Title: 25
#: 4. 10 part 3
Author: Lucifer Rosemaunt

Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Pairing(s)
: ErikRaoul
Summary: Modern AU. Raoul's known Erik for almost the entirety of his life, or the one where a Chagny ends up changing Erik's life in one way or another.
Warning(s): modern AU (yeah, I guess this should be a warning)
Word Count
: 3,848
Rating: K+

A/N: This really was supposed to be only five chapters, but then this part totally got overblown. Also, this chapter shouldn't have taken half as much time as it did to edit. Fml.
Story note: Final chapter for this installment.

o.o.o.o

Ages:
Raoul, 10 yo
Philippe, 20 yo
Erik, 20 yo

o.o.o

Raoul turned to his side for only a moment before rolling over onto his stomach to press his face against a pillow that almost smelled like home. It would not be surprising if their mother had forced his brother and Erik to bring detergent from home. She worried, as always, about every aspect of their life, hygiene included. He briefly wondered if they ever got homesick but quickly discarded the thought. They were always so eager to leave for school, to get away. The smell only made Raoul miss the comfort of his own room even more.

The couch squeaked loudly beneath him as he shifted onto his back again. No matter what position he moved to, no matter how he turned, sleep eluded him. He knew he was tired, physically so at least; he simply could not stop from plaguing him the flood of thoughts about what had happened on campus. Something had changed just hours ago, and he wondered if that change was just some part of himself. Again. He had let his guard down and now had no idea how to go back to the way things were.

As he turned to his side once more, he kicked out furiously when his left foot refused to be freed from the blanket. It was unbearably hot, stifling even, in the darkness and he could feel tears of frustration gathering at the edge of his eyes when he could not even manage to do anything right, even something as simple as removing his leg from beneath a blanket. His jaw tensed, and giving up his struggle, he sat up in order to reach down to pull the blanket away by hand. Even then, he fumbled a good while, almost managing to fling himself off the couch in the process, before he tossed the blanket to the ground instead.

He stifled a shout that was building up within himself but still ended up breathing heavily from his struggle with the blanket. Leaning against the plush back of the couch, he pulled the neck of his t-shirt up to his nose and held his face between his hands, trying to calm himself down with the breathing exercises his mother had once thought him. He could only stand to sit like that for several minutes before he itched to move again, to scream and kick, and more urgently, to break something. Shaking his head at yet another failure, he sucked in a breath of air and held it, trying to quiet the violent energy simply by willing it to be so or maybe pass out from trying. He held his breath for as long as he could, until his lungs hurt and his stomach kept clenching, trying to get much needed oxygen. Only then did he breathe out. When the last of the air was exhaled, he slumped against the couch and curled into himself slightly. He only felt out of breath, not calmer.

Lifting his wrist up, he jammed the button on his watch and squinted as the green glow cut through the semi-darkness, flashing a steady 3:06 A.M. He could not even blame this bout of insomnia on the adrenaline from the near-fight on campus. That had run its course once they arrived back at the apartment. The walk back would have felt freeing had he not been acutely aware of all the carefully constructed walls that had taken an entire summer to build, crumbling down in one single encounter. This was not adrenaline. It felt a little more like dread.

He allowed himself to fall forward and curl up into as small a ball as he could manage, burying his face into the pillow there. Once he was settled, he let out a heavy sigh. The major problem was that even though he was afraid and worried, this change felt right. He felt better now than he had for months. He did not like avoiding Philippe and Erik, and the past summer had been miserable despite all the new people he had met. Then, to make matters worse, his brother had to go and look so pleased whenever he said anything or whenever he met his eyes or chose not to ignore him. His enthusiasm made Raoul feel even guiltier for how terrible a brother he had been. He had always hated disappointing Philippe.

Rolling off the couch, he made the extra effort of grabbing the blanket to toss it back onto his makeshift bed. Earlier, he had staunchly refused either of their rooms when they had offered. In terms of stubbornness though, they were all rather equally matched and Raoul had been forced to resort to ignoring them both as he started to pointedly get ready for bed in the living room. After all, neither of them would attempt to physically move him once he had lain down. There may have been a time before when it would not have been unexpected, but that was exactly why he could not stay in either of their rooms now. They had not argued any further and he was still not sure if he had wanted them to or not.

