Quick (but VERY important!) A/N: I know that in the movie, the black and white parts take place in 1919. But for this version, those sequences are in the year 1900. Also, the tombstone from the movie has been altered a bit …the word "Mother" is not mentioned anywhere, and the year of Christine's death is 1876, not 1917.
EPILOGUE: Paris, 1900
"Will you make it in time?"
He pursed his lips as he stared out the window, frowning. "Yes," he told her softly, not meeting her eyes. "I give you my word."
Erik leaned forward and kissed the top of her head lightly, his hand pressing against her dark hair. He started out the door, casting one fleeting look back. His smile was gentle, but she sensed something else, some deeper, darker emotion that washed through his mind…his eyes were distracted, and she knew it was not of her he was thinking…
The Vicomte sent Madame Delauney and his butler away… 'to fetch the carriage,' he had said, his eyes still locked on the grave. Perhaps the butler would see through his excuse; the Madame undoubtedly would. The nurse had spent the last three years tending to him… She would not question his need to be alone for a few moments. Still, she glanced over her shoulder at the frail old man in the wheelchair as his form shrank into the distance.
Through the past years, the Vicomte de Chagny had become a bitter, desolate man, the last legs of his life's journey spent on his own. He had buried his third wife, Charlotte-Renee, two years ago, after cancer took her. Sabine had died in childbirth; their son Gustav had passed not long after. The Vicomte had no heirs, and he had come to the silent, inevitable conclusion that he would die alone. At least his brother Philippe had not proved to be so unfortunate…Raoul had eight nieces and nephews, seven of whom had children of their own.
The proud Chagny line would continue.
The long, weary years had robbed him of his dashing good looks; his skin, once smooth and ageless, now drooped lifelessly from his face, pot marked and creased. He had lost substantial use of his legs not even a year ago, and now he was confined to this wheeled chair, forced to hire a butler to help him get from place to place. The Vicomte sighed irritably.
Even when his legs were numb, his pride still ached.
At first, his eyes had not noticed the simple rose that lay against the tomb. But when he finally did see it, there had been no moment of elderly search for memory, no vague twinkling of de ja vu…. He had instantly understood the connection… Through the decades, he had always known the rival of his earlier years had not truly vanished. No, the Opera Ghost could not bare to die so unceremoniously as what was printed in the papers.
The Phantom lived on.
Raoul's eyes breezed across the cemetery, the wind fluttering the blanket that lay across his legs.
"One love, one lifetime…"
He cursed his failing sense of hearing… The Vicomte had often heard such songs whisper gently in his mind.
"…Save me from my solitude…"
Pausing hesitantly, Raoul's eyes drifted once again to the blood red rose with the ebony bow tied gracefully around its stem. Somehow he knew this was not a hallucination on his part…he was here, near enough to taunt him with presence and his angelic voice…
"Anywhere you go…"
He emerged as silently as he always had, stepping out from behind the granite tombstone of an angel. His gaze was not directed at Raoul; instead, he stared intently at a pale white rose in his hand, the black ribbon tied around the stem waving in the breeze. Slowly, he pulled off the petals, one by one, scattering them to the breeze. "Christine, that's all I ask of…"
Finally, he looked up.
"Good evening, Monsieur Vicomte."
Age had been kind to the Opera's ghost…irony in and of itself, Raoul thought bitterly. His jet black hair was tinted by only two long, distinctive streaks of silver, combed elegantly back to the nape of his neck. A dark patch of a beard lined the very tip of his chin, so small that it could merely pass for a shadow beneath his face. The only wrinkles that Raoul could see were the ones around his eyes…laugh lines! The Phantom had found constant pleasure in something, and the thought alone churned boiling rage within the Vicomte.
And his eyes…those haunting eyes remained the same. The burning aqua blue that pierced the darkness with their brilliance still shone out from beneath the mask, matchless in their captivation.
