The Stains Beneath Our Skin {mxm}

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Bad F**king Luck

The sight of the city on the horizon brought a wallowing to Casper’s gut so intense he had to close his eyes. A real strange, shitty feeling that muddled through a list of emotions as long as his arm all churning and bickering together. His skin seared with electricity but everything inside? Inside was a hell encrusted with cold so deep it burnt away your skin. The monoliths on the horizon hauled him in while every inch of himself screamed pleads to run the other way.

No light peeked from behind these ominous clouds, and the towers that clawed at the sky made grey fingers against the bleak horizon, misted at the base by a thin, miasmic smog. Cain had brought them down out of the highlands on the drive, the air thickening as they plunged into the urban valley and drowning him in its rich stink. Now, the clouds that had been breathtakingly physical in their presence high up in the hills were only another layer of hopelessness too distant to be anything but the hood over your head as they lead you to the gallows.

But it was home. It was familiar. It was where he’d pretended that he’d been free.

It was Jack, although that was little more than a corollary.

Casper didn’t open his eyes again until Cain cut the engine, and he opened them to the car park a few blocks away from his building. The one directly outside had been staked out by a bunch of skinheads who would have demanded ‘protection fees’ from Cain the second they heard that sports car purr and then stolen the tyres anyway, potentially even the whole vehicle. Maybe he’d had a similar encounter the first time he came. Casper grinned wan at the cracked concrete wall in front of him. Hopefully.

Cain got out. Casper followed him. As soon as he opened the door, the stink hit him like a physical thing, dove down his throat and wormed up his nose and wrapped his skull all up in the piss and the petrol and the slow death of despair. Home. Purgatory in grey and mildewed green.

The carpark was half-empty, bangers and economy-mobiles and the dull-already show-horses still wearing their owner’s tag blazoned across the back window. One-year-old three-litre beemer. Hope Dealers XXX: The car of your goddamn dreams and it’ll only cost your soul.

A man in an ill-fitting suit stumbled out the building, walking with the downtrodden, shoe-scraping steps of the defeated, and with a cigarette hanging from his lips, he fumbled with the keys to the car. Over the grumble of the traffic queue shuffling down the road outside, the raucous laughter of three dressing gowned women chatting between their balconies floated down.

Cain frowned around the carpark with his hand on the car door. There was a tightness in his eyes, and it eased only once he’d scanned the vicinity a few times. The moment his sharp eyes met Casper’s malignant glare, a band of cold tightened on Casper’s wrist. Hardly felt like anything in the physical sense, but psychologically? That was a weight. A cartoonish anvil dropped from the sky to smash his skull and all the hope he’d dared harbour into a reddish smear on the pot-holed tarmac. Casper gave it a tug, but even the slight movement toward Cain shortened the tether’s give.

The croak of Casper’s voice barely lifted above the fresh growl of the beemer’s engine as the man finally pulled out of the carpark, but it drew Cain’s eyes anyway. “You know how fucking messed up this is, right?”

That dark gaze pinned Casper, and it was at once surgical in its incision and glazed, a black pool that stopped an inch beneath the surface. A heartbeat; Cain’s lips tightened, and he looked away, turned up the collar of that expensive wool trenchcoat he wore, and headed out of the parking lot. As soon as Cain passed, a yank at Casper’s wrist dragged him forward and he staggered, arm outstretched like a fucking toddler on a leash, to keep up with Cain’s long, brooding woe-is-me strides.

Fucking dick had legs like twice as long as Casper. All this trotting to keep up raised a heat under his collar, and by the time they got out the carpark, his breath caught in his lungs.

Streets down this way weren’t too packed at least. Narrow, the pocked tarmac pavement passed between a one-way side street with enough camber to make your sump cringe and looming terraces set just back from the road, the gardens one and all tiny patches of concrete and weeds. Casper hopped over a spilt binbag and shouldered into the space next to Cain.

“Like, it’s one fucking thing actually keeping me jammed up in that shitty house, but I think this whole delusional kidnapper crap gets like a gazillion times worse with you actually taking me outside on a fucking leash.”

Cain didn’t look at him. Casper hissed between his teeth and shut up. Nutjob didn’t even deserve him wasting his breath, and he sure as fuck didn’t have a lot to waste keeping up with this pace. Fucking smoker lungs were already wheezing on the car fumes, and it wasn’t as if Casper had ever been fit. The only kind of fit he managed was bent in half hacking his lungs up coughing fits.

