Author's Note: The only thing that belongs to me is the plot as well as my creations Maggie, Lucille, and Philip. Raoul, Erik, Christine, and Charles all belong to Leroux and/or Susan Kay.
Fathers and Sons
The sun was shining over the grassy slopes of an aged English estate. On the patio of the manor house, a withered old man sat in a wheeled chair, a thick wool blanket draped over his legs despite the fair weather. He brusquely dismissed his attending nurse who had been pleading with him to return to the security of his bedchamber; his health had been poor as of late but today he was feeling remarkably improved. He was fiercely determined to enjoy the beauty that nature had to offer while he still had the chance.
Although his sight had been failing, his hearing was still as sharp as it had been when he was a young man. He heard a carriage travel in the distance and approach the manor, its wheels in desperate need of a good lubrication. He shook his head and laughed to himself; he knew of only one man could be so brilliant and yet so neglectful of the basic aspects of life. The carriage stopped and he could hear the occupants descending and entering his home. Looking up at the sound of small footsteps approaching, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny smiled brightly as a small, curly-haired girl ran across the gardens and jumped into his lap.
"Grandpa!" she cried with delight as Raoul tenderly kissed her forehead and smoothed her rumpled curls.
"How have you been, ma petite?"
"I can read now! Mama taught me how to read from Mother Goose and I know all about London Bridge and about Mary, Mary! I can read everything all by myself except for a few parts but Mama helps me with that. Papa says that I'll be able to read the whole book soon if I try hard. Do you think I'll be able to do it, Grandpa?"
"I'm sure you'll do it, Maggie."
The toddler threw her arms around her grandfather's neck and kissed him on his cheek. He returned the kiss and she soon pulled away and settled herself more comfortably over Raoul's legs.
"Papa says that we'll be staying here with you now. Is that true? Mama says that it's because you like us to visit but I heard Papa tell Mama that London isn't safe for us anymore. Is he right? I hope that you like us to stay with you, though. I like playing in your gardens. Don't you like your gardens? I think that they're really pretty but Papa says that you don't come outside that much anymore. Is it because of your cough, Grandpa? Mama said that you sometimes are tired and that's why you stay in your room. I hope you're not tired though. Papa says that I'm not supposed to sit in your lap if you're tired. I really hope you're not tired. Mama says that I can't sit in Papa's lap either since he got his crutches and I like sitting in laps. Papa says that I'm not supposed to make you tired with all of my questions and Mama says that I talk too much. I don't think I talk too much. Do you think I talk too much, Grandpa?"
Laughing, Raoul leaned forward and kissed her forehead again. "No, my dear, I do not think that you talk too much. You talk no more than your father did at your age and you might remind him of that the next time he reprimands you."
"Perhaps I thought it in your best interests, Father, not to have her wear you out. She's a curious little one" a melodious voice called from the shadows of the manor.
Turning around as much as his chair would allow, Raoul reached out his arm in welcome to the young man who walked out of the shadows and into the garden. He came out slowly, supporting himself on two crutches, and slowly lowered himself into one of the chairs near his father.
"Maggie, perhaps you'd like to play in the rose garden for a bit? I'd very much like to talk to your grandfather alone for a moment." the man stated once he had caught his breath.
Kissing Raoul once more, the little girl ran out across the yard and into the mass of rosebushes that were planted on the far side of the house. The nurse took this opportunity to bring a cup of tea for the son and a cup of cordial for the father. Once the two were left alone, they turned to each other with weak smiles.
"My dear Charles…" Raoul began, looking at his son with dismay. While the man was still attractive, there was an undeniable change in his bearing. He had followed his father's military footsteps and entered His Majesty's Royal Navy when the war had begun. Only three weeks into his tour of duty, he had been horribly wounded so as to force him into immediate retirement; his legs had been badly injured but fortunately, the surgeons had been able to save them. While he would never walk normally again, he was expected to heal well enough to depend upon a cane rather than a chair or crutch.
"Father, don't look at me so!" Charles said with a laugh, interrupting Raoul's melancholy musings. "Believe me, it could've been worse and I'm happy to be home with Lucille and Maggie. At least I never have to worry about leaving them again."
