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IfyouwouldliketoseeallthestoriesthatareapartofthiscontestvisitTheAgeofEdward 2010 C2 Community.
Thanks to Maria and Dizzy for the Beta help!
"That should be the last of it," Carlisle stated as he entered the study. He had just sent the last of his belongings to his new residence.
"Guess that's that then." Edward replied in clipped tones, not bothering to look away from the window. He slowly inhaled from his pipe, letting the smoke curl languidly out of his mouth on the exhale.
"It doesn't have to be the end, Edward. If you would just listen." Carlisle began to plea. He hated the unneeded hostility between them. He also hated the pipe. But now wasn't the time to bring that up. One thing at a time.
"You've made your choice," Edward replied, snapping the words at him. Carlisle could hear the hurt in Edward's voice.
"You don't understand," Carlisle whispered.
This statement seemed to finally pull Edward from his calm facade.
"I understand perfectly." Edward turned to look at his once lover. "Go home to your wife." The hand he used to hold his pipe thrust out towards the door, dismissing Carlisle.
Carlisle closed his eyes knowing there was no point trying to explain. As he made his way to leave, Mrs. Cope came rushing in.
"Sir, they found another one."
"Damn it all, not again." Edward shook his head, once again bringing that pipe to his lips.
"Also the Brandon's are still pressing for you to take the case to help find their daughter. I've told 'em you were busy, but they keep offering more money."
"As if money was the sole motivator for my decision to take a case."
Youmeanitisn't? Carlisle wanted to say. Instead he asked, "Where was the body found?"
"This time it was dumped by the river," Mrs. Cope reported.
"Very interesting." Carlisle put one finger up to his lips, thinking; a mirror image to Edward's pipe.
"And why would you be interested? Don't you need to hurry back to Esme and play house like the perfect gentleman you are?" Edward demanded coldly.
"So, now I am out of a job as well?" Carlisle snapped back. He knew Edward was baiting him but could not help his reaction. Maybe if things were better between them he might have acted differently.
Ignoring Carlisle, Edward asked, "Is the body the same as all the others?"
"Yes sir, beaten and strangled. And, uh, also violated." Mrs. Cope blushed violently as she stuttered out the last part. Despite knowing of Carlisle's relationshipwith Edward, the subject was still sensitive indeed.
"When can we see the body?" Edward asked.
Carlisle felt a rush of gratitude that Edward seemed to concede the point that he was going with.
"Scotland Yard's requesting you immediately." Mrs. Cope hurriedly moved to the other side of the room, anticipating their departure.
Edward was already putting on his coat, hat, and grabbing his cane. "Good. We'll be one our way. Oh, and make sure to let the Brandon's know that I am still not taking their case," he said as he rushed out the door. Carlisle followed him out, donning matching attire.
Just as they reached the front door, Edward stopped.
"Are you sure you are allowed out, Carlisle? Won't the Missus be expecting you for dinner and the nightly romp?"
Carlisle visibly flinched at the comment.
"She'll make do. I'm needed here." He could not look Edward in the eyes as he said it, as he left off the unspoken withyou.
"Fine, whatever. Let's bloody leave already. This crime won't solve itself." Edward walked out of the house, not giving Carlisle a second glance.
The trip to the station was a quiet one. The only sound to break their silence came from the people they passed as they quickly made their way by foot. Edward was much too impatient to wait on a carriage. Luckily, the day was warm and the walk short. They arrived at the river's bank shortly, seeking out Inspector Swan, Scotland Yard's most distinguished officer. He was also one of the few men who could deal with Masen's antics.
"Masen. Cullen. It's about damn time. I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but there is another dead body. There is a dead boy clogging up the river and hell if I want anyone seeing him. People are scared enough without hearing the Strangler's killed again."
"And here I was thinking I was called down for tea. I will now have to put my dreams of seeing your lovely daughter to rest for the time being. It is very cruel to play with a gentleman's emotions so, Inspector. Very cruel indeed."
"Masen, the day I let you near my daughter is the day I become Queen of England," the Inspector grumbled.
"Hm, suppose the corsets could give you a bit of cleavage if needs be, but what will the neighbors say? I supposed if that is what it takes to gain the fair maiden's hand then I will endure it." Edward sighed in mock indignation.
"Fair maiden, my arse."
Carlisle eyed Inspector Swan, wondering, not for the first time, if he knew more than he let on.
"Sir, I will kindly ask you not to speak ill of my future love. More talk like that and I will be forced to take you out back to defend her honor."
"Oh, that was not about my daughter. However, this is irrelevant to the situation. Enough about fair maidens. You need to see the body."
Edward decided not to push the Inspector any longer. He knew the Police officer was desperate if he was willing to put up with Edward's barbs. Carlisle could see Edward's mind already at work on the case. Carlisle loved to watch his mind in action.
Inspector Swan led them down to the edge of the river where the body of their latest victim had washed ashore.
Carlisle tried to remain stoic as he looked at the body of the broken boy. It was a difficult task. He chanced a glance at his companion and found Edward studying the scene with troubled eyes.
"He has the same markings on his wrists and neck like the other victims." Edward walked over to point out the unique shape of the bruising.
Carlisle moved closer and agreed with Edward's findings. He noticed some other marks as well.
"Looks like this one put up a fight too. Note the blood under his fingernails. The boy most likely scratched at his attacker in an attempt to get away. Also, it seems as if he might have broken a few fingers in the process. Note the odd angle here and here." Carlisle lifted the boy's hands to show the others.
