Author's Note: I'm finally back with the very last update! I would just like to say thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed and generally supported this story!
A couple of people have asked me if I would consider writing a sequel. I'll certainly think about it, but if I do write a sequel it probably won't be for a good while, because there are other things which I would like to write now that I've finished this story. I would like to write another Phantom humour fic some time in the future, though, even if it isn't a sequel to "The Price of Fame."
Thanks again for your support and I hope you enjoy this final chapter.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
"The Price of Fame"
Chapter 23: The Wedding of the Year
The big day had finally arrived.
It was supposed to be the happiest day of Erik's life. He was marrying his beloved Christine, and he was going to marry her at the Madeleine, with his own wedding march being played on the organ, just like he had always dreamed. Today would be the day he finally realised his age-old ambition, the only ambition which had ever really mattered to him.
Unfortunately, the day had started on a distinctly unromantic note. Erik had shut himself up in Nadir's bathroom, where he was currently being sick.
Nadir hovered around outside the door. After a while, he decided it was safe to knock.
"Erik? Are you all right?"
There was a series of muffled grunting noises from within, and the door opened. Erik looked at Nadir sheepishly. His face was even paler than usual, and he was shaking.
"How are you feeling?" said Nadir.
"Sick to the stomach and terrified," said Erik despairingly. "Oh, Nadir, why do I have to feel ill today of all days?"
"It's just nerves," said Nadir reassuringly. "Don't worry. You'll be fine. But we haven't much time. You'd better get dressed."
Erik went into the guest bedroom, where his wedding suit was hanging in the wardrobe. It was black and rather plain, but that was only because he planned to wear a cloak over it. The cloak was made of silk, and it had a beautiful gold lining. Erik had had it specially made for the wedding. His cravat was also of a deep, shimmering gold, and there was a golden band around his sleek black top hat.
The most impressive item, however, was his wedding mask. It was impressive because it was invisible.
The non-existent mask was the main cause of Erik's nervousness, but going mask-less was something he wanted to do, simply to prove that he could. Unfortunately, when he had asked Nadir and Angel for their opinions regarding this matter, they hadn't exactly filled him with confidence. Nadir had asked him if he was sure he could cope without his mask in front of all the guests and journalists, while Angel had suggested he wear a diamond-studded prosthetic nose for the occasion.
When he had dressed, Erik looked into the full-length mirror. His clothes were beautiful, and the cloak fell flatteringly around his tall frame. The diet had paid off, and he was now noticeably slimmer, though nowhere near as thin as he had been back in 1881; he had no desire to look like a walking skeleton again. He was in good physical health; in fact, after spending a year travelling the world with Christine, he had never felt better. Sunshine and fresh air had been reintroduced into his life, and he felt their benefits more every day.
His face was as ugly as ever, of course.
There was a knock on the bedroom door. It was Nadir again, and he was dressed in his best man's suit.
"Are you nearly ready?"
"Yes," Erik replied uncertainly. "Do you think I look all right?"
"You're the handsomest Phantom I've ever seen," said Nadir with a smile.
Erik rolled his eyes. "Is that supposed to be a compliment, Daroga?"
"Certainly. I'm sure Christine will say exactly the same thing."
Erik smiled weakly. "And the mask?"
"You should wear it more often. It's so very…you."
"Thank you, Nadir," said Erik, squeezing his friend's hand. "You've made a hideous old monster feel a little better about himself."
"You're not hideous, Erik."
Erik laughed out loud. "Liar!"
They were finally ready to leave. But, inevitably, something held them up. This "something" looked just like Erik, but a little plumper, and it wore a smart black evening suit with a pink carnation pinned to one lapel. It burst into the room uninvited, humming cheerfully to itself.
Nadir looked at it sternly.
"Angel! What are you doing here? You're supposed to stay under the Opera until after the wedding!"
"I was lonely," said Angel. He looked at Erik with pleading eyes. "Oh, Erik, please can I come to the wedding? I'll be on my best behaviour!"
