Artemy Silvercrest had lived in London for most of his life when the murders first occurred.
He thought nothing of it at first, of course. His first thought upon settling to read the paper one morning was that he had forgotten to pick up more sugar for his tea.
His second thought, upon reading of the gruesome murder, was that Cassius was going to get involved.
Cassius Beckett was an idiot of all sorts when his curiosity overrode his most logical senses - and perhaps that was unfortunate since he was in law school. No one would want to hire Mr. Beckett, Attorney, if Mr. Beckett let his heart determine his actions. The old saying at university was that business majors and law majors were a dangerous pair of friends, yet the only danger Artemy faced was Cassius’s terribly-planned schemes.
And so, when he read that the remains of a young man had been found just outside town, his body torn apart in ways that only a crazed killer could do, Artemy set out to test just how curious Mr. Beckett was.
He would be seeing Cassius after class - as they always did on Tuesdays - and Artemy couldn’t pretend that seeing him wasn’t a highlight of his day. Upon first meeting Cassius, he thought that he was rather - for a lack of a better word - impulsive. Cassius acted on what he called hunches, and he didn’t wait longer than five minutes to consider if it was a bad idea. Instead, it was often up to Artemy to stop him from breaking into buildings or bursting into crime scenes, claiming that he had credentials that he instead lacks.
But, Artemy decided that he rather liked him and his schemes.
He startled when he heard the clock chime, and with only fifteen minutes to get to class, Artemy downed his too-hot tea with ease. He tossed the newspaper onto the table, not caring that he had yet to finish the story of the murder. If anything, Cassius could simply fill him in - he would have already pieced the story together and filled in the gaps with his imagination.
How he longed to see him again, Artemy thought.
Artemy’s father - a rather absent soul, to put it kindly - had paid a great deal of money to put his only son into the best university in England, as if a mere education could make up for the heartache he had put Artemy’s mother through. A check every few months would come into the mail, sent from France and addressed to a Mr. Silvercrest. The bastard couldn’t even respect his mother enough to address her as the head of house.
Nonetheless, the money would go straight to his mother, and Artemy would be left with that same bitter resentment that he had held since he first learned of his father. And now the old bastard was trying to make it up to him.
Perhaps the absent Monsieur Silvercrest - as he liked to address himself - should have placed his money elsewhere, for Artemy thought university was rather a bore.
It wasn’t that he hated business. In fact, he rather liked the negotiating aspect of it. He simply couldn’t sit still in his classes, his mind often drifting elsewhere and often falling into thoughts of what Cassius was doing. He had always imagined his law classes to be nothing but mock trials and heated, passionate shouting, but Cassius had laughed at him for it.
Class had ended by the time he had brought himself back to reality, feeling rather foolish when he realized that he had spent the last several minutes thinking about Mr. Beckett.
He darted out of the building, the sunlight bright as he started down the staircase to the courtyard. The pale light shone on the fountain in the center of the yard, the light glistening off of the water, and nearly blinding him had someone not been blocking most of it. On the fountain sat a rather unruly man, his coat unbuttoned and his sleeves rolled up to reveal slim forearms - the arms of a noble’s son, one who had never truly worked before. The sun reflected off of his blonde hair harshly, but Artemy didn’t need to strain his eyes to know that Cassius was smiling at him.
“Artemy! By God, don’t be shy!” He exclaimed, standing to greet him and nearly dropping his books in the fountain. He embraced him in a tight hug, not caring that Artemy was still unaccustomed to touch. Cassius rather supposed that he didn’t need to match himself in excitement to know that his friend cared for him.
“What are you doing, lounging atop the fountain like it’s yours?” Artemy teased, walking with him down the street. “You’ll surely get fined again for ‘injuring a sculpture’.”
Cassius snorted. “I paid my weight to get into this university, and as such I will place my ass wherever I please!”
Neither of them were paying any attention as to where they were walking, having been so used to strolling the streets of London after class. It had began when Cassius had walked Artemy home one dreary day, and now they found themselves traveling for nearly an hour - just to buy more time with each other.
