Pt. 2: Where I Draw the Line; A Kabala Decision
Summary: Steffan makes a decision
Disclaimer: All characters and places recognizable from Masque of the Red Death belong to Wendy Pini, lyrics by Hammerfall
Our sun is set, our day is done
I'm left here wondering
Is this the end, my final words to you
Day turned to night
Now you're gone I'm left here pondering
Can this be true, are we really through?
You were the wind beneath my wings
Taught me how to fly
With you, I lived among the kings
How could this ever die?
He left the beach and returned to the mansion, uncaringly ignoring the people calling after him. They didn't matter to him right now.
The one thing that did matter was that Anton had finally gone too far.
Standing in the great hall below the Rainbow Suite he looked around, an intense feeling of lost growing in him. How would he go on from this? That was a decision he thought he wouldn't have to make – at least not on this issue…
His eyes found the chamber farthest to the left, the Black Chamber of Choice, what would be more appropriate for his purpose?
Steps unhurried Steffan moved to climb the stairs, a grace to his movements like the smooth strides of a feline in spite of the turmoil within him. But when he stood at the entrance of the Chamber, he hesitated to go any further. In there was where the private ceremony, when the attomons had been injected, had taken place.
*That night the chamber was illuminated by the light of many candles grouped together around the chamber, the flickering flames making the shadows dance around them. Standing in front of the big red stained glass window was a couple, they were wearing robes – the one clad in blue the other gold - and they were facing each other.
"This is not for the world," the man in blue said. "This is our secret, yours and mine – for all time. Do you understand?"
The other man met his gaze.
"Everyone's had a piece of me," he said, not all too proud by the confession but feeling that it would be right to be honest as Anton had been honest with him all the way there. "But now… to have something one else will ever have… to know something no one else will ever know – is to be born anew."
Anton watched him for a moment, giving thought to his lover's words, then he turned to the table standing a little to the side and picked up an instrument. He turned back to Steffan who was watching the thin-looking thing in the other's hand.
"First the chips monitored by the immaculate computer I created for the sole purpose," Anton said bringing the instrument to Steffan's upper arm, after which Steffan did the same to Anton. "They'll keep the attomons functioning perfectly when we're away from Penumbra," Anton continued. "We can travel the world, having to return only once a month for a… tune-up, shall we say." The thin instruments put aside Anton reached for another one, the injector. "And now… the attomons." Anton gave him a piercing look. "Are you sure?"
"This is the Chamber of Choice," Steffan replied calmly. "I've chosen!" He eased the robe from his shoulders. "Do it!"*
He closed his eyes to the memory and when he opened them again, Steffan noticed that he'd entered the chamber and was standing in its midst his eyes gazing upon the stained glass windows.
His gaze started to wander about, marking locations in the now stripped down chamber; he easily found where the many candles had been placed, glancing about he found where the fire had been burning in its hearth, and where a comfortable bed of soft blankets and pillows had been set up.
Now, though, it was empty and undecorated as there was no purpose of use, and like Steffan's vision of a future where he and Anton would truly live happy ever after, the image of that one perfect night faded back to his memory - the one place where it would be alive and cherished.
Heart aching Steffan moved over the cold mosaic floor to stand in front of the portrait of Anton Prosper the third, the long dead man staring down at him.
*'I've arrived at a level of comfort that in some ways I am, indeed, my father's son'*
"That's really what you want to be, Anton?" he said, his voice a mere whisper. "On the outside an everlasting young man, but on the inside a fucked-up man dying before his time? A man that you've always despised?"
Of course there was no response, but, probably a trick of the light he thought, the smile on Sr.'s face seemed to widen slightly as if gloating.
He lowered his gaze, ashamed even to admit defeat to a painting.
"If that's truly what you want, then I don't have any place here with you."
As the realization hit him, he staggered and had to catch himself against the wall, tears rising in his eyes and spilling down smooth golden cheeks.
We were one, we were all, we were the only
Future full of hope, nothing could stand in our way
But dreams can change, visions fall, I feel so lonely
I would walk through fire for just one more day
You were the angel of my life
Taught me to be free
Now I'm a stranger in your eyes
Walls are closing in on me
Leaning against the wall for support he made his way out of the chamber, or would have done so if he hadn't come to a dead halt by the door to the secret lab. Steffan stared at the door and before the thought had crossed his mind his fingers sought the trigger to open it.