Erik and Nadir looked at each other. Then Erik sighed. "I'm sorry, Angel. But you told me yourself that you find it difficult to turn invisible these days…"
"I think it's because I've been out of my novel for so long," said Angel sadly. "I'm becoming more…solid, I suppose. But I'll stick to the shadows. No one will see me. I promise!"
"We can't take the chance," said Erik.
Angel's face fell. "Then can I at least go to London with you tonight?"
"London?" said Erik, momentarily confused.
"He means the film premiere," said Nadir.
"Oh." Erik had somehow managed to forget about the new Phantom movie amidst the preparations for the wedding.
"You don't have to go," said Nadir. "It is your wedding night. I'm sure they'd understand."
Erik sighed. "No, I should go. This is the most important thing to happen to my fandom in years."
"Even more important than your marriage?" Angel asked.
"Quite possibly," said Erik wistfully. "I really don't want to let my Phans down. Can you imagine what the papers would say if I didn't show up?"
"I can't believe you still care what the damned papers say," said Nadir disapprovingly. "After everything you've been through…"
"I care about my reputation," Erik retorted. "I fought the King of the Vampires to save it, and I'm not going to let a few tabloids ruin it just because I didn't go to a premiere."
"I could go in your place," said Angel hopefully.
Erik looked him up and down. "I don't think that's a very good idea, do you?"
"Why not? I've been pretending to be you for over a year."
"I know," said Erik. "And I'm very grateful to you, Angel. But the last time you appeared in public was months ago, when I was still away, before you…" Erik tailed off, not wishing to hurt Angel's feelings.
"Before I what?" said Angel suspiciously. "Before I got fat?"
"Well, you're not as slim as you used to be," said Erik carefully. "I suppose what I'm trying to say is: we look different, Angel. People might realise I'm using a double if we both make appearances on the same day."
"You could stick a pillow up your shirt," said Angel, sounding hurt.
"There is a way you could go to both the wedding and the premiere," said Nadir thoughtfully. "But you won't like it."
"Try me," said Angel.
"Go in disguise. You could pretend to be a Phan who's decided to go along in fancy dress."
Erik glared at Nadir. "This is my wedding, Nadir, not a Halloween party!"
"Well, judging by the guest list, it very easily could be," Nadir laughed, then, noticing Erik's glare, added: "No offence meant, of course."
"Pretend to be a Phan? Do you really think I'd sink so low?" Angel demanded.
"I don't know," said Nadir. "Would you?"
"Well…" said Angel thoughtfully. "Yes, actually, I think I would. Why didn't I think of this before? I'm a master of disguise, and I'm going out with a Phan, so it'll be easy! You're a genius, Nadir!"
"There's a mask in the wardrobe," said Nadir. "I think you should put it on. It wouldn't do for you to look too realistic."
"This is so exciting!" said Angel, who had cheered up considerably. He opened the wardrobe door and began to search for the mask.
While Angel was distracted, Erik whispered into Nadir's ear.
"What do you think you're doing? This could end in disaster, and you know it!"
"Oh, come on, Erik! Be reasonable!" Nadir hissed back. "He's desperate to go to the wedding! Let him have his fun. I think he's earned it after everything he's done for you. And you still haven't bought him that doughnut factory."
"Well, I have been rather busy this year…" Erik began.
"Yes," said Nadir. "Reclining beside swimming pools with Christine. Very stressful and time-consuming, I'm sure."
"Don't be sarcastic, Nadir," said Erik irritably. "I'm supposed to be the sarcastic one, not you."
"I just think this would show Angel that you appreciate him," said Nadir. "He's been a good friend to you."
Nadir had a point. Over the last year, Angel had been…well, an angel.
Not long after the departure of Erik and Christine, Angel had come up with an ingenious plan which would ensure that the Phantom of the Opera regained immediate possession of his underground lair without any interference from the Opera House managers.
The plan was this: he would crush them both with a very large and very sparkly chandelier.
Nadir, however, had objected to this plan. So Angel had come up with a new one, which was even more ingenious than the first. It was really very simple, and no one would have to get crushed by anything.
For the first time ever, the Phantom of the Opera would offer to pay the managers rent.