Cassius had gasped when they travelled down towards the outskirts of the city, stopping in his tracks upon the sight of several officers crowded around a blood-stained road. Artemy stared, feeling faint when he recognized the street as the one in the newspaper. He felt foolish, having stumbled upon a murder scene when he was meant to stop Cassius from meddling.
He had been so focused on the blood that he didn’t even notice when Cassius slipped away from him, approaching the officers with an arrogant ease. The officers eyed them sternly, stopping Cassius before he could simply walk onto the scene.
“And what are two boys doing, trying to eye the evidence?” One of the officers said, nearly nose to nose with Cassius.
“Well, as a part of our great London society, I do believe that I have a right to know what is going on in my home city,” Cassius said rather stupidly.
The officer looked down at him, his eyes cold. “Then you should have read the morning paper, had you wanted to know so badly.”
Cassius’s cheeks tinted pink with embarrassment, to which Artemy began to try to summon him away. “I’ll have you know,” he continued. “That I did read the paper, to which I was rather unsatisfied with the vague details and lack of anything important.”
“Take that up with the author, then,” the officer said dismissively. “’Tis not my job to provide you with good literature.”
Just as the officer turned away, Cassius pushed past him, opening the crime scene for both of them to see. And, in that moment, Artemy felt that perhaps the officer was right in calling them boys, because he felt like a petrified child when he looked down at the street, at what was not a blood stain at all, but the remains of a body.
Nothing about it looked at all human, save for the scraps of clothing left on the ground, on a pile of mush that might have once been a leg. At once, Artemy tried to think of what could have possibly been used to reduce a human body to nothingness, but his mind was simply blank. Even Cassius, whom was always moving, always scheming, was silent, pale.
And then Cassius was running before collapsing by a storm drain, spilling his guts into the sewers below.
Some of the officers laughed at him, poking fun at the noble who thought he would have a taste of true London crime, but the one in charge was not laughing, eyeing him grimly, unblinkingly. Artemy hurried to Cassius, tending to him and helping him to his feet, slinging one arm over his shoulder. In all his time with him, he had never seen him in such a sickened state, and the thought terrified him more than anything.
As they made their way back home, Artemy could still feel the silent gaze of the officer staring at him, watching him.
Cassius collapsed on the guest bed within Artemy’s house, and he seemed hardly aware when Artemy had dropped him onto the cushioned pillows. He tried not to grow nervous, seeing Cassius in such a state, but even after their many parties, Cassius had never looked so ill.
He tried to busy himself as Cassius rested, eventually settling for placing a glass of water by his bedside and hoping - no, praying - that it was mere shock that had upset him. Though, Artemy did remember tales of illness from his biology class - tales of sickness spreading from bodies untouched, seemingly from the air. He knew Cassius hadn't come close enough to have touched the corpse on that road, but he certainly could have been close enough to breathe in whatever sickness it could have had when living.
Artemy was surprised to enter the guest bedroom to find Cassius, awake and slowly sitting up. He rushed to his side, worried that at any moment he might vomit again.
Instead, Cassius drank his water slowly, until he was recollected, almost a recognition of who he once was. Artemy sat on the edge of his bed, awaiting him to speak, though it soon became clear that Cassius was quite content with remaining silent.
Perhaps he should have let him rest, but instead Artemy found himself pressing for answers, desperate to know just what had shaken him up so - if it was merely the gore of the scene or something worse. “What happened?” He asked, his voice low.
Cassius looked at the blankets atop him nervously, fiddling with a stray thread as he hesitated. Eventually, he looked up at Artemy, his eyes curious. “Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t see it?”
“The body?” Artemy asked, shuddering at the thought of it. “Of course I did. It was rather hard to avoid.”
Cassius shook his head gravely, peering into him in a way that shook Artemy. “Disgusting, yes, but that’s not what I mean. When I ran to the drain, I had looked up into the alley facing me, and I - I believe I saw the killer.”
“I saw nothing when I collected you,” Artemy said, growing more nervous by the minute. “Nor did the guards.”
“Were they patrolling each alley, then?” Cassius asked, his cheeks tinted pink with irritation. “You saw not what I saw. There was certainly a figure crouching in the alley - hiding, I presume. He - We met eyes.”
“And what did you see in those eyes?”
