh, one that sounded so familiar yet so out of place that it hurt. His sisters turned to glance at him. Matching silent, sad smiles made Erik turn away from watching them.

Just before they entered the cottage, Philippe looked up and as though noticing the shoreline for the first time, declared, "We should go to the beach."

"Can we?" Raoul asked, eyes wide in surprise.

"Of course. That is why we have come," Philippe assured, smiling too widely to be natural. Ready to change directions, he paused and his sisters followed suit. "Amelie? Mathilde?"

The sisters shared a look before Amelie replied, "We are fatigued from the journey."

"We were hoping to rest for a bit," Mathilde explained.

For some reason unknown to Erik, the familiarity of the two girls finishing each other's thoughts was actually painful to hear right now. Only one year apart, they had always been close. Ever since their parents' illness, they had become even closer, inseparable really.

"Yes, yes," Philippe hastily agreed, annoyed at himself for not having thought of their welfare. "Are you not tired?" he asked Raoul, ready to drag him into the house. "Perhaps we should wait, so you may rest."

"I'm not tired," Raoul stated firmly, clearly displeased with his brother for even suggesting such a thing.

"Brother, Erik," Amelie interrupted before Philippe could begin insisting, "May we be excused to our rooms?"

Looking for confirmation, Philippe glanced at Erik, who reluctantly nodded. To his chagrin, the younger ones had been doing that lately, looking to both him and Philippe for guidance. He supposed it was only natural since he was the eldest amongst the five of them. It still caught him unawares every time though, and it annoyed him that Philippe was not correcting them of such incorrect behaviour.

"Yes. You may go." Philippe added sternly, "We will be taking dinner together though."

Erik watched the two girls disappear into the house and go upstairs. Even that was odd. They were never that sedate, not when they were together, not when their parents were not watching. Then again, their parents would never be watching them again. They would no longer be scolded for being un-ladylike when Raoul and Philippe played pranks on them or for when they reciprocated – and Erik had been both witness and victim to know well enough just how un-ladylike they could be. There would be no more lectures, no more stern glances. Erik suddenly missed the count and his wife more acutely than he had since their deaths.

Almost immediately after their departure, Henri appeared at the doorway. "You have several missives awaiting your attention, Comte."

Philippe hesitated at the title and Erik could tell his grip tightened slightly on Raoul when the younger boy looked up at Philippe with obvious concern. His voice was tight when he asked, "In the den, I presume?"

The butler flinched before he was able to school his features, belatedly realizing how affected Philippe would be to his newly acquired title. It was an effort to not apologize. Instead, he nodded mutely and moved aside so that they could head past the stairs, towards the back of the house.

Raoul started, "I thought…" He glanced over his shoulder towards the beach but stopped himself. Frowning, he stood up straighter and allowed Philippe to lead them to the den. The understanding that Philippe was no longer just brother but also benefactor was clear in his mind. He had been lectured by distant relations before Philippe or Erik had been able to stop them.

Erik hesitated by the stairs, wondering if he should follow the brothers or simply retire to his own room. He mentally paused at the thought that one of the rooms here was his room. Philippe made the effort to catch his eye and it was enough to convey that he should follow.

The den was clean in the way that was not from the neatness of use, but rather from the fact that the maid had dusted and aired it. Entering the room, Erik was almost certain the count was going to stride in after them, dole out their punishment, and give them that disappointed look he always had after one of Philippe's horrible ideas that both Raoul and Erik would inevitably become caught in. Although Erik did have to admit that after that first month, the impetus of their escapades was often evenly split between the two of them. Raoul was almost always caught simply because he followed them everywhere. Neither Philippe nor Erik ever really let him out of their sights by some unspoken agreement. A lot went unspoken between them though and Erik was beginning to wonder if that was normal at all, considering how little they saw eye to eye.