Edward stooped down to take a closer look, oddly fascinated with the broken and bloody hands. It was just another piece of the puzzle to keep in mind when trying to discover the identity of their murderer.
"Do we know who the victim is?" Carlisle asked.
"His name was Alec Volturi, an Italian exchange student here for the music conservatory." Swan pulled out a small portfolio with information about the victim, including his age, name of parents, and local address. He handed everything over to Masen.
"That makes four known and two unknown." Carlisle noted. "Each of the known victims hails from different parts of the better area of the city."
"There has to be more these boys have in common." Edward mused.
"Money?" Swan wondered aloud, noting that of those victims who they had been identified, each came from a wealthy family.
"Can't be," Edward stated. "Otherwise we'd have identified all the victims. If money was a motivator, the parents of the missing boys would have notified authorities long ago. Has the family been informed of what has happened?" He asked turning to the Inspector.
"They were informed about an hour ago. They are coming to collect the body soon."
"Right, then. Perhaps we should be on our way. Leave you to the messy business of dealing with the family." Edward was never one to help with the condolences. The one time he tried resulted in gun shots. Carlisle was still amazed that Masen made it out of that unscathed.
"You'll let me know if you think of anything?" Inspector Swan looked almost desperate.
"Of course, but seeing as it is late we'll have to save our visit until tomorrow. It will also allow us to avoid the more violent emotional displays." Edward no doubt remembered the gun incident as well.
Edward and Carlisle bid farewell to the Inspector and moved quickly away from the river. Now that night was approaching, the wind off the water was chilling. Both men had their heads tucked down into their overcoats, trying to block out the wind. If it hadn't been for Edward's acute peripheral vision, both would have missed seeing the gentleman currently walking by them at a very brisk pace.
It struck Edward as odd, seeing a man dressed in such fine apparel, hurriedly moving towards a part of town most well-to-be avoided. His interest caught, Edward called out to him.
"Excuse me, sir, but you don't happen to have the time?"
"Masen, what are you doing?" Carlisle was not up for any of Edward's normal shenanigans, wanting to get inside where it was warm. "I've got my pocket watch right here."
"Put it away, Cullen," Edward whispered to his partner. "I'm trying to figure something out."
"The time?" The gentleman stopped short, looking confused. "Why, it's half past six sir."
"Thank you, Mister..." Edward trailed off, hoping the man would fill in the blank.
"Whitlock. Jasper Whitlock."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Whitlock." Edward held out a hand.
"Likewise. Now if you'd excuse me, I must be going. In a bit of a hurry."
"Of course." Edward rubbed at his hand absentmindedly as they began walking again, noting the press of cold metal he had felt against his palm when he shook hands with Mr. Whitlock.
Having worked with Edward for many years, Carlisle was well aware of how he got whenever he had a "hunch" about something. Even still, he was annoyed that Edward could not so much as fill him in on why he wanted to learn the name of the young man.
"Are you going to tell me what that was all about?"
"Nope. I wouldn't want you to run home and tell your wife so she can gossip about it at her next luncheon. Shouldn't you be getting home now?"
Carlisle didn't know which hurt worse; the fact Edward no longer trusted him or the coldness in which he stated it.
"Masen, you know I would never discuss confidential business matters with Esme." Carlisle would not let his wife be spoken of in such a manner.
"You have changed so much I can't say that I do know you now." Edward all but whispered.
"Edward, please?" Carlisle didn't really know what he was asking for but would take anything at this point.
Having regained his composure, Edward straightened. "I plan on being at the Volturi's first thing in the morning. I will see you there." With that he turned on his heel and strode off into the night.
The loneliness and heartache followed Carlisle as he made his way home. He hoped the morning would bring a better day.
The hope Carlisle had clung to during his walk over to the Volturi's the next morning was quickly dashed when Edward came into his view. It was very clear that Edward had not slept much, if at all, during the night. His hair was disheveled, his eyes blood shot, and he reeked of alcohol and tobacco. Knowing there were any number of activities that could have aided this, Carlisle steeled himself for the worst.
"Morning." Carlisle greeted him, hoping to gauge the severity of Masen's mood.
"I see you can tell the time of day correctly. There may be hope for you yet, Cullen."
It was too early in the morning for a fight, Carlisle decided, so he kept his mouth shut. "Perhaps we should hurry and get on with the investigation, yes? Then you can crawl back into bed and do something about that disposition."
So much for keeping his mouth shut.
"Yes. Perhaps I shouldget back to bed. Maybe find a willing partner to keep the sheets warm for me." Edward said with a cruel smile on his face.
All Carlisle could do was gasp and try to control the pain that was shooting through him. Thankfully Edward could see his partner's distress and chose not to inflict anymore pain. Still, he didn't know what to say to take back the hurtful words. Instead, he chose that moment to knock on the front door of the Volturi residence.
They were ushered into the home and seen to the sitting room.
"Thank you for taking the time to see us today, Madame," Carlisle offered once the Lady of the house entered wearing her mourning clothes. "We are so sorry for the loss of your son. We are here to try and gather any information we can to help bring your son's killer to justice."
Edward let Carlisle take the lead in gathering the information, allowing Edward to catalog the information. Everything the parents told them was already known to both Scotland Yard and Masen and Cullen. It seemed they would get no more valuable information out of them. That is, until the father mentioned a schoolmate of Alec's. It was the same name as one of the Strangler's earlier victims.
