Notes: This is just a teaser. Following chapters will be much longer.
So this is a… crossover? No, an alternate universe I guess. It's The Picture of Dorian Gray with other characters… and story… and ending… I can say it's definitely based on Dorian Gray because I was reading it at the time.
Oscar Wilde note: The title is actually a reference to a short story by Wilde, titled The Portrait of Mr. WH. Which is sort of an essay on the homoeroticism in Shakespeare's sonnets. I highly recommend it. Also, read Dorian Grey ten times if you haven't already because that book is my favourite of all.
'It really is your best work.' Erik sat long and cross-legged on the divan in Charles' garden studio. The glass walls and ceiling let in so much light, Charles found it the best place in the house to work.
Between the many canvasses, work tables and chairs, there were still flowers from when the room had been used to house only them. The smell of them pervaded the room, something which Erik had a habit of remarking - they made his nose crinkle. If he came here every day he should have wrinkles by the time he was thirty-five. When Charles then said he was already thirty-six, Erik would either leave in a huff, or eat all of Jacobs' - the butler's - daily muffin allowance.
Today, the sun warmed the most beautiful painting - well, the most beautiful subject - Erik had ever seen, apart from Charles of course, but he had a less conventional beauty, which made it all the more precious to Erik. The young man in the painting, however, looked like a creature out of time. Botticelli could have painted him yesterday.
He stood tall, but this didn't give him an air of authority or superiority. He was fashionably slim, but it was his face that caused one to pause. He gazed out with the deepest eyes, perfect blue, but sometimes green if you saw them in twilight. He had sharp cheekbones, a marble complexion and golden curling tresses that were combed back, giving him a windswept look. In his modern cream-coloured suit, straw trilby hat in hand, he looked part English explorer, part native treasure.
'You must exhibit it at once,' Erik continued, rummaging for his cigarette case in his breast pocket. 'You'll be the talk of London.'
'I can't,' Charles said. He stared, brow furrowed, sitting on his stool. 'It's too much. People won't believe it.'
'People don't want to believe in art these days,' Erik said with his usual world weary knowledge. 'Realism is grotesque when it is believed.'
'Your nonsense is not helping,' Charles said, eyes never leaving the canvas. 'I think I've put too much of myself in it.'
'Yourself?' Erik gave a small snort. He tapped a cigarette and put it in the corner of his mouth as he rose, coming over to the canvas beside Charles. 'I never took you for vain.'
'It's not vanity,' Charles huffed, glancing at Erik and immediately producing his matches from his pocket. Erik lit the cigarette himself. 'I know I'm not like him in beauty.'
'You're far too dark haired,' Erik said, smiling. 'Blond is always more fashionable.'
'I can't alter the circumstances of my birth to fit the fashion,' Charles shot back, referring to his very dark-haired parents.
'My sweet Charles, you have the most fashionable parentage. The penniless painter son of a penniless writer, married to a penniless violin player. I'm surprised there hasn't been a play about it in the West End.'
'If that's the fashion, then you must be the most unfashionable son in London.'
'I always make it a point to be unfashionable,' Erik said, 'which makes me the most fashionable.'
Charles shook his head. 'Your nonsense is very witty today, Erik. Besides, I'm far from penniless these days.'
'You will be soon if you don't sell some paintings.'
'I'm not exhibiting this,' Charles said firmly. 'And I'm certainly not selling it.'
'This idea of the painter being the true subject is the true nonsense, Charles,' Erik argued. He gestured to the portrait, the eyes especially. 'But of course, I couldn't be a true judge before I meet the man.'
'I knew it,' Charles said, rising from his stool and taking his brush and paints away to the worktable. 'Every time you come here, it's all about meeting him.'
'I'm your oldest friend, Charles, don't I deserve to meet this man who has bewitched you?'
'You will never meet him,' Charles said. 'You'll spoil him.'
'Is he a fruit about to fall? How could I spoil him?'
'You will talk nonsense to him, and unlike me he will not understand how to ignore everything you say. He will think you mean it all.'
'That is very unfair,' Erik said, coming over to stand behind Charles. He breathed in the scent of paints and Charles. Charles never noticed when he was working.
'I don't think so,' Charles said. 'But it doesn't matter. William is finished sitting for me. Your attempts at running into him while here have failed.'
'William, was it?'
'Blast.' Charles turned - Erik taking a step back before he noticed - and glared at him. 'Don't spoil him for me. He is… he is everything, can you understand?'
'Yes, of course.'
'No, you don't.' Charles stalked over to the canvas, gazing at the Adonis he had captured. 'He is my truest muse. My whole art. When I met him I knew my art would never be the same. It's not simply a matter of beauty. His soul speaks to mine, and together we have created my finest work. That is why I cannot exhibit this painting. It is not a portrait of William Buxton, it is…'
'A romance,' Erik finished. Charles started to shake his head. 'A romance of souls. Yes, you're quite right to fear the gaze of the cultured masses. Truth like that is seen as dishonest.'
'Your only romance is with your wit, I think,' Charles said. 'I'm sorry, that was cruel.'
'Because it was true, I shall not believe it,' Erik smiled. 'Besides, romance leaves one feeling so unromantic, which is why I only ever have romances with my wife. We play as star-crossed lovers who never find the time to meet.'
'Don't talk like that. You know how I hate it.'
'But you are an expert at ignoring me, so no harm done.' Erik realised his cigarette had burned halfway without him. He extinguished it in one of the many ashtrays Charles had taken to leave about. He was the only man in London who did not smoke, but he had more ashtrays than all of them put together.
Erik straightened his vest and buttoned his jacket over. 'I'm afraid I must be off. Aunt Agatha is insisting I come for tea, and I've gotten out of it three times in a row.'
'Yes, I know. You've been here.'
'I'll see you tomorrow.' Erik left the house to the sound of Charles' tutting, but he still followed him out and waved goodbye as Erik caught a cab.
Just as the cab rounded the far corner of the street, Erik could see all the way down to Charles' door, where another cab was arriving, a young blond man springing from it. Erik's last view was of Charles skipping down the front steps to greet his visitor.