AN: This story starts with an Outtake from the "Tyranny of Unintended Consequences" where Lord Cullen makes his debut as the villain. Throughout the next two chapters it spirals into a parallel story.
I hope you enjoy.
"...Wanderer, there is no path,the path is made by walking..." (Quote from the Poem "Singings" by Antonio Machado).
The Countess of Masen was a practical woman. Blunt to the point of rudeness, she was by no means a gamester, her conversations devoid of strategy or innuendos. Early in life, she learned to face the world and its complications straight on. Phrasing her words into concise statements, she always went straight to the core of any given subject.
However, she was completely unprepared to deal with the present matter. Deep in her heart, she had always been aware of Edward's tendencies, for that was the only trace they shared, but voicing that knowledge would be an experience she wished she could forfeit.
She carefully revised the deviously crafted story she would have to tell, a fabrication born out of the mind of her deviant former lover. Lying was not her forte, she had grown accustomed to speaking her mind. But she would do anything to protect her son, even from himself and his impulsiveness.
Steeling herself for the drama about to unfold, she never anticipated that her composure was the one about to crumble. Looking inside Edward's eyes and seeing the innocent trust and awed admiration, she knew that lying was not the way. If she had to be the one to break his heart, she would do so with the truth, saving the intricate reasonings and machinations to his father's ears.
Impassively, Edward listened to the tale of the discovery of his taboo love affair and the measures being taken to eradicate it. His mother's compassionate eyes conveyed sorrow for his predicament, but also her belief that being apart from Jasper was the best option. She spoke about the necessity of maintaining appearances and the infinite possibilities that would be opened to exploration should he learn to exert discretion.
Reaching the end of her unwanted string of advices, the Countess of Masen waited for Edward's response. Awkward silence filled the space between mother and son, the Countess suddenly realizing she was out of her depth. Taking a deep breath Edward bowed and politely thanked his mother for her sincerity, unflinchingly walking away from the comfort the Countess' stretched arms offered.
Watching the sun setting on the horizon Edward tried to grasp the implications of his mother's revelations. Even though he had vowed silence about the subplot of their incoming separation, Edward knew that his lover deserved to know the truth of their circumstances. Unable to quiet his mind Edward decided to walk through the gardens, trying to gain some insight, some inspiration on how to revert their situation.
Chance would have him stumbling upon an unexpected scene. Kneeling before a bench, Lord Cullen performed fellatio on another man. Upon seeing Edward's wide shocked eyes, Lord Cullen simply winked and slowly licked his lips, returning to his task.
Turning on his heels, Edward asked himself if being "unusual" was really as rare as the expression suggested. Shaking his head, he turned his thoughts towards more serious matters. He had to tactfully approach Jasper about the issue of the Duchess' schemes, since she was his mother he would less likely to believe her able of purposely hurting her own son.
Times like this sharpened the intense feeling of loneliness that seemed to always accompany him. He missed having someone to discuss things, to offer advice, to give comfort, to just be there and support him. Even though Jasper filled many of these roles, sometimes he wished for someone other than his lover to care enough to see under the surface, someone to be there when Jasper wasn't.
Returning to the house, his search for Jasper was fruitless; his lover was nowhere to be found. Dismayed, he accepted that their talk would have to be postponed until after the ball, for he knew that it was a subject too delicate to be discussed on some dark corner of a public event.
Getting caught on the whirlwind of dancing and conversing, charming and pretending, he was surprised to hear the Duke's announcement. Panicked, he realized that the Duchess had moved faster than she had originally planned. The public announcement trapped Jasper since there was no logical argument against receiving the honour of an early acceptance into a prestigious institution, such as Oxford.
Had he been allowed to stay on Eton, Jasper would be hours away. He knew it would have been problematic, specially due to Jasper's trust issues, but their love would have carried them through the difficulties. And still they would have the many gatherings their families were so fond of.
However the Duchess diligently considered all contingencies, thoroughly preventing any sort of relationship to continue. The Earl had granted the Countess' request, so Edward had been pulled from Eton and would be living with his mother and taught by a tutor, efficiently putting even more physical distance between the lovers.
Nevertheless, the most brilliant part of the Duchess' diabolical game would be the fight the two mothers were going to stage. A plot designed to prevent any sort of contact between the families. No more house parties, no more visits. For a long time the only contact available would be through written words.
Undeterred, Edward locked his jaw and challenged the Duchess' glare, faith in love gave him the strength to believe on a happy outcome for this miserable situation. But his conviction could never have survived the evil smirk and the glint of pure determination of a Duchess determined to have her way. And when Jasper turned to her for comfort he knew he had lost, for Jasper was too entranced by his mother's sudden affection to see through her act. And no word coming from Edward had the potential to open Jasper's eyes.
