Jack was waiting for him when he got home later that week. Thursday. Casper had called it his last day and spent morning till night getting fucked or on his way there.
He’d thrown up bile twice on the way home already, crouched in the dark clutching his head and moaning. The thought of the filthy film of his skin clinging to this sack of bones made him sick. The last guy had kicked him straight out and his fucking ass cheeks rubbed pornographically slick together. It was gross. He wanted to shower in boiling water and scrub himself down to the bone. Maybe that’d wash away the filth for one night.
But then again, no doubt his bones would show brown with grime and nicotine stains too.
Seeing Jack sprawled out on the sofa sent his gorge right up again. That haggard face and the lifeless slump of his shoulders.
Maybe he should just run away again. God knew he fucking should. Jack only wanted one thing being back here, but ... Cain was back in two days...
Too little too late. Jack jumped to his feet when he saw him, tears already swelling across his grey eyes and without question of whether Casper wanted another hand on him ever again, he ran over and swept him up in his arms.
Coffee and cigarettes and whiskey and the place that had once been home.
“Awh fuck, Cas, baby, I missed you so much. I’m so fuckin’ sorry, baby. I just get so fuckin’ angry, and I—”
A shudder wracked his body and he twisted his fingers through the back of Casper’s hair, pressed a kiss to the crown of his head. His heat was like an inferno, burning away all the bad until you pulled back and found your skin blistered and charred.
And it was too much right now. Casper pushed at Jack’s chest, but his solid bulk didn’t give. Oppressive. Too strong.
“Jack, get off.”
“Come on, baby—”
His words burst out in a shriek. “Jack stop fucking touching me!”
Casper wrenched himself out of Jack’s arms. His skin fucking crawled and Jack’s fucking stupid forlorn, gutter-wretch expression turned his stomach. Shit. Shit. Why did he always come back?
“Cassie? What did I do?”
“Nothing.” And that’s just the problem. “I just don’t want anyone to touch me right now.”
“Shit.” Jack turned away. Twisted lips, fingers wrenching at the roots of his hair. All the self-loathing guilt. “I know, baby. Came lookin’ for you at work and … y’know.” Jack nodded his head at the bedroom. Like it said everything. It did. “Heard.”
“I’m surprised you’re not too disgusted to touch me then.”
That went through Jack like the knife Casper had meant it as. Fresh tears spilt from his eyes as he turned and paced over to the kitchen. A whiskey bottle, open with about a hundred mil off the top, sat on the side, but Jack didn’t pick it up. That meant he was serious.
A bottle of whiskey was like Jack’s comfort blanket, and the smooth burn down his throat was a mother’s hands in his hair while he cried. One that actually loved him.
But he didn’t go for it, and that meant he wanted to stay kind. Be Jack for once. It wasn’t fair that that was something special.
Jack’s aimless wander ended leant against the counter, just out of reach of the bottle. The fingers in his hair looked as if they tore it out in clumps by the roots, but his voice really showed the whip of self-loathing falling on his back. “You know it ain’t like that, baby.”
Casper shrugged and pulled his hoodie off over his head. Because it was like that. It made it different. Always did. “I don’t know. You don’t think I fucking do this because I like it, Jack? I do it for the same fucking reason you fuck people up for a living. First time you fucked me you paid me, so you don’t get to bitch me out because of it. Or—” a bitter laugh rasped up Casper’s throat and he threw the scrunched-up hoodie on the sofa— “hey, at least you were meant to. We’ll call it third time being a decent fucking human being, right?”
Jack’s shoulders sagged under the lash of Casper’s tongue, his head falling forward. “I know.” He did know. They both knew. It was a well-worn path.
“You get to bitch me out over it when you decide your dick’s done getting wet anywhere but here, and we both know that’s not going to be for a long fucking time. I told you nothing emotional, Jack, and for me, that’s getting fucking paid for it. Take it or fucking leave it.”
“I know, baby. Just—” he sighed, scratching his fingers in the sides of his hair— “I just hate thinking of you like that. I know you hate it, baby. I know you only do it for money, and I just wish you’d let me take care of you, baby.”
“And you know I look after myself, Jack.”
Never again. He’d fallen for that once, hadn’t he? Moved in with him and maybe it was the best half year of his life right up until Jack lost it over Casper getting a job in a club he’d gotten barred from. Jack had only been barred from it because it was a nice place, so Casper hadn’t wanted to quit. Hadn’t seen what the damn problem was because he hadn’t even realised Jack would think he was doing anything but bar work there.