When Nadir had gone to make them this offer, the managers had at first been extremely perplexed. They had pointed out that Erik had a history of demanding money from them, and expressed suspicions that this might be some kind of trick.
Nadir had proceeded to explain that harbouring a famous Gothic monster in their cellar would not be such a bad thing when that monster was paying them outrageously large sums of money on a monthly basis.
As an example of an 'outrageously large sum of money,' Nadir wrote a figure on a piece of paper. The managers looked at it. It had quite a few zeros on the end.
The managers had then realised that they owed it to the Opera - no, to Art itself - to accept the Phantom's offer. Then, after Nadir had gone, they had spent a full half-hour dancing around the office making whooping noises.
Angel had then moved into the lair. Apart from redecorating Erik's bedroom with wallpaper printed with doughnuts, he had been on his best behaviour ever since. He had played his part wonderfully in public – he was, after all, a bit of an expert – and he had even put on some weight to make himself resemble Erik more closely. Poor Angel! How was he to know that Erik would return from his holiday looking so slim?
To return to the present moment…
Erik sighed. "I'm sorry, Nadir. I suppose I should give him a bit more credit."
"There!" said Angel, stepping away from the wardrobe. He had donned a white mask, a black fedora, and a black cape with a red silk lining. He did a twirl for the benefit of Erik and Nadir. "How do I look?"
"Like a horror film cliché," said Erik. "But you'll do."
"Do you think I'll make a convincing Phan?" said Angel. "I'm a bit worried about having to enthuse about the Phantom of the Opera in public."
"Well, why don't you try it now?" said Erik. "I'll give you my expert opinion."
"I love Phantom!" said Angel enthusiastically. "No, wait a minute: I love Phantom! No, I LOVE Phantom!!!!" He looked at Erik. "How was that?"
"Very good," said Erik. "Just add one more exclamation mark, and it'll be perfect."
Nadir looked at his watch. "We'd better go."
"I'll walk," said Angel. "It'll look very strange if Erik and I arrive together. I said I'd meet Hermione, anyway. Did I mention that I LOVE Phantom!!!!!?"
"Yes," groaned Nadir.
"Jolly good," said Angel.
A short time later, a black Rolls Royce drew up outside the Madeleine. Erik and Nadir got out, and were greeted by a row of flashing cameras.
The press had arrived. The Phans were lining the street. It was going to be the wedding of the year.
"The Phantom and Christine Get Hitched Without a Hitch"
From The Trivia Magazine, Monday, 6th December 2004
The marriage of the Phantom of the Opera and Christine Daaé would be a remarkable event whatever the circumstances. But the decision to hold the ceremony on the same day as the world premiere of the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical has raised many an eyebrow and thrown Erik's Phans into a phrenzy. Erik has steadfastly denied claims that the marriage is a spectacular publicity stunt, and insists that it is "merely an unfortunate coincidence" that the movie is premiering on his wedding night.
The critics can say what they like, for it is clear that Erik and Christine are deeply in love. After so many fights, break-ups and the occasional kidnapping, it is a miracle that the day of their marriage has finally arrived. Surely only true love can help a man and a woman overcome so many obstacles?
The ceremony took place this morning at the Madeleine church in central Paris. Phantom fans had congregated on the street outside, and some had even camped out over night to ensure they would get a good view of the comings and goings of the bride and groom.
The guests started to arrive at 10.30am. They were a fascinating bunch, all dressed in their finery. The Trivia spotted Frankenstein's "Frank" Monster, wearing an extra large suit and a golden bolt instead of a bow tie. He was followed by Raoul de Chagny, Christine's first husband. His arrival got a mixture of whistles, cheers and angry shouts of protest from the Phans, but the good-natured Raoul took it all in his stride. He was wearing a smart grey suit and his long hair was tied back with a matching silk ribbon.
Next to arrive was Professor Abraham Van Helsing, who was in the company of the lovely Ms. Cynthia Scoop of Inappropriate Action News. They were followed by a parade of V.I.Ps (Very Important Phans), who would be present inside the church. One of the male Phans had even decided to come dressed as his favourite Gothic hero!