"Charles, I'm so sorry that this happened…"
"Father, it is nothing. Really, I swear that I'm not upset. They say it's only a matter of time until I can use my legs well enough to manage and I've been doing quite well thus far. I'm much more concerned with how you are."
"I'm doing well enough, Charles. I have my bad spells at times but on days like today, all is well. It's so easy to forget here…"
Charles leaned back in his chair and nodded. "It is easy to forget…Father, thank you for letting us come. I know how exhausted you are and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it."
"For heaven's sake, Charles, if you cannot turn to your family at times like these, who can you turn to? And believe me when I say that I am more than thrilled to have the company."
Smirking, Charles motioned towards his daughter who was busy collecting the roses from the carefully tended garden. "You know that Little Maggie can be quite a handful at times…"
Raoul laughed heartily at this statement. "A handful just like you were perhaps? Is something needed to jog your memory, peut-etre?"
Turning serious, Charles' face darkened as he leaned forward and whispered harshly to his father. "I may have been a trial at times, but neither you nor Mother was in the condition that you are in now. Your physician said that you are to have rest and no further surprises in order to maintain your health and I do not want to jeopardize your well-being. You should be in bed."
"And I don't believe in living a life locked in a darkened bedchamber. I want to live as much as possible in the time that I have left. Don't you dare try to deny me my happiness in my last days." Raoul argued fiercely. He turned away from his son and focused on his granddaughter, who was now amusing herself by tossing small rocks in the small pond at the edge of the rose garden.
His expression softened and in an emotional tone, Raoul whispered to his son "That little girl is all the medicine I'll ever need at this point in my life, Charles. And whenever you think that you are being a burden by staying here, remember that you've brought me less worry by leaving the city and coming to the country where I know that you and your family will be safe. I came too close to losing you once and I don't care for it to happen again…"
Charles leaned forward and grasped his father's arm gently. "I know, Father. It's just that I don't want to lose you as well. Things are bad enough in the world now and I just…" he broke off.
Father and son looked at each other and silently reassured each other. They both turned and watched as Maggie innocently played with her flowers, completely oblivious to the tension and fear that the horrors of war had perpetrated. A few moments later Charles' wife, Lucille, came out onto the balcony and greeted both men with kisses. She was in every respect the proper English wife and despite the discomfort her nine-month pregnancy must have been causing her after the days of heavy traveling, she still looked as pleasant as on the day that she and Charles had been married.
She sat down at Raoul's invitation and graciously thanked him for allowing her family to stay at the estate. His eyes never leaving Maggie, Raoul simply replied "As I've already told your husband, your presence will do more for my health than any medicine a doctor could provide."
Despite his rapidly declining health, the next two months were among the happiest that Raoul had spent after she had died. Lucille had easily delivered a healthy baby boy, christened Philip after Raoul's late brother, and both mother and child were thriving.
The weather in their part of England had been exceptionally fair and Raoul found himself spending more days outside than he had even before his illness had set in. Charles had gradually managed to get around by using only one crutch and had begun to play with Maggie in the yard again while Raoul and Lucille looked on from the patio. And one day when Raoul's health seemed greatly improved, they all managed to go for a picnic on the grounds despite the protests from the hired nurse.
The day of their picnic was a truly happy day; Lucille, Charles, and Raoul each took turns looking after Philip while the others played with Maggie or rested in the shade of the apple trees under which they had settled their picnic. They played games, sang songs, and spend a glorious afternoon reminiscing of days past, all completely ignoring the war that was rapidly changing Britain and the world forever. Raoul had even left his wheelchair and had taken a short walk through the orchard with Charles and Maggie at his side. He had never felt a sense of fulfillment as he did now with his small but loving family surrounding him.
When he had returned home that evening, he had said his goodnights to everyone but stopped his son, whispering in his ear "I have never been as happy as I was today and I have you to thank for it." He kissed his son on the cheek and had gone quickly to bed. He slept more soundly than he had in weeks that night but when he awoke, he discovered that he was no longer in his bedchamber.
Opening his eyes, he was at first overcome by the brightness of the room in which he found himself. He shielded his eyes until he had become accustomed to the light level and began to look around for some indication as to where he might be. As if on queue, a voice spoke to him from behind.
"Hello, Monsieur le Vicomte. I hope that you are well."
