All right, I know I mentioned writing a Phantom Mello/Near story and never did. I apologize. I originally wanted to do something similar to the "play" one I did in "Of Common Villages and Theater", but somehow it changed on me. I started writing it, but I didn't get very far as a new, different version came up, one where the story is told entirely from the Phantom's POV. This is an excerpt from the aforementioned "new, different version". If you guys like it, I'll put up a chapter or two when I can.

"You're ready." Lawliet said confidently in an almost fond manner, gingerly placing the half black half white mask on the younger male's face. The design was almost elegant in its own simple way, and the eyes behind it glittered in anticipation.

"You're certain no one will recognize me?" The young man couldn't help but ask, pulling on white gloves that the performers were wearing.

"You'll blend right in." Lawliet assured him, adjusting his young student's jacket.

"And Nathan?" He asked softly, touching the black portion of his mask gently, fingertips barely feeling the cool porcelain. Lawliet moved around him, brushing off imaginary dust so that the boy before him didn't see the thinning of his lips.

"He has not sent word- - -we all assumed he was not to be attending." For a moment, the young man felt guilty for the relief that flooded through him at Lawliet's answer; then he remembered that if Nathan was to be in attendance, the Vicomte would not be far behind. He had no desire to see that man, especially with all that was happening between them. Tonight was a night for celebration, after all- - -he had every intention to enjoy himself.

"All right, Lawliet, I'm ready."

"Good." Lawliet steered him suddenly into a brightly lit room: the front hall. It had been decorated up to the occasion, the chandelier all lit up, the tables filled with food and wine.

The performers taking positions on the enormous staircase that led to the upper viewing balconies.

Lawliet placed him near the top of the stairs, between two women elegantly dressed in costume; the one on his left with a white porcelain mask and an elegantly matching dress, the one to his right dressed as a red queen with a crimson queen of hearts mask that covered the top portion of her face.

"The managers shall be arriving shortly!" Lawliet announced as he took a position at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at all the performers with pride. As he watched Lawliet speak, a fan was placed delicately in his right hand. He shot the 'queen of hearts' woman a grateful look, and she smiled politely back at him, pulling her dress up in a small curtsey. "Break a leg, you lot!" Lawliet called up suddenly, disappearing as the doors opened and the managers stepped in, the performance starting instantly.

"Masquerade! Paper faces on parade! Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you!" They descended the steps one at a time, still moving their heads and fans, turning their bodies 90 degrees with each step so whomever came through the door could see both sides of their masks clearly. He moved in with the rest of the group, having watched the rehearsals enough to know what to do and where to step. He couldn't help the smile that started when he sang with the group, copying the movements in time with everyone else's.

"Masquerade! Every face a different shade! Masquerade! Look around, there's another mask behind you!" They moved into a line, performers moving onto the dance floor as each of their masks were named. He watched in awe as they gracefully spun away, the rest of them singing.

"Flash of mauve, splash of puce, fool and king, ghoul and goose, green and black, queen and priest, trace of rouge, face of beast- - -faces!" The female performers listed as many as they could as they either moved around the great hall or took a partner and lead them down the stairs, step by step.

"Take your turn, take a ride on the merry-go-round in an inhuman race!" They all sang, and he couldn't help the excitement that bubbled in his stomach at the idea of joining his 'family' on the floor, spinning around and dancing with everyone in the room.

"Eye of gold, thigh of blue, true is false, who is who? Curl of lip, twirl of gown, ace of hearts, face of clown- - -faces! Drink it in, drink it up till you've drowned in the light, in the sound- - -"

"But who can name the face?" He and his partner sang, grinning at each other before, respectively, jumping from the sixth step and stepping down daintily to reach the floor. He waited for her at the bottom, and when she placed her hand in his they went swirling around the group of performers.

"Masquerade! Grinning yellows, spinning reds! Masquerade! Take your fill, let the spectacle astound you!"The sight of all the performers dancing around (and the stage hands sneaking away with some of the wine) made him feel out of it- - -drunk and stumbling, but never happier.

"Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads! Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!" He glanced around, knowing that no one knew him and reveling in the anonymity of the crowd he was dancing with. Freedom was in his dancing, his eyes, and his voice as they continuously switched partners to dance with.

"Masquerade! Seething shadows breathing lies! Masquerade! You can fool any friend who ever knew you!" He couldn't find Lawliet, but couldn't bring himself to care as he bowed to one woman before taking her hand and leading her across the way, all his troubles and worries a thing in the past. He changed partners, another woman taking his hand and spinning towards him easily.

"Masquerade! Leering satyrs, peering eyes! Masquerade! Run and hide, but a face will still pursue you." The colors were blinding as he danced with the people he knew well, but were completely unfamiliar due to the masks. He went from one woman to the next, twirling her outward and then spinning her close to him; hands connecting as he placed his palm on hers, free arm behind his back as they stepped to their rights in sync, before switching hands and partners and repeating. The smile behind his mask, though unnoticeable, was infectious through his eyes and he laughed as he danced- - -never before had he ever felt so normal, so at home, with other people surrounding him. The music around them blared as his current partner, a woman with a golden dress and a matching gold half-mask stumbled a bit, making him instinctively reach out and steady her.

