Bundled up in those sumptuous covers, the cotton an angel’s kiss against his cheek, Casper drowned.
A slow drowning. Chained down as the tide came in and each susurrus wave lapped over your mouth and your nose, and filled your lungs with salt, and you choked and you choked but the next wash always came to fill up all you spluttered out. Asphyxiation even as you still gulped down fresh air.
The words tumbled from his lips, as rotten and lifeless as that scum-studded sea. “So much for fate.”
Cain shifted beside him, the mattress dipping under Casper’s back. “What?”
“You’re something special,” Casper slurred, tongue heavy in his mouth. “It’s fate. You just fucking stalked me, you fucking psycho. Ten fucking times with ten different mes. Like fuck you’ve never met anyone like me.”
Cain sat up entirely now, pushing the cover down between them to block out the cool air that shivered over Casper’s skin. Maybe nutjob was shocked Casper could give a fuck about something like that in a situation like this. Casper sure was, but right now it was the only thought that tolled around his head.
Something special. What a lie.
“Cas,” Cain said with an air of desperation. “No, I meant that. It is fate. Every time it’s pure bloody chance. I never find you when I’m looking. I—I just live and one day, I finally see you and—”
Some bitter imitation of a laugh choked up Casper’s throat, cutting off Cain’s words. “And the stars align? Fireworks go off up in the sky and I fall for you just like that?”
“No, not just like that. A lot of the time you can’t bloody stand me, but just like this time we keep running into each other and sometimes I’m bloody fucking lucky enough that you start loving me back before—”
Casper bit out a laugh and twisted further away from him. Cold on this side, untouched by the warmth of his body. Hugging these covers against his chest was almost like holding his toy lion, the one that still lay chill and lonely on his bed. Thinking about him – about home – a whimper slipped past his lips and then another as he realised Mackie would be the only one to miss him. Rent wasn’t due for three weeks, and after this shitshow, Jack wouldn’t be back in touch for at least two. Just his fucking toy lion with its threadbare coat and ratty mane.
“Fuck off,” Casper said. “You’re fucking crazy. You’re just lucky I’m such an attention-starved roach or I would’ve seen straight through this shit. I suppose you pick the ones who’re so fucked up they fall for it anyway. Wander around seedy bars ’till you spot your new Lolita and—” his voice cracked— “and you—you fucking smile at them like they’re actually something fucking s—special.”
Why did that hurt? How the fuck did that have any right to hurt like some clawed his fucking heart out of his chest?
“Go fuck yourself, Cain. See a fucking therapist and let me go. Better yet, let me fucking die.”
Cain’s face crumpled with the poisonous words. The pretend – the continuous, delusional pretend – drowned him in nausea and bitter loathing. Everything hurt. It hurt so much and he was so, so tired and even this fucking fake psychosis was more care than anyone had ever given him and it wasn’t fair. Shuddering, Casper rolled over away from Cain and dragged the soft bulk of the covers with him. Maybe if he pressed his face in deep enough, he wouldn’t be able to breathe. Suffocate on the sweet scent of vanilla and pine.
“Why can’t you just let me die?”
A muffled sob broke from Cain. “I can’t, Cas. I can’t let you go. I miss you too much. L—Last time, y—you—”
Was Cain crying? He kept it quiet past that broken voice if he was. Let him cry. Toast to the last boy Cain had ruined if he’d hurt this psycho that much.
Casper’s leg twitched as he drew his knees right up to his chest, a spasm that shuddered right up his spine. Where was that bliss he’d woken in? That sleepy eternity had been closer to heaven than any he’d reached chasing the dragon at least since the first time he’d snatched at its tail, and that ... at least for the stretch of blissful ignorance until reality shattered him, that had been real.
Crawl back then, worm. Dredge up another reason to hate yourself. At least he deserved this touch now. At least the hands that touched his skin were just as drenched in filth. It was so hard to think of a reason why not, and he was tired as the slow winter of death.
Those sun-drenched hills beyond the window were a glimpse of heaven just out of reach, but how wonderful to see them. In this light, the wet leaves of the forest glittered, breathtaking emeralds scattered across the green-gold silk of the patchwork hills.
