8: Ever After

The sound of sirens stayed in Roger's ears for months. He would wake in the night, terrified, convinced that Vanilla was standing at the foot of the bed, gun in hand, that the whole bloody nightmare was going to start over again.

He got the portrait back; the police found it with the glass smashed and the frame beyond repair; but the drawing itself was fine apart from a few creases. Roger thought it appropriate that picture-Roger was showing the same signs of having been to hell and back as the real Roger, and so it was given a new - much plainer - frame, and returned to its place on the mantelpiece.

The show opened to huge acclaim. But the celebrations were muted; Max was strangely quiet and Leo the one who now seemed to be leading the pair. Ulla never left his side, not for a second, and it made Roger smile to see the obvious love between them. Every now and again he would catch Leo looking at him with such a strange expression in his eyes; and he knew Leo was thinking, what if - ? If he'd confessed sooner; would things be different, now?

Did it matter?

The ceremony had been very small; Max and Leo and Ulla, of course; Bryan and Kevin, weeping unashamedly into their handkerchiefs, arms around each other; Scott and Shirley like the oddest of odd couples; Sabou, still sporting a wonderfully multicoloured bruise at his temple; and Franz, because - well - it just seemed right to have the old gang all together again.

One of Max's little old ladies had done the flowers. They were slightly over-the-top, but Roger hadn't had the heart to tell her, and anyway, it did seem somehow appropriate.

Carmen had always loved over-the-top.

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He was fine until the music started. Well, maybe not fine, exactly, but at least he was keeping it together.

And then they started playing that damn song. And everything got kind of blurred, everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. Roger could feel his whole body starting to shake and he dug his fingers as hard as he could into his thighs, trying to stop the trembling.

But all too soon, it had begun; Max, acting as Master of Ceremonies in the absence of an actual priest, was looking at him in a very purposeful manner, and he got to his feet, repeating to himself, over and over, I'm not going to cry, I'm not going to cry -

And he didn't. He kept it together.

Right up until the part where he and Carmen said, "I do."

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