Nausea wrenched through Casper’s gut and all the fuzzy heat fled his body, leaving behind nothing but a sick cold.
“Stop touching me,” Casper hissed, and Cain flinched, dazed eyes blinking hard. “Right now.”
Cain near scrambled back in his haste to open up the distance between them. “Cock.” His hands dragged over his face. “Bloody hell, I’m sorry, Cas. I—I keep— It started so well and I—God, I forget I messed it all up. I’m so sorry.”
“Isn’t that nice?” Casper lurched to his feet and stalked across the room. The ghoul sashayed over to his spot by the fireplace and stretched out all feline with its head in Cain’s lap. It watched Casper pace on itching feet with its head like a metronome, grinning.
“At least one of us can get settled in here.” It started as a hiss, but with each word his voice rose to a hoarse scream. “Have your morning coffee and smile because your new lost boy’s sitting upstairs and hey—maybe he’ll get drunk enough to kiss you later. Maybe he’ll forget for one—fucking—second that you fucking kidnapped—him! You fucking nut. Fuck you! And you—” Casper bit his tongue and spun away with a snarl. And you, ghoul, fucking nothing. Stupid ghoul. Little fucking traitor curled up like that. The degenerate just liked the power play.
A hot shudder coiled down through Casper’s gut and he almost gagged.
And how could Cain fucking hang his head like that? Slumped shoulders and his hand rubbing over his chest like he was fucking sorry. Ever the brainless, curious beast, the ghoul tilted its head and reached up to scratch one nail along Cain’s jaw. A chittering sound came up its throat, a little sad, and another nail joined the first.
“Stop that,” Casper hissed at it. Rubbing up against him like a pet was one thing but comfort—Fuck, he was going to be sick.
Good thing Cain took the words as meant for him, and better still that he looked so confused by what he was supposed to be stopping. Whatever hold Casper had on him compelled him to shift around anyway, clumsy with drink. He juggled the ghoul around in his lap until he settled with his legs crossed, and the way his hands sat in his lap was almost like they wound into the ghoul’s hair.
Casper hated how nice it looked.
After a moment, Cain sighed and dragged his fingers back through his hair. The decanter floated up into his hand.
“Look, Cas—” The whiskey glugged out into his glass and he took a deep gulp out before continuing— “I’m sorry I’ve done this to you. I cocked up. I really, really cocked up—”
Casper stopped, huddled around himself in the centre of the room, and laughed, tight and bitter. “Understatement.”
“Understatement.” Another drink. “Yes. I know. But, well, I’ve done it now—”
“It’s easily undone.”
“So I can never see you again?” Cain took another gulp, a troubled tightness settling around his hazy eyes. “And by the looks of it, you’re set on killing yourself – and a good bit of that is my fault, I know – but even if you don’t, you’re still gone and I don’t like this go ’round anyway so I’ll probably top myself too, which is just a total waste. And if you’re out there on your own, Cas, they’ll—” Cain trapped that word on his tongue and swallowed it with a draught of whiskey. Elbow resting on his knee, he rubbed his hand over his face and his shoulders drooped. A strange nausea had settled over his face, and he swayed sitting there. Drunk?
Casper’s voice stuck in his throat, and he coughed to clear space for his rasp. “If you’re trying to make me feel guilty, it’s not working.” And if he was, he was even fouler than Casper had thought.
“What?” Cain lifted his head and frowned at him. A note of anguish strained through his voice. “Bloody hell no, Cas. God, it—it breaks my fucking heart seeing you like this. You—You called me, and you were on that bridge and I—I couldn’t bloody think straight. I just wanted to keep you safe, love. I’d do anything to keep you safe. I’d—I have died for you, and I just bloody can’t let you go so that cunt of a boyfriend you’ve got can scream at you instead of—”
A lurch of revulsion tore through Casper’s gut and broke past his lips in a ragged snarl. “Fuck off! You’ve never even fucking met Jack, don’t get fucking high and mighty with me, kidnapper.”
Cain snorted, leaning back on his elbow and taking another drink. “Oh, my deepest apologies, Casper. Tell me, was he coming? You told him you needed him too, didn’t you? Was he coming?”
All the colour drained out of Casper’s face. Stomach dropped out and he clutched his arms tighter to his chest. “Shut up.”
“Was he, Casper? Do you think he knows you’re gone yet?”
“I said shut up!”
The tumbler gleamed with the firelight as Cain tipped it to him and took another drink. Lounged right back on his elbow now, and the ghoul curled against his chest, scratching at his face with its claws. “I can’t let you go so you can die, Cas. Even if I’ve made it worse, I just can’t. Right now, it’d be like I ignored you when you asked for my help just the same as Jack did, and I can’t do that.”
Casper lurched forward and slapped the glass out of Cain’s hand. It crashed against the slate in a storm of stars spun from shattered crystal and glistening light. The tight knot in Casper’s chest burst in a scream. “Well I want to fucking die! I don’t want to live here and I don’t want to live!
“And what have you fucking done to me? Why don’t I need it anymore? You don’t have any fucking right to take that away. I want to die! I don’t want to live in a world where no one fucking cares about me and—and that has—has—has happened to me, and don’t—“ Casper jabbed his finger at Cain where he’d sat up, mouth open, and snarled out his words—“don’t you fucking dare tell me you care. You’re a fucking nutjob, and this—” an abrupt stop in his words, Casper spread his arms wide and stumbled back a step— “this is all I fucking deserve.
“Even my fucking demon’s just laughing in my fucking—SHUT UP!” Casper shrieked. The ghoul’s moans echoed through his head. No clothes, all gone to bear his foul, broken skin, and its hands pawing over Cain’s chest. “Stop it! Get your fucking hands off him, just fucking STOP—IT!”