"Who were his instructors?" Masen asked, speaking for the first time since arriving. He sensed a pattern, albeit small, and wanted to jump on the possibility of a lead.
"He attended the Yorkie School for Boys, but he had private tutors to further his studies. We were hoping for an early graduation and entrance to Oxford's School of Music" The woman's voice broke at the end of her explanation.
"Interesting. What instrument did Alec play?" Masen asked, becoming more alert with each passing question.
"He played many, but he was most gifted in the stringed instruments. Violin was his favorite."
"What are the names of his tutors?"
"He had music lessons from Sir Leopold Banner, and to aid the acceleration in his studies, Mr. Jasper Whitlock took care of the rest."
"Masen," Carlisle tried to speak quietly into Edward's ear. "Did she just say Whitlock? That's the name of the-"
"Yes, I know, Cullen." Edward's voice was smug as he responded quickly to his partner. "I believe you've told us enough." He stood up abruptly, not needing or wanting to hear more now that another piece was added to this puzzle.
The Volturi looked taken aback by the sudden change in Edward's demeanor but stood as well, bidding goodbye to the two men. Carlisle tried to apologize for the rudeness of his partner, but Edward was all but dragging him out the door.
"We could have at least waited to see where the men live before we departed." Cullen huffed as they hurried down the steps.
"We don't need to do that, Cullen. I deduce Mr. Whitlock was also a tutor to one of the deceased. We are going to the Newton's, family of the first victim, to inquire what else the boys might have shared." Masen explained.
"You mean you are hoping Whitlock was Newton's tutor." Cullen accused.
The duo hurried down the busy streets towards their destination. Edward kept his hand on Carlisle's arm, pulling him alongside so Carlisle would keep up. He'd never admit it, but Carlisle warmed at the bodily contact. Even in the face of finding a vicious killer, Carlisle was hyper aware of these moments, so few and far between now that he and Esme had wed.
They arrived just as an older man was leaving. Not missing a chance to gather any information, Masen greeted him.
"Likewise, gentlemen." The man lifted a hat in greeting. Edward didn't miss the glint of light from the metal band on his right hand.
"I see you are an Oxford man." Edward motioned towards the ring.
"That I am. I spent some of the best years of my life there," the man recalled fondly.
"I hope you don't mind, but I must ask, how did you know the Newton's?" Edward was not one to miss a chance to gather any information.
"I don't mind at all, Mr..."
"Oh." Edward did not imagine the sudden concerned look that flashed across the stranger's eyes. "I am a music instructor at Yorkie School for Boys. Michael Newton was a student of mine. I gave him private lessons as well. Such a shame about him."
"What instrument did young Newton play?" Carlisle spoke for the first time.
"Naturally," Edward replied, keeping his face neutral.
"Was there anything else you wanted to ask me?"
"Did a Mr. Whitlock also teach lessons to Newton?"
"Yes, in fact he and I share many of the same students. He should be at the Stanley's this afternoon. He teaches the young Miss Stanley right after his lesson with young Mr. Crowley."
"Very good, very good," Edward muttered to himself. "Cullen, shall we?" He reached out a hand to Carlisle as if expecting it to be held on to. Carlisle, not knowing what to do with the sudden and somewhat intimate gesture, turned to the other man.
"I'm sorry, but I don't believe we caught your name." His arm remained firmly at his side, hand clenched to keep from grabbing onto Edward. When Edward noticed this, he roughly withdrew his hand and put it in his coat pocket.
"It's Banner. Leopold Banner."
"We thank you for your time, Mr. Banner, and if you would be so kind as to give us a list of your private students, we'd be much obliged," Edward added.
"It will be no trouble at all. I can have it as early as this afternoon, so long as you don't mind stopping by the Stanley's home. If that is a problem I can bring it over after my lesson is completed. " Mr. Banner seemed quite happy to help in any way. He didn't even question for what purpose the list would be used.
"We shall see you this afternoon then. Good day, Mr. Banner." Edward tipped his hat allowing the man to take his leave.
Carlisle started to make his way towards the Newton's home when he was pulled back. The suddenness of the action nearly caused him to fall face first in the street.
"What in the devil's name did you do that for, Masen? Aren't we going to the Newton's?" Carlisle asked with a scowl as he steadied himself.
Edward held onto Carlisle's arm for a moment longer before speaking. "I do not believe it necessary at the moment, Cullen. We are, after all, meeting Banner at the Stanley's. That should prove to be sufficient for our investigations."
"Then, I will meet you there. I am going home and you should too. You need rest and a bath." Carlisle missed the flash of emotion in Edward's eyes as he turned to leave.
"Not all of us have someone who cares for us waiting at home, Carlisle." His voice was missing its usual confidence.
Carlisle spun around to face him. "Edward-"
"Until later, then, Cullen. Enjoy your wife."
Edward didn't linger after that. He made the walk home as quickly as he could in his current state. Upon arrival, he was met with another offer from the Brandon's. It was too much money to pass on. He muttered to Mrs. Cope to notify the Family that he would take their case and made his way to his room hoping to feel less alone when he woke.
Unfortunately, sleeping didn't help improve his mood much, his mind immediately drifting to the case. And the fact that Carlisle, instead of being with him, was with Esme. It shouldn't have bothered him, really. Since when did he ever feel the need for having anyone in his life? Cullen could be with whoever he wanted; it didn't matter. Edward repeated the lie to himself as he left his home. He'd solve this case, leave Cullen to his husbandry duties, and move on with his life.
Carlisle was there waiting for him.
"Masen, I've been thinking..."