Gaze fixed on the mahogany desk, Philippe released Raoul's hand. He slowly made his way around, hand reverently trailing upon the smooth surface, but he could not quite bring himself to sit down in his father's chair. Releasing a shaky breath, he had to forcefully look away from the leather chair, gaze instead falling upon the missives, more legal papers. He shook his head suddenly, as though to clear his mind, to clear his eyes from unshed tears but when he looked up, he was barely able to keep himself composed. He met Erik's eyes then and did not bother to hide his distress, but remembering his brother, he took a fortifying breath. "I know we said that we would both handle these affairs." He looked rather relieved when his voice steadied, "But, perhaps I should look through them once while you care for Raoul and then we shall switch before conferring."

"I can play by myself," Raoul said, stubbornly lifting his chin.

"It is your family business," Erik argued, hands going up as though to ward off any responsibility. "I-"

"Let's not argue about this please," Philippe implored, his fatigue audible.

"I am fine on my own," Raoul stated and walked towards the door. Erik caught him before he had even taken two steps and forced him to turn back around to face Philippe. He placed his hands on Raoul's shoulders to keep him in place. Raoul pouted up at him before directing it at Philippe.

"It is your…" Erik started to argue again.

"Our. Our family," Philippe finished for him, "Father and Mother both thought of you as a son. You are our brother."

"He is not a brother," Raoul piped in. "He is Erik."

They both glanced down at him finally.

"He is family," Philippe amended, grinning faintly. Raoul had somehow gotten the idea that Philippe would be jealous by having Erik around; so, the youngest Chagny had always been adamant of the fact that Philippe would always be the only brother he ever had. Erik was family. Philippe looked at him and wondered how the 'Devil's child' had turned to friend, confidant, and Chagny in all but name.

Raoul nodded his approval.

"It is your inheritance," Erik said quickly before Philippe could interrupt him again. He could not be blunter, but even he knew such an argument was only an indication of how little excuses he had left.

"If you recall, you were not excluded," Philippe raised an eyebrow at him, "and the only reason it was a mere fraction is because they expected you to stay employed with us for a long time."

Erik supplied, "Working."

Philippe scoffed. "Only because you refused to remain with us if you weren't working."

Even Raoul gave him a look of disapproval at that, but Erik pressed on, "I will not accept charity." It was almost a relief to fall into this familiar argument. At the time that he had sought a way to repay them, he'd never truly had any intention of actually leaving, but Raoul had been rather unaware of that fact.

"We are a family." Philippe asserted, "Not a charity."

They stared at each other, daring the other to give in. They would have continued to do so for hours if it weren't for Raoul stating adamantly, "I do not wish to ever see the beach."

"Let us go, Raoul," Erik said immediately after, knowing that it had been a losing battle from the very beginning, possibly from the moment that Raoul had been thrown into his carriage by that gypsy.

There was no triumph in Philippe's expression and Erik almost felt badly for being difficult, remembering just why he had thought leaving was the best answer for them all. But, the elder Chagny gave him a grateful smile as he reluctantly took a seat, and though Erik was older by at least a year, Philippe looked older then, felt older. He had aged in the week that had passed, the burden almost too much for him to handle.

"Return in time for dinner," Philippe reminded him, "and we will discuss it then."

Erik gave a curt nod before grabbing Raoul's hand. He ignored his weak protest of "But I don't want to see the ocean." Raoul followed willingly enough, and the rest of the journey through the house and onto the sand was traversed with no more protests. The sound of waves filled the unsettled silence well enough, mirroring the underlying chaos that belied the quietude.

They were only halfway to the shoreline when Raoul tugged his hand free from Erik's. Erik tried not to think about how bereft he felt without the connection but when he looked to question what was wrong, he saw Raoul holding both his arms up, opening and closing his hands. "Carry me?"

Without hesitation, Erik lifted him up with ease. Raoul wrapped his arms around his neck and legs around his waist, clinging to him desperately. The young boy did not bother looking around; instead, he closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against Erik's neck, holding on as tightly as possible.