Then came the moment the Phans had been waiting for. Erik arrived in a black Rolls Royce, and walked through the crowds with his best man, old friend and agent Nadir Khan, at his side. Erik's wedding suit was classic black with gold details; a beautiful cape with a golden lining trailed on the floor behind him like a monarch's robe. Surprisingly, he wore no mask. This caused some members of the crowd to utter loud gasps, but Erik did not seem to notice: he no doubt had more important things on his mind!
At last, the guests were invited to take their places in the church. The Madeleine had been tastefully decorated for the occasion with bouquets of white roses. Erik stood before the altar with Nadir. Suddenly, the church was filled with the sound of an organ playing the most incredible music. One of Erik's own compositions, the wedding march eludes description here. Let us just say that it provided a moving accompaniment to Christine Daaé's journey up the centre aisle.
Christine's wedding gown was a magnificent creation in white silk and lace, with a generous train. Her blonde hair fell loosely over her shoulders beneath her gauze wedding veil. In her hands she carried a bouquet of white roses. She took her place beside her husband-to-be, and the ceremony commenced.
The couple exchanged their vows with a touching sincerity and deep love which brought tears to this reporter's eyes. When the couple finally kissed, several Phans were sobbing.
Then, to the accompaniment of more of Erik's magnificent music, the couple left the church as Mr and Mrs Fantôme. They were showered with confetti at the doors, and Christine, laughing all the while, threw her bouquet into the crowd of Phans. A short fight broke out, but a young woman emerged triumphant, and kissed the aforementioned gentleman in the Phantom costume.
Finally, the newlyweds got into a white wedding car and drove off to attend their very first film premiere as a celebrity couple. Their commitment to their Phans on this their wedding day is admirable, and The Trivia would like to wish them a future filled with love and happiness.
It is a little known fact that Erik owns a private plane. He had purchased it several years earlier, when he was feeling particularly glamorous and rather reckless.
It was called César, after Erik's favourite equine Opera star, because it was white and very fast. The similarity ended there, of course: César the horse had not possessed wings, and César the aeroplane did not much care for sugar lumps.
César the plane was kept, at great expense, in a small private hanger at Charles de Gaulle Airport, on the outskirts of Paris.
Erik and Christine had used César to fly all over the world during their year-long vacation. But today, César was going to perform an even more important duty, which was to get the Phantom and his companions to London in time for the premiere.
In addition to Erik and Christine, the small party consisted of Nadir, Raoul, Angel and Hermione. Stepping into the aircraft hanger, the latter two stared at César with looks of astonishment.
"You've got your own plane?" cried Hermione. "That is so unspeakably, so amazingly, so unbelievably cool!"
"I love this century," said Angel, shaking his head in disbelief. "You can buy anything!"
"Except love," said Erik, his arm draped around Christine's shoulders.
Nadir rolled his eyes. Erik was clearly feeling at his most romantic, which meant that he kept coming out with sentimental, slightly cheesy remarks such as that one. It also meant that his eyes were filled with a warm, golden glow, and he had a big goofy grin on his face. In short, he looked adorable. Due to his ugly appearance, this was considerably hard to achieve, but somehow he managed it. Christine kept cuddling him, and Erik, of course, was immeasurably pleased by this. He kissed her for the hundredth time since they had both said "I do."
"Except love," Angel echoed thoughtfully. He glanced at Hermione. She beamed at him.
"I caught Christine's bouquet!" she said.
"I know, my dear," Angel sighed.
"You've told us numerous times," said Erik.
"I'd watch out if I were you, Angel," said Christine. "She's formulating big plans in that sneaky little Phangirl brain of hers. Believe me, I should know."
Hermione grinned at Angel again. The poor Phantom had gone rather pale.
"It's all right, my Angel, I don't expect you to propose to me," said Hermione. She paused, and smirked evilly. "Yet."
Angel grew even paler.
Hermione started to laugh.
"Oh, Angel! You should see your face! You look terrified!"
"You mean you were joking?" said Angel.
"Of course, silly!"
"Oh," said Angel. He felt a little disappointed. "That's all right, then."