He picked his way down to the lab, walked past the cage still standing on a table - the rat inside it lifting its head to look at the man as he passed – without sparing it as much as a glance and headed for thecomputer. Standing in front of it his thoughts had caught up with him and they'd regrouped to form into a plan. Steffan would make him suffer, if only for a while, let him know how it felt to be betrayed – when trust was being broken.
*Outstretched belly-down, Steffan was lying out on the terrace under the warm sun holding a holo-screen on which he was flipping through a collection of images. He stopped at one and gazed upon it, this image getting far more attention than any other.
Anton, who'd been sitting watching him now silently come up behind him, looked at the picture as well noticing that Steffan paid more attention to the figure on that particular image than other ones, and he didn't like it. Close scrutiny of the image revealed that looking back at him was a young attractive man, who when the picture had been taken was, smiling sleepily at the camera, lying in a bed a blanket lazily draped over his waist and thighs.
"Who is he?" Anton said, forcing his voice to stay calm.
The very one that had saved him from his mother's plans of turning him into a whore, as soon as she'd revealed her plans to him he'd left home and sought out his friend – and later lover – who had let him in.
"And the picture?"
"I took that," Steffan said dreamily. "It was a beautiful and warm summer morning and I happen to wake up before him. He looked so peaceful in his sleep and I wanted to make the moment last forever. But just as I was to take the picture he opened his eyes and gave me that look." Steffan tilted his head. "It made the picture even better."
"He's your ex?" Anton posed it as a question, but it really wasn't.
"Mm…" his lover replied.
"So why are you keeping his picture?"
Steffan blinked and turned away from the screen, a frown creasing his brow.
"What are you getting at?" Steffan asked. "It's just a picture."
"A picture of your lover, who you were with for… how long?"
"Since I was fifteen."
"So for a good eight years…"
Steffan felt his temper rising, till he realized the cause for Anton's behavior.
Anton opened his mouth to deny the statement, but closed it again without any sound passing over his lips. He looked away.
Smiling affectionately Steffan rose and went to stand directly in front of him, placing his hand on Anton's cheek turning his face back so their eyes met.
"Why would you be jealous? He's my past. You're my present and my future, and you'll still be when he's long gone; taken by age."
Not completely convinced Anton looked back to the holoscreen still displaying the picture, at the bottom of which words was written by a hand he was sure not to be Steffan's.
"'You are the one, and you always will be'," he read aloud and then he looked back to Steffan. "So, he doesn't mean anything?"
"We spent almost eight years together, of course there are a lot of feelings involved, but I left him to be with you. Don't you trust me?" He gazed into the hazel eyes searching for an answer within their depths. "Anton?" he said inquiring. His lover met his stare for yet another quiet moment, before he diverted his eyes and moved past Steffan to stand by the terrace railing. "Anton!"
"I – I wasn't raised to be overly trusting," Anton replied silently. "My father always told me that everybody has a reason for which they seek you out, because they want something, no matter what they say."
Steffan went up to stand next to him, staring intently at the face, which dark eyes was staring out over the island.
"You can trust me," Steffan said, his voice trembling with emotion. "I'm not going to betray you."
Finally Anton turned to face him.
"Can you really promise that?" he wondered, doubt in his voice mixed with cautious curiosity. "That you won't ever betray?"
"I promise you that, whatever happens, I will not betray you," his fair-haired lover said without a second of hesitation.*
And he'd kept the promise, remained faithful, resisting the temptations that had sought his attention, while seeing his lover steal away with others.
Angry tears rolled down his cheeks and he raised his hand to look upon the memory chip he was holding in his hand. It would be a perfect revenge – to strike where he knew it would hurt the most. He inserted the chip, but a voice far back in his mind stopped him from doing any more.
'Hurting him won't make it undone,' the little voice said. 'It won't make your feelings of hurt go away.'
Steffan stood undecided for a long while, before he started to move slender fingers over keys. When done he extracted the chip from its slot and tenderly placed it on the tabletop in front of him. Then he turned to leave.
When I turn to the east, I see no dawn
But after darkness comes the light
When I turn to the west, the silent night hides all
Where is the light that shines so bright?
Instead of leaving through the same way he'd come, which would take him back to the Black Chamber and that meant that he would have to face everybody again, he took the other way, the back door, out of the lab.
He picked his way out of the mansion, carefully avoiding being seen by any of the staff, to arrive to the private dock where a boat was waiting and that would take him back to the mainland. The engine running he looked over his shoulder at the indigo sky where glittery patterns in different colors appeared accompanied by loud cracking sounds as firework shot into the air.