Raoul remained silent. What could he say to this hated (yet utterly feared) man who stood so steadfast and unnerved before him, this monster who had stolen his wife's soul? His hands clutched the sides of his wheelchair tightly. "You dare enter my presence on the anniversary of Christine's death?" the Vicomte whispered, his voice filled with a passionate loathing. "What else do you wish to rob me of, Phantom?" He spat the last word out venomously.
"Monsieur, it appears to me that the only thing you have remaining in your possession is your life," the man draped in shadows replied coldly. "…and if I wished to rob you of that, I can assure you I would have done so already." He plucked the last petal from the rose and held it in the palm of his hand, his eyes watching it intently. "And my name is Erik, if you don't mind." The snow white petal fell from his fingers, fluttering delicately to the ground. "I have not gone by 'Phantom' for quite some time now."
Erik trailed his gloved hand over his half-mask, which Raoul noticed for the first time was now a deep black instead of the flawless ashen shade it had been before. "What do you want of me?" the Vicomte asked softly.
Smiling slightly, mysteriously, Erik passed the long green stem in and out of his fingers. "How old was Christine when she died, Monsieur?" He turned to face him directly.
Raoul, caught off guard by the straightforwardness of the question, could think of no other answer. "Twenty-three."
Erik nodded slowly. "How did she die?"
"There was…an accident." A sudden hardness overtook Raoul's eyes. "An accident," he repeated softly.
A moment of uneasy silence passed between them before Erik spoke, taking a step towards the old man before him. "And at the funeral…" He walked a bit closer. "In the coffin…" The Vicomte edged away, leaning back in his chair, avoiding Erik's fiery stare. "Did she look as radiant as she did in life?" He was so close that Raoul felt his icy breath whisper past his cheek. Raoul looked up and saw the eyes that had haunted his dreams for over half his life. "Did she look like an angel?"
"There was no body," Raoul hissed, his breath quickened and short. "They never found her."
Erik backed away abruptly, his gaze now directed at the tombstone of the Countess de Chagny. "So I am to understand…" he murmured, not taking his eyes off the portrait of Christine that decorated the face of the large marble tomb. "…that there is no one in this grave?"
Raoul's eyes narrowed. "Yes," he whispered, his voice hushed and low. "It is an empty casket."
Erik touched his fingers to Christine's stone face, his gaze glassy and faraway. Raoul saw the dutiful, thoughtful tenderness in his touch, and he felt a stab of uncontrollable rage pierce his heart. Turning slowly, Erik once again stared into the Vicomte's eyes, and Raoul was shocked to see a single tear run gently down his uncovered cheek.
"Would you like to see where she is really buried?"
Erik pushed the Vicomte past the granite headstones in pensive silence. Raoul did not know why he was willing to go along with the obviously unbalanced man's story…he told himself it was to satisfy the man's delusions, to play along until he burst out laughing at the insanity of his plot. Truly, however, Raoul was interested in Erik's story…God knew he had had no adventures to speak of beyond the morning of Christine's death. Perhaps he wanted to fulfill one last notion of curiosity before it was too late.
They came to the edge of the cemetery, and Raoul instantly recognized it as the scene of their swordfight…and before him, the monumental Daaé tomb. Erik said nothing as he passed, wheeling the Vicomte to the side of the mausoleum. There, in the corner, was a small headstone, flowers scattered across the inscribed words. Erik stopped the wheelchair in front of the grave, allowing Raoul to look down upon the tombstone. Leaning down, he brushed away the rose petals, sweeping them off into the wind. For a moment, they both stared at the inscription, nameless as well as dateless…only a short poem.
"Holy Angel, in heaven blessed,
my spirit longs with thee to rest."
"She was a wonderful mother." Raoul looked up at Erik sharply, hardly believing his ears. "I never knew what to say, what to do. But Christine…" He smiled softly, gazing at the words. "She always knew." A light breeze blew at his cape, causing it to flutter in the wind.