Since sleeping was a lost cause, he crept towards the kitchen, noting along the way that only the light in Erik's room was still on. He paused, trying to hear if Erik was moving around, but he could hear nothing but the steady hum of the refrigerator. He settled against the cabinets across from the appliance, and using his phone as a light, he perused the photos held against the door with gaudy magnets.

He smiled faintly, seeing how happy they had always been. Maybe if he was more careful, it could be like it once was. Maybe he could be around his brother and Erik like nothing was wrong. Things apparently changed constantly and Raoul only hoped that they could change into something he could handle.

He paused when he saw a photo of Erik, Philippe, and his sisters that he did not recognize. It was a barbecue in the backyard. He could even see the arm of his father at the grill; so, his mother had probably taken the photo, but he was not there. The sliver of betrayal that seemed to stab him in his chest was unavoidable. The date in the corner explained why he had been absent though. It had been taken in the summer.

Leaning back, he pressed his hand flat against the linoleum, smothering the light from his cell phone in the process. He shut his eyes and focused on the chill that was seeping through his pants. The cold was better than the unfounded resentment that was creeping in. He was not sure which one caused him to shiver, but he refused to move, refused to even pick up his cell phone again in fear that he would just find another photo revealing what he had been missing. It would be better to get back on that couch and lay there, but he could not seem to convince himself to move. The hum of the refrigerator was loud enough to block most of his thoughts and if he just stayed a little longer, maybe he could just stop thinking and worrying for a little while.

He did not know how long he had been sitting there. The light from his cell phone had long since turned off; the hum from the refrigerator had faded into the background. He was only reminded of the cold when a warm body pressed against his side and caused him to jolt out of the trance he had fallen into. It was Philippe joining him, and he automatically shifted, trying to make room for his brother who was too large to really fit comfortably on the floor beside him, but who was obviously determined to do so anyway. He did not make it very far and resigned himself to his brother's warmth being so near.

"I think you get that from Erik," Philippe said when he was finally settled. He stared forward at the refrigerator as he spoke though.

The only thing that came to Raoul's mind was sitting on the kitchen floor, but he was sure that was not what his brother was talking about. "What do I get from him?"

"The brooding." Philippe glanced at him before pointedly staring at the fridge again, as though he were afraid that if he looked at Raoul for longer than a moment, he would disappear or, more accurately, ignore him again. "Maybe it's from dad." He shrugged and he had that pensive look he got whenever he talked about their father. Raoul thought to reply but could think of nothing to say. Philippe seemed to shake himself out of his musings though, and leaning forward suddenly, he touched one of the photos, the past year's New Year's photo. Philippe and Erik had stayed over for the holidays and their mother had brought out some sparklers. They were all holding one, even their father, though he looked as stern as ever. "But the face you make reminds me more of Erik than him when you do."

Raoul just stared at him because Philippe seemed to lose himself in his thoughts again and he could not remember a time he had ever seen his brother so silent or pensive. He found he did not like it and scooted closer to him, offering what little support he could. He told himself that it was merely for warmth, not because a silent Philippe worried him.

"Couldn't sleep?" his brother asked eventually.

"I," Raoul floundered for what to stay, but he thought he came up with a good excuse. "I must've slept too much in the car."

"Really," Philippe commented, and though it was obvious he did not believe him, he did not call him out on it.

He shrugged, glad for the cover of night and hugged his knees to his chest. His brother was silent once more, but the warmth against his side was familiar and enough to convince him to tilt his head the small distance over to lean on Philippe's arm.

"You know," Philippe kept his voice low. "When you were younger, you followed me around all the time. I didn't mind. Well," he let out a breathy laugh and his shoulder lifted, jostling Raoul a bit. "I did at first. Only because Amelie and Mathilde never did that and I…" He smiled to himself and Raoul knew that he could just listen to him talk all night if his brother would let him. "I didn't know what to do. I mean, I was hardly the best role model like father wanted me to be."

Raoul immediately wanted to say that Philippe was the best role model, but to his dismay, even those words stuck in his throat.

"I tried to explain it to you this one time when you were two." Philippe looked down at him fondly, familiar lopsided smile and all. "I tried to tell you to stay with mom and you didn't listen to me at all. In fact, you started babbling at me before settling on yelling the word 'no.'" He paused and Raoul moved just far enough to watch him close his eyes and smile at the memory. "You said a lot at that age, not all of which I understood, but 'no,' by far, was the easiest to understand. And, then you just kept on babbling and following me." The smile disappeared and he whispered to himself, "Until you stopped." When he realized he was being watched, he gave a half-hearted quirk of his lips.