When mother and son left the ballroom, Edward would have followed behind, even if only to soothe his distressed lover, had not been for a hand tightly securing his wrist. Lord Cullen had closely observed the scene and being a man of the world rightfully assumed the undercurrents of the exchange. Guiding Edward through an empty hallway leading to a vacant parlour, he dutifully locked the door and unselfishly offered some insight to the situation.
Being young and naive Edward missed the jaded cynicism governing his interlocutor's speech, taking his worlds as wise and correct, as drops of rain to his ever dried desert of a soul, confusing a man's tirade of bitterness with friendly concern. And when Lord Cullen's cunning nature reared its ugly head Edward was already too ensnared to perceive his newfound friend actions for what they were. Just another amusing game for a bored, unfeeling, unmoral aristocrat.
It was almost dawn when they emerged from the parlour, Edward's tired body seeking the warmth of his bed, his mind almost paralyzed with dread. He sank on a restless sleep, dreaming of beautiful monsters, dressed in sumptuous attire and loving moments turned sour by unseen menaces.
Late into the evening when he emerged from his troubled sleep, Edward hastily dressed and started his quest for Jasper. Being met by sealed lips and obtuse answers, Edward started to suspect that the Duchess had directed the servants to avoid giving him directions that might lead to an encounter with Jasper.
Seeing his distress, Emmett approached him and promised to make discreet enquiries. Profusely thanking his former beau, a small tear trailed down his face. Face twisting in understanding, Emmett offered his shoulder for Edward to cry on. And cry he did, telling Emmett the sad story of the Duchess' betrayal. Emmett's opinion was not requested, therefore he remained silent, but his body was thriving on the possibility of reclaiming Edward as a lover.
Confused and scared Edward was torn between his beliefs and Lord Cullen's opinion. He needed time to gain some clarity, he needed to keep some measure of distance from Jasper, so that he would not be overwhelmed by feelings. He needed to stay centered and calm to make a rational decision. And for that he enlisted the help of Emmett, who was happy to oblige.
A meadow was the only testimony to his thinking. Between heart and logic, he mulled over two conflicting views. Maktub. A word learned long ago from an unorthodox tutor containing so much meaning that it was able to express all of Edward's beliefs. It's written. Destiny traces a path that must be trailed and no amount of denial will be able to alter it. His path led him to Jasper and now they must walk together. Two lovers, one path. Come what may their love would survive and they would never be truly apart. No measure of space or time would be able to break their bond. It was a romantic take on the phenomena of love, and charmingly childish according to Lord Cullen.
Lord Cullen's advice was clear and simple: a clean break and a reunion down the line. Having lost a lot of lovers, Lord Cullen firmly believed that the best way to end a relationship was to cut all ties. There was less bitterness that way, more chances of rekindling the fire later on. That's what he told Edward. But Lord Cullen failed to mention his personal interest on the matter.
A libertine, by choice and vocation, Lord Cullen indistinctly enjoyed the flesh of males and females, engaging in the darkest pleasures only the most twisted minds could inflict on mankind. Sometimes he would even entertain ladies past her primes, just out of the kindness of his heart, and an insatiable appetite for odd fetishes. That's how he met the Dowager Duchess of Whitlock and somehow got roped into becoming the Godfather to her infant grandson. As a baby Jasper touched some wrinkled part of his heart, as a boy he awakened appetites that should have been dormant, and now on the brink of manhood it was impossible to resist his lure. The boys' failed love affair presented the chance Lord Cullen had been waiting for.
Seeking solace in his passion for books, Edward admired the rare editions gracing the shelves of the deserted library, the Duke of Whitlock's pride and joy. It was a much welcomed reprieve from the turmoil upsetting his life. Hours passed and he never noticed, absorbed on a love story unlike his own. Curled up on the settee, sleep claimed him. And in the morning he woke up to the bruised face of Emmett.
Mimicking Edward's actions, Emmett cried on his shoulder, but never said a word about who had attacked him. Undaunted by Emmett's stony silence, Edward gently bullied him into telling the name of his aggressor. The answer shook Edward to the core.
Emmett's fabrication spoke of a jealous lover, convinced of his beloved's infidelity and in trying to destroy the assumed cause of the sudden distance between them, Jasper had attempted murder. Only the interference of other servants had saved Emmett's life. A lie delivered with crocodile tears.
Outraged, Edward's first reaction was to search Jasper and demand satisfaction on behalf of Emmett. But, being uncommonly intelligent and eerily sensitive, Edward stopped himself from acting hastily and pondered the situation. A bitter taste of discomfited déjà-vu, of things past and future, poisoned his mind. And he believed, not on the things he knew deep into his heart but on the logical conclusions his misinformed mind had reached.
Jasper deserved better than years of self-imposed torture, because a possessive lover could never be happy without the sight of the object of his affections. He would be doomed to a half life of anger and insecurity, painting ugly scenarios of assumed betrayal, hurting from words that had never been pronounced and resenting affairs that never took place. Jasper would slowly decompose, rotting on the tart pits of uncontrollable jealousy.
