*This one-shot is mostly based on the book by Gaston Leroux. It is sprinkled with a dash of 1989 Phantom of the Opera movie, and seasoned with ALW musical to taste. I do not own any of the Phantom of the Opera characters. They belong to Gaston Leroux.*

THE MOST COMFORTABLE MASK

His voice was soft, but his words were dreadful. "It's done. We are finally free of him."

Christine glanced at her betrothed before turning towards the corpse laying on the cold stones of the opera house' lowest cellar. Thickened blood covered its fleshless visage almost entirely. The two gaping holes where a nose and a pair of lips should have been called to her like black beacons.

He felt her slight shiver. How could Christine stand to look at such ghastly image? Tenderly, he pressed on her shoulder to break her trance-like state. She looked at him then, her eyes filled with tears. "He was my friend. He loved me. I wish he did not have to die."

"And would you rather that it was I who died instead?" He challenged. Ah, he knew the thought would distress her. He knew her too well.

"How could you think that?" Christine cried. Her tears, when shed only for him, would appease his tormented heart. "You are my soul. Without you, I am dead."

He kept his silence as she cupped his face between her palms and placed a gentle kiss upon his bow-shaped lips.

"Oh, you are so beautiful," she sighed into his strong chin. "Such a pity that this kind of beauty does not last. You know that, surely?" She tilted her head. "But, I will love you no less even after you lose this." She playfully tapped the end of his perfectly arched nose.

He laughed at her strange remark, and that joyous sound warmed her heart. He caught her fingers and pressed them against the almost feminine softness of his cheek. "I have to hide the body. Then, we will secretly leave Paris. We can take your Mamma Valerius with us, if you wish. But, we need to act fast. We only have a few of hours, understand? After a day or two, I can no longer be seen in public."

She nodded in agreement. "I will get Mamma Valerius. We will pack nothing but money and jewelries. Then, we will meet you at the train station tonight… Oh, what about the Persian? He might suspect something."

He smiled at her nervousness. She was not used to a life of crime, his innocent Christine. "I already took care of that. Trust me- the Persian is assured of your safety and will not pursue us. The great booby thinks that the opera ghost is dying of love, for he told him so himself. Two weeks from now, the Persian will place a small ad in the newspaper announcing that Erik is dead."

She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face against his chest. The steady rhythm of his heart soothed her. He was unafraid. He was confident that their plan to escape Paris would work. How could she even doubt his genius?

"We are linked by fate, Christine." He assured her. "Nothing will keep us apart."

Their small party arrived at Uppsala a few days later. He rented a small but comfortable house, in the town where she first lived with her father. As the ingénue predicted, his beauty withered the day before they arrived. He woke up one morning with an unpleasant sensation on his face. When he looked at the mirror, he was dismayed to find the flesh of his cheeks hideously discolored. His nose and lips were starting to fall off. He was willing to withstand the appearance, if only for another day of beauty, but the stench of decaying flesh was becoming unbearable.

He went back to his bed and found Christine already awake. She was looking at him intently, trying to read his expression.

"Ah, my dear love," she scolded him gently. "You know that you will have to get rid of that mask sooner or later. Surely, keeping it for so long is not good for your health."

Christine grasped her beloved's hands tightly as she continued, "Our plan worked perfectly. There is no need for you to hide behind his face now. We are far away from Paris and no one will be running after us."

His yellow eyes twinkled with gaiety. "But I am starting to get used to having a perfect nose. And this," he said, pointing to the rotting skin pasted over his own misshapen face, "Is the most comfortable mask I have ever had!"

"Oh, how horrible!" she replied with a laugh, "In all honesty, I prefer your old porcelain mask over Raoul's face. A mask of human flesh I cannot tear away anytime I wish."

FIN.