Raoul ducked his head again to avoid meeting Philippe's eyes even as he curled against him. He wanted to make him understand that he simply did not know what to say nor would he know how to say it if he did. The awkwardness there simply would not go away. It had never been easy for him to talk, not like it was for Philippe. His brother always knew the right words to say and when to say them.

Philippe must have remembered that fact as well because he continued.

"But I guess that is simply part of growing up," he commented and his mood shifted as he moved them away from the present and back into the past. "It's probably one of the benefits of our age difference." There was the wry humour there again and as Raoul let his voice wash over him, he relaxed.

Philippe continued, "I was old enough to not be annoyed by your presence when both Amelie and Mathilde were furious every time you tried to follow them and join whatever they might have been doing at the time. Really though, I was your only option. You probably wanted a male figure to look up to and Dad…" He paused again, staring intently at the refrigerator, "Father was away at work most of the time and you needed at least some time away from Mom even though you were always her favorite." He laughed to himself softly. "It's always the youngest who are the favorites, you know? And you clung to her so much more than Amelie or Mathilde did when they had been younger.

"They always said that I was your favorite though. That you wouldn't stop crying until I carried you or you wouldn't eat your food until I held the spoon and made train noises. Like, I could make the best train noises or something." He chuckled again. "Like I could make you sit still long enough to eat properly. You were hell as a kid, wanting everything your way and right now." He looked down again but Raoul refused to look up. Instead, Philippe lowered his head to press his lips almost imperceptibly against Raoul's head. "I always had to read your bedtime story because you supposedly would not allow anyone else to do it.

"Those were mostly lies of course. Mom was the one who did all the heavy lifting. Amelie and Mathilde only said that to get out of babysitting you. I didn't mind doing it of course; I actually grew to look forward to those moments because you were cute as a kid and maybe because you depended on me. I wanted to be someone you could depend on. But, if I think about it, Father even carried you the most on those family trips when everyone else was tired." He mused, "Father's always a little different when we're babies. He always seems different when we're at our most vulnerable."

"Amelie was always Dad's favorite," Raoul murmured, finally finding his voice. Family was safe. They were family and if he could not talk about family to Philippe, then what hope was there for him to talk about anything else.

In response, Philippe gave a surprised laugh that filled the small kitchen. It should have sounded too loud but the familiarity of it, the sheer amusement in it was more of a comfort. His arm moved slightly again as he laughed and Raoul shifted himself closer.

"She was," he eventually agreed, voice only softening as he continued, "She's also been much more affectionate towards him though. The most like him, too."

Raoul tried to stifle a snort, but his brother heard it anyway.

"What?" Philippe looked at him suspiciously.

Biting his lip, he considered not saying anything, but it felt as if his secrets and his thoughts would not harm them in this little kitchen in the pre-dawn. "She is not the most like him. You are."

His brother's lip curled up in a mix of denial, disgust and confusion. "I'll pretend you didn't say that."

Raoul grinned, shivering despite himself when Philippe pulled away to look at him. Hesitantly, his brother lifted his arm to put around his shoulder. He knew Philippe was waiting for him to react poorly, so he intentionally leaned heavily into his side. His brother smiled and pulled him closer.

"I don't know what happened with us this summer," he started and stopped when he felt Raoul tense. He only held Raoul closer though. "I don't want to pressure you or anything, but I'm here for you. There are some things I know you can't tell Mom." He added with a grin, "And definitely not Amelie or Mathilde." He sobered as he said, "But, I'm always here. Me an' Erik are, you know. No matter what happens, what you've done or not done. Anything at all. Do you understand?"

Raoul nodded but remained silent. There were some things that were unforgiveable. He knew that.

"No matter what," Philippe continued, seeing that Raoul considered talking to him. It was a step in the right direction, but he wanted to make sure his little brother understood just how important it was to trust him. "You're my brother. There is nothing I would not do for you. And you know listening, well, listening is one of the easiest things on that list." He tried to joke, "The hardest of course being hiding a body."

Raoul smiled to himself, and when he tugged his brother's arm around him more securely, Philippe took that as an agreement.

"Okay." He turned to kiss Raoul's head again before bracing himself. "Okay. Just, you have to do this one thing for me."

