Hi everyone! I really hope this fic still has the following it used to. I've finally completed YEARS of this labor of love. The things quarantine will do to a girl...haha. Enjoy!

Chapter 29- Finale

"Confound it, Adrian! I will not stand for this!" Erik roared, his bellows echoing through empty, moonlit halls of the Donovan Estate.

Sleep escaped me, and I tossed the duvet I was nestled in aside. It was pointless to rest now, the clock on bedside table mocking me as it read 1am. Erik had prepared one of many guest rooms for my stay during the trial. The mansion and it's boundless rooms were a welcome haven from the prying of the press. As I rose, an old dress shirt of Erik's gathered around me, rustling to my knees. I padded barefoot to the first floor to see the library door wedged open, streaming golden light across the black marble flooring.

"Erik, you need to be patient and trust the process. I'm going to get you through this. Now, I am the prosecution." Adrian Chander cleared his throat, rising from his chair. He pointed in the direction of the cracking fireplace with a pair of brown eyeglasses, rubbing at his temples wearily. "Did you or did not threaten to withdraw your support for the Clearwater High performing art's program if Ms. Admick did not cast Kirsten Doyle?"

"Yes." Came a curt, dark reply from a corner of the room. Erik brooded in a high back chair, eyes fixed on the flames.

"So you admit to blackmailing?" Chandler retorted.

"No!" Erik growled, then swallowed hard, wracking his brain. "I wanted to see Ms. Doyle in her rightful place as the principal lead.

"Would you say you have an obsession with Ms. Doyle?" Pressed the lawyer.

Erik gaffed. "Absurd, sir."

"How does a grown man convince a chorus girl to do his bidding?" Adrian spat.

Erik flew from his chair, rounding on man. "Watch yourself." He snarled.

"Answer to question, Donovan!" Adrian shoved a legal pad into Erik's chest. "The child made you feel needed, is that it?" He challenged.

"You bastard-" With frightening speed, Erik produced a jeweled dagger that glinted in the firelight.

"No!" I cried, bursting in the room. "What the hell are you doing, Erik?!" Both men, ready to spar, stood at ease. They watched me, chests heaving, as I straightened to my full height, brow set.

"You are better than this." I struggled to keep my voice from shaking. "This is exactly what they want- to see a monster rather than a man."

"Your protégé has a future in law, at this rate, Donovan." Adrian smirked. "I told you this would fire you up." He extended his hand in the vast space between them. "Friends?"

"Colleagues." Erik returned in an icy tone.

"Fair enough." He quipped. "I'll say goodnight...and see myself out." Adrian packed documents neatly in his briefcase. He had just turned to leave as his cell phone buzzed.

"Who is calling at this time of night?" Erik was exasperated. Adrian held up a firm hand in silence.

"Yes. Yes." He nodded. "8am, we'll be there. Goodnight and thank you."

"What's going on?" I asked, squelching the fear that consumed me.

"The State wants a deal."

"6 years?" Mrs. Andrew's face grew white in shock and she sat with me in the gallery, clasping my hand in a death grip.

"And you plead guilty of your own free will, Mr. Donovan? You counselor has done everything in his power to represent your case?' Erik stood before the judge, sober and defeated. "Yes, Your Honor."

The judge nodded. "I hereby sentence you, Erik Andrea Donovan, to 6 years in the Oregon State Penitentiary." The bang of the gavel sealed our fate.

The gallery erupted instantly. I sat helpless as the media hurled a tsunami of questions and flashes. All I could do was reach for Erik, my arms weak with grief. He gathered me up quickly. "What will we do? There must be some-" I wept. Adrian sheltered us from the mob that threatened to descend.

"Courage, dear one." He muttered, taking my face in his hands. "Take courage. Listen well, there is no more time." He surveyed the room with cold eyes. "My studio, in my desk, top drawer on your left. It is hidden for you, and only for you. Practice, master it, own it. Do you hear me?" I was met with a stormy gaze.

"Yes. Anything." I whispered.

I watched in horror as he lifted his mask, the one he favored most. It was a perfect Phantom replica. "Let them see what I've become. Feast your eyes on the Northwest Phantom, you vipers!" Erik howled, breaking from the shield of bodies to reveal his unmasked form.

Gasps and screams of terror mixed with pops and flashes; engulfing the already ravenous media. The spectacle was sheer madness. Erik was led away in the rush to bombard him before I could utter another word.

It was right where he'd said it be. The top drawer was strewn with ink blotted scores, unfinished poetry, and shriveled sheet music. Yet, black velvet jewelry box was set in the back corner. I lifted the small lid to reveal a black flash drive, with a note attached in silk ribbon.

Start practicing.



That's all she wrote! As usual, I'm a sucker for cliffhangers. Be sure to review and favorite! And stay tuned for the SEQUEL! Be sure to check out my other fics while you're waiting! Thank you as always, and much love.