The motor car slowed to a stop outside the gates of the cemetery, and the driver got down to open the door. A woman appeared from the other side to help him move the wheelchair from the car to the ground. The car door was closed, and she opened the gates to the cemetery, closing them once they were inside.
All around them the trees shone golden, their leaves dying in splendour as autumn approached. The gravel made crunching sounds as the wheelchair trundled over it towards a row of tombstones near the river. When they were nearly there, the old man raised his hand so that they stopped, and struggled to stand. He ignored the hand which was offered in help, and when he was finally upright moved slowly forward, clutching in his hand a single flower – a blood red rose.
He bent slowly to place it by the tombstone, forgetting about his carers standing a short distance away. They had turned to give him privacy. He hadn't been here in such a long time, yet it felt such a familiar place. He gazed down at the words cut into the stone and felt a familiar tug in his chest, his eyes smarting with tears.
'In loving memory
of a beloved son, friend, and partner,
He touched the cool stone, closing his eyes and seeing those dark eyes gazing back, laughing. He heard his name whispered, and smiled, imagining Morgan was there.
He remembered walking up to the gate, where Lani stood with tears running down her cheeks, and being unable to speak to tell her what happened. Carlos had followed on foot, and pushed past them to get to his caravan, where he locked himself in. They had lain Morgan's body in his own trashed caravan, where Lani knelt by his side, sobbing. Wracked with grief, Christian had left and spent the rest of the day walking blindly and pointlessly around the small town, sobbing intermittently, unable to accept that Morgan was gone.
It was dusk when he returned to the campsite, only to find that most of the circus folk had abandoned the camp completely, leaving only a few people to take down the tent and clear up. He almost ran to where he had laid Morgan, and stood staring down at him for the longest time, tears pouring silently down his cheeks. Not knowing what else he should do, he had slept by Morgan's side that night, utterly exhausted, and dreading the morning when it came.
He opened his eyes as the memory faded, looking back towards where the man and woman stood talking a short distance away. He was certain someone had called his name.
The coroner had asked him the next day if he wanted a memorial service for Morgan and he didn't know what to say. Who would come? Carlos had moved his camp of circus folk on the night before, leaving nothing but memory in their wake. Lani had refused to leave, only swayed at the last moment by Christian telling her that Morgan wouldn't want her lingering on in grief.
He remembered the priest's monotonous voice washing over him as they stood at Morgan's grave in the cemetery, only four of them – himself, his mother and sister, and the priest. He remembered looking up through tear-filled eyes, and being certain, for just a minute, that he could see Morgan sitting under the trees by the river, drawing something in his notepad, something Christian had never seen. Then he blinked, and the vision was gone.
"What is it?" He turned, expecting to see his nephew standing behind him, but there was nothing but empty space. He frowned, looking back towards them, where they still stood talking. His niece turned and gave him a small smile, before continuing her conversation. He was sure this time, sure someone had called his name.
"Christian…" There it was again, but the voice … that voice. So familiar, yet so alien. He turned further, looking towards the river, squinting a little to see clearly. A movement, the sparkle of beautifully clear eyes, the carefree sound of laughter.
With the small, shuffling steps of old age, he picked his way across the cemetery to the gate which overlooked a small patch of grass leading down to the river. The birds chirped overhead, and the sunlight streamed down, filtered by the slowly turning leaves. He gripped the branch of a small yew tree for balance, gaze fixed on where he could find his next foothold. When he finally looked up, it was to a sight he had missed and longed for over the last few long years.
"Christian…" Morgan's embrace was as warm as he remembered, and with just one look into his blue eyes, Christian felt twenty-five again, and let Morgan lead him down to the edge of the river, where they sat on a fallen log and stared and touched each other with the same tender love of years which were almost forgotten.
"I've missed you so much," Christian whispered, his voice breaking slightly, and he pulled Morgan tightly to him, kissing him and holding him as though he couldn't ever let go. "There was no-one, no other but you."
"I've missed you too." Morgan smiled up at him, and he felt complete once more. "I knew you would come back."
Morgan kissed him gently, and Christian didn't notice how cold his lover's lips were, nor how his skin seemed like ice to the touch. He glanced down into the water, seeing only one person reflected back, but that didn't matter. Nothing mattered any more. Just being together. They sat holding each other, staring out over the flat expanse of water, and Christian let his eyes fall closed as he once again felt Morgan's head rest on his shoulder, and his dark curls soft under his fingertips.
The sound of the birds grew faint, as did the whisper of the wind through the branches of the trees overhead, and the cold began to seep through the thick jacket into his very core. He asked Morgan if he was cold, but there was no reply, just the movement of the younger man pressing closer, murmuring words which he couldn't quite make out.
Later, when his niece and nephew grew worried, they ventured down to the riverside, to find the old man lying alone by the side of the water, his eyes closed, the last relics of life gone from his body. A movement at the corner of their vision drew their gazes, but there was nothing to see. They knelt beside him, holding each other in grief, yet very aware of the strange peace which had settled around them.
And a short distance away, just within the gates of the cemetery, two young men stood unnoticed in the shade of a large yew tree, kissing each other tenderly. It was as if time was of no consequence to them; as if they had al eternity to be together.