Another few minutes and a twisting side-street passed in deafening silence. Right up until they passed some fuckboy with a flouncy haircut who gaped at Casper’s face the whole length of the goddamn street, a snigger hidden in the press of his lips. The second he got within a metre, edging over to the side of the road to shoulder past Cain, Casper lurched for the guy, gnashing his teeth and hissing. The ghoul did as well, capering and snapping around his ankles.

Fuckboy flinched, disgust splaying across his face, and he didn’t get a second to find his equilibrium before Cain grabbed the loose collar of his coat and yanked him in close. The wind that slid across Casper’s cheeks hadn’t been this cold a moment before, and above the city stink, some heady scent of saccharine rot lifted in the air.

Fuckboy stared, frozen horror writ across his face, at Cain’s blank expression.

“Is there a problem?” Cain asked him, low and smooth.

Fuckboy shook his head.

“Find something else to stare at, you stupid twat.”

With a shove, not much more than a flick of his hand as if it sullied Cain to touch him, he let Fuckboy go. And goddamn, it was hard not to grin as the guy scurried off down the road. The chill fled the air as if Fuckboy carried it on a trail, and for once, the stench of old rubbish seemed fresh against death that had haunted the street a moment ago.

Cain snorted and pushed his hair back into place, but that smirk twitching at the corners of his mouth ruined the chilly facade. Asshole looked way too pleased with himself. His eyes, when they settled on Casper, had a glimmer, but it died the second their eyes met.

Look at that – Roach Boy, the death of joy. A sour taste bloomed on Casper’s tongue and he looked away, eyes trailing over the worn facades. Someone had a planter in this garden, but the flowers were all halfway dead and the curtains tightly shut in the middle of the day.

Considering Nutjob had gone back to the whole dead-eyed surgeon with a rusty scalpel vibe, Casper sure hadn’t expected the arm flung around his shoulders. Hissing, he shoved away, but Cain tightened his hold with iron in the hand that closed on Casper’s upper arm.

“Get your fucking—”

“Behave, Casper.” Cain’s murmur came so silken in his ear that all the struggle fell out of him. Bedroom talk that – enough to put a flutter in his gut, and with it, a memory came unbidden to his mind. Neon gleaming in spilled alcohol and long fingers curling over a chipped glass. “It gets a little crowded around the corner, I wouldn’t want to cause any chaos if this leash proves too short.”

His laughter was as much a hex as a charm.

Casper spoke through gritted teeth. “Let me go.”

“I don’t know why you bother to ask, Cassie.”

This fucking asshole. “Stop fucking touching me then.”

Cain pulled back a little and the arch of his eyebrow came with a flicker of a smirk. The same false innocence slithered through his tone as it must have for the serpent when he pressed the apple into Eve’s hands. “But how else will they all know that you belong to me?”

And god fucking damn and shame him for the rest of fucking eternity, jailed down in hell until the world went up in flames and then as long after that as hell kept going, because that made him melt. Little more than a Casper-shaped puddle of goop and hanging jaw, and every inch of resistance evaporated off the tip of his tongue – all forces to the fresh struggle raging in his pants against this massive fucking boner he was about to pop in the middle of the street.

Or, you know, small boner. The distinction didn’t help.

Cain led him off, and Casper followed, dazed.

“I don’t belong to you.”

“You do in all the ways it matters.”

And hey, Casper couldn’t even argue with that.

The road took a left, breaking out onto a main vein still far enough from central that the cars screamed down it instead of juddering along in gridlock. More people walked here too, the usual set of cretins and students milling up and down the street. Cain kept tight against the houses and storefronts and everyone they passed diverted a foot around them toward the road. The buffeting wind sent Cain’s long coat splaying out behind him and his hair raked askew against his parting.

Of course the fucker had like the world’s most symmetrical face so he looked gorgeous regardless, but Casper had a ban on thinking about that. One really goddamn difficult to keep to right now, seeing as it was about the only thing his brain had room for besides willing his dick soft.

Cain sure got a lot of looks though – and only half of it was how stupid rich and stupid out of place he looked in this grimy neighbourhood. Meant Casper got looks too. Pity. Revulsion. Confusion. Worst was the fucking jealousy like any of them would want to be leashed to psycho model extraordinaire.

Then like it could actually get worse, a few hundred yards away at the turning onto the street to his building, who fucking steps out onto the main road. Three guesses, and every fucking one of them was Casper’s stupid bad luck. Up ahead, Jack swaggered down the street like he owned it with a dark fuck-off glower on his face.

Shit.

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