For his part, Edward would be hurt and outraged by Jasper's accusations, every day a new seed of doubt would be planted in his heart, to the point that he would lose his faith on Jasper's love. Every fallout would take another portion of his heart out of Jasper's reach and in the end, Edward would have been a prisoner, locked behind walls of withheld love and contained anger.
An ominous prescience of an unwanted future washed away from Edward's soul any hope he still retained of holding on to Jasper. Everything they were would be consumed by the fires of resentment and from its ashes only bitterness would arise. Two caustic lovers, speaking harsh words, wanting to walk away from each other but incapacitated by an invisible bond, both would come to begrudge.
Slamming into his collapsing mind came the understanding that it was time to abandon his childish notions of meant to be. No divine force would have written such a sad outcome to a pure, untainted love. His juvenile trust on intangible ideas of a predetermined course, written by a forgiving, loving God could no longer withstand the confrontation with reality. That's when he accepted that nothing was ever guaranteed, not even that his love would survive the trials of the next few years.
There was no fate, no path he must trail. No path to share with Jasper. The future they would endure or enjoy was merely a consequence of the choices they made. And it was upon his shoulders the responsibility to make wise choices in order to avoid the images troubling his soul. Feeling trapped and scared, overwhelmed and alone, Lord Cullen's words played constantly on his mind, repetitively clamouring for a clean break, hammering the idea until nothing else could overcome its noisy demand.
Many years would stand between separation and reunion, trying to holding on to each other would only make said years even more difficult to tolerate. Even though a clean break would hurt both of them, it was better than allowing their love to slowly die. They would have the chance to experiment and mature, and having seeing more of the world and what it had to offer, they would be more appreciative of the bond they shared. Their hurt over the separation would be erased by the sweetness of their reunion, and their love would emerge from its dormant state stronger and everlasting, and nothing would ever tear them apart.
Firmly ensconced on the belief that a clean break was the best he could offer to his beloved, Edward clenched his hands on a tight fist fighting the pain engulfing his heart, but Jasper's welfare was his only concern, his own feelings would be dealt with on a later date.
After observing the determinate set of Jasper's jaw for the past day, Edward knew that it would be impossible to convince his beloved that ending their relationship was the best for them. It would take a betrayal of Jasper's fragile trust, to force him to let Edward go without a fight.
Edward knew how much his deceit would hurt Jasper, and he accepted that for some time his beloved would most likely hate him. But, to his mind, it was a small price to pay for a happy outcome, even though it would only come on an unforeseeable date. Numbing his body, soul and mind, he concocted a scene guaranteed to break Jasper's heart. Emmett's enthusiastic help was essential in making the preparations for the farce about to unfurl.
And suddenly he found himself kneeling on the withering bluebells covering the forest's ground waiting for an invasion he wished would never come. His soul was bleeding and his heart was breaking, but his treacherous body hardened in excitement, for he was still a vigorous boy thrumming in sexual need, demanding satisfaction from any available source. He was disgusted with himself, disappointed with his body, humiliated by his animalistic instincts.
Writhing on the dirt like a beast, pushed against the rough trunk of a tree, on a violent sob of rage and disdain he called out the name of his executioner and when his pleasure was scattered on the soil, tears were freely running down his face. Emmett tried to cuddle him, like a lover would, but Edward swiftly turned away the footman's offer and made unmistakably clear that there would be no more encounters between them. Rearranging his clothes, Edward went to the only sanctuary he had ever known.
Sitting by the lake, he remembered the afternoon when it became their sanctuary. And the tyrannical vow of undying devotion poured out of his soul in incessant whispers of "I will always come back to you". A promise made by a very different boy, but one that the man he was becoming fully intended to keep. His tears mingled with the unmerciful rain and his voice was drowned by the rattling thunder.
Throat raw and body aching, he tried to regain as much composure as possible, before having to face the other guests. Inside his room the scene that greeted his weary eyes was a sad reminder of his own perfidy. A perfectly designed retaliation, meant to convey the meaningless of what they had shared. There was no need to voice his statement, because it was there on the glint of disdain in his brown eyes, on the evil smirk marring his once sweet mouth. Jasper was denying their bond, relegating their once sweetly whispered words of love and adoration to the category of lies, declaring that it was just lust and to slay one's lust anybody would suffice.
Silently accepting Jasper's revenge, Edward took comfort on the conviction that the worst part was already over, since his beloved's wrath had already been unleashed. Even though Jasper would still hurt for quite some time, slowly his wounds would start to heal, and one day he would look behind and remember his first lover with fondness and that day Edward would ask for Jasper's forgiveness. And the certainty of their reunion was the only balm to Edward's wounded soul.
Unbeknown to Edward that was only the beginning; his brittle actions would spawn consequences spreading throughout a lifetime of regret.
"You are free to make your choices, but a prisoner of the consequences." (Attributed to Pablo Neruda).
AN: Thank you for reading. Please consider leaving me your opinion.