Perhaps this was his hell. Here in this soft warmth curled up in the arms of the devil, just like he’d always dreamed.
Shivering, Casper turned from the window. Back to Cain, who wiped away the tears drizzling down his cheeks while Casper nestled into the divot of himself still left in the mattress – his own shallow grave.
“You won’t remember this,” Cain murmured to him, his words heavy with the weight of deluded ages, “and I can’t bear to be without you. Maybe I cocked it all up but I’ve done it now. At least ... at least nothing can hurt you here.”
What had his words been as Casper stumbled out the front door that night? I’ve found you now. I’ll see you again soon. Casper sniffed hard and some mucus dislodged from the top of his throat. Copper and vinegar. “Other than you.”
“Other than me...”
Cain sighed and pulled his knees back up to his chest, the covers a tent across them and some unassailable urge to crawl into that space and nestle his head into Cain’s lap gripped him tight in its maw. Casper’s leg jerked, this misfiring nerve jolting through his back and down to his toes.
“I’m so bad at this, Cas. You’d think by now I’d have it down to a science, but I still mess it up all the time. I ... I thought you were asking me. I forget sometimes that I don’t know this you yet.”
The rasp of Casper’s voice begged to be a tool of spite, and he wielded it now the way it’d always deserved. “Don’t talk to me like we’re friends.”
“Of course…” Cain’s head hung heavier against the cradling sling of his hands between his knees. A gloss of tears coated his dull eyes. “I’m sorry, Cas.”
“I’d hate you if you weren’t even more pathetic than I am.”
A flinch ran through his shoulders, cringing, and a brush of pink darkened his cheeks. Cain flipped the cover back, drama queen making a sail of it that caught the air. Behind that pall, Casper hauled himself up. His back groaned, and he twisted around the twitch of his leg, brushing past the falling veil.
Casper didn’t know why he did it. Only that some gnawing, ghoulish part of his mind demanded it. Cain’s eyes went wide, a sharp gasp from his lips, as Casper grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
Well done, Roach Boy, you’ve drilled straight past rock fucking bottom.
The stubble across Cain’s jaw scraped his lips. Strong hands peeled away his grip and pushed him away. “Cas, don’t—”
Casper twisted free of Cain’s hands, stomach plunging. “Don’t what?” Cold air bit his skin as he shrugged off the covers. The pout came to him easier than breathing right, same as the arch of his body into the hands he slid over his sides. Second nature. Cain’s eyes devoured the sight of him, so why did he push him away? “Isn’t this what you wanted?”
Was this foul worm not even deserving of the touch of his psycho stalker?
“For God’s—” Cain dragged his hands over his face and back through his hair. The sunlight rippled through it, glossy cream “I already didn’t bloody sleep with you when you didn’t think I was crazy. I certainly don’t want to now.”
No. Casper’s hands fell into his lap like dead things and heat crept into his cheeks. Not even now. Even Psycho felt sick at the thought of his touch.
A palsied twitch jerked through one of his hands. Could you see the marks on his skin? Or was it just enough that Cain had finally seen those ridges down his arms and the slick, burns gnarled through his stomach? His shoulder blades stuck out like the stumps of ragged wings and his ribs pushed skeletal against the thin trap of skin.
Did he even still have all his teeth? The flash of his tongue across the back stuck on a hole – top right canine. Gone. When had he lost it? Which punch in the face? Had he deserved it? Had he punched back? Had he just fallen over too drunk and knocked it out?
A twitch again, hand then the leg curled beneath him. Casper twisted his hands into the sheets.
Tragedy stained Cain’s face. Oh, and it looked so comfortable there. “Cas, I’m—”
A wordless hiss snapped between his teeth and Casper scrambled beneath the covers and dragged them over his head. The shake in his limbs, in his spine. The sick fucking shake. Lungs heaved. Casper suffocated his breath in his hands and stared with wide, blind eyes out at the darkness beneath the sheets.
It was all he had left. The blackness before death.