He regards me with a silent gaze, his lips pressed into a thin line. I find myself at a loss to read his expression, and I attribute it to that damned mask. I glance around his so-called lair, the catacombs underneath the opera, and the setting feels strangely familiar. Though I am sure I have never been here before, it welcomes me. I am never cold, but this Phantom’s abode makes me feel almost warm.
All of these thoughts take but a mere second, and end as the Phantom stands. Elegantly, with composure and a flourish of his cape. “So,” he begins, “my expertise, as you have seen, lies in music. Where does yours?”
And I really must chuckle at that. I cross my legs and lean back. “You might say I dabble in mischief.”
His eyebrow quirks. “Mischief? I enjoy mischief myself.”
Ah, foolish mortal. You know nothing of me. “My mischief comes from magic.”
“I was once a magician.”
“I think you are at a misunderstanding here. Your mischief comes from elaborate plans and rigs.” I stand, crossing the room to linger over him. “You,” I say, jabbing a finger to his chest, “are but a genius. I am beyond such mortal terms.”
His gaze is locked with mine and I am surprised to find it as powerful. He raises his hand, my eyes flicker to it, and he snaps his fingers.
The candles go out. The lair is dark.
I snap my fingers. The candles come back on.
He snaps. The fire rages.
I remain still. The half of his face that is not masked twists into disgust. It may be because my skin is writhing, twisting, changing. I decrease in height and my vision becomes obscured. I am now a shade of him, a copy of the Phantom to the extent of my knowledge. And he stumbles back, hands outstretched and his mouth agape. “What are you?” he croaks. This part never ceases to be fun.
“I am Loki, God of Mischief,” I say not in my voice but his, and he curls further, falling to the ground and shaking.
“Please, change, change into anything else!” he yells, his voice trembling.
“Why should I?”
“Because there is no greater monster than me!”
I snap back into my normal form. Blink once. Twice. I approach him, and take an action that I have never done for mortals: I kneel. I kneel by his trembling body, face hidden near the ground.
I do not know what it is, but I am drawn to this man. My fingers twitch with a desire to lift his mask, for no matter what mortal horror might lay under, it will be nothing compared to what I have dealt with. Could this man, this Phantom, be as broken as I? As alone?
My hand moves to his shoulder and rests. He flinches, but slowly looks up. I slowly wrap my hand around the back of his neck, and he allows me. I press a bit, testing his trust. He does not pull away.
And then I pull this mortal into my arms. He does not reciprocate, which I expect. A man who knows no kindness, thrust into an embrace? His reaction is the same as mine would be. “You are wrong,” I say, “for I am the monster that children fear.” His body stiffens at this, and he pulls back. His hands reach to the back of his mask, and slowly, with shaking fingers, he removes it.
This Phantom’s face is that of a corpse. But do I flinch? No. My own mirror holds more fear than this.
“Surely, you must be disgusted,” he whispers.
Instead of words, I show. I let my Jotunn blood slip through, my skin freezing into blue.
“Do you fear me?” I ask. It is his turn to laugh.
“Why should I fear the color which reflects my common mood?”
I can only stare as he takes my wrist in hand, fingers ghosting over my blue skin. I raise my free hand to his face, softly tracing where his bones seem to show through. We look at each other.
My lips touch his in a chaste display of affection. Of kindness, brotherhood, and love. A silent message to say that while we are monsters, we are not alone.