"That's a first."
"Don't be daft. I'm serious."
"As am I. Frankly, I'm shocked. But, there is a first time for everything, right?"
"Why must you always do this?"
"I have no idea to what you are referring." Edward, not waiting for an answer, rapped sharply on the door of the Stanley's home.
Hearing the door open, Carlisle muttered a quick, "Never mind."
"I am Mr. Masen and this is my assistant Mr. Cullen. We are here to see Misters Banner and Whitlock please." He spoke with such authority that the servant girl didn't stop to question. She let them in and led them to the music room where Mr. Banner was packing up his things.
"Sir's, Mr. Whitlock is in the study there." The girl pointed at the room across the hall. She gave them a curtsy and made her way back to her duties.
"Gentlemen! I am glad to see you here. I have my list of students ready for you." Mr. Banner offered Masen a slip of paper.
"Much obliged." Edward tipped his cap in thanks to Banner. He gave the paper a cursory glance before slipping it into his coat pocket.
The two men made their way across the hall to the study. They knocked and pushed the door open to reveal a young Miss Stanley hanging on the words of her tutor, Mr. Whiltock. The tutor didn't seem to return the sentiment in the slightest.
Edward started to speak before Mr. Whitlock was aware of their presence.
"Nice to see you again so soon, Mr. Whitlock. I don't think I introduced myself properly. I am Edward Masen, and this is my assistant Dr. Carlisle Cullen."
"Gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to see you again." However his face and body told a different story. He seemed to grow more and more agitated with each passing moment.
"We are here to inquire about some of your students." Edward pressed on.
"My students?" Mr Whitlock paled as he said this.
"Yes, it seems a number of them have gone missing, and we wish for you to give us a list of all your students to see if we can gain any information from it." Edward made no outward sign that he was in any way aware of Whitlock's distress.
Mr. Whitlock had broken out in a sweat by this point. "O-Of c-course. Anything you need, but I doubt it will be of any help," he said, pulling out his handkerchief to wipe his face.
It was then that Masen noticed something.
"You moved your ring from your right hand to your left."
Whitlock visibly startled at this and dropped his quill.
"I don't know what you speak of. It has always been on my left." The pale line on the third finger on his right told a different story.
Masen was just about to call his bluff when a messenger came bursting into the room.
"Pardon me!" The young man was panting hard, exhausted from his run to the Stanley's. "Master Cullen, if you please, come quickly. Mrs. Cullen is having one of her fits. You're needed right away, Sir."
Carlisle looked stricken with fear as he stood quickly and made to follow the servant. He didn't bother to explain or attempt to look at the others in the room as he strode purposefully towards the exit.
"Cullen! Where do you think you're going? We have a case to solve. You can't just leave."
"I'm sorry. I can't. Esme needs me." He left, but not before hearing Edward curse him thoroughly.
Edward glared at Mr. Whitlock, no longer caring about civility. "I would ask that you hurry with your list making. I have cases to solve."
Seeing the cold anger in Masen's eyes, he did not doddle.
All the while, young Miss Stanley looked on with a blank expression. Masen deduced that she must not be very bright.
Edward left once the list was surrendered to him. He didn't even thank Whitlock for his time. He wasn't sure what he was most mad at; Carlisle leaving during what could have been a key moment of the case, or that he left for Esme.
Later that evening Carlisle hurried along the dimming streets back to Masen's home. He hated that he had to leave when he did, but Esme had needed him. He was thinking of ways to try to plead his actions when a motion caught something in his peripheral vision.
He stopped to make sure his aid was not needed, and in thus doing so, he caught sight of the young Mr. Whitlock sharing an embrace with the most unlikely of partners.
Wrapped in the arms of the older man was, by the looks of it, a small boy, hat pulled low over a short cap of black hair. The two were kissing heatedly while moving further into the darkness the alley provided.
Carlisle could not believe his eyes. He was still for but a moment before he descended on the couple.
"What in God's name do you think you are doing, Whitlock?"
The sound of Carlisle's voice startled the couple, causing Whitlock to hide his companion behind him.
"Young man, are you alright?" He probed gently.
"Mr. Cullen this is not what it looks like. I can explain." Whitlock pleaded, keeping the young boy hidden behind him.
"Oh, I am sure you can, and trust me, sir, you will. I expect you and your young companion, at noon tomorrow, to report to Mr. Edward Masen's home at 1457 McCarty Street for questioning. Were it not so late in the evening, I would demand you come now. You have a chance to prove your honor. I suggest you use it. Get this child home. I am sure his family is worried." Carlisle stated coldly and turned to make his leave.
He had almost made it out of the alley when he stopped to add one last thing. "Don't think of running either. I will be reporting what I have seen to the authorities. Failure to report tomorrow will show your guilt and brand you as 'The Strangler'."
Carlisle left to the sounds of Whitlock's shouts fading into the night as he hurried to get safely indoors.
He reached Masen's house in record time.
"Masen, open the damn door!" Carlisle pounded against the heavy entrance until he thought his knuckles would split from the force.
"Sod off, Cullen. I don't have time for your shenanigans."
Even through the door, Carlisle could tell that Edward was drunk. That didn't bode well.
"Not shenanigans, Masen. This is important. It's about the case."
There was a beat of silence, then the creak of the door opening before he heard Edward's raspy voice. "Why didn't you say so?" His voice was all business as he widened the door and allowed Carlisle to step inside.
"Thank you." Carlisle tugged at his overcoat.