“Casper—” Cain staggered getting to his feet, and the ghoul squatted on the floor behind him with its hand around its dick and it laughed while it moaned. “Cas, love—love—”
“Don’t call me that!” Casper’s scalp burned as he twisted his fingers into his hair. Burned. His skin burned. “Go away, leave me alone. Just leave me alone. Leave me alone.”
But he didn’t. Psycho didn’t. Psycho grabbed Casper’s hands and forced them out of his hair. Psycho let him twist them free and when Casper battered them against his chest, he just held on to Casper’s waist and took it. Psycho cradled him against his chest when Casper’s arms fell heavy to his side, one arm around his waist and the other cupped around the back of his head.
Psycho held him like he cared.
Casper sobbed and pushed his face into Cain’s chest, slipped his arms around Cain’s waist, and the warmth engulfed him.
“I hate you,” Casper hissed. “You ruined my life and you ruined the one good thing I thought I’d found. I hate you.”
A sigh warmed the top of Casper’s head and Cain’s fingers scratched against his scalp. “I know, love. I’m poison. I’ve always been poison.”
“Why won’t you let me die?”
Cain pressed his lips to Casper’s head. A tremor caught in Casper’s body, a leaf fluttering in the wind. “Because I love you too much. The world’s a hollow, empty place without you and you deserve to live.
“And I’m sorry I … took away the need. You were already out, love, and I—I know how bad it is. I really, really do, and I thought … I had opioid blockers and I thought what’s the harm in keeping him out for a little longer? If you want more, I’ll give it to you, Cas. I’ll give you anything in the world you could want as long as it keeps you with me, but I thought … at least … I could give you a chance.”
And god, it ached to hear Cain talk so, so much. He cared. Even if it was just in this stupid fucking delusion, he cared, and why did it have to take that for someone to love him? Cain’s hands on him crawled. It made Casper sick to let Cain touch him, but at the end of it all, it felt right anyway, because what touch but Jack’s did Casper know that didn’t take him right to the edge of the cliff. At least Cain felt as if he were holding him back from it instead of struggling to push him off.
“I want to not exist,” Casper whispered into Cain’s chest. “I want to have never existed. I want to tear off my skin.”
“I can’t do that, my love. I can’t, I’m sorry.”
“I want Jack back.”
Cain’s hand stuttered in his hair, a tightness going through his arms. “Do you?”
And no part of him could deny the response that drudged off his tongue. “No.” He never did. Not for a long time. It was always so much more peaceful without him.
Cain relaxed as soon as he said that, a kiss like a petal settling on Casper’s head. “I know you deserve better than me, love, but you know that at least, and you definitely deserve better than anyone who isn’t there when you need them to be.”
No. He didn’t. But Jack made him so anxious these days that he couldn’t subject himself to it any longer.
And yet … no matter. Not anymore. He’d never be seeing Jack again. He’d never have to sit there while Jack cried and apologised for everything he’d just do again and take him back no matter how much it put a black pit of dread in his gut. Never have to subject Jack to the black hole that was Casper, and maybe then things would get better for him. Maybe Jack would just think he’d upped and left. Run away. Just like he should have done so, so long ago.
“I want a cigarette.” Casper’s tongue moved easier now, like a weight had lifted from it. “I want my lion from my flat and I want a book to read and I want clothes that I haven’t been wearing for five days and I want a warm bath and I want to sit outside. At least just for ten minutes…”
The arms around him squeezed tighter, so gorgeously warm, and Cain’s smile put an arch through the lips pressed against his head. “I can do that, my love. I can do all of that. You can go outside for as long as you like as well. I never meant to leave you in that room, you can go anywhere you want now, I swear.
“I—” Cain sighed, still a slight chill to the breath that gusted against his head. “What I meant to say, Cas—what I’d been trying to say is we’re—we’re here now. We’re both stuck together and we’re both … we’re both broken. Maybe we could make the best of it? I don’t care if you’ll—I mean I know, Cas. I know you’ll never love me, and you’ll always hate me, but I want you to be happy. I want to give you everything I can here. I’ll treat you like a king, love, if only you’ll let me.”
A shudder gripped Casper and with the sob that choked up his throat, he pressed his face into Cain’s chest and twisted his fingers into his shirt.
How blind did this make Cain? It scooped out his eyes and ground them to a mush. It ruptured his ear drums and clogged them with cement. It tore each nerve from his body so that he existed suspended in a senseless black nothing and Casper could thunder down on him with a ten-tonne truck and he’d never even notice.
Never having to worry about his old life again was so, so freeing, but running away from here and starting a new one where no one knew him and the world around him was fresh and green and warm? It was like standing on the precipice before the vast heavens and spreading the wings on his back. And this was his way out. His wings.
Casper stood on his tiptoes and rubbed his nose in the crook of Cain’s neck. “I want to go to sleep with you,” he whispered against Cain’s skin, breathing in the heady, winter scent of him. “I don’t like sleeping by myself.”
“Oh.” Just a breath, a gasp. Cain pulled him in tight, drawing him up and burying his face in Casper’s hair. “I can definitely do that, my love. Do you want to sleep in my room? I know you’ll like it, Cas, and I’ll be gone when you wake up, I promise.”
A grin curled Casper’s lips as he sunk into the heat and the care, and like pinpricks, the ghoul’s claws dug into his sides. Casper caught the empty black pits of its eyes over Cain’s shoulder and lifted his head to mouth an apology to it.
He should have remembered – the ghoul always knew the right thing to do.