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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15. Chapter 15

At the conclusion of the evening, after an extremely successful auction, Calael was very much ready to drop. He wanted to head home to Semper Place to be with his sweetheart, and though the addition of his father's presence would prevent it from being quite the evening he would have liked, he was still thrilled to finally be leaving.

"Ah, you must be very proud of yourself Mister Black, those paintings fetched a very hefty price," said Mister Avary brightly, extending a hand to him to shake, which he took politely. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you.. We will need you to email a head-shot of yourself to display alongside your artwork in the gallery."

"Ah, of course. Well, thankyou very much for everything, Mister Avary. I'll be in touch," Calael responded, with the final artificial smile of the night.

Certainly from a practical point of view, the money he had earned was fantastic. He knew that, realistically. But he couldn't help but feel extremely apathetic about it. In the past, perhaps he would have thought of things he could have bought, places he could have visited, events he could have attended, with such money as he had just chequed. Hopeful thoughts. None of these were present in his mind currently; he felt like it was all somewhat useless, in fact, and that the only good thing to come from this tedious evening had been the faint joy of knowing that - even if they did not know Artemus was a real man who had once lived in this very town - they had all seen and appreciated his radiant beauty for themselves. He had been seen again, in the way that he deserved. 

As he left the gallery, tightening his coat around himself as the chill of the night air greeted him, he spotted Seamus standing beside one of the marble columns outside, rubbing his gloved hands together for warmth and staring out into the rolling hills in the distance with a blank, dismal look in his eyes.

"Dad?" he said, which prompted the man to look up, and regard him with a somewhat unsettled expression. 

"Ah. Calael. Ready to head back, I suppose?"

"Very much so. Did you like the art?" Calael asked, simply to make idle conversation as they walked back to the car together.

Seamus simply stood for a moment and looked at him. Just stared at his seemingly ordinary son, as images of an ordinary childhood and an ordinary upbringing crossed his mind. Then of the state of hysterics he had been in after the fire; sobbing, and screaming, and begging to be with Harry. Harry, who had been reduced to ashes. 

He wondered where it was during his son's process of recovery that he had gone wrong, to allow this delusional, unstable state to occur. And, how it was that Calael was so gifted at hiding his sickness.

"Yes, of course," he said simply, in the  manner that one might apply to a dementia sufferer, not wishing to waste precious breath. He moved past his son and got swiftly into the driver's seat, holding his hand out for the keys. "You must be tired. I'll drive us back."

"Oh.. Thanks, dad, but I would have been fine," Calael frowned, tossing them over to him and climbing into the passengers side. He thought very little of the offer after that.

As the car started up, and he began to watch the dark road ahead as they began their route home, the young man had plenty of time to reflect back on his last conversation with Artemus. It had been lingering in the back of his mind all evening and cropping up relentlessly. 

We cannot ignore time forever. It passes every moment that we wait, he had said.

Calael knew that he was right. It was time, ultimately, that would be the downfall of their love. They had been born too far apart to ever love naturally; and so they had been left with this. This dark, private romance, that he knew was utterly insane, and yet he would not give up for anything. He adored him too passionately to sacrifice him now. It was that adoration, he decided, that had truly been the driving factor for this evening. Not influence, not money, not politics or pleasing his father; but showing his beloved muse to the world in all his beauty and splendor. 

He loved Artemus with all his heart. More so, perhaps, than he had ever loved Harry. The world was a dark and miserable place to him, and people could be fake and cruel, but Artemus was one true light in his life that gave him a reason to wake up in the morning. 

Upon arriving at the house at last, he smiled warmly at the sight of his lover sitting waiting on the stairs for him, and would have rushed to embrace him had his father not been standing right there. "I'm gonna head straight to bed, dad," he said, without taking his eyes off the radiant blonde. "Help yourself to the kitchen.. And thankyou so much for coming tonight."

"Bah, I wouldn't miss it for the world, son," Seamus said, with a somewhat sad and weary smile. 

With that, the young man ascended the stairs quickly, as did his boyfriend a few steps ahead. They slipped into the bedroom and the moment the door was closed, Artemus threw his arms around his neck in a loving embrace, burying his face into the crook of his neck to breathe in the familiar, comforting scent of acrylic paint and overpriced cologne. "Cal.. God, I always miss you terribly when you're gone, even if only for a couple of hours.."