"I see no reason for your thanks, Cullen. I just want to solve this case so I can get paid. That's all."
"Well then, shall we?" They proceeded to the study, finding chairs well worn from their common stays while on a case. "I saw Mr. Whitlock," He paused to heighten the suspense.
"And?" Clearly Edward was not in the mood.
"And he was with someone, Masen. Not just anyone, though. A young boy."
"Is there a point to all this, Cullen?"
Carlisle was flabbergasted at the lack of response. "Masen, I know you're drunk, but this is important. Whitlock was in the company of a young boy. They were snogging! Don't you think there could be some relevancy here?"
"True..." Edward trailed off. Carlisle sensed the unvoiced but.
"Doesn't it strike you as a bit too obvious?"
"What? Are you bloody serious?" When Edward stayed quiet, Carlisle knew he was in fact very serious. "Isn't the most logical idea usually correct? If all signs point to Whitlock, then..."
"Then, he is our most likely suspect. I know this. I seem to be..."
"Seem to be what, Masen?"
"Doesn't really matter. You have solved the case." Edward's bitterness was building as he spoke. "You are a master physician, husband and now private eye. You have no use for me. You really know everything."
Carlisle squared his shoulders and set a cold gaze on Edward.
"And you know nothing. NOTHING!" Carlisle could no longer hold his temper.
"Enlighten me, then." Edward asked indifferently
"Haven't you ever wondered why you have never met Esme?" Carlisle did not mean to bring up this particular subject, but he felt a sudden burning urge to discuss it. "Or even been to our house?"
Edward noted that Carlisle did not call it a home.
" I thou-" Edward started
"NO! You do not get to talk. I am 'enlightening' you." Carlisle snapped.
"I hadn't laid eyes on Esme in years. We courted when we were young. It didn't last long, though, she was forced to marry a man to secure her family's standing."
"Carlisle I don't nee-" Edward tried again to interrupt.
"You interrupt me again and I will walk out that door and never return." Carlisle's voice left no room for doubt.
Edward could only nod.
"As I said. It had been years since our paths had crossed. I found her while I was volunteering at St. Rosalie's. She was only a shadow of the women I had once known. Her husband was a cruel man, treating her as nothing more than property to be used for his pleasure. After years of enduring his cruel hand, the man finally met his end in an Opium den. Esme would have been grateful had he not condemned her to death as well. His last cruel gift was to infect her with tuberculosis."
"She was left with nothing and looking to live on the streets once her stay was complete. That is when I saw it; a chance to save us all. Esme knew of my preference in bedfellows since our youth. So when I proposed my plan she already knew of everything before agreeing. We would claim that I had never loved another, and upon seeing her again, would have her for as long as God would allow. Others would see it as romantic, thus giving her a safe warm place to rest until the end of her days while also allowing me and my lover protection from the law."
"What of her duties as a wife to please her husband physically?" Edward asked softly.
His tone was the only thing that kept Carlisle from walking out the door.
"Even if her health would allow it, I could not risk becoming ill myself nor would she risk such a thing either. Plus, there is the matter that I do not love her in a way that would allow for such activities." Carlisle met Edward's eye and found him gaping.
It was a perfectly crafted plan.
Not knowing how to reply, Edward said the first thing that came to his mind. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
Carlisle didn't reply but charged at Edward and pinned him to the wall. "You never gave me a chance to, Masen." He growled the words out. "I have tried several times to explain. You would not let me, you stubborn ass."
"You like my stubborn ass." Edward made to press his lips to Carlisle's.
"No. You don't get to be cold and unfeeling for weeks and then think you are getting into my knickers that easily!" Carlisle said and tried to pull away.
"You act as if you have a choice in the matter." Edward laughed lightly, enjoying the sudden shift in conversation. He'd missed this. More than he had wanted to admit.
"Do you expect me to forget how horridly you've been treating me? I cannot do that, Masen. I am angry. As if I would choose this way of living willingly. I would rather be with you openly than hiding in a passionless marriage. But I do it because of you."
"Because of me," Edward repeated.
"Yes, of course because of you."
"Because you want me." It wasn't a question so much as a declaration.
"Yes." Carlisle met Edward's gaze, dark and foreboding in the best of ways.
"And not Esme." Despite it being a statement, despite Carlisle's earlier insistence, it sounded almost questioning in nature.
"No. Only you, Edward." Their faces were centimeters apart. Carlisle could feel the harsh breath of Edward against his lips.
"You are mine." Edward growled, baring his teeth, as he locked his arms around Carlisle, bringing their bodies flush together. When Edward pushed his hips up against Carlisle, their erections brushed together, sending a thrill through both of their bodies.
Neither knew who kissed whom first, but in an instant they were in a mess of tangled limbs. They writhed and moved against each other, passion overtaking all other thoughts. Hands pulled at clothing in a rush, as each desperately tried to rid the other of anything that separated bare flesh from touching. When finally they pressed together, chest against chest, Edward pushed Carlisle back.
"What are you doing?" Carlisle said out of breath and with a puzzled look upon his face.
"Come with me." Edward pulled a somewhat stunned Carlisle behind him, leaving their clothes in a pile on the floor.
"I thought that's what we were trying to do?" he asked with a gleam in his eyes, finally catching on to Edwards plans.
"Cheeky bastard." Edward smirked at his lover, leading the way to his bedroom. "Now get on the bed like a good boy, Cullen, and I might give you what you want."
Carlisle knew he had two choices: He could get on the bed and make love with the man who meant the most to him in this world. Or...
