Memento Mori

(Malexmale) Struck by tragedy, Calael Black - a popular young artist - isolates himself in his new home in the countryside in a desperate bid to save his sanity. However, Semper Place is far from empty and abandoned, and the ghost that haunts the property is neither malevolent nor disinterested in him. On the contrary, the spirit of the beautiful Artemus Moon has been alone for too long, and the two isolated souls soon find themselves locked in a dark, toxic romance, reliant on each other for happiness.

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13. Chapter 13

Time passed by slowly, and the more days Calael spent confining himself to Semper Place - desperately avoiding having to leave and join the outside word - the more the house began to feel like home. Decorations began to crop up everywhere, ordered largely from any quirky, bohemian Etsy store he happened to like to make the interior reflect the cozy style that he enjoyed. The home was no longer dated and cold like it had been in those first few days; it felt warm, and bright, and had become the safe space he had always intended it to be. Artemus had taken some convincing on the redecorating front at first but he gradually began to adjust and acclimate to it until eventually, he adored it as well. He put his opinions forward often, but generally speaking, he seemed to be happy as long as Calael was happy. As long as he had his smiling lover and his precious garden, he was content.

The garden, in fact, flourished more and more every day. It was a beautiful hive of life and colour, and Calael on sunny days would enjoy sitting out at the old copper table on the lawn and painting. Artemus' passionate love of flowers gave them new beauty to him; and the blonde was always so happy to see him sharing in the thing that he adored.

Still, his favourite thing to draw and paint was the spirit himself. He was his muse, and an array of art pieces had sprung up around his beautiful image, enough to comprise an exhibition and auction at a historical local gallery. Many of his most important clients would be coming down for the event, who all found the prospect of a brief visit to the countryside rather charming. Mostly it had been an excuse for Calael not to travel too far from home, but it had been terribly convenient in advertising his event.

One thing was to be different about this particular exhibition, however, and that was that none of his personal friends were going to be there. At least, he had reason to assume so, as not a single person had called or messaged him since his argument with August. They used to check in on him regularly, but what had transpired at the Basement had apparently been a good enough excuse for them to rid themselves of the basket case they obviously thought he had become. Calael didn't need them. Or at least, he told himself that again and again. He told himself he didn't need to feel lonely, because he had Artemus, and had never much appreciated their patronising concern anyway.

It was evening, the summer sky outside blazing with shades of amber and peach as the day conceded to night, and the two were sat in the living room with LED candles illuminating the stone cold fireplace. Calael refused to touch it, so the coal had never been restocked, and he simply sat on the rug beside it packaging his framed paintings in cardboard and bubble wrap to be transported to the gallery tomorrow.

Artemus was sat on the couch absorbed by the television, and while he'd usually be lounging across it luxuriously or at the very least with one leg folded over his other, he currently had his legs drawn up to his chest, chin resting upon his knees. Calael could have sworn he hadn't blinked or torn his gaze away from the Silent Hill film he was watching for at least five minutes.

"Uh, Artie? Would you pass me the stapler please?"

Artemus still didn't look away, and just reached out to fumble along the table blindly until he found the stapler, which he handed to his boyfriend after a few long moments.

Calael grinned. "Is it scaring you?"

"No, no!" Artemus objected, quickly snapping out of his daze to look at him with an insulted expression. "I'm just.. Amazed by the quality of the special effects."

"It's scaring you."

"No, no it most certainly is not."

"The lady doth object too much," the artist teased, setting down the frame he was working on and moving to sit beside the blonde on the couch. He wrapped an arm around his shoulders, and seemed smug as the smaller man promptly relaxed into him.

Artemus scoffed quietly, and leaned his face into his neck. "Shut up.."

"This is terribly ironic, you know."

"These aren't exactly ghosts, they are.. I'm going to assume demons, the likes of which I never planned on wasting two god forsaken hours of my life on! Oh, god, what on earth are they doing to the..? Oh god! Turn it off, turn it off now, I've tried to watch it but it's so needlessly gory and I've had quite enough," Artemus groaned, wrapping his arms around Calael's midriff to press himself closer to him.

