The Stains Beneath Our Skin {mxm}

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Hollow

In the rain, the hills outside this manor turned not grey, but a deep, aching green. The colour of forests, pine needles dancing above your head and the world so distant that it forgot you, a twinkle in the air that slipped your eye and you’ve stepped through a glamour into a world of faerie and forever.

From his window, Casper had watched the sheets of rain lash across the rolling hills, the clouds physical things that stewed inches above his head, and now that the downpour had, with a gasp, given up its fury, he huddled at the edge of a copse of trees that straddled a stream and tried to make himself feel something other than this aching chasm that ran through the very centre of him.

It smelt so lovely, fresh and sweet on his tongue, but it could be ash for all the joy it gave him. The moan of the wind carried a song, one of chittering insects and the trilling of birds. The dew glimmered like fairy lights between the distant hills as the first golden kisses of sun trailed across the landscape, but this weight on his mind crushed it all to black. He’d worn a coat out, some huge puffy black thing and a beanie tugged over his head, but he sort of wished he hadn’t. Maybe the cold would make him feel something, slap him out of this funk he’d been stuck in for days.

Had it been days? It could have been a year, twisting through nothingness and the same minute over and over and over again.

Usually it wouldn’t matter. Usually he’d have been drowning in dope by now, but he didn’t have that. He didn’t have anything. Just cigarettes and a monster swallowing his mind and tearing off hunks of his flesh.

Cain had even locked up the last of the whiskey after Casper had gotten blackout drunk the third night in a row. Like the cunt had any right to dictate whether Casper could get himself fucked up or not.

Like Cain had any right to look at Casper curled up in bed while the clock frowned four in the afternoon, heartbreak a fissure running through every inch of him. But enough venom and even Cain’s concern had ground down, broke on an acerbic word with no meaning and the door slammed shut behind him.

Half an hour after that, R2 had brought a hot chocolate and some cake. Casper had taken it down to the study and thrown it at Cain, china shattering across his paper-strewn desk and the sweet liquid arcing across his face and the wall behind him.

It hadn’t even been funny. That was the saddest part. All it did was stoke the simmering red rage that always rose when enough of himself had been torn away.

How was he meant to be happy anyway? He was stuck in a five-acre prison for the rest of his miserable fucking life. It’d be better if Cain hated him, if he did sick things to him and left Casper a battered, tortured husk in a dark cell. At least it’d be real. At least he wouldn’t have to sit behind a screen of trees and look at everything he could never have. The delusion, the falseness, it gnawed at his mind and drove skewers into his chest because every moment was a reminder that this was forever: everything he’d ever wanted twisted into everything he’d ever deserved. Hell.

And somehow it wasn’t that which left him like this. The excuse rung hollow as this carved out space inside his chest. The monster lived within him. It was the ghoul that lurked in the trees behind him, chattering and hissing and spitting all these foul things.

Over the gurgle of the stream and the screaming wind, Casper didn’t hear Cain’s footsteps. The long, sodden grass swallowed the sound and it was only the purposeful snap of a twig that drew Casper’s eyes around. He wore boots and joggers, and looked both startlingly unlike himself and, in that clean white shirt, almost like a satire of himself. It drew a hoarse laugh from Casper’s throat.

Casper wasn’t sure if there was feeling behind it. He turned back to the landscape with all the surliness weighing heavy on his face again. The wind nipped at his chapped lips and lifted an ache through his cheekbones. Casper took a deep breath of the air. It smelt so fucking pretty but he still couldn’t feel a thing.

“It’s nice down here,” Cain said once he stood beside Casper, the wind throwing the untucked tails of his shirt behind him. Psycho looked like he’d done it up right quick, only the middle ones holding the length together. “You come down here a lot, don’t you? Would you like a chair?”

Casper almost ignored him, but something sharp lifted the tip of his tongue. No point in resisting it. Cain deserved it. “You’d get down on your hands and knees and play furniture for me if I asked pretty. Right, you pathetic fucking cuck?”

Cain’s eyes pressed closed, a tightness spasming through his jaw. A little shudder ran through him, but it wasn’t the Arctic bite of the wind. Casper couldn’t even make himself enjoy it.

A note of desperation wrought Cain’s voice now. His hands were stuck deep in his pockets, but the clench of his fists showed through the fitted fabric. “What can I do, Cas? I hate seeing you like this, love. There has to be something I can do.”

And it was so fucking stupid that Casper laughed. A laugh that made Cain flinch. “Do you even want the answer to that?”

“Perhaps I would if I was at all convinced it would make you better, but I’m not. In fact, I’m certain it won’t.”

“And who gives you the fucking right to decide?”

Never mind that it was true. Call him whatever you like, but even if he was a pathetic, vile roach, he was self-aware.

Casper turned away from Cain and hunched deeper over the knees he had pulled up to his chest. He shook his hands out the pockets of his jacket and wrapped his arms around his knees. After the nests of warmth, the cold gnawed at his fingers with short, blunt teeth made of ice.

What did he want?

Oh, just exactly what he always wanted.

Casper teased the next words out on his tongue, a grin stretching wan across his face with each scratching word. Because this was the answer. He could already feel the heat slipping through his veins. “I want some dope.”

“No.”

The word slapped him. Casper twisted around, scrambling up to his feet. The grass slipped under his boot and he almost fell, smack on his face in the wet earth. Wouldn’t that be fucking hilarious? Splat, Roach Boy painted brown and plastered green.

Raindrops off the tree leaves spattered across his cheeks as he snarled into the wind. At Cain, brooding against the wuthering backdrop of the gardens, all crusted and weathered by winter. Glacial, the gale made a billowing stream of his shirt, the front parting just above his joggers to bare his stomach and the collar thrown harshly wide, almost past his shoulders, collarbones like knives against pale skin.

There was a resolution to Cain’s dark expression, but like resolution had ever stopped this raking anger.

“What do you fucking mean no?” Casper snarled. “Get—”

A dark twist of humour lifted Cain’s mouth. He didn’t turn from the hills beyond the wards to face Casper. “I would’ve thought you capable of understanding a denial when you—”

Casper lurched forward a step, driving his finger at Cain’s side, his voice tight and high like shattering glass. “Shut up! You fucking promised me! You said if I wanted dope, you’d fucking get me—”

“I lied.”

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