"You get on the damn bed and let me give you something that will finally put that mouth of yours to use." Carlisle said, grabbing his own manhood to prove his point.
"I always put it to good use, Cullen." Edward pushed Carlisle down on the mattress and crawled up between his legs, letting his lips ghost over Carlisle's inner thighs and groin. He reveled in the way Carlisle shivered. "Why don't we both put our mouths to good use?" Edward proposed.
Carlisle recognized the smile on Edward's face, the one he always wore right before he caught his man. He twisted and spun around until they lay on their sides, end to end.
Their mouths worked in tandem, each knowing how to give the other the greatest pleasure. As Carlisle grew close to his peak he pushed Edward away. "I'm too close, Edward. I want to feel you inside me when I come."
Edward wordlessly untangled themselves and reached for the jar of salve he kept in his bedside table for just such occasions.
"Roll over on your back, Carlisle. I want you to see who is taking you. I want you to know that it's me making you feel this way."
Carlisle moaned as he felt a slick finger trace his most sensitive skin, slowly pushing inside. It had been so long since he'd felt that pleasant sensation of being filled. Edward made quick work of preparing his lover, adding another finger and stretching him further.
"I am fine, Edward. Please?" Carlisle pushed.
"Eager for me, are you?" That smirk was back in place as Edward lined himself up.
Carlisle only nodded.
"That's right," Edward managed to say as he slowly pushed inside of Carlisle. "You want what only I can give you." He felt the initial resistance and eventual ease as Carlisle's body became accustomed to the penetration.
"Yes," Carlisle hissed out as Edward stilled inside him. "Please." He pushed back, needing to feel Edward move, push into him and fill him completely.
"Who makes you feel this good, Carlisle?" Edward began to move, finally, slowly. "Tell me." The thrusts were shallow and Carlisle was practically whimpering for more.
"You, Edward. You make me feel this good," Carlisle moaned out.
"That's right. Me. I do. Not Esme. Me." With every word he thrust harder.
"Ungh!" was all Carlisle could manage out.
Edward grabbed Carlisle's prick, pumping him in time to the pounding. Carlisle's fists were clenched tightly, grasping onto the bed linen. It was too good, too much.
Sooner than either would care to admit, they reached their release, one right after the other.
When they had both recovered their breath, Edward went to retrieve a cloth to clean them both. His actions were tender and sweet as he swiped the cloth over Carlisle's flushed and sensitive skin. Once Edward finished, he threw the cloth to the floor and rejoined Carlisle in the bed.
Carlisle rolled on his side and felt Edward move behind him, spooning against his body. The weight of Edward's arm around Carlisle's waist was comforting. He eased his body against the familiar heat of his lover, pleased and sated now that their relationship was getting back to normal.
"Edward," Carlisle rolled over to face him, wanting to lose himself to his partner, his friend, his lover. "I love-"
"Carlisle, you're hair is getting ridiculously long." Edward brushed a stray lock of hair out of Carlisle's face. "When was the last time you had it trimmed?"
For a moment, Carlisle was distracted by the fingers gently combing through his hair. He was about to respond when he felt Edward's grip tighten almost painfully. "Edward? What is it?"
"Hair, Cullen. Hair."
"Yes, my hair is in need of a trim-"
"No. HAIR!" Edward exclaimed. He jumped out of bed, not bothering to get dressed and dashed to his study.
"Mr. Mas- Oh, my God in heavens!" Mrs. Cope's voice rang from the hallway. "Edward would you please keep your Nebuchadnezzar in your trousers like a gentleman instead of runnin' about like a heathen! Never in all my years..." Her voice faded down the hall.
Carlisle, not wanting to risk Mrs. Cope's nerves, quickly got dressed to follow his companion.
"Cullen, where the hell are yo- oh, there you are." Edward was at his desk riffling through paper. "Carlisle, did you say anything to Mr. Whitlock this evening?"
"Yes, I did. When I confronted him he tried to assure me it was not what it looked like. I demanded that he take his young companion home and for both to report here tomorrow at noon for questioning." Carlisle reported.
"So both of them are coming here at noon?" Edward repeated back as if Carlisle had just given him the greatest gift.
"I believe that is what I just said." Carlisle was still at a loss but knew to trust Edward.
"Excellent! You, my dear Carlisle, have just solved my cases."
"I don't have time to explain, but I have to run out for a bit. You can stay here if you'd like. I will be back before everyone gets here." Edward stated as he finally started to put clothing on.
"Are you sure you won't need me? The streets are not safe at night." Carlisle grew worried.
"Are you sure you're not a woman, Cullen, with all this coddling you're giving me?" Edward mocked with a light hearted smile. But once he took in Carlisle's unchanging scowl, he softened a bit. "Carlisle, I will not go far. If I am not back in five hours you have permission to send word to the Inspector. "
Edward gave Carlisle a soft kiss as he left, loving the feeling of being cared for, though he would never admit it.
Carlisle chose to return to bed and sleep. He hoped it would help pass the time until Edward returned. When he woke up the next morning, it was to find Edward back in bed with him, safely tucked in under the covers. Carlisle was more tired than he'd thought and slipped back into sleep with little effort.
"How are you to know the duration of my outing if you are in the land of nod when I return?" Edward's playful voice roused Carlisle from his slumber a short while later.
"Mmm... What time is it?" Carlisle asked while he rubbed his eyes.
"Half past six. Sleep well?" Edward missed the sight of watching his lover wake.