Chuckling softly, Calael flicked the channel over to an eighties era war movie he had never seen before, and this caught Artemus attention once again. It displayed scenes of dashing looking soldiers with impossibly clean, historically incorrect uniforms, shining white teeth that hurt to look at, and equally as dubiously glossy hair, rushing into battle dodging bullets with all the mathematical likelihood of being struck by lightning in the midst of a plane crash. Even Calael - who had never been a connoisseur of fine cinema - found it hard to watch. 

Artemus seemed vastly unimpressed by it. The man kept shaking his head and murmuring criticisms, curling his lip in repulsion whenever something painfully over dramatised would appear on screen; which seemed to compose a great deal of it.  "What a load of codswallop," he muttered, after only five minutes of explosive action. "There's a phrase I learned for this; dulce bellum inexpertis."

"And what does that mean?"

"It means, war is sweet for those who never experienced it! God, it must be far too bloody easy to take the wars that I lived through and turn them into these glorified tales of heroes and romanticised stories of separated lovers," he scoffed, sitting back with his arms folded across his chest. "I'm willing to bet good money that this flick shows nothing of the dead they could never send home.. Or, the lovers who never came back. The sixteen year old boys taken too soon because they were pressured to lie about their age just to go and die for their king and country! And how about trench foot? Hardly glamarous, but the doctor I fucked knew a lot about it. And, and, particularly not those who stayed behind carrying gas masks and taping newspapers over their god damn windows!"

"Artie.. Don't get upset, love, I can just turn it over?"

"Please. It's just.. the war was all very nice and interesting at first, like it is portrayed, but within a couple of months the phony war was over and everything was suddenly very, very real, and terrifying. I was just lucky to live out here, at least slightly tucked away from everything.."

"You do seem very, well.. well informed, for a person of your time."

"Of course I am, what's that supposed to mean?"

"Well the ministry of propaganda censored everything, no? That's a fact I remember from history class. They didn't want people developing negative opinions of the war."

"Sometimes your character isn't based on just the materials you take in, but on the things you know and accept inherently, Calael," Artemus sighed, folding his hands together. "Do you think every German hated Jews? Certainly not. I'm talking of moral instincts. I knew in my heart that the war was a hideous thing.. Many of us did. But nobody would speak out and seem like they were unpatriotic. Regardless, we knew our own minds even as the papers and the radio tried to put rose tinted glasses over everything. As an example.. I turned out to be a homosexual, in spite of growing up with no knowledge of what that meant aside from a passage in the Bible they would read us at the village Catholic school, that told us of men being stoned to death for lying together. If that had successfully influenced me as they intended it to, perhaps I would have lived a long and full life, instead of succumbing to illegal desires and being beaten to death for it."

"You speak of it like what you did was wrong," Calael frowned.

Artemus sighed softly at that and shook his head, hugging the man's arm lightly again to reassure him. "No; I don't intend to.. My point is that I still turned out the way I am in a society that despised such a notion. I don't think what I did was wrong, I never have. It was my nature, and it still is. The idea that loving someone can face the same punishment as stealing or assaulting somebody must seem absurd now, and yes, it is absurd. They were troubled times, and love was what we needed then. But it was surpressed regardless, because the Bible said so, and because our relationships did not match the perfect model of society. It's dreadful," he breathed.

Calael could see the sadness in his eyes, and he quickly shifted to hold him closer, lacing a hand in the back of his hair as his free hand came to rub circles on his lower back soothingly. "Hey.. Hey, it's alright. Things are different now. It's not perfect - nothing ever is - but it is so much better," he reassured him softly.  "How about we talk about something else? I hate to see you worked up.. Tell me about your Latin, when did you learn?"

"Catholic school," Artemus said quietly, resting his head against his shoulder, "When I was in secondary. It was a grammar school, a well rated one at that.." He took a moment to collect himself, then looked up, a little re-enthused. "Do schools still teach Latin?"

"Only very, very rarely.. Everyone has become far more inclined to accept that Latin is, pretty much, a dead language," Calael explained awkwardly, "But a, uh, a very pretty one!"

