Casper whacked the shower up just high enough that it stung his skin, a pleasant burning that scoured away the marks of the day. His ribs and his gut had been padding out the first couple of weeks he’d been here, but gauntness haunted the spaces again as if he was nothing but skin pulled across ragged taxidermy.
Maybe Cain looked a little thinner as well as Casper helped him into the shower. Hollows where he’d been all smooth edges. The thick coating of gore stopped where his shirt came together just below the dip between his collarbones, but rust still stained his skin down to his stomach. As soon as the gushing water touched it, the blood spilled down his front in trails of crimson that eased to sweet, blushing pink.
There was a seat at the edge of the shower. Cain had shrugged when Casper had asked why, but he’d sat on the stone shelf enough times. The jets were level with his shoulders, and it got so many of aches and pains out just letting them roll across his muscles and fill them with dozy heat. Casper dumped Cain there now, and he slumped the same way he had on the toilet. A little more sober than earlier, then, because at least now he could sit upright.
Cain pointed at the dizzying array of shower products stacked neatly on the broad shelves, an imperious motion ruined by the way his whole body swayed and a slur mulled his voice to a stop-start drawl. “The yell—yellow one first.”
A grin twitched at Casper’s lips as he reached up, fingers plucking at the wide showerhead to pull it a little more toward Cain. The water gushed over him, filling his nose and seeping between his teeth. His boxers were sodden already, clinging to his skin and gathering runnels of water and cloth in weird places, but hey, at least he wasn’t totally naked in the shower with this nutjob.
Ever the gentleman, Cain didn’t spare the slightest glance for however Casper’s ass looked in this wet mess underwear. Dazzled, he smiled up at the failing scowl Casper shot over his shoulder like it were the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
“The yellow one, Cas.”
“Fuck off, I’m not doing your whole hair care routine.”
“Well, why else am I in the shower? It has to be the yellow one first, else it dries too flat.”
Well, there was Casper’s answer on why dickhead had such perfect hair. Casper turned to him, the water thundering across his shoulders, and with a slow, lingering finger, he traced a line over his lips and his chin, his throat, and down to his bellybutton. Cain’s eyes followed it with a struggling alacrity.
“You’ve got a little blood everywhere, dickhead. I’m washing it off.”
Cain’s eyes widened, although he wavered in and out of the expression a little as his fingers wove their way up to his chin. They came away bloody as the gore regained its lustre in the steam that filled the air.
“Oh.” Cain dragged his hand over his mouth and throat as if just a brush of his hand would ever wipe that mess away, and then leant out far enough that Casper had to hold his shoulders steady while he stuck his hand under the shower stream. “I—I just, ah—I just cut myself—”
Why couldn’t Casper help grinning at that? “Shaving, yeah. For such a good liar, you’re an awful liar, you know that? Come on, which one’s Blood Begone, or whatever the fuck you got for it?”
Cain jabbed his finger again. “The purple one.”
Like Casper had actually been expecting him to have some specific gore-cleansing shower gel. Fucking hell. Some fuck off abominable warmth curled up in his chest as he reached for a bottle— “Not that one. Purple, Cassie, not lilac—” then for a different one, and this stupid grin wouldn’t smear off his face. Maybe it was just the heat. Just that ridiculous dopey smile brightening up Cain’s face.
The scent of pine drifted into the air as Casper squeezed a dollop of the creamy soap into his hand, infusing the steam with a heady pungency that made his head whirl. Once he had a good handful of it, he knelt down between Cain’s splayed knees and set the bottle onto the seat beside him.
Cain frowned at him. His hair was still only half-wet, and little tendrils stuck to his forehead, making stuck-seaweed of it above his puckered brows. “Cas,” he said plaintively, “I told you I don’t want—”
“Fuck off, idiot. I’m just washing your face.”
Grinning, Casper rubbed his palms together and shuffled forward a bit. The stream of the shower only hit his feet now, the thunder of the water hot and itchy against his soles. “Because you look like you’ve gone swimming in a fucking corpse.”
That slow, dopey comprehension fluttered through Cain’s face again, and his hand swum up to swipe over his jaw and down his throat, dragging through the crimson and leaving rivulets of water coursing through the sticky mess in their wake. His eyes widened, and this close Casper got a waft of copper burning through the alpine kiss.
“Oh cock.” Cain rubbed his fingers together then patted down his chest, gathering more blood stains across his palm. “Bloody…” He held his hand out, fingers splayed, and burst into laughter. “Did I—Is it everywhere? Did I ruin my shirt, Cassie? I just bought that, you know – I mean I bought it months ago, but I just bought it – it was so expensive!”
A grin bloomed across Casper’s lips, one that lifted a little like the way a flower opens its head toward the warmth of the dopey sun. Drunk fucking idiot.
“Look at you.” The murmur slipped out without thought, and Casper shook his head as he placed his soapy hands against Cain’s chest, fingers splayed wide. The blood touched the suds pink in a breath, like it drank all the badness out of his skin and turned it to peach-tinted bliss. “You’re so fucking good at pretending nothing’s wrong, even—” the word caught in his throat, tight, sharp— “e—even though it’s all just falling apart. It’s stupid.” Casper glared at him, and it felt like the water trickling over his cheeks must gleam across his eyes. “You’re stupid.”
