The Twilight 25 is a series of 25 picture prompts for either drabbles or oneshots. The plan is for this little collection to include 25 short, 1-2k word "snapshots" into the lives of Edward, Bella, Jasper and ... well, whoever the hell else I feel like writing about. Expect a variety of pairings and ratings, and plots that include some AU, some canon and some AH. I have no schedule for posting these. It'll just be as the mood / inspiration strikes.

antiaol makes my words pretty. bmango keeps me sane.

As always, Stephanie Meyer owns. And in this case, so does Andrew Lloyd Weber. I play.

And without further ado, I bring you PhantomWard...

The Twilight Twenty-Five
Prompt #: 17 (www [dot] bit [dot] ly/auqKUk)
Pen name: theladyingrey42
Pairing: Bella and Edward
Rating: T

Photos for prompts can be found here:

Black, rubber-soled shoes are silent on wood floors. Bella passes another black-clad figure and tightly nods, bending low so as not to hit her head on an exposed beam before twisting around a curtain and stepping over a length of rope. With every motion up the little ladder, her body keeps time with the music, the intensity of the bridge waning, and she shares the audience's gasp as the plot turns, a body falling roughly to the floor.

The instant the key changes, she is in place, exactly where she should be, and for twelve glorious bars, she allows herself her one indulgence.

Her one moment as a spectator.

For twelve bars, she listens to him.

Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime...

Staring down through the metal grating of the platform, she can see him. The stage lights reflect brightly off of the shimmering white of the mask, and sometimes she would swear that his skin shimmers lightly, too.

... lead me, save me from my solitude...

His rich baritone wraps around her spine, and for these few, brief moments, she pretends she is the leading lady instead of the stage tech. That she is not invisible. Insignificant.

That when he takes off the mask at the end of the evening, he might see her.

... say you'll want me with you, here beside you...

With a sigh, she looks away again, her hand wrapping itself securely around the rope and preparing for her cue. She is early, but she knows that if she allows herself even a few more measures, she will be lost, too caught up in the beauty of his voice and presence to do her job.

And if she loses her job, she'll lose her one connection to him, too.

... anywhere you go, let me go, too...

... Christine, that's all I ask of ....

One tear slips from her eye, as it always does to hear the lonely longing in his voice when he begs. The darkness sweeps over her, her eyes drifting closed as she imagines this time that instead of the leading lady, she is the heroine. That he really is the Phantom, the monster who both gives in to and transcends his nature in the name of the woman that he loves.

Only in her version of the play, when she rips away the mask and the audience shrieks, she holds her tongue. And instead of screaming, she places both hands on either side of his disfigured face.

And slowly, so tenderly, she kisses him.

The haunting sound of the organ disrupts her revery, her eyes opening to pitch black, her head shaking. She tenses for just a second, waiting for the laugh, soulless and distraught. When it comes, she is ready, and she allows her body to do what it has to, yanking at the rope as the brilliant lights begin to dance. Behind the curtains, she knows it is all in play, that the crystal is shaking, sounds of shattering and screaming erupting.

And then the crash as the enormous prop of the chandelier plummets and falls.

Bella takes three quick, deep breaths, adrenaline spiking after pulling off the big scene, and then she is in motion again. At the base of the ladder, he is standing there, waiting for her to reattach his mask. She knows full well that this should be a makeup artist's job. Or someone else's anyway. That she should not be clambering between sets so quickly and that a transition this important should not be left to chance. But they are short-staffed this week, and when someone suggested she was in the right place at the right time to do the job, she could only shiver and nod.

She shivers again as her small fingers find the bottle of glue, trying to breathe and almost failing as she steps into him, smelling the cool, clean scent of him as she washes the brush over his skin.

And then she makes one tiny mistake. One error that could land them all in dire straights.

She looks into his eyes.

Swimming with gold, they are the most beautiful eyes she has ever seen, and she cannot help but be lost in them. For a full thirty seconds, she is helpless, caught in a gaze that cuts through to the very core of her, revealing secrets and wants and deep desires. And as intense as the stare is, she wonders for a moment if perhaps he might be lost in her, too.


His voice is a whisper, and she starts, shocked he knows her name and embarrassed to have allowed herself to lose sight of what she is here to do. A cold hand closes around her own, and she feels it all along the line between her stomach and her thighs, before he places the lifeless mask in her palm.

She swallows and nods, resuming her task as she tenderly lifts the mask to his face, lining it up and pressing, shivering yet again as her fingertips trace over the skin near his jaw only to find it hard and cold. The sound of his ragged breathing surprises her as they touch, and it is at that moment that she realizes the only breath she has heard in the entire time they have been so close has been her own.

His hand pulls hers from his jaw, and she freezes when he lifts it to his mouth, kissing softly at the back of her knuckles.

And then he is gone.