Grasping the sides of his wheelchair, Raoul pushed himself up onto his feet unsteadily. "You are mad!" he shouted, his eyes wide. "Deranged! You created a lifetime with my wife in your mind! And you had children with her in your fantasy…?" He pointed at the grave with a trembling finger. "How much trouble did you go through to set up this little prop? I assure you, Phantom, it was not worth the effort! My wife may have fell victim to your schemes, but I have not." They watched each other, Raoul's chest heaving.
"Child," Erik murmured. The Vicomte stared at him. "We only had one child…not children." Erik began to walk away, heading towards the exiting gate of the cemetery, as Raoul gaped at his retreating back in astonishment. He stopped suddenly and turned back to the Vicomte.
"Just before she died, Christine asked me to tell you something…" Raoul narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "She said she forgives you for lying to her about my death."
With the infamous sweep of his long black cape, Erik left the Vicomte sitting by his wife's tomb.
He did not look back.
"I will, Christine."
"You're the only family she has…"
"We…will see each other… again…"
"…How can you be so sure, Christine?…Christine…?"
The carriage was waiting outside the gate, just as Erik had requested. A gloved hand waved to him from out the window. He ascended the stairs and stepped inside the buggy.
"Good evening, Papa."
Erik sat down opposite the girl with curly black locks as she skimmed over a small pamphlet in her pale hand. She smiled kindly from beneath a pale white mask. "I'm not late, am I?" he asked, eyebrows raised. He glanced out the window at the setting sun.
She smiled thoughtfully. "No, you're right on time, just as you promised." She slid over to the other side of the buggy, taking her seat next to Erik. "And you always keep your word."
Erik nodded vaguely, still watching the darkening sky. The girl laughed, her giggle light and gentle, the corners of her mouth turning upward. "You seem to get lost in your thoughts quite often these days, Papa." He turned back to her, mouth set in a firm line on his face. Her smile faltered, and she put her hand on his arm. "I miss her too," she whispered.
He glanced down at her as she settled against his shoulder. "You remind me so much of her, Angeline…" he murmured. "With your vivid love of life, and your voice…"
"You and Mama were wonderful teachers."
Erik smiled at this. "Mon ange, you are more like her than you will ever know. And even your appearance bares a striking resemblance…" He paused. "Except for your…"
"Eyes." Angeline looked up at him, sighing loudly but good-naturedly. "I know, Papa. I have your eyes." She looked back at him, the brilliant cerulean green reflected in his pupils.
Leaning back against the headrest, Erik closed his eyes meditatively. He watched through his eyelids as shadows passed through the window, the dimming light melting into a deep, vibrant red. He took comfort in the impending silence that took over the carriage.
"Angel of Music, hide no longer…"
His eyes snapped open. "Christine?" he murmured, rubbing the side of his face. Erik turned to Angeline, her gaze heartrending and filled with sympathy. "Yes, Angeline?" he said, hoping desperately she had not heard him cry out. Meeting her eyes, he knew at once she had.
"There's something I wanted to tell you."
Erik glanced at her, his eyes immediately drawn to the white mask that seemed to almost glow in the darkness. He drew his fingers over his own face musingly. "Yes, my dear?"
"You remember William, do you not?"
William…the name rang a bell. Yes, he was Angeline's friend at the Opera, the one she spoke so highly of. "Oh, Papa, you should hear him sing! His voice…it is amazing!" Erik raised an eyebrow at this, and Angeline laughed congenially. "Not nearly as good as yours, Papa…but then again, whose is?… And he dances too, Papa! Have I told you? Oh, it is like he is soaring on the wings of Heaven when he takes center stage…"
"He has asked for my hand…in marriage…"
Erik blinked. "Marriage?" His face betrayed no emotion, a skill he had learned early in life, but his mind was a storm of barraging thoughts. Angeline, married? My God, she was still a child!
"I would never do anything without your permission and blessing, Papa…but I do love him."