The younger Chagny looked up at him expectantly, willing to give Philippe anything when he used that tone because he sounded downright scared.

"Tell me one thing." He hesitated. "Did anyone hurt you or you know… do… something?"

Eyes widening, Raoul shook his head quickly, not believing that Philippe had jumped to that conclusion. If something like that had happened, he would have told someone. He paused; he hoped he would have told someone. He did not know, but he hoped he would never find out.

Philippe thunked his head back against the cabinet and squeezed him close. "Thank God." He cursed low under his breath. "I was so scared."

Raoul turned his face into Philippe's chest and listened to his heart beat for until it calmed. He eventually muttered against his shirt, near indecipherably. "I do want to tell you."

He understood him anyway. "But?"

"I don't know how," he admitted, and it was the truth. He did not know what to tell him.

Placing a hand on his head, Philippe suggested, "You wanna start from the beginning?"

There was a pause before Raoul said, "I don't think you'd understand."

"Could you try me at least?" he asked. "I may not always know the right words to say and I might not know firsthand what you might be going through, but there is one thing I am absolutely certain I know." He waited for Raoul to look up at him before he stated, "We are always stronger when we're with someone we love. We can take on the world."

Then, he waited. He waited for the words to sink in and Philippe had never felt so hopeful in the silence that followed than he did now.

Raoul took a deep breath and said, "You have to swear not to tell."

Holding his free hand up, Philippe replied, "I swear." He knew how important it was for his brother to hear the words themselves. "I swear that whatever you say to me will never leave my lips nor will it change how much I love you."

Nodding more to himself than Philippe, Raoul gathered his thoughts and started, "This summer…"

o.o.o

Raoul could not help but feel the desks at the university were much more interesting than the one's at the junior high, even though he had to occupy a second desk just for the sake of holding his textbook. He could hardly even lean on them if what Erik had said about them tilting after too much pressure. He also proceeded to tell Raoul of the time that Philippe had been hitting on a classmate and tried to oh-so-nonchalantly lean on the desktop before breaking it and making a fool of himself. That story had prompted Philippe to tell one about Erik ignoring a classmate who was hitting on him until she literally had to knock the book off his desk to get his attention.

They spent all morning exchanging stories and Raoul was happy just listening to them talk. The walk to the civil engineering building had been quite animated. Philippe had said it was the best place to study, especially since he knew too many people in the industrial engineering building to properly study. As they passed dozens of classrooms through a maze of halls just to get to Philippe's room, Erik muttered about horrible architects who thought this would be a good layout for a building. They both stopped muttering when Philippe swung the door open and proudly called it his 'humble abode.'

It was a small room, made even smaller by the overpopulation of desks. They had somehow fitting thirty desks in when even fifteen would have been tight. A wall of windows looked out into a small courtyard in the back, and even though a large tree covered much of the view, the sunlight still streamed through. His brother had claimed that it was the perfect spot because the room was hardly ever used for classes during the week and no one had ever bothered him while he was in there studying. Erik started saying something about unneeded privacy and the library under his breath, but Philippe cut him off with a look.

Philippe was currently perched on the teacher's desk, swinging his legs. He had offered to help Raoul with his math homework because of his promise to their mom, but Raoul was certain he did it in order to compete with Erik. Erik was no better though and they both managed to one-up each other at least once in the first two problems. However, when they reached the third question in the assignment, they got into an argument on how to solve the word problem about two ships sailing in different directions.

Raoul did not exactly know how the argument devolved, but Erik was now at the white board, drawing a rather good rendition of a naval ship while Philippe did nothing more than critique the line strokes, having been banned from writing on the board after he drew icebergs everywhere and tried to label the ship Titanic. When he was not complaining about the line strokes, he was quite persistent about Erik's abuse of the word velocity when he really meant speed. Erik had retorted with something that sounded like, 'You're abusing your face,' but it could not have been because he was too busy drawing a smaller ship that he claimed would be an exact replica of the Titanic so that Philippe would stop being ignorant of the difference between the two ships.

Raoul watched them, hand covering his mouth to hide his smile. He had not the heart to tell them he had already finished his homework. He actually did not think they would care.

o.o.o.o

End chapter 02 part 3

A/N: Don't forget to R/R (Read and Review)!
Chapter Review: Sorry. You don't find out why Raoul's acting like this right now. You'll find out in later chapters though. I promise. It'll come up again sooner or later, right?