They all boarded the plane. It had a pleasant interior, and featured comfortable leather seats.
Another little known fact is that Erik is an experienced pilot. Given his fear of heights, his friends thought this was rather odd. But it actually made perfect sense, at least to Erik: he liked to wield power over the things that frightened him, and when he was flying a plane, he knew he was the one in control.
Today, however, Christine had persuaded him to hire a pilot. She had argued that he would not be able to concentrate on his wedding day, and Erik had reluctantly agreed with her.
As soon as the plane left the ground, he found himself regretting it. His power gone, Erik sat rigid in his chair, his eyes staring straight ahead, his fingers digging into the leather of the seat. He was breathing heavily.
"Are you all right?" said Christine, looking at him worriedly.
"I'm…fine," Erik gasped. "Everything's fine." He paused for a moment. Then he wailed at the top of his voice: "I want to get off!"
Everyone in the cabin jumped, and turned to stare at him.
"Do you want another boiled sweet?" said Raoul's voice from the seat in front.
Erik shook his head. "No…thanks…"
Christine put her arm around the gasping, trembling Phantom.
"It's all right, sweetheart, we won't be up here long," she said gently. "Oh, Erik! Where did this come from? We've flown all over the place, and you were fine!"
"I don't have time to think about the height when I'm flying the plane myself," said Erik quietly. "I'm too busy concentrating…"
"Why are you so afraid of heights?" asked Angel.
"It's not so much heights, but a fear of falling from them," said Erik. "I'll tell you how it started, but it's going to sound silly."
"Tell us," said Christine. "We won't laugh."
"We promise," said Raoul.
"Well, it was the tenth anniversary of the musical in London," Erik began. "They'd invited me along to Her Majesty's Theatre for the special performance. It was the end of the show, and I'd had one or two glasses of champagne…Do I have to tell you this? It's rather embarrassing."
"Go on," said Christine.
"Well, there was this group of Phans in the audience, and they dared me to climb onto the angel statue during the speeches at the end. The statue is right at the top of the proscenium arch. I believe most actors wear safety harnesses while they're up there. Anyway, being in high spirits, I decided to do as they asked. I crept backstage and climbed up there without any trouble. One member of the creative team - I forget who - was making this rather nice speech congratulating everyone. I was just about to pop up out of the statue and shout "boo!" or something when I slipped…"
"Oh, dear," said Raoul. "Were you badly hurt?"
"No," said Erik, shuddering. "It was worse than that. You see, just before I slipped they'd wheeled this enormous tenth anniversary cake onto the stage and…well, let's just say it broke my fall. Splat, it went. The entire cast and creative team were covered with cake. It was such a nice cake, too. Fortunately it had an understudy waiting in the wings in case of emergencies. I apologised profusely and insisted on paying for the damage. Everyone thought it was hilariously funny. Except me, of course."
There was a pause. Erik glanced around at the faces of his companions. They all looked deadly serious.
"So you're saying," said Angel, "that the deeply ingrained psychological reason why you're afraid of heights is that you ruined Andrew Lloyd Webber's sponge cake?"
"Well, yes," said Erik, blushing. "Except I don't think it belonged to him exclusively. I believe Cameron Mackintosh had a share in it."
There was a pause.
Then everyone except Erik burst into fits of laughter.
"It's not funny!" Erik growled.
"Yes it is!" said Angel, wiping tears from his eyes.
"I tried to tell him how funny it was at the time," said Nadir, chuckling. "But he didn't believe me."
"Oh, Erik, you do take yourself far too seriously!" said Christine. "You should entertain us with your anecdotes more often!"
"Well," said Erik, a slight smile on his lips, "I suppose it is rather funny..." he was silent for a moment. "You know what's really strange? I don't feel so frightened anymore."
"Perhaps you just needed to talk about it," said Raoul insightfully.
"Perhaps I did," said Erik thoughtfully. "I just hope nothing like that happens tonight."
It was almost time for the premiere.
This momentous occasion was taking place at the Odeon Leicester Square. A large billboard on the front of the building bore a poster featuring the film's title and an image of the Phantom and Christine locked in an embrace. In front of the poster, a row of blazing torches informed the world at large that something exciting was happening.