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as Raoul turned in the direction of the voice. It was the voice that he would never be able to forget and had never expected to hear again.
Standing a few feet away was the Phantom of the Opera. He was dressed just as Raoul had remembered him; an evening suit and mask with fedora and cape still leant him the sinister air that he had possessed over thirty years ago. The Phantom walked closer to him and, to Raoul's amazement, offered his gloved hand in a polite gesture.
Dumbfounded, Raoul found himself returning the gesture and, after releasing his hand, the Phantom walked away from Raoul and sat on the ground, staring into nothingness.
"Excuse me, monsieur, but…"
"I suppose that you are wondering about where you are and why you are here." the Phantom interrupted in a curt voice. "Do yourself the favor of accepting this without a fight; you have died and this is the first level between the realms of the living and the dead."
Raoul was speechless at this declaration but opened his mouth as if to protest. He had been feeling so much better as of late, surely his death was not possible yet! Suddenly, a startling realization overcame him; he was no longer in pain. Everyday for the last six years of his life, even on the best of days, some part of him had ached. For the first time in ages, he felt as healthy as he had when he had still been a young man. He moved over toward the Phantom and took a long look at the man. Sensing the other's scrutiny, the Phantom turned and glared at him from behind the mask.
"Is something the matter, Chagny?" he asked in an annoyed tone.
"Why are you here?" Raoul blurted without thinking. The Phantom's eyes burned even more menacingly and the twisted lips at the edge of the mask curled in a hideous grimace.
"Because, Chagny, I am dead. And, contrary to popular belief, I was human and was even endowed with a soul, stained though it may be."
Wincing at the increased intensity of the Phantom's glare, Raoul stuttered as he tried to explain himself.
"I didn't mean…I just…well, I just thought that you've been dead for over thirty years and perhaps you should've moved on…"
"Move on?" the Phantom hissed. "What do you know of moving on? Do you think that I've been satisfied just sitting here and waiting; watching everyone pass me by?"
Raoul tried desperately to convey the sudden and fierce impulse that had taken over him. "Don't you feel it? Don't you feel it calling to you to come? It's just through that doorway. Can't you see it too?" he indicated a brightly lit portal that was providing the light in the area in which they found themselves.
"I can see it clearly, Vicomte. And I can also see that you are aching to go to your eternal reward. Don't let me keep you. Go on, she is waiting for you…" the Phantom replied bitterly, his eyes turned back towards the wall at which he had been staring only moments before.
Raoul was confused. He looked towards the wall and couldn't see anything that was worth the Phantom's attention. Looking back at the masked man, he asked curiously "What are you looking at?"
"It is none of your concern, Vicomte." came the short reply.
Raoul paced back and forth for a few moments as he tried to decide what to do. His instincts were drawing him closer and closer to the portal but his conscience told him that he simply couldn't leave the Phantom in this empty domain. Finally, Raoul sat down next to him and stared blankly at the same space as the Phantom did. For a while, nothing changed but suddenly, the wall seemed to open and Raoul could clearly see the outlines of house in the distance, surrounded by rolling fields of green. He gasped as he recognized his own estate and tears formed in his eyes when he saw his son limping alongside his granddaughter who was skipping down a path in the rose garden.
The Phantom noticed these tears and Raoul's quick intake of breath. Not turning his face away from the sight before him, the Phantom muttered in a quiet voice "I should thank you for what you did for my son and her. You were truly a good man to both of them and I have been very happy these last years knowing that they were in your capable hands…"
Raoul turned to the Phantom with an incredulous look on his face. "You've been watching all along?"
"Of course," came the flippant reply. "I had never intended to leave behind anything on this earth, but Fate decided otherwise. I must confess that I was often relieved to know that you were looking after them both. Especially the boy…he truly loved you as a father…" the masked man's voice broke off.
Turning to the Phantom in concern, Raoul found that the golden eyes had filled with tears. He freely let his own fall from his blue eyes and turned back towards the image before them. "I loved him as my own, Erik. Make no mistake of that…"
The Phantom gasped and stared at the Vicomte. "What did you call me?"
Without missing a beat, Raoul replied "Erik, I called you Erik. She told me once that it was your name. I've often thought of you by that name; it would've been difficult to convince myself that the true father of my son was a ghost!"