They were both too fucking stubborn when it came down to it, and Casper and his duffel bag of stuff had wound up running down the stairs followed by Jack’s drunken vitriol with no place else to go.
That had been a bad two months. The beginning of the end. Back then, he’d been a mess when Jack broke up with him and he didn’t have a head to get himself on his feet. Back then, he hadn’t had these scars gnarling through his cheek and quite the same stains on his bones and there’d been a shred of hope that maybe he could change. Jack had never really forgiven himself for what had happened to Casper out there and things had never quite been the same.
Probably because Casper had never quite trusted him since.
Jack sighed, his hand running out across the counter and his fingers stretching for the touch of cold glass. “Sure. Look—” He drew his hand back and straightened up, digging into his pocket. “Y’know I sure know I don’t deserve you back again, baby, but I wanted to—Y’know, came ‘round lookin’ to make it right and all. Brought you this.” The notes he pulled from his wallet rustled, a wad of greens. “For ‘til you get your job back. Don’t want you havin’ to do what you gotta do, y’know. No strings, baby, just—” Jack flashed it and dropped it on the counter— “want you to be alright. I love you, Cas. I gotta know you’re alright.”
Too little too fucking late.
A swell lifted in his chest, a foul, toxic miasma that polluted his lungs and strangled his heart, and he turned away, fingers digging into his wrist. Look how easy that had been. Jack made good money when he didn’t blow it all on drugs and booze and gambling and women, and that had to be half as much as Casper had made these two weeks. All he’d needed to get by.
Casper fell onto the sofa and pulled his knees up to his chest, put his head between them. That fucking easy. Anyone else he wouldn’t take it from but … Jack really meant it when he said no strings. In all his foulness, he never held a single thing he gave against Casper no matter that Casper couldn’t ever really give anything back.
“Hey…” Jack’s heavy footsteps crossed the room. “Cassie? What’s up, baby?” The sofa creaked as he settled on the arm, and Jack’s fingers brushed rough and calloused behind his ear. Cain’s touch had been so much softer, and wasn’t it funny how he knew just the spot that Casper liked so much?
Cain. Nothing emotional, was it, Roach? Well Jack had already fucking left him, hadn’t he? All bets off, and he never needed to know.
The poison twisted deeper, right through his gut with an abruptly sharp wrench. Cain was back in two days. Casper had his job back in two days. It had all seemed like a light at the end of this black tunnel, the brightest one he’d ever known. All iridescent white rays refracting wondrous kaleidoscopes through the gloom.
“It’s already done, Jack. I don’t need it. Last day. Got my fucking job back Saturday.”
“Awh shit, baby.” Hot, strong hands slipped around Casper’s waist, pulling him up onto Jack’s lap as Jack slid down beside him. Arms that held him close and hands rubbing over his back. “Fuck, baby, I’m so fucking sorry. I’m—” choked, broken off— “I’m so sorry. I should’ve come earlier. I—”
“I feel so fucking filthy. I’m—I’m just fucking—”
Jack hushed him, pulling Casper’s legs around his waist and standing them both up from the sofa. “Come on, baby. Let’s get you in the shower, huh? Jack’s gonna look after you, baby. I swear I’m never gonna let you down again.”
And he meant it. He always meant it, but they were both just snarled-up tangles of issues and it always, always came crashing down. But Jack knew his. Jack knew the film of filth covering his skin and he loved it. Jack knew all the mess he was and took him so long as his own mess didn’t fuck it all up, and maybe that was all Casper ever deserved.
Just a shame he didn’t love him anymore. That the only person who’d take him scared him more than he made him feel safe. Casper could never trust Jack and Jack could never look at him without seeing his own failures and the foul way he treated the world reflected back in his face.
Jack remembered the nuances of why Casper was fucked up until he started drinking, and Casper bothered to push off his roving hands until his next hit. When he woke up in the middle of the night with the usual slow, whole-body ache, he ran to the toilet and threw up. Roaches crawled over his skin but his mind was too numb to work the shower so he sat in the tub shivering, naked, fresh and old bruises from the week painting his skin shades of grey in the dim light. He shuddered until Jack came and found him and carried him, stumbling, back to bed.