Erik could not help but notice just how much Raoul had grown. Not only in size of course, though Raoul had grown taller and heavier, but just a week of this silent Raoul who looked as though he had forgotten how to smile, who did not so much frown as he blankly stared ahead, brooding far too much for one his age was distressing and left Erik feeling frustratingly helpless. He knew Raoul still cried himself to sleep. It was impossible not to know since Raoul had taken to sneaking into his bedroom and burrowing as close as possible to him. His hugs then were as desperate as it was now, and Erik could not feel anything beyond the need to cling back. He had nearly run away from that household the very night Raoul had first come to him.

Philippe had cut himself off from his siblings the moment the news of their parents' deaths had come. The only one who had been able to speak to him and reason with him to eat and sleep had been Erik. It was no wonder to him; Raoul and Mathilde both looked so much like the countess. Amelie had not only her father's bearing but also his eyes. They were living reminders of who had died. It was just recently that Philippe was beginning to interact with them once more, very much to Erik's relief. The two sisters had turned to each other for solace, and they too had disappeared into their own sorrows. In a way, they were still so very distant but with Philippe's presence, they were once again spending time out of their rooms. And, Raoul had turned to him.

Erik still did not know how to respond to his need for comfort; he found himself falling back upon what had worked when they had been locked within the carriage, mostly singing since Raoul was not one for talking any longer. However, even singing hardly worked. The only thing Erik was left with was holding him close and not asking the obvious questions like 'are you hurt?' or 'what is wrong?' because he knew Raoul was going to hurt for a long time and nothing was going to be right for just as long if not longer.

All he really knew though was that they all had to be able to recover from this. He refused to let this family fall apart, and maybe that was why he had stayed even when he felt like a burden.

He closed his eyes for a moment when Raoul held on tighter. He had changed too, he guessed. Well, it was not a guess. He had changed, had good reason to because life had changed completely for him. Maybe the way the count and countess had treated him had only been gratitude for returning Raoul, but Erik allowed himself to believe that it was not so. For those few short months, he'd had parents who had refused to allow him to cover his face around them. They only allowed it if Erik was truly uncomfortable in doing so, and he found that he was never uncomfortable around them, any of the Chagnys. He had only worn the mask they had made especially for him in public and even then, it was only for the sake of avoiding questions not because of fear. Right now, that mask was buried somewhere amidst his clothes back in the main Chagny estate.

He had been well fed and well cared for, his wounds healed and memory of such degradation faded along with them. He had been tutored in all his interests as vast and as vague as he so desired. He had spent mornings painting in the garden with the countess, afternoons picnicking with the whole family, and evenings playing his own piano forte for their enjoyment. He had been given employment when he had asked – well, demanded. He had been reprimanded and chastised, and he had been spoiled enough to be able to hate them for times when he felt they were being unfair, but now, all he could remember was that he'd been loved.

They had given him a home. He owed everything to the Chagnys, to the boy in his arms. "Look," he whispered, voice rough.

Raoul pulled away from him slightly. They stood at the water's edge, the waves lapping at Erik's feet. The late afternoon sun hung low in the sky, creating a glittering pathway to the horizon. Diamonds and emeralds beckoned them forward to chase after a never-ending day where darkness and grief were easily cast aside by such luminescence, a place they would never reach just as they were now. Erik dug his feet into the sand as Raoul lifted a hand to block out the sun's glare.

"Erik?" Raoul said after a while, his hand clutching the collar of his shirt.

"Yes, Raoul?" Erik could not see his expression, but he heard more than he would have ever been able to see.

The young boy sniffled. His voice wavered as he asked, "The monsters can't get them now, can they?"

Erik turned into Raoul's shoulder to hide his face, to hide the sudden surge of emotion that he hadn't realized he'd been holding back all this time. It took several moments before he could work through the tightness in his throat. "No. No, they can't."

o.o.o.o

End ficlet

A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Fic Review: Awww. DX That's actually way too sad right now. Sorry for any mistakes, I couldn't read it any more times. D:

And yes, I gave Raoul's sisters names. I told you it was from a semi-planned story.