There was a long red carpet leading up to the cinema's entrance, presumably to prevent the various celebrity invitees from getting lost. The long red carpet had hordes of people on either side of it, and they were very excited. Some of them were waving banners. They had slogans like "I Heart Erik" and "Where's the fedora?" printed on them. Fortunately for the film's stars and the numerous celebrity guests, the fans and Phans were kept in check by metal barriers which had been erected on either side of the carpet.
A white stretch limousine drew up at the foot of the red carpet. A chauffeur jumped out and opened one of the back doors. The Phantom of the Opera stepped out.
The crowd went wild.
Erik reached inside the car and took Christine's hand. He gave his wife an encouraging smile as she took her place beside him on the red carpet.
They both looked wonderful. Erik was wearing his traditional evening suit with the swallow-tailed coat, and Christine was dressed in a dark blue floor-length gown.
The crowd continued to go wild as Erik and Christine made their way towards the cinema entrance.
A few moments went by, and another limo drew up. Raoul got out.
The crowd went extremely wild and some onlookers began to ask Raoul for his autograph.
"Why is he getting so much attention?" said Erik, puzzled.
"I've no idea," said Christine, glancing over her shoulder. Several scraps of paper were being pushed into the viscount's hands. Someone shouted a name which Erik did not recognise.
"No, no!" Raoul laughed. "I'm sorry. I think there's been a misunderstanding. I'm Raoul de Chagny…"
"Oh, dear!" Christine giggled. "He's been mistaken for one of the stars!"
"The one who played Raoul."
"Oh," said Erik. "It makes sense, I suppose."
Erik and Christine signed a few autographs of their own; there was little chance of them being mistaken for the stars. Now that his true identity had been established, Raoul did not seem to have many fans. Erik felt a little sorry for him.
Behind him, Nadir, Angel and Hermione were being greeted with almost complete indifference. Nadir was relieved: he hated to invite unwanted attention. He was pleased when they got inside the cinema.
It took a while for the guests to take their seats. Erik, Christine and their companions waited in silence for the film to begin. Erik was feeling very nervous. It was always the same when he went to a premiere. He always found himself dreading what he would see.
What if this film gets my story completely wrong? He thought. Or, much worse: what if it gets it exactly right?
Christine saw that he was trembling, and placed her hand on top of his.
The introductory speeches came to an end. The lights dimmed.
On the cinema screen, a candle flickered into life.
"So," said Erik, when the film was at an end, "what did you all think of it?"
There was a short, embarrassing silence. The others looked at each other. None of them wanted to voice the first opinion. Finally, Christine managed to pluck up enough courage.
"I enjoyed it very much," she said. "It wasn't as good as the stage version, of course, but I thought it was very beautiful. I loved the costumes."
Erik smiled at her. Then he turned to Nadir.
The Daroga gave a little shrug. "It was all right."
"I'm sorry you weren't in it," said Christine sympathetically.
"That's all right," said Nadir, with a wistful smile. "I'm used to it."
"Angel?" said Erik.
Angel stroked his chin thoughtfully. "It was good, but there was something missing."
"Doughnuts?" suggested Christine.
Angel looked at her as if she was mad. "Of course not! Where would doughnuts fit into a plot like that?"
"Carlotta could've used them for earrings," said Nadir.
"No, no, no," said Angel. "There should've been subtitles so we could sing a long. A bit of audience participation is always fun!"
Erik chuckled, and then looked for the next opinion. "Hermione?"
Hermione was still staring at the empty screen, apparently hypnotised. She had a huge grin on her face. Angel nudged her gently.
"What?" she said, her eyes never leaving the screen.
"Erik would like to know what you thought of the film, my dear," said Angel.
"Oh!" said Hermione, apparently waking from her day-dream. "Do you really have to ask? I thought it was the greatest movie in the history of the universe!"
Erik shuddered. He had heard those words before. Christine gave him a reassuring smile.
"And what did you think of it, Erik?"
Erik shrugged. "It was…interesting. Not the best adaptation I've ever seen, but it was entertaining. Another edition to the amazingly varied collection of Phantom films, I suppose."