"Best night's sleep in a long time." Carlisle said with a sleepy smile.
"That's good, but you might want to get up soon and make yourself presentable before our guests arrive."
"When am I expected to be ready by?" Carlisle asked, secretly hoping for more rest.
Edward knew Carlisle's motives in asking and didn't see the harm in letting him sleep longer. "Sleep, Carlisle. I will wake you when it is time."
Carlisle was awoken much later in the day, and both men proceeded to make themselves presentable with little fuss.
All the guests were shown to the study where Cullen and Masen watched their arrival.
The first guest to arrive was Inspector Swan. He looked a little leery of being at Masen's, but knew the two detectives well enough that he suspected something big was about to go down. The second guest to arrive was Mr. Newton, followed closely by the Brandon's. With two minutes to spare, Mr. Whitlock and his young companion arrived.
Cullen was about to begin introductions when a very confused Mr. Banner was shown in.
"Sorry, Mr. Banner, I know I insisted on my musical training to begin today, but a matter has come up. It won't take but a minute. I hope it isn't any trouble for you to wait while I see to this?" Masen kindly asked.
"Of course, think nothing of it." But Banner looked like he was beginning to think things were not as they seemed. He looked concerned as to why there were so many people present. He took a seat at the far end of the study and prepared things for Masen's upcoming lesson.
"Alright, let's get to this, shall we?" Edward took the lead. It was a good thing too because Carlisle was at a loss as to what was going on.
"Mr. Whitlock, I understand you are here to explain your actions regarding what my esteemed colleague Mr. Cullen witnessed last night. Am I correct in this?"
"Yes, Sir. I-" Mr. Whitlock began to try to make his case.
Masen interrupted his plight. "You will have your turn when the time comes. I trust you to know the right actions to take at that time. Understood?"
Whitlock could only nod in reply.
"Now, as some of you might know I have been asked to aide Scotland Yard in their search to find the Strangler, and I have brought you all here to announce that I have found him." Mrs. Brandon gasped at Masen's statement.
Carlisle had moved to block the only exit to the room. He didn't trust the guilty party to not try and escape.
Inspector Swan's attention focused on Masen. "You have got a solid lead?"
Edward waited to answer, lighting his pipe instead. "Yes, sir, I do." He took a long pull from his pipe and offered no more information.
"Well, man, out with it!"
Masen was unfazed by the Inspector's demands. Instead he savored the heightened atmosphere and his pipe a few moments longer.
ClassicMasen, Carlisle thought with a smirk.
"Do you think the Strangler is who took my daughter?" Mrs. Brandon broke the silence.
"On the contrary, Mrs. Brandon, I know that your beloved daughter is, in fact, safe. Isn't that right, Mr. Whitlock?" Edward smiled the smile Carlisle knew all too well.
Whitlock paled "How-?"
"Why would he know where our daughter is?" Demanded Mr. Brandon.
Edward's smile grew wider. "Because, Mr. Brandon, he is your new son-in-law."
"WHAT!" Screamed Mr. Brandon. Carlisle noticed Mrs. Brandon looked close to fainting.
Mr. Whitlock, in his shock, could only nod.
"But Edward, I saw him kissing that boy" Carlisle broke in, pointing at the boy whom had been hiding behind Mr. Whitlock since they had arrived.
"That's not a boy, Carlisle." Edward seemed to be holding back his laughter at his partner's confusion. "Mr. Whitlock, will you please introduce us all to your blushing bride?"
Very timidly the "boy" everyone thought to be sitting beside Whitlock took a step forward and removed her cap. "Mother...Father." Too high pitched for even a young boy, the girl kept talking. "I'm so sorry I didn't tell you. I didn't know how to explain. You were both so set on my marrying Sir. James Hunter that I could see no other way. Jasper and I are in love. I would, no, will not have another." Determination colored her voice.
"Young lady, this is not something you can decide for yourself!" Mr. Brandon was red in the face, clearly on the verge of a rampage.
"It is. And I have already decided. If you try to force my hand, Jasper and I will disappear again. You can trust that you will not find me so easily a second time." Alice's voice was suddenly frighteningly cold. Despite how small and fragile she looked, Carlisle was sure he had never heard quite so strong a statement from someone before.
"Um, er..." The Inspector cleared his throat. "This is all fine and dandy but can we get back to the matter at hand?" He fixed his gaze on Masen. "You said you had a solid lead for the Strangler?"
Masen seemed reluctant for the family squabble to end, but set down his pipe none the less. "Very well then. Would you be surprised to note that the man known as the Strangler is in this very room?"
All other conversation stopped and an unnatural silence filled the air.
"In the room r-r-right now?" Edward nodded in response to Mrs. Brandon's quivering question.
"Indeed." Masen began to pace idly as he spoke. "Banner?"
There was a loud thud from the attaché case Mr. Banner had previously been carrying. "Yes, Mr. Masen?"
"Oxford man. You called yourself that when we first met, is that correct?" Banner nodded. "And Whitlock, you as well attended the University?"
"Yes, that's correct."
Edward made a quiet, short noise of approval. "I noticed the most curious markings on the bodies of each of the Strangler's victims. It was one of the identifying markers connecting this string of murders."
Carlisle noticed both men fidget with their rings.
"You see, each body bore marks of strange crest shapes and bruises, littered across the arms, chest and even face of each boy. Almost as if the victim was warding off an attack. It would only be logical to deduce the marks came from something the murderer was holding...or wearing."