"I'm sure you meant well," Steffan said as he turned his back to the island, the mansion, Anton and their life together. "For a while."
Sitting in the taxi, he looked out through the window, his thoughts was erratic and going in all direction. He wondered if Anton had found the chip yet, if he'd seen its contents - and then how had he reacted? If he reacted to it at all. And then he also wondered if Anton had even noticed that he was gone, or was he too busy with the party and the guests?
Steffan sighed and leant forward to bury his face in his hands.
"Things not going your way?" he heard the driver say.
A smile he couldn't explain, he guessed that it was the tension, hurt and all other feelings lately that had taken their toll, slipped onto his lips and he had to stifle the laughter that rose in him.
"It's complicated," he replied straightening up again. "But I'm hoping that now when I've put some distance between me and the… troubling stuff…I can start over again."
The driver nodded not responding as the young man had turned to look out through the window again, seeming as lost in thoughts as he had been moments earlier.
Steffan looked out at familiar structures, and as he approached he found himself getting nervous – anxious about what kind of welcome he would receive once he arrived. He hoped that there wouldn't be any hard feelings and that he would be welcomed back.
So I say farewell, I'm yours forever
And I always will be
Anton scanned the surroundings with his eyes, but didn't find what he was searching for.
Where was Steffan?
His eye caught sight of a familiar short blue female among the guests and he made over to her.
"Have you seen Steffan?" he asked her.
She looked surprised, and then her expression changed as she gave his question consideration.
"No, I don't think I've seen him tonight," she said puzzled.
"Me neither," Anton said frowning. "Not since…"
His voice trailed off and he turned away, the inquiring look on Bunchh's face unseen by him.
Anton left the beach and made back inside the mansion, too much into his mind to notice the looks and words following him. Entering he searched with his eyes till he found Chief Attendant Wharder approaching.
"Have you seen Steffan tonight?" Anton asked as the other came in level with him.
"Yes," the Attendant replied. "I saw him head for, and into, the Black Chamber." He looked at Anton in silent concern. "He looked sad."
Anton didn't reply, but walked past the other man, making his way straight for the chamber to, at entering, find it empty.
His gaze went to the door leading down the secret lab, and he hurried in the direction to push the trigger for the door to open. On the other side of the door it was as quiet as in the chamber he'd left, and as he reach the lab he found it as empty and quiet, nothing seemed to have been disturbed. Although…
Across the room, on a table, a object was laying. He was sure that he hadn't left it there, he wasn't letting things lie around, and who else had been down here - who else knew about the lab? There could only have been one person who had left it there.
Crossing the lab he picked up the object, a memory chip, and after having observed it curiously he inserted it in the computer and felt his heart drop at the contents of the single file stored on the chip.
I love you, but clearly it's not enough to make it work between us. All I wanted was for you to love me back, but you were unable to do that.
So I'm leaving.
It might seem that I'm, by leaving this message instead of telling it to your face, taking the easy way out, but this is in no way easy.
When coming here I had no idea of the feelings that would grow within me and I was surprised when I found that I was in love with you. I even left my long-term boyfriend to be with you. That's what I did when briefly leaving Penumbra. That's how much fate I had in our relationship.
You made me promise that I would be faithful, I didn't feel that it was necessary as I wouldn't want anybody else but I did anyway because I wanted you to know how strongly I felt for you, just your trust didn't go far, did it? Then you wouldn't have acted the way you did.
Before leaving I'm accessing the computer, not to make the changes I first thought to, but to turn off the attomons. If not I would forever be reminded of you and I don't think I could handle that. Then I would rather live one lifetime with someone who truly loved me.
So, I'm saying farewell, I would have been yours forever.
Anton re-read the words, hoping that they would have another meaning the second time, but only to have his heart breaking even more.
He'd been a fool.
Missing you in my heart, you are the one
And you always will be
He stood outside the door as he had for the five minutes since he'd got there, undecided whether this was a good idea. But finally he raised his hand and knocked on the door in front of him.
Anxiety ripping through him, he waited for what seemed like forever before it opened and a familiar face came into view.
"I understand that you probably didn't expect to see me here on your doorstep," Steffan said as the other silently gazed at him. "And I'm sorry if it cause you inconvenience, seeing to the way we parted. But I need somewhere to stay."
He was greeted by a smile and the other stepped aside to let him in.
"I hoped that you'd come back," the young man said as Steffan walked passed him. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too."
He was home now, the one place where he'd truly felt safe, and back with the one person he'd always felt safe around. Maybe this was where he belonged…