The Stains Beneath Our Skin {mxm}

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Cerunnos

Death felt nice.

Crazy there actually was a death, not just an empty meaningless life where animals bestowed the curse of consciousness trundled at the end of a souped-up chain towing the grand, groaning machine of society.

Oh, we all laugh at the ants and the futility of their labour, but the same as those tireless drones, our whole facade of existence did no more than fuel that hulking tower in black iron called society. In the face of the grandiosity of the cosmos, it was no more than the twig poking out the top of the anthill, our own pitiful footprint on creation.

Each heaving, bleeding, suffering step we staggered forward only heaved on the precious few that climbed with their blood-stained, gold-tipped fingers to lounge – for a measly few years – at the top. Revelled, iniquitous, in an emotional pauper’s life of splendour before they too tumbled to the ground with all the rest to be crushed beneath the ruthless path of the engine of time.

Everyone died the same. Alone and rotting in the earth.

Then again, life remained just as meaningless as when death was the end. When it meant the last dull spark of a neuron in your flesh-sack – zip, that all important concept we call life, the pattern of behaviour known as Roach come to the end of its run on the wheel.

Except now he’d just been shoved off onto another wheel, but at least this one was warm. This one smelt of vanilla and fresh snow and cradled his head in feathers. Some entity murmured to him, dulcet tones that soothed his weary spirit down to its bones.

Were those fingers in his hair?

How long until this got boring?

Was this heaven?

For now, he might as well just enjoy it. So much for the fires of hell; Casper curled up in feathers all aglow with the warmth of a summer day. One of those soft ones where everything glowed dreamy and buttercup yellow. If they were the devil’s fingers, they felt so lovely against his scalp. His whole body lay too aching heavy to butt up against the touch, so he simply basked. Time would come to find if there were a way to claw out of this bliss. For now, relax.

Did he know that voice, the one that crooned indistinct in his ear? Shapes coloured that dark river whispering around him. Words. The shift of his focus came with the retreat of the amniotic heaven. Things … hurt. Some trick of the mind imposing the physical upon the spirit, perhaps.

Singing. The devil crooned a song in his ear, one with the lilting tremble of a lullaby. Those noises shaped words, but the words were a dream themselves. Sounds like murky water, a language he’d never heard but that tune … so hauntingly familiar.

Those fingers belonged to an arm, one that met a shoulder where Casper’s head lay pillowed on a firm plane of muscle, cradled against a long, lithe body. The voice belonged to a mouth, and in the hazy glow as his eyes fluttered open – light crystallized between the feathered shield of his eyelashes – that mouth was a blur of soft pink against pure, creamy skin.

It was so warm. God, it was so, so blissfully warm that he never wanted to move. Casper squeezed his eyes closed again and some kittenish mewl slipped from his lips as he curled in against his devil. The song stopped, a gasp he felt through the chest beneath his head. Everything ached so deep in his bones, but the warmth soothed it. Strong arms enveloped him in the soft fires of hell, the one around his shoulders and another slipped around his waist to brush along his spine. A squeeze, something wet and choked in the unsteady lift of these ribs, and the arms, the body, it all drew away.

Casper twisted his fingers into the shirt. Shirt? Something twigged, but he didn’t want to follow it. He didn’t want anything but his devil’s fingers in his hair and that lullaby cradling him in a feathered cloud. Devil in a shirt. Why was that so familiar?

A long, heavy sigh ached through those ribs. The sigh of some great ancient, Cerunnos in his glade as old as time, moss draped across grand, creaking antlers that twined toward the sky like the branches of a tree.

Cerunnos whose long, gentle fingers trailed over his skin as if it wasn’t as gnarled and ruined as the old oak standing at the centre of his glade. Cerunnos whose touch lingered as if letting go would mean tearing that wooden heart from his chest.

No one had ever touched him like that. No one but ... Cain.

The vast tragedy laid bare across his face was writ as ancient and slow as the wandering steps of that primordial god. Creamy sunlight set his skin aglow and put vivid amber rays in his soft acorn eyes. For a moment, there was only him, the perfect stranger and perhaps the face he would have worn when Casper stumbled over a rejection over the phone, desert winds whipping through his hair.

For a moment.

But even after that moment, the fear lay buried beneath such a weight of depression and exhaustion that it could hardly twitch its needle-spined tail.

“Why?” Casper whispered.

So many facets of that question, but ... perhaps just one answer.

Another sigh lifted weary from Cain’s very core. The tightness through his jaw and eyes wound in a notch, a winch on that sorrowful thread with which he stitched their fate. Still beneath the covers, Cain propped himself up on his elbow, head resting on his hand as if it bore the weight of the world.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy.”

Casper rubbed his cheek against the soft cotton sheets. His head was so heavy. Too heavy to lift. “I already think you’re crazy.”

A slight incline of Cain’s head came in answer with a wry grimace that lifted a little of the tragedy from his face. He shifted and flinched back as his knee knocked against Casper’s. Trousers, but that shirt sat rumpled and undone to mid-way down his chest, and his perfect hair didn’t sit quite so perfect anymore, ruffled and stuck up on one side. Deep, bruised bags cradled his eyes and thin stubble shaded his marble-carved jaw.

Casper curled up – come on, Roach, invertebrate or not get a fucking backbone – and lifted his foot until his bare toes brushed against Cain’s ankle. Cain’s gasp seemed to catch the sun, as if it should plume misty and bright in the air.

“Cas—”

“Tell me why.” A petulant demand. “I want to know why.”

I need to know why you did all this but I woke up from nearly dying to you stroking my hair and singing to me.

Because he was fucking crazy, that was why.

One of those elegant hands rubbed over Cain’s face, tugging at the smooth skin. “Alright,” he said from behind the shield of his hand. “Can I ... I mean, do you want me to get out?”

Casper shook his head. Because apparently he was even more spineless than a fucking roach now. Nothing but a worm flopping about in the dirt. Hopefully that flicker of bright surprise meant he was getting his hopes up about this being shit but worm boy scraping together comfort from anywhere that offered it.

Let it disappoint him.

“Alright then ... it’s...” Cain took a deep breath, a stand of fortification, and he spoke with flayed, raw honesty tearing at the edge of his voice. “It’s because I’m in love with you, Cas. Not just after I’ve met you twice, but I’ve ... I’ve loved you for lifetimes. Eleven now, to be exact. Ten times after I died, I ... I woke up again and every single time you were there too, out there somewhere, but you...”

Soft, Cain’s fingers brushed through his hair, so loving and his trembling smile overflowed with wet, blue sorrow. “You never remember, love. Not once.”

Oh shit. Casper rolled onto his back, his heart jerking in his chest and eyes squinting against the streaming sunlight. Made a strange bath to this black ominous goop gathering up in his gut. He was the really, really crazy kind of crazy. The fucking reincarnated lover kind of crazy.

What was at the end then? A knife through Casper’s heart as he fucking cried over him before spotting another small, black-haired boy broken by the world to fixate on. What happened to the first one? Had that been real, or had it just been the first flash of obsession?

Shit.

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