Thin Morning Light
Cain woke exactly the way Casper expected – with a groan hastily followed by a war with the covers as he scrambled out of bed and ran to the bathroom. Humming, Casper nestled deeper into the covers while Cain vomited noisily in the en suite.
Nice to know he was human enough to get hangovers like the rest of them.
Casper had been awake for a while, dozy beneath the covers. His bones were full of lethargy and it was warm here. Soft. Safe. Raindrops pattered white noise against the window and the pleasant nattering of the droplets smoothed out Casper’s thoughts.
Cain had curled around Casper in his sleep – knees in the crook of his and his face nestled into Casper’s hair. Slow breaths ruffled it, still tinged with lingering copper. The heat gathered between them had sunk into his skin. