Wakefulness crept slow into Casper’s mind, but it was an awakening like a dream, his body cradled on a cloud and the scent of dreamy incense and pine enveloped him. Quiet, blissful quiet. These candyfloss pillows swallowing his head, and these sheets… Sighing, Casper rubbed his cheek against the silk and buried his face in the thick covers. The slow smile hurt his cheeks. A deep ache overlaid by sharp stings. In fact, his whole body ached, hunched like a hunk of scrap in this feather-stuffed dream. Strange, but no matter. Especially not here.
Wherever … here was.
This wasn’t his bed.
Tension shot through his limbs and Casper’s breath shuddered out of him. Don’t fucking move an inch, Roach Boy. His muscles quivered. Right down to his ears straining out like a goddamn elephant’s, fondling the air for a hint. One little tip that said, yeah, Roach, don’t worry you’re supposed to be here. He wasn’t supposed to be here.
The quiet didn’t sound quite so empty anymore. His own sharp, quick breaths and the blood pounding in his ears. Behind that, some soft bird call, the hum of pipes and distant wind.
Breathing. That wasn’t only his breathing. Slower, deeper. Someone else sat right there, an arm’s length away.
Fresh ice pooled in Casper’s gut and slow, as if he were still asleep, he pulled the covers further over his head.
“I know you’re awake, Cas.”
Oh my god, this isn’t fucking happening. This whole fucking night. This was a nightmare. Casper pressed his hands to his mouth. His lungs heaved for air, but his head still rolled, edging black like these oppressive sheets were the plastic bag pulled over his head. There’s no way this is fucking real. What if he’d just passed out? Imagined those chilling words whispered in his ear.
A long, slow sigh from beside him. “I suppose I’ve no right to expect you to actually want to look at me now…”
Alright, so it was real. Shit. And this fucking psycho was talking to him all calm like he hadn’t just fucking kidnapped him. Fuck. Breathe, Roach. Fucking breathe. Jesus fucking Christ. This seriously could not be happening. How had he not seen this guy was a fucking nut?
Oh god, he’d dropped his phone off the fucking bridge.
Did he have clothes on? T-shirt and jeans by the feel. At least the psycho hadn’t fucking stripped him. How about… No. They’d found it. Taken it and put it to better use. Casper’s gorge rose and shuddering, he curled deeper beneath the covers.
This was a nightmare.
A dry sob burst past his clutching hand.
This was a fucking nightmare.
Wood creaked beside him, the rustling of cloth. “Cas—”
Fingers brushed against his hair. Just a tickle, but Casper broke. Twisted away and scrambled across the bed. The covers strangled his legs like clutching hands, and in that panic, a shriek tore from his throat.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
Cain fell back in his chair with a clunk, hands held up by his head and a deep grimace on his lips. The chair was some big heavy behemoth frowning at Casper around nutjob’s shoulders. It sat right beside the bed, and behind him, a vast window poured the orange-tinted sunset across the room, drenching the side of Cain’s face in a tangerine dream.
Somehow, he still looked like that perfect stranger, not a fucking psycho nutjob, and everything about him was still so calming and soft that Casper gagged with the shuddering, rotten cold flooding his body. His breath came hard and fast, and he made himself look around the room, because this couldn’t be happening and maybe he’d find the mark of a dream.
Too nice. That was the dream here. Understated minimalism and elegance. This huge four-poster bed and the wide wardrobe set into the slope of the roof opposite him, a mirror reflecting his own sallow, terrified face back at him. All airy space and duck egg walls and polished beech slipping beneath a dusky blue rug and—
Casper bolted. A curse behind him, clatter of the chair. He didn’t stop. The rug skidded beneath his pounding feet and he fell into the door. Palms slapped against solid wood and the knob—
Didn’t fucking turn.
Screaming, he yanked at it. Slammed his shoulder into the door. Locked. Fuck. Fuck. Casper sobbed and pulled and fucking pulled and—
A hand closed on his shoulder and Casper spun, fist flying out. Pain shot through his knuckles and Cain staggered back, hand clasped to his cheek. Casper sprinted past him. Window. That fucking window. He jumped up onto the bed and bounded across. The sheets slipped beneath his feet, heart lurched. Wild hands closed on the post and he swung himself off. That chair weighed a tonne, solid wood and Casper grabbed the back and smashed the window.
It bounced off. No breaking glass. No shattering. Just a thud and a rebound that nearly took him off his feet.
One big pane that didn’t open and beneath it, a three story drop to a bone-crunching death.
And for as far as he could see, stretching out to where the scorching brightness of the sun touched the horizon, nothing but fields and forest and miles and untouched miles of sumptuous green. Breathtaking and beautiful and everything he’d dreamed of waking up to see for years.
“It’s not going to break, Cas, and the best you’ll do jumping out is break your legs.”
Play it cool, Roach Boy. Psycho’s gotta unlock that door sometime. Shudders wracked Casper’s body, but he couldn’t make himself budge. Couldn’t tear his eyes from sweet promise of death plunging down beneath him and couldn’t make himself drop the chair nor spin around and smash Cain in the face with it.
God, he wanted to smash his face in. Shatter that breathtaking smile and gouge out his gentle eyes. That was the real face of the monster. The one that made everything alright.
Because it wasn’t alright.
Casper’s knees gave out. Solid wood bruised his ass and the impact sent a lance of agony up his spine from that. The beginning of this nightmare. And with Cain there he thought he’d finally started waking up but that cunt had just dragged him deeper. His breath caught. Then again, deeper. Iron bars closed around his chest and the air came thin, too heady light. Casper put his head between his knees and twisted his fingers through his hair and sobbed.
Why hadn’t he just jumped? Three two one fucking zero no more roach no more nightmare no more life. What was the point running just to go back to dealing with that fucking trauma and the same tango with Jack and the day in day out music pounding through his head while he served drinks to scum, go home ignore the ringing in your ears, shoot up up up just until he came plummeting back down.
He couldn’t do it anymore.
Breathe, Roach, deep breaths deep breaths.
Yeah like fuck. His lungs shuddered like an engine turning over.
Another sigh echoed through the silence of the room followed by the mumble of weight settling on the bed behind him. Casper twitched, but when Cain spoke, it stayed distant.
“I’m sorry, Cas.”
“I’m not trying to hurt you or anything like that, I swear.”
“You said you wanted to run away, Cas. I’ve taken you away.”
Laughter sputtered up his throat, a shock out of his ragged breathing. Casper scrambled up to his feet with the chair solidly in front of him, and he gaped at Cain lounged out all elegant and hard fucking done by on the other side of the bed. He had to be kidding. Fucking hell. “I didn’t fucking mean this! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Cain’s grimace deepened and with a sigh, he tipped his head back, rubbing at the cheek Casper had punched. The orange light from the window burnished his skin golden and Casper’s fingers itched to rip it off. Both of them flayed together with putrid foulness oozing from their exposed flesh. Wouldn’t that be a sight to behold?
“Yes,” Cain spoke quietly, almost as if to himself and the more he said, the worse this chill shivering through his body got. Ragdoll Roach Boy plunged right beneath the ice and swallowed whole. “Well,” he continued, a tartness edging into his voice as he talked, “I’d been weighing it up anyway and I suppose you saying that decided it for me. I just … maybe I’ll have cocked up this go around, but I couldn’t be without you, Cas, not with you hurting like that.”
Casper laughed, dragging his hands back through his hair and shaking his head. God, it just got worse and worse. “You’ve met me twice! Twice, you fucking nut! You’re absolutely fucking crazy! Oh my god. Oh my god.”
His feet carried him up and down past the window, and if he stood still, he was gonna fucking scream. And Cain just fucking lay there with his fingers pinched over the bridge of his nose like Casper was kicking a fuss up over fuck all.
“This is a nightmare. You’re absolutely fucking crazy. Of course you’re crazy! What sort of fucking person acts like you did with the weird fucking ghoul bartender from the sleaziest joint in fucking town! Oh my god, I’m literally in a fucking horror movie. Oh my—“
Sharp, Cain’s voice cut across the sounds of his mind unravelling. “Yes, well, the last one was so bloody crap forgive me if I needed some bloody fucking comfort this time!”
“What are you fucking talking about?” Casper screamed. “What the fuck are you talking about? You need some comfort? You’ve literally just fucking kidnapped me! Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. What now then, you fucking creep? You got your little fucking rat in its cage. Gonna keep me pretty, is it? It puts the lotion on its fucking skin, or it gets—the fucking—HOSE! FUCK!”
A sob burst from his lips and Casper collapsed to his knees again. The wood cracked through them and again, that same pain lanced from his ass up his spine. Casper’s stomach rolled and he nearly threw up. “I can’t believe this is happening. I—I actually—oh my god, I actually thought you cared. You were so nice to me. I actually thought someone cared.”
“Casper…” Back to that world-weary sigh. The sound of it crawled down Casper’s spine like huge, ponderous frost-spiders. Foul. “I do care, Cas. All of this is because I care so, so much about you.”
A long silence spread between them and Casper shivered on the floor, clutching his head and holding back the panicked sobs threatening in his heaving lungs. The sun had slipped past the long, wavering line of the horizon and just like that, the warmth had vanished from the light.
Eventually, with what felt like one last sigh, the bed creaked and Cain’s shoes tapped against the floor. Casper didn’t look up. Was this where he gave up and killed him? Was this where he grabbed him by his hair and had his way? Surely that was how this obsessive shit went. Rape, convincing yourself they wanted it. Fuck, it felt like he was still fucking bleeding. If Cain laid one hand on him like that he’d bite through his own tongue.
That’s why it had always been the boxers stuffed in his mouth. He knew Casper would do it if he gave him the chance. Cain didn’t.
“I suppose I’ll leave you alone then. I’ve left some food on the table, and there’s a bathroom through the other door... Have a shower, love. Use as much water as you like.”
A sick hysteria bubbled up Casper’s throat. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly use up your hot water after you’ve given me such a lovely place to stay, you fucking nut.”
Never mind on that one last sigh thing. This guy sure could fucking pull them out. “I really am sorry, Cas. I’ll let you in the rest of the house once you’ve settled in a bit. There’s … There’s a garden too. You’ll like that.”
“Yeah I really like chasing birds with the leash on. Why don’t you just fuck off already?”
“Alright… Goodnight then, Casper.”
His footsteps clicked across the floor and a moment after they stopped, a lock clunked. Not an ounce of anything existed to drive him to his feet to struggle and fail to escape.
But enough was there to stir his tongue as the door opened. “I hope you die. And I hope it’s slow and I hope you cry.”
“Me too, love, if only it would mean an end to all this.”
The door shut and the lock turned. Outside, the sun had set, and the moon hung fat and pale in the dimming sky. The first star sparkled on the velvet black, already brighter than any that Casper had ever seen.