Cain didn’t say anything, any words lost on a gasp as Casper slid his hands over the smooth planes of Cain’s chest. Warmth gathered low in Casper’s belly, something sticky, tinged with sugar, and he let himself laugh. It was sweet, the way Cain’s eyes fluttered closed, the soft hum he let out as his head knocked back against the wall. Probably a little too hard, but the idiot could worry about that bruise in the morning.
Bit by bit, Casper worked the blood out of Cain’s skin, across his chest and where it was thicker over his throat. When his fingers crept over Cain’s jawline, splaying over the sangria stains on his cheeks, the gasp broke to a groan, low and lovely in his throat.
The sound froze every inch of Casper, every nerve and every cell and each trickle of blood in his veins – still. The shower rushed against his feet, an itch lifting across the delicate skin, but if he moved, these twinkling stars that danced on vapour in the glow of the bathroom lights, the taste of sugar on his tongue and the quiet rapture suffusing Cain’s gorgeous face – all that sweetness would vanish, will o’ wisps lost to a turn of the air.
The only thing he moved was his hands, gliding slow circles laden with soap and blood over Cain’s face. Light stubble scratched at the tips of his fingers, and each of Cain’s heavy breaths went through his whole jaw, a ragged part of his lips and drawing of his breath, a prayer in each hitch that broke through the susurrus rush of the shower. Soft joy in a single, precious sound.
Sometime, without Casper quite realising it, Cain’s legs had come together. His thighs pressed against Casper’s sides, digging into the space beneath his ribs. It went beyond physical, a swell like Cain’s very presence filled some gasping hollow behind that cage. A cage that, until Cain had stepped with golden eyes and a voice like sin into Casper’s life, had been nothing but dust and cobwebs and hope worn thin. It was arms wrapped around him and the promise of everything Cain ever could’ve been and everything Casper still wished he could be, painted in angel-cream watercolour beneath the shower-stream light.
It felt so right that Casper couldn’t breathe.
Casper’s fingertips brushed across his lips, and Cain spoke, the tumble of words tight and high with every inch of feeling built in this pine-stained air.
“I love you, Cassie. I bloody hate every single bit of myself but the part that loves you, and now s—sometimes, I hate that part as well. If I don’t even have that one fucking piece of goodness, what am I? What’s left?”
Each slurred vowel Casper felt as a bow beneath his fingertips, each syllable in an angel’s breath. Cain hiccupped, and his lips twisted under Casper’s touch, tears like dew welling in his eyes.
How could Casper ever bear to see him cry?
Casper splayed his hands over the tension in Cain’s cheeks. His heart lunged up his throat as he dug his fingers into the space behind Cain’s jaw and kissed him.
A gasp against his lips, breath full of the stink of copper, and Casper kept his lips tight, parting only to draw Cain into the kiss. Cain’s lips tasted of soap, and that soap tasted nothing like pine, but it slicked the kiss to bitter heaven.
What the fuck are you doing, Roach? What the—
He didn’t care.
The water hammered hot against the soles of his feet. Cain’s long fingers tangled through his hair, and Casper’s whole being flew. Ecstasy nestled in his chest as those lips moved slick against his. None of it mattered – nothing before, nothing after, just the way that Cain pressed so desperately close into each break of Casper’s lips as if he couldn’t bear to lose him. Just the arm around Casper’s waist hauling his weight off his knees, and the short, sharp hitches in Cain’s breath full of gore.
The space beneath Casper’s eyes ached. It ached with the same stinging goodness that put knots through his chest and wrapped his throat up in thorns, and the only bit of breath he had left was to whimper into that kiss—
Please never let me go.
A grunt against Casper’s lips was the only warning he got before the weightlessness from Cain’s grip turned to gravity clawing at his knees. Casper groped for a hold as big drunk idiot’s entire weight dropped on his shoulders – Cain scrabbling at him like he was some kind of fucking upright fixture – but Casper’s hands met thin air.
Seconds later his shoulders cracked against the floor and Cain fell on top of him in some tangle of Bambi limbs. Only the fingers that’d wrenched half his goddamn hair out saved his head from going splat.
Casper groaned, twisting his legs from under him. The shower drain swirled beneath his head, bathing his skin in a soft current of warmth. The hardness of the tiles at his back made an oxymoron to Cain sprawled across his chest and nuzzling his fucking neck.
Shit, this guy was heavy.
It took a good lot of shoving to get Cain to roll off him, and Casper panted through his grin as he got to his feet again. His back already throbbed, but Cain’s incoherent complaints and the big doe eyes he cast up from the floor sure sat against the promise of the ache like a hot flannel.
A hot wet flannel. Like, the soggiest flannel that had ever existed, and Casper was going to mock Cain relentlessly for the pout he had on right now, but shit…
Grinning, Casper shook his head and grabbed the yellow bottle off the shelf. Let’s see if this works wonders. The dollop he squirted on his palm smelt like vanilla, and it foamed like a dream as Casper worked it into his scalp. Rich boy hair here we come.
From the floor, Cain gazed at him, starry-eyed, and with careful pronunciation around each syllable, said, “You’re beautiful.”
And Casper literally just could not stop smiling. Like at this point, these aching cheeks were a curse for life.
“Fuck off, you drunk prick.”
“One might even say, Cassie, that you’re exquisite.”
“You know, if you hadn’t kidnapped me, I’d probably say I love you right now.”
Cain looked satisfied with that, and he watched Casper with a grin while he worked vanilla goodness through his hair. Casper didn’t think it’d ever felt lighter.