He could see Misa, Kira, Lawliet, Takada, and Mikami coming down a staircase nearby. As he changed partners again, he grinned at Lawliet, making an intricate motion with his hand as Lawliet inclined his head towards him as greeting. He smiled wider behind his own mask, eyes sparkling as he turned his attention back to the woman he was dancing with.

His arm was pulled quite suddenly, and he instinctively turned to follow the red 'queen of hearts' woman who grabbed him to the top of the stairs as they prepared to do a final chorus before joining the party officially. They were laughing and stumbling, he and this woman, and it wasn't until he reached the top of the stairs that he saw them entering.

They were spinning gracefully through the remaining performers who were having too much fun dancing to remember their job, maskless, and he felt frozen at the top of the stairs. He could see Lawliet out of the corner of his eye, trying to gain his attention, but he couldn't bring himself to look at his mentor and caretaker, eyes locked on the happy couple.

The performers seemed to remember what they were there for, and they took positions quickly. He automatically moved in sync with them, eyes still glued to the swirling couple, and prepared to- - -

Then they kissed, in the middle of the dance floor, and he snarled quietly. Unfreezing and startling the women beside him, he moved away from the group and vanished.

"Masquerade! Paper faces on parade! Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you!" He changed quickly out of the black tuxedo that Lawliet had found for him, putting on instead an outfit he had planned to wear originally, an out fit made from black silk and blood-red cloth.

"Masquerade! Every face a different shade! Masquerade! Look around, there's another mask behind you!" Placing a dark crimson mask of his own design on his face, he sang under his breath as he waited for the perfect moment to intervene.

"Masquerade! Buring glances, turning heads! Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!" He chose this moment, stepping out of the dark alcove he placed himself in, one of his many hiding spots.

"Masquerade! Grinning yellows, spinning reds! Masquerade! Take your fill, let the spectacle astound you..." They trailed off, some women gasping in horror and surprise. He looked down upon them all, taking each step one at a time, looking at each one of them. Lawliet, he could see, had sighed, glancing furtively at the stunned couple that set him off.

"Why so silent, good Monsieurs?" He snarled quietly, though it echoed clearly through the silent hallway. "Did you think that I had left you for good?" He smirked dangerously behind his mask, and it flashed through his eyes as he approached. The 'queen of hearts' woman took a step back, though she remained in front of the group of girls behind her, glaring firmly at him. "Have you missed me, good monsieurs? I have written you an opera." He held out the completed work, his pride, the one thing he had ever truly struggled with. "Here, I bring the finish score. Don Juan Triumphant!" He tossed it carefully at Lawliet, who recovered and caught it easily, holding the bound papers as though they were something precious. He was now on-level with the performers, though most if them had left in oppose to meeting him.

"Fondest greetings to you all. A few instructions just before rehearsal starts..." He trailed off, approaching Misa as she stared up at him, horrified. "Miss Amane must be taught to act, not her normal trick of strutting 'round the stage." Misa gasped fearfully, and Raito's brother Kira stood beside her, taking a step towards him as he insulted Misa. He stopped Kira by pinning his eyes on him. "Our Don Juan must gain some weight, it's not healthy in a man of poor Kira's age." Kira flushed, stepping back as he continued his attack on Takada and Mikami. "And my managers must learn that their place is in an office, not the arts." They looked at each other as he scanned the room for his next victim, his eyes meeting Nathan's. "As for our star, little Nathan Rivers..."

The boy's breath caught in his throat, and he found he didn't have the heart to insult the boy he cared for deeply. He stepped towards him, eyes softening as he did.

"No doubt he'll do his best- - -it's true, his voice is good." Nathan seemed to glow under his praise, and he couldn't help but smile wryly. "He knows, though, should he wish to excel, he has much still to learn." He stopped in front of Nathan, who was gazing at him with a slightly distant look in his onyx eyes, and once again, he was captivated by the pale beauty of his student. "If pride will let him return to me, his teacher, his teacher..." They stared at each other, Nathan wide-eyed and smiling softly, his own hand reaching out. His slightly darker hand met Nathan's skin, and Nathan leaned into it unconsciously, still staring wide-eyed at him. He almost smiled, almost, but the something caught his eye- - -a gleaming ring around Nathan's neck. His eyes narrowed, the moment ruined, as his hand shot out and broke the chain around Nathan's neck. Everyone gasped in surprise as he held it up, his eyes never leaving Nathan's. "Your chains are still mine, you belong to me!" He hissed angrily before turning away and vanishing in smoke.

So, that's a small portion I had hit me like a ten-ton brick. This story is all out of my control. The Phantom was supposed to come out during the song, but the story had other ideas. And before anyone gets confused, no, you aren't supposed to know who the Phantom is. Random quirk of the story, I guess. You're not supposed to know who pays the Phantom and who plays Raoul. It's ok- - -you'll find out at the end of the story. Thanks for reading (if you actually made it this far XD)!