He turned to her slowly. There was frank sincerity in her voice, and Erik knew that she did indeed love this boy… He met her eyes, his lips giving the faintest trace of a smile. "Would he make you happy?"
Angeline took his hand and squeezed it lightly. "I know he would." Her eyes brightened. "He will be there tonight, Papa. You've met him before, but you could speak with him about it, if you would like…"
Erik looked out the window. "Yes…I would like that very much, my dear."
The old entrance of the Opera Populaire was barren of life, but the newly reconstructed wing was alive and thriving with people in extravagant gowns, talking lively with each other, laughing amongst themselves. The carriage pulled up along the steps, and Angeline stepped out. A young man with deep auburn hair drew near her, dressed in a suit of black and silver. He leaned down and placed a light, affectionate kiss on the corner of her lips, his golden mask brushing past her cheek. "William…" she began, taking his hand in her own. "I'd like to introduce you to my father. I know you've seen each other before, but…"
"It's an honor, sir," he said, reaching out to him through the open door of the carriage. Erik glanced at Angeline hesitantly. She nodded expectantly to him from behind William's back, and Erik shook his hand firmly. "I trust Angeline has told you of my intentions, sir. I can assure you that I will spare no expense for you daughter, should you allow us to be wed."
Erik gave Angeline another fleeting look before turning back to William. "My concern, Monsieur, is whether or not you are both certain that this is what you truly want…"
"Papa…" Angeline stepped forward, putting her hand over her father's. "Just this evening you told me how much I remind you of Mama. And from her choice in husbands, I would say she was an excellent judge of character." Erik swallowed with difficulty, his gaze turning to the ground. "I am asking you to trust my judgment. William would never hurt me." On queue, William placed a protective arm around Angeline's waist.
As Erik stared at them together, he was hit with an overwhelming sense of…peace. Not sadness, nor anger, nor loss. Just peace. He held out his hand to Angeline, and she took it, stepping off the sidewalk towards him. "I trust you," he murmured, lifting the white porcelain mask from her face and kissing her pale, smooth cheek softly.
"Thank you," she whispered, and he saw the tiniest hint of tears shining in her brilliantly blue-green eyes. She turned away from him, linking her arm in William's as they started towards the crowd. Suddenly she ran back, a wide grin on her face. "I almost forgot to tell you, Papa! The managers went through the opera you sent them, and they plan on performing it after their production of Faust!" Angeline smiled radiantly at him. "They still are in awe that you were able to recover an additional copy of Don Juan Triumphant after all these years…they told me the composer was killed over two decades ago." Erik said nothing, his eyes sparkling in the approaching moonlight. Angeline stepped away from the carriage, lifting her full skirts up around her ankles. "They look forward to your next addition."
Erik looked after her as she returned to the multitude of brightly dressed people that flooded the Opera's grand escaliar. He turned his eyes to William, who stood patiently at the foot of the stairs, watching as Angeline hurried towards him. She glanced over her shoulder and blew a kiss to Erik before taking William's awaiting hand. They stepped through the doors together, joining the rest of the guests in the annual Masquerade celebration. Erik's eyes followed them, and a gentle, caressing breeze blew through the window and murmured past his cheek. He turned to look out into the night sky, and for a moment, he thought he saw…
"I'm not so sure there will be another addition, mon ange," Erik whispered softly to Angeline, knowing she could not hear him. He sat back in the carriage, his eyes closed.
He did not open his eyes.
"I am here, my Angel," he whispered. "I am ready…she is ready."
A final sigh escaped his lips.
Perhaps now it was truly over…this music of the night.
FINAL A/N: It is over…no more surprises, no more unexpected updates. Thank you for any and all reviews…if you haven't given me your feedback yet over the past- what is it, two months?- please do so now. I am truly interested in knowing what you think I need to work on in my writing before I post my next phanphic (Kay based, plans already drawn out, debating titles…Desire Unlocks Its Door or The Joys of the Flesh). Anyways, enough blabbing on my part… Thank you, everyone!
You have truly made my night.