"That," said Nadir, "was an extremely diplomatic thing to say. I'm impressed."
"No, you misunderstand," said Erik. "I really did enjoy it. And you have to admit that the lair did look lovely. Deliciously over-the-top. I should very much like to meet the set designer."
The others stared at him.
"Are you feeling all right, Erik?" said Christine.
"I think I would like to purchase one of those bird-shaped beds…" Erik mused. He turned to look at Christine, who was staring at him worriedly. It was then that he burst out laughing.
"Oh, Christine! You look like you've seen a ghost!"
"Erik!" cried Christine. "That wasn't funny!"
"You really had us worried for a minute," said Nadir sternly.
Erik continued to laugh good-naturedly. Finally, he managed to pull himself together.
"Seriously, though, I rather enjoyed it. It had a certain…something."
In truth, Erik was deeply relieved. The film was not a masterpiece, but it was not a complete embarrassment, either. Of course, he could sing far better than the man who had played him, and his disfigurement was much worse in reality, but these flaws had created a sort of distancing effect. He had been able to enjoy the movie as if it was not about him at all.
Erik realised that the difference between Dracula's cinematic vision and the film he had just seen was this: Dracula had wanted to mock him for who he was, while this version had attempted to take him seriously. The movie's creators had got some things right and some things wrong, so that a rather pleasing balance had been struck. He knew that his Phans would see the inaccuracies, and continue to respect him for who he was.
Erik smiled and took his new wife by the hand. "Come on, let's get going before anyone invites us to the after-party."
"Aren't you going to ask me what I thought of it?" said Raoul, as they were leaving the cinema.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Raoul," said Erik. "What did you think of it?"
"I…" Raoul suddenly seemed lost for words. "I…"
The others stopped and turned to look at him. They immediately saw that the young man's face was wet with tears.
"What's the matter, Raoul?" said Christine.
"Nothing, it's just that…that was the most moving experience…of my life…" Raoul began to sob.
Erik and Christine exchanged glances.
"It was affecting in parts, but I really don't think it warrants this," said Erik, in a kind tone.
"No," said Raoul, looking up at them with a pair of sparkling blue eyes. "You don't understand! It's the first movie…where they've gotten my character…exactly right!"
Erik and Christine exchanged more glances.
"Er…" said Christine.
"Er…" said Erik.
"They managed to capture my heroism, my sweet nature, and my hair!" said Raoul, wiping his eyes and smiling delightedly. "It's as if they knew me personally!"
"Well, yes," said Christine. "He was a very…Raoulesque Raoul. What do you think, Erik?"
She gave the Phantom a gentle nudge.
"Oh!" said Erik. "Yes! Very Raoulish, I'm sure. Angel?"
"Extremely Raoully," Angel agreed uncertainly.
"As Raoul-like as a Raoul-like Raoul could possibly be Raoul-like," said Nadir.
Erik gave him a funny look. "Let's not go overboard, Daroga."
Raoul beamed at them. The movie had made him happier than he had felt in a long time.
Later that night, Erik and Christine were sitting in their hotel room in central London.
"Well," said Christine. "We finally did it!"
"Did what?" said Erik drowsily.
Christine raised an eyebrow. "We got married! Don't tell me you've forgotten already. It was only this morning!"
Erik laughed. "How could I forget, my darling? I just find it hard to believe, that's all."
Christine smiled. "I love you, Erik."
"I love you too, Christine."
There was a moment of silence.
"It's our wedding night."
"I know, Christine."
"We're in a hotel room."
"Your powers of observation are second to none, my love."
"Well..." Christine was blushing now. "I was just, you know, wondering…"
"Yes?" said Erik. "What?"
Christine decided to go for it. She took a deep breath.
"Do you mind if I call room service? I fancy the vegetarian pizza."
"An excellent idea!" said Erik. "As long as we can get fries, too."
Later, as Erik sat eating pizza in the company of his new wife, he thought it had been the most beautiful wedding day he could ever have hoped for.
Christine smiled at him lovingly. Erik could not believe his luck.