The chair scraped against the wood, and Casper’s startled eyes met hardness in Cain’s face again. He’d stood up. The bare gap Casper had prised apart in his guard had snapped shut once more, and those iron gates rebuffed the limp-fingered pawing of pouty lips and guilt-tripping eyes without thought.
Cain waved his hand and the book on the table lifted and skimmed above Casper. R2’s net of sorcery caught it, and the book bobbed idly above the construct’s spherical ‘head’.
“Take that back, R2, please.” Tension drew Cain’s voice to a thrumming knot. His eyes were fixed on the door, but the rest of his words were for Casper. “I won’t even bother coming back later. I have things to do, so I’m afraid you’ll have to find some other way of entertaining yourself besides tormenting me.”
Cain’s tongue clucked against his teeth, a weight of disdain in that sound, and he strode for the door. Not even a pause to glare.
A lurch of panic smacked through Casper’s wheezy, soaked brain – the choking prospect of being alone, trapped with nothing but his own cackling mind and the creature in the mirror.
Cain stopped in the doorway. His hand closed white-knuckled on the frame and he made a twist of his neck vividly stiff with restraint. “Piss off, Cas.”
What did he say? Everything that bridled at his lips felt stained with this nausea that roiled through his gut. Too honest. Too raw. Casper pressed his eyes closed. Cigarette. He just needed a cigarette. Dry smoke to cram this whimpering, clawing mess back down his throat. He’d find a room with no mirrors and he’d be fine.
A step, the tap of Cain’s shoe dull against the wood floor. Casper’s chair clattered as he lunged to his feet. “Don’t go!”
Silence. Nothing but a sharp hiss from Cain as he froze half a step out the door, but Casper’s thumping heart filled the silence plenty, and at each slam against his ribs it screamed all the terrible truths he wanted to blurt, but as it retracted, seized, it murmured venom that urged him back into his chair.
Casper wasn’t sure which won.
“I fucking hate being here,” Casper said, and tears that would never come stained the edges of his words, “but I hate being alone here even more. If you’re going to kidnap me to make me your little fucking housewife, the least you could do is keep me some fucking company.”
Cain twisted in the doorway, putting his back against the frame, and his features – all arched eyebrows and curled lips – held an acid. One that’d leave nothing behind but a sneering skull when it corroded away that mask.
Casper flinched away from it, his legs knocking against the heavy wooden chair.
“I offered company.” A black tension thrummed through Cain’s voice. “I received vileness. Don’t think I’ve forgotten any of it. I don’t begrudge it.”
Cain laughed, bitter, and tipped his head back against the doorframe while his fingers squeezed the bridge of his nose. A humourless smile spread across his lips and touched no other part of his face. “God knows I can’t begrudge any of it, but I know well enough now that every pleasant thing that comes out your mouth is little more than the way wolfsbane sits so prettily on your tongue before it cuts out your fucking heart.”
Casper choked. A whimper forced out of his lungs as they spasmed tight, past his lips and he caught it in a hand pressed to his mouth. The languishing grey sunlight spilt across the kitchen and cast Cain’s sneer the way it catches a waning-moon, a crook of bleak light cradling features obscured by shadows, the same ones that gathered in the creases of his shirt and pooled behind his shoulders against the white-washed wall.
How had he become poison even to psychotic obsession?
Was this the way it always went? All those little lost boys seething out their venom and inch by inch, this demon lurking behind Cain’s skin reared its horns and black fog seeped from between its blackened teeth, and in a lunge, a lurch, it drove the obsidian knife through Casper’s heart (a thousand other Caspers’ hearts) and cried that this one was just poison.
Was that what he’d meant? Was that why he’d killed all of them?
Or was it just him? Was Casper just filth made flesh?
Call this feeling eating through his chest what it was then. It fucking hurt that Cain looked at him with revilement when Casper could still close his eyes and picture the golden awe breathless across his face that dreamlike night above the city, when he could still feel the chill, electric brush of his lips and the whisper in his ear as Cain vanished into the night.
Remember me like this.
Did Cain remember Casper like that? And fuck, what stupid part of his head wanted this psycho nutjob to still look at him with stars in his eyes, but he couldn’t shove it down, couldn’t swallow it or drown it or bury it. He’d set it alight, but as the fantasy went up in flames, the ashes drifted across the spread of his mind and coated each damp surface in a fixation he could never scrape off.
That’s what he got for running for comfort from nightmares in the middle of the fucking night. The resurrection of feelings.
But it was good, right? He needed that desire if he was ever going to get out. So no matter what madness drove him to let these whimpering words into the heavy air, it was all to get out.
Cain wasn’t looking at him, eyes squeezed closed and half-hidden behind the fingers fixed like a vice on the bridge of his nose, and it made it easier to say. A shuddering breath, his nails scratching at his wrist as he tried to find his place amongst the vastness of the room and this gulf between them.
“I’m—” Casper’s voice cracked, but he made himself carry on anyway. Might as well sound as pathetic as he felt. “I’m having a really bad time right now. I—I don’t know why I’m being like this but—but it’s all this—”
A ragged breath choked up Casper’s throat and he tangled his fingers up in the side of his hair, pressing his eyes closed. “This fucking bad and all I can do is spit it at you. I don’t want to be like this, Cain. I—I miss you. I wanna wake up with you again and—”
“Just stop, Casper.”
Casper’s eyes flew open, blinking against the thin light seeping into the room. The darkness on Cain’s face hadn’t faded, just hardened, and when Casper met his eyes, Cain snorted and straightened up from the wall.
The realisation had hit Casper recently that Cain used anger and disdain as his walls, the grace and aloofness a sword wielded against hurt, and right now, he looked so like a god amongst men that it turned Casper’s mouth to a desert.
“I told you I don’t have time for this. Why don’t you practice the lines for when I get back tomorrow, love, and perhaps I’ll fall for it again next time.” In a sharp, lazy motion, Cain waved his hand through the air, a dismissal as he turned from the room. “I’m bloody fucking sick of it, Cas, and you wonder why I’ve been staying away.”
Then he was gone. A sob burst from Casper’s lips and he fell to his knees as Cain’s footsteps stamped off down the hallway.
R2 whizzed up to his side with a fresh cup of coffee steaming between its digitless hands, and as Casper took the cup from it, the tears nearly came for real, stinging in his eyes and clogging the back of his nose.
“I don’t want him to hate me.”