Calael kissed his forehead softly as confirmation that he felt the same way, because he could hear Seamus passing through the hallway outside the bedroom door and didn't want to risk being heard. Artemus moved his head in a needy little attempt to steal a chaste kiss from his lips, hands drifting down to rest upon his shoulders. "Cal.. I really do hate when you leave. I know how unhappy it makes you.."

Calael nodded his head in understanding, and mouthed to him the words, 'I know.'

"Cal," Artemus said again, looking up at him with those beautiful, beautiful eyes. "I wish you never had to leave. I wish you could stay here forever.. Is that wrong of me? I don't know, I just- I want what makes you happy. You're happy here. You're not happy out there, in that awful, grey world," he sighed softly.

Calael heard the door to the guest room shut, and he sighed as well. "How right you are.. I wish I could stay here too," he whispered, leading him over to the bed, where he sat down and let Artemus gently unlace his tie. "It's a horrible, bleak place out there.. My only real friend these days is you. Nobody there at that exhibition truly cared for me, and I know you're right about my father; neither does he."

"Exactly. I know what's best for you," Artemus breathed, his delicate fingers now working apart each button of his shirt intricately. "I know you know that."

"I do. I trust you, with every inch of my heart. You wouldn't lead me astray.. I love you, Artemus."

"I love you as well. And I'm telling you now, that we have to start thinking about the future," the blonde pressed. Once the shirt had been gently drawn away, he sat down beside him and let his lips trail gently over his shoulder as his hands rested on his bare chest. "Would you ever want to marry me?"

The statement caught him entirely off guard. "Marriage?" Calael repeated in shock, having to remind himself quickly to lower his voice.  "Where on Earth did that come from? How would we?"

"I was watching the television.. How it is legal now for two men to wed, and it just got me thinking. Marriage is something I never dreamed possible. I know that we could never have a traditional wedding, or anything legally binding, but it can be binding to us.. A display of devotion."

"Two people can marry without a minister I suppose.. But - what am I even saying? They still need a witness," Calael added mildly. He gave a quiet sigh at the dejected look on the blondes face, and turned his head to catch his lips again in a soft, loving kiss. "Please don't look so hurt.. I know that you deserve more than what I can give you, Artemus, and I'm so sorry.."

"I am not giving up on this. I don't care an ounce for traditions or legal roles; what about our love is traditional? I just want you to devote yourself to me, Calael.. With the grim reaper as our witness if needs be."

In that precise moment, what Artemus was truly asking of him fell into place.

He thought of Artemus, alone years after his lover would be gone, still haunting the walls of Semper Place in depression and despair; creating those heart wrenching sobs and wails that made Calael's chest hurt.

He thought of himself, growing old as Artemus remained young and beautiful, having to continue his painful life outside of the house's walls interacting with people he despised in a hideous world that he felt had only ever worked to bring him misery.

 It wasn't like he truly had anybody but Artemus left.. He had nobody. His mother had been avoiding contact ever since her last visit, his father was more concerned for his reputation than his state of wellness, and his friends had abandoned him without a second thought. Would it not be easier to remain here, forever, with the one person who made things bright again? 

He looked up from his cherry lips to meet his gaze, his eyes filled with confusion and turmoil. "Artie.."

"You have a very long time to think about it, love," Artemus reassured him softly, reaching up to touch his cheek tenderly. "You know I would never force such a thing on you.. But  I will not lie. I do recommend it. I do want it. The mortal world has nothing for you.."

Those words did not fit the saccharine smile upon his lips. But none the less, Calael leaned in and kissed him again helplessly. His voice was breaking slightly as he spoke. "Let's.. Let's just go to sleep now, love.. I missed you today, I want to lie together for a while."

"Of course, Cal.."

Soon enough, they were doing just that. They lay shirtless side by side under the scarlet sheets, in the tranquil dark of the twilit night. Artemus for once had fallen asleep first, his head upon the chest of his doting lover, and a pretty little smile of contentment on his face. 

Calael, however, was struggling to succumb to sleep. He distracted himself desperately with picking apart the blonde locks that tickled his chin, his mind wide awake, and plagued by thoughts of death.

 He looked up in the darkness though, and spotted the vague outline of their vase of flowers on the dresser. The wilting lilies he had used as a prop for one of his sketches were still contained within, a few of the crisp white petals having fallen to the glass counter beneath.

Lilies, Artemus had said, were a memento mori, and perhaps that was exactly what he needed at this moment. A reminder that everybody dies; sooner or later.
 

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