Artemus smiled a little as his boyfriend's caring nature shone through. As far as the blonde was concerned, Latin had always been a dead language. He'd never faced the need to speak a word of it outside the church or the classroom. But, it was beautiful, and useful in another context entirely..  "Shall I speak Latin to you, Calael?" he breathed, leaning into his ear a little. The touch of his soft lips against his lobe was practically tantalising, and Calael had to do his best not become utterly enraptured by him as he so often did. A groan escaped him.

"Oh, you know I would love that, you seductive creature," he teased, which produced a musically delighted laugh from the blonde, who seemed to latch onto the compliment as he rose to his knees and slowly straddled his lover. 

A finger hooked under his chin, and drew Calael's gaze to him as he whispered words in the mystifying language of the past. A grin was fixed upon his lips, and Calael watched them move, prompting his own to part a little. "Transit umbra; lux permanet. Graviora manent, ad infinitum.."

Calael's mouth turned dry. "Will you translate, love?"

"The shadow passes; the light remains. Heavier things remain for eternity," Artemus breathed, now leaning in to steal a tender, chaste kiss. "Most of what I know is of that sort. Short, poetic phrases."

"Artemus, you could tell me to jump off a bridge in that voice and I would beg to hear more," Calael grinned, resting his hands upon his waist and attempting to steal another kiss, which was promptly, playfully denied. 

"Ah, ah- fabas indulcet fames.."

"You talk like music," the love sick art murmured against his lips, still smiling adoringly even as he let his eyes fall shut. "What does it mean?"

"Hunger sweetens the beans."

"You minx.." 

A delighted giggle escaped the blonde, and his hands trailed idly over Calael's broad shoulders, before roaming to his chest. "You will like this one.. Ars longa, vita brevis. It means, art is long, life is short. Your personal mandate, no?"

"It is certainly beautiful," Calael said softly. He had always thought something of the same. There was something deeply fulfilling and satisfying in knowing he would be leaving a positive mark on the world long after he himself was gone, in the form of the art he left behind. That was one fantasy he could buy into. He adored the depth of Artemus' mind; adored the fact that he could appreciate such notions. "Tell me more. Tell me something you connect with."

Artemus thought for a moment at that, humming softly and moving his head to one side. He smiled to himself at the feeling of Calael's lips trailing over his throat in response. "Gratiae veritas naturae.. It means, truth through mercy and nature. A wonderful ideal."

"Mercy and nature," Calael repeated, in a sensual murmur against his lover's porcelain collar bone. Looking up, he observed how the golden light of dusk had faded to a warm, romantic pink, which painted the spirit's delicate features beautifully. "God you are captivating."

"You really are in love with me, aren't you?" Artemus smiled, with a dizzy sort of joy in saying the words with confidence. "You have that look in your eyes whenever your attention is on me.. It's unmistakable. You love me."

"Of course I love you, Artie, don't I tell you every day?"

"It's a different matter to see it.. I suppose I should not have doubted you for even a moment. You show me enough," Artemus said softly. He leaned in close and let their lips brush gingerly together.

Calael's breath caught slightly in his throat, containing himself from spoiling the moment with a rushed and desperate kiss. He told himself, fabas indulcet fames, and whispered, "Shall I show you again?"

The evening passed with passion. 

Dusk soon faded into night, and the rustic browns and greens of their living room were now replaced by vibrant crimson and a quaint, golden glow. The two men were illuminated dimly by only the string of pleasant white Christmas lights they had draped across the tapestry above their bed, and Artemus - stark naked and unashamed - had his face burrowed in his lovers throat as they lay calmly together at the conclusion of their intimacy. At a point during their love making, the spirit had regenerated and found himself fully dressed again, but this had been met by only humoured laughter. Calael had delighted in the chance to undress him again. 

Now, the artist was spent and exhausted, and far too comfortable at his lovers side not to be taken in by the tempting lure of sleep.

"Calael?" Artemus breathed, his lips mapping a path across his stubbled jaw to the corner of his mouth. "Serva me, servabo te.."

Calael did not ask what that meant, for he was already fast asleep, consumed by dreams of the addicting romance that had trapped him within the walls of Semper Place.
 

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