The rest of the production flies by in a blur. She moves from one station to the next, performing tasks automatically, and struggling the entire time to push the memory of his lips on her flesh to the back of her mind. But she never quite succeeds.

When the final curtain call arrives at last, she watches as she always does from the wings, applauding politely as actors and actresses surge past. The leads finally begin to make their appearances, Christine and Raoul, and she tries to ignore the flutters of annoyance and of envy, knowing full well that the actors are not responsible for their characters' actions.

The audience erupts when he appears, and she finds herself clapping harder as well. She can rationalize it, because Edward Cullen truly is the best Phantom she's ever seen in ten years of working behind the scenes.

But she also knows it's more than professional admiration that drives the enthusiastic motion of her hands.

Hands that feel the memory of clapping and of ice-cold lips long after the theatre is empty, and she is left lingering there alone.

She does not know exactly why she stays, other than a vague disinterest in going home to her tiny rooms and to the smell of her own lonely nights and days. With a heavy heart, she rechecks ropes and dusts off props, oiling a particularly tricky winch. When she is finally out of tasks to pretend to do, she sighs.

But then, she hears music. Music that aches and soars. Music that is lonelier than that in the score.

And yet which speaks of the same broken heart and the same painful struggle with a world that has turned away from monstrous acts and a monster's face.

With the silent sorts of footfalls she uses in her work, she steps down from the scaffolding to land gently at the level of the stage. Feeling the music in her lungs, she is pulled forward until she can see the long fingers she knows so well dancing over ivory keys, and there she pauses, staring at the profile of his face in silhouette.

It strikes her then that she has never really seen him before. Each time they have met, it has been between scenes, with him in full make-up. It has been quickly and in the dark. And so she has never had the opportunity to really appreciate the man whose voice she fell in love with the first time he opened his mouth to sing.

He opens that warm, rose mouth now, wordless melodies falling out of lungs to intertwine with the quiet tones called forth by his hands, and she is stunned. As if he can hear her racing heart, he turns, his hands still moving, still producing sound. And she is shocked to find that even now his eyes are really gold, his skin really as shimmering and pale as it is when he is costumed.

He is beautiful. And so alone.

Staring deeply into his eyes, she tentatively begins to bridge the distance between them, quiet steps over wooden floorboards pulling her almost magnetically toward the grand piano. Toward him. When she is so close that she thinks she should be able to feel his body heat, he shifts, glancing down at the piano even as he is indicating with his head that she should sit beside him. Scarcely breathing, she does.

"Did you enjoy the show, Bella?"

She does not know if he is asking her opinion of the evening's production, or of his own quiet performance. The private concert she is beginning to wonder if he put on for her alone.

"Beautiful," she whispers, ruing herself for letting so much rapture seep into her voice.

"Yes. Yes, you are."

Unsure why she feels as comfortable as she does with this, she allows herself to lean into him, her breath shuddering when he continues to play on, undisturbed. With her head resting on the solid expanse of his shoulder, she feels the music flowing through her chest, moving only with the light rocking of his arm as it drifts across the keys.

"Why the Phantom?" she asks, even though on some level she already knows. She knows that it would be impossible for a man to sing the way that he does unless he knew the pain of that half existence, of living so much of life in shadow, uncertain and estranged.

"Why not?" He shrugs. "Not all monsters are so easy to pick out, you know. Some lurk much more subtly. Lust more silently. Kill more violently."

"But most of them aren't so tortured by it," she whispers. "Most don't know monstrosity from humanity."

Her hands become bold, moving with only the slightest bit of trembling to place themselves over his, effectively silencing him.

His hands are still cold.

"Christine was a fool," she whispers, her heart falling when his bright gold eyes drift closed, his head shaking slowly no.

"She wasn't. She made the right choice."

She places one still-shaking hand on his cheek, right over the place where she applied the glue, and again he exhales roughly, a little shudder of what she thinks may be pleasure rushing gently through his stony skin.

"I don't care what you've done."

His eyes float open.

"Bella … "

"Edward … "

Faster than she can recognize, his hand is just beneath her chin, tipping her head back gently, and a cold fingertip is brushing across her throat.

"Bella, you should."

"I don't."

For a moment, she's not quite sure which way he is going to go. She watches golden eyes flit between her mouth and her pulse, nostrils flaring with every lush push of life and blood through her delicate form, and in that instant she knows what he is.

She knows why his hands are cold and why his song sounds so alone.

His hand is shaking this time, as he covers the offending reaches of her throat, using the lightest of touches to hide them from his view.

"I trust you," she breathes, commanding his gaze to meet her eyes.

And it is just before his smooth, stone lips meet hers that he whispers, almost silently, "That's all I ask of you."









A/N: Yes, yes, I know in the stage production they usually drop the chandelier in the first half, but just pretend the director decided to make some changes to make some extra money off the movie or something ...

Please take a sec and let me know what you think.