Turning his head in shame, Erik muttered "I never meant to do that to you. I just wanted to feel like a man…for one time in my life, I wanted to be normal. I should've known that I'd ruin everything for everyone…"
"Don't ever say that again!" Raoul fiercely replied. "I wouldn't give up my son for anything in the world. It has been a long time since I was bitter over the fact that he was yours and not truly mine. For years, I have been more than satisfied knowing that I have the unconditional love of an exceptional man, regardless of who sired him."
"Even so, I'm sorry. It must have been horrible for you to accept an unfaithful wife and a son who wasn't yours. But at least you did win in the end."
"Win?" Raoul questioned. "You think that I won this, Erik? For God's sake, that is the most ironic thing of all; neither of us won. We both fought so fiercely all those years ago to win. But therein lies the absolute ridiculousness of the situation; we both fought and neither of us won anything. You finally got the love of your life, sired a son, but then you died. I got to marry the woman I loved, but whose heart did not truly belong to me. And as for Charles, at least he loved me as he would his father…"
"You were his father, Chagny…it is because of you that he is such a great man today. I cringe to think of how my influence may have warped him had I been alive to see him with my own eyes…"
"That isn't true. Your influence on him has been important great despite your absence and it has definitely made him a greater man as a result."
"What do you mean? What influence could I possibly have…"
"The music" Raoul stated simply. "You cannot tell me that his exceptional talent is from pure chance. And his voice is one that I have heard before…"
"Ah, the music" Erik said with a wry grin. "I admit that I was quite surprised when you encouraged his musical education even more than she did. I would've expected you to keep that art away from him at all costs."
"Perhaps neither of us are what the other expected, Erik. I confess that I spent far too much time thinking of you as a monster rather than the man you were. I had often wished to apologize to you; I didn't want to understand. It was easier to think of you as the twisted villain and myself as her hero."
"But I was a monster, Chagny…"
"No, you were just a man. And call me Raoul; this is hardly the place for formalities."
The two men watched their son and grandchild lay a bouquet of roses at the headstone where Raoul and Christine were laid to rest. Neither could help but smile as the young girl kissed her father's cheeks and wiped away the two tears that had fallen from his beautiful eyes. As the father and child walked back to their home, Raoul felt an intense pull toward the lit doorway. He resisted and turned toward Erik. In a quiet voice, he asked "Why haven't you moved on, Erik? Surely you've had a better reason than just watching over us to stay here. Surely, it is possible to see from Heaven…"
Erik laughed, a harsh bark that shook Raoul to the core. "Heaven? Whatever would make you think that I am destined for Heaven? I sincerely doubt that anyone would easily welcome me into paradise. I was destined for Hell since the date of my birth and should I dare to walk through that door, that is the fate that is awaiting me. I find it far easier to stay here where I can at least watch over my son."
Raoul felt himself shudder at those dark words. Taking a deep breath for courage, he asked tentatively "Why do you believe that you are damned? You have repented for your crimes; surely God will forgive…"
"Really? Do you really, truly believe that God could forgive the murders, the tortures, the horrible atrocities committed by my hands? I truly am a monster, both in form and by actions. No face or soul as hideous as mine was ever meant for Heaven…" Erik said bitterly, turning his masked face away from Raoul to hide the tears that had begun to fall.
"I don't believe that your soul is hideous, Erik. And I don't think that God does either."
Turning to look at Raoul once again, Erik asked "How could you not find my soul hideous? After what I have done to you…"
"I've long forgiven you for your crimes against me. I know nothing of your life other than that you truly loved her. You were willing to do anything for her, even sacrifice yourself for her happiness. Please believe me when I say that God is aware of this and will reward you for that at least..."
Erik looked back at the scene before him and shook his head sadly. "I cannot bear to go, Raoul. What if he doesn't care? It is better to stay here where I can at least see my son. God never cared to help me when I begged before; what's to stop him from condemning me now?"
"I am." Raoul said quietly.
"What? You mean to tell me that you believe that you are going to save me from the depths of Hell? Erik demanded in a mocking tone.
"Listen to me, Erik. You are not the only one who will be judged. I too forsook God when Charles was first born; I couldn't believe that he would abandon me to such a miserable fate. But we will have to face him eventually and I wouldn't mind having someone at my side. Besides, she is waiting for you. I know that it is true and you know it as well."