Cassius froze, almost beginning to look ill again. “I’ve never seen such evil reflected in a man’s eyes. It shook me, I believe. I tried to gather more details, but in that darkened alley, I saw nothing else. They captivated me.”
“Perhaps you should write him a love letter, then,” he joked. “Tell him of how his captivating eyes left you breathless.”
Cassius placed his wrist on his forehead dramatically, winking at him. “Perhaps I should spill even more of my guts to him. Oh, Artemy! I believe I’ve found a husband!”
Cassius fell onto him, then, as if he were a fainting maiden. Artemy caught him with ease, and he felt his heart seemingly lift into his throat at the sight of him, returned to his usual state, lying in his arms. For a moment, he thought perhaps Cassius had fallen asleep, judging by the way his eyes closed in a calm bliss, his chest rising and falling ever so slightly. He was about to awake him when Cassius jumped up, making Artemy nearly drop him.
“Oh, dear! I’ve forgotten that it must be terribly late by now! Artemy, dear, what time is it? I fear I’ve slept for far too long, and now I’ve kept you awake at fearful hours.”
Artemy drew his watch, trying to block out Cassius’s rambling as he read the time. He blinked in surprise, not realizing that he had lost so many hours by simply fretting over Cassius like a nurse. “Near midnight, in fact. You slept for a good while.”
Cassius looked down at the blanket where his hands rested in shame, almost embarrassed that Artemy had taken care of him for so long. “I should really be off, then, shouldn’t I? We’ve class in the morning.”
Cassius stood, and Artemy couldn’t help but stand with him, a sudden worry overcoming him. “Perhaps you shouldn’t. I doubt any officers will be out patrolling, and if the killer did see you-“
“He could be waiting for me,” Cassius finished, seemingly lost in thought. “I’d rather not become the next pile of mush in the streets. Though, would you think me a rake if I stayed? It’s not - There may be talk of this.”
“Let them talk,” Artemy said, leading him into the kitchen, where his discarded newspaper still remained. “Everyone knows you’re a rake - including me.”
Cassius gasped at him humoredly, swatting at him. “Oh, come now. If I’ve ever heard a more preposterous rumor, it’s that one.”
Artemy only hummed in acknowledgement, rather enjoying the act of aggravating Cassius. He continued to make tea for them, ignoring him in the way Artemy knew he couldn’t stand. Cassius huffed dramatically, perching on one of the dining seats rather messily. “Besides,” Cassius said slowly, daringly. “We all know it’s you that’s the real whore.”
Cassius was, in Artemy’s opinion, rather strange. He joked about things that the common society - and especially the noble society - would blanch at. Cassius didn’t stop himself from joking about otherwise terrible things with him - including jokes about Artemy’s father. Which was why, when Artemy turned to him, two cups in hand, he said, “Right, well, I’ll have to inform your fiancée that you’re ready for the marriage.”
Cassius laughed, covering his mouth as he did so. “My God, Artemy, you truly wish to hurt my reputation! Trust me, if I had gone through with my family’s plan to marry, it would have been a nightmare.”
“I cannot pretend to say that I can necessarily see you as a domestic, married father,” Artemy noted, sipping his tea as he sat by him.
“I’ll be married before you, certainly,” Cassius remarked, raising his brow at him. “I’m far too handsome to go to waste.”
“Is ‘handsome’ the new slang for ‘annoying’?” He asked, trying to hide his growing smile at him. “Who let a shaggy, blonde rat into my house? I do believe I have an intruder.”
Cassius set his cup down on the table, snickering. “You love me.”
Artemy didn’t respond - he only hummed in what could be either an agreement or a disagreement. He raised his tea closer to his face, trying to hide the blush that certainly would come at the thoughts of Cassius’s words.
They sat like that for some time before retiring to their rooms, both knowing that they would be exhausted during their Wednesday classes, though Artemy couldn’t afford to skip and risk his grade dropping. Artemy laid in his bed, moments before sleep, watching the moonlight pour into his room in a blue hue. He thought of the killer that Cassius no doubt saw, and feared for him.
Just before he slept, he realized, too late, that he had forgotten to try and quell Cassius’s curiosity regarding the murder.
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