"Any number of men could have a ring like ours. Who's to say it isn't one of them?" Banner pointed out.
"A valid argument. However, those marks were not the only ones to mar the poor young men's bodies." Edward walked over to his desk and retrieved something. "This is a violin string." He pulled the string taut. "Cullen, if you would be so kind as to come here?"
Carlisle, wary but willing, walked over to Edward until they were standing side by side. "Yes?"
"Hold out your hand."
He did not like where this was going one bit. Still, Carlisle extended his arm and allowed Edward to do whatever it was he was going to do.
"A violin string must be both flexible and strong, able to withstand pressure in order to make an instrument sing." Edward began to wind the string around Carlisle's wrist. "Notice how it can withstand the strength required to pull it tight like this?"
Carlisle bit back a gasp as a sudden shot of pain worked up his arm. He really wished Edward would warn him about things like this. "Masen, please. I do need my hand back."
"Quite right. It does serve its use very well, does it not?" Edward grinned as he let go of the string.
Carlisle tried to control the coloring of his cheeks with little avail. He rubbed at his wrist in an attempt to focus his attention on something else beside Edward's very blatant remark.
"No, Cullen, give me your hand." Edward noticed that Carlisle was not so eager to comply with his request this time. "Do you see the redness on your wrist? Those are the same strangulation marks found on our victims." He held up Carlisle's arm for all to see.
Once Carlisle was sure all had seen the marking he made his way back to block the exit to the room. He had a feeling the suspect would be named very soon and did not doubt there would be an attempt at fleeing the room.
"Whitlock, where were you three nights before last?" Edward turned his attention from the string in his hand to Jasper.
"Uh, well, with Alice, Sir." Whitlock darted a parting glance to the Brandon's before continuing. "You can ask my friend Peter. He's the one we've been staying with until we could get out on our own."
"Banner, where we you three nights before last?"
"I was at the Conservatory."
"Can anyone corroborate this?"
"Of course. There were many people there."
"So these people saw you, then? Made sure you never left during the entire evening?" Edward made his way toward Banner slowly.
"Yes, Sir. If I'd of known I was to make an account of my whereabouts I would have made a point of seeking people out." Banner shifted uncomfortably, and Edward drew nearer.
"Push back your sleeves, Mr. Banner." Edward ordered.
"Whatever for?" Banner tried to hide his hands in the pockets of his overcoat, but Edward swiftly grabbed each wrist and held them tightly.
"My, my, my, Banner," Edward pushed the fabric up to his elbows. "Your arms, what happened to them?" Edward pressed down on a particularly bruised portion of Banner's forearm.
"Oh!" Banner let out a sharp gasp and made to clutch at the injured area.
"Did you know that our latest victim bears marks of a struggle? Broken fingers and nails, blood and flesh under those that remained intact."
"If you're trying to imply something, Masen-"
"See the scratch marks?" Edward held up both of Banner's arms to the room.
"I have a cat." Banner offered easily.
"Clever reasoning, except feline attack wounds are smaller and more closely grouped." Edward seemed to be enjoying himself with a smirk.
"It was a large cat..."
"There are none indigenous to this area." Edward's smirk turned into a smile. "You also are the only common link to all the victims. Seeing as each of the victims were former students of yours or lived in houses where you taught."
Banner's demeanor began to shift. He was no longer calm but radiated malevolence as he glared at Edward.
Carlisle could see a killer standing before his lover, and it made him very uneasy. The thought that Edward was so close to such a despicable man was frightening.
"It's over, Leo." Edward regarded Banner coldly. He turned to signal the Inspector to collect the killer when Banner seized Edward from behind.
"I think I'll take my leave now. Mr. Masen will be coming with me until I know I am no longer being pursued. Should any of you try to follow, I will end Mr. Masen's life in the most unpleasant way."
There was a collective gasp as Banner backed away slowly from the group, Edward acting as a human shield. No one dared move for fear Banner would lash out and do something truly heinous.
"Banner, do you really think you can get away with this?" Edward was, of all things, amused by the man's attempts at fleeing.
As they reached the door, Carlisle was working out a plan. He would follow them and wait until he-
It happened so quickly. Banner was knocked to the ground, and in a flash the inspector was on him. Meanwhile, Edward was dusting himself off as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
"Will you be needing anything, Mr. Masen? I am heading to the market and should be back in time to serve dinner." Mrs. Cope asked while holding her broom. It took Carlisle a moment to realize that she had knocked Banner to the ground. With that broom, of all things.
"We are quite good, my lady. Remind me later to give you a raise."
"No need, Sir, I took it from your pocket last night after the fright you gave me." Mrs. Cope gave Edward a pointed look.
Edward let out a laugh. "Smart women. Until this evening."
"I'll see you this evening." She gave Edward a wink as she left.
The room hummed with activity as the rest of the details were sorted out. The Inspector left with his culprit. The Brandon's had forgotten about their daughter's indiscretion after being in the presence of 'The Strangler'. They welcomed Jasper to the family and were making plans to host a party in the newlyweds honor. Edward made sure to collect his fee before they left.
Once the excitement had worn off, Carlisle finally asked the question that normally came at the end of each case.
"How did you know? I was so sure it was Whitlock."
"Elementary, my dear Cullen. It was the hair-"
Pulling their lips together, Carlisle didn't allow Edward to finish. "I don't care! Just don't leave me again, Edward." His fear showing.
"Don't worry love, if I try to leave now, Cope will come after me with that broom."
Thanks for reading and to my lovely bondmate for doing this with me.