When Erik refused to move, Raoul indicated the wall where he watched his son play the piano for his small family. "Do you want to meet Charles here, Erik? Do you want him to find that his father was so ashamed of siring him that he denied himself his chance at paradise?"
Erik looked at Raoul with nothing but loathing in his eyes. "I have never been ashamed of my son, Chagny."
"And yet you are ashamed of yourself and of the way in which he was conceived. Believe me, Erik, I know Charles better than you and I know that he would not be pleased if he were to find that you had thought so little of yourself that you purposely ignored the fact that you had people waiting for you on the other side."
"And what do you propose I do, Chagny? Just walk up to the pearly gates and demand entry? My loathsome eyes are not even fit for a glimpse of Heaven's gates…" Erik stated in a harsh tone.
"I propose that we go in together. You can feel it calling you just as well as I. Let us face this as one so that despite our sins, we may be forgiven and permitted to join those who love us and who have been patiently waiting for us. You've been here too long, Erik. Let us go and find our peace at last."
Erik hesitated, refusing to look in Raoul's direction. He moved over toward the wall where he now watched his son sleeping peacefully next to his wife. The image then changed to show his grandchildren, the lovely little girl sleeping in her bed with a stuffed doll in her arms while her brother sucked away on his tiny thumb. The tears ran freely down the surface of the mask, but he did not move to wipe them away. Finally, he turned and faced the vicomte, squaring his shoulders and lifting his chin.
"Let no one ever say that I was a coward, Raoul. Let us go; I suppose I've dallied enough as it is."
Smiling, Raoul came forward and offered Erik his arm. He hesitantly accepted and the two men walked toward the doorway and stopped at the threshold. Laughing weakly, Erik muttered "Surely, monsieur, you haven't lost your nerve already."
"Actually, Erik" Raoul began thoughtfully, "I was just thinking about the one thing I've never forgiven you for."
Erik was suddenly frightened for an inexplicable reason; perhaps it was because he stood on the doorstep to both Heaven and Hell and he desperately longed for an ally. "What…what is it?" he asked in a timid voice.
"That damned cat of yours. It was the most bloody temperamental and wretched creature I've ever laid eyes on. It made my life a living hell while it lived under my roof. And don't think that I've forgotten about the number of imported silk slippers that I lost to that beast's claws!"
Erik exhaled the breath that he had not known that he had been holding and began to laugh so hard that tears formed in his eyes. Composing himself, he turned to Raoul with a smile and stated "On Ayesha's behalf, I am terribly sorry. Now," as they stepped through the doorway, "why don't you tell me of Charles while we go?"
"Well, there was time…" Raoul began as the two men disappeared into the light and walked together toward eternity.
A/N: Well, this was just a short idea that came up when I should've been paying attention to my one experiment. I've often wondered what would happen if Raoul and Erik sat down for a chat under relaxed circumstances and this was the product of my imagination. Hopefully, you'll find them to be enough in-character for your tastes. For those who are not clear, this story was heavily based on Susan Kay's 'Phantom'.
For those who will complain about the human conditions of breathing, gasps, and tears in eternity, sod it because it doesn't matter. Right now, I consider them to be human reflections of themselves and they haven't yet dropped all ties to their lives; hence why Erik is still deformed in paradise.
I know that I took liberties with Charles and I'm also painfully aware that Raoul was not in the English navy in his youth. To my recollection, Kay conveniently forgets Raoul's obligation as a 'second son' and he is not a member of the French navy in 'Phantom'. However, if you remember your Leroux, Raoul was due for a lovely scenic tour of the North Pole when all the crap with the Phantom was going on.
Also, I wanted to keep Charles well away from WWI but I figured that as he would be 33 or 34 at the time of this piece (based on Kay's timeline), he still might have been called to service and I figured that there was no better way to have him be certain that he would no longer be drafted than if he had already gone and been slightly disabled. I liked him better that way; you could be pretty sure that he'd be able to stay at home with his family where he belongs.
A final note to the few who enjoy 'Patron'; my computer is dying and I lost the next chapter since I didn't back up my files quickly enough. Needless to say, it may be posted later than I expected but hardly as long as you've been waiting thus far.