Disclaimer: I do not own the characters and all references and quotes from The Nightingale and the Rose are property of Oscar Wilde

This story was written for the PFN Third Morbidity Contest and placed third, joint with my other entry 'My Beloved Teacher'. This story also won two awards: The Sick Award and The Morbidity Award.

Huge hugs and thanks to everyone at PFN, especially Siren of Averne. Without her this story would never have come about.

The Perfect Rose

A single red rose, tied with a black ribbon. That had always been her reward. Erik sat in his cellar, pouring over the decision.

The day after tomorrow she would marry the boy, the handsome viscount. He had expected as much. But he would not interfere, no… no, he would allow her this happiness. She deserved happiness, did she not? For she was perfect.

But he should make some gesture. Something to show that she lived always in his thoughts. Something to show his pleasure at her singing throughout the years. And that was what had led him to the thought of the red rose. But this could not simply be any red rose. And thus, his thoughts had turned to the creation of the perfect rose.

How was this to be achieved? He could not roam the streets of Paris simply searching. What were his chances of discovering such an item before the dawn? Very little. So the rose must be created. And he knew exactly how to create it.

His inspiration was a story. The Nightingale and the Rose. Erik knew the story well. How the nightingale had sacrificed her life to create the perfect rose for a young man to give to the woman he loved. How the nightingale had sung through the night, until the thorn had pierced her heart and the rose had bloomed into the deepest red.

But Erik had already decided that a bird would simply not be good enough for this rose. This rose must be perfect. He could do better than a mere animal. A smile twisted his lips as he picked up the white rose and held it gently between his fingers.

Oh, yes. He could do much better than that.

It never failed to amaze Erik how easily the human body could be broken. He crouched over the figure, watching the blood drip from its throat onto the white pillow, a startling contrast in colour. Erik would not call it a 'he'. It had ceased to be human when the heart had failed to beat once more.

He unbuttoned the shirt with utmost delicacy. Blood from the neck would not be good enough for this rose. He needed true blood, fresh from its origins. He took a knife from his cloak and slowly slit the skin and flesh of the chest, peeling it away in bloody layers. His hands were soon coated with the sticky red substance, but he paid it no heed. Blood could be washed away easily enough.

His fingers scraped against something solid. The rib bones. Erik slipped his fingers around one and snapped it back. It broke with a satisfying crack that shattered the silence. Another followed, and another. A little more excavation and he saw the heart, nestled in amongst the flesh and blood. A smile crossed his face as Erik reached for it. It was still warm under his fingers, as though it were attempting to cling to its beloved life. He took the knife again and sliced it open. Blood gushed from the organ, thick and warm. It was perfect, just what he had been searching for. Erik took the rose tenderly.

Slowly, carefully, he dipped the delicate petals into the thick liquid, smoothing it until the flower was coated. Erik held it carefully until it had dried and then tied the black ribbon carefully around the stem. Placing the rose carefully on the pillow beside its head, he smiled at his handiwork.

He stood and went to the window that he had climbed in by. Without a glance back, he left Christine to her happiness.

He was late for dinner, Christine noted. She got to her feet and ventured up the stairs. This was most unlike him. Perhaps he had been caught up in his work once again, or with wedding plans. She smiled at the thought. They were so close now, so close to being happy for the rest of their lives. She pushed open the door to his rooms.

"Raoul, dear? Dinner is ready." She called softly.

There was no reply. Christine frowned as a stench reached her nose. Slightly metallic, bitter and foul, the scent that would inevitably lead to that of rotting. She moved into the room, trembling with fear.

"Raoul?" She whispered, terrified that he would not reply, terrified that he would, and terrified of that sickening smell. A breeze from the open window made her shiver and she turned away from it.

Her eyes fell on the figure on the bed. The handsome face of Raoul de Chagny was twisted into a grotesque expression of horror. His chest was torn to pieces, exposing his ribcage. A candle was flickering on the bedside table, the meagre light reflected dimly in the stained white ribs that lay abandoned on the bed beside thick strips of flesh and skin that had been strategically removed and placed to one side.

And on the pillow beside Raoul's head lay a rose, tied with a black ribbon. She did not know what colour it had originally been, for it was now coated in blood that had dried and turned red-brown, staining the white pillow beneath it.

Christine screamed.

Erik lifted his head as the scream pierced the night air. He smiled. She had found his gift. He looked down at his blood stained hands, in which lay a book, open to a well-read page. He began to read it aloud, his beautiful voice caressing the words softly.

Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the love that is perfected by death, of the love that dies not in the tomb.

He smiled and listened to the screaming once again.

"You have sung beautifully, my dear. And now you have your reward." Erik said, pleased that his gift had been received.

It had been a very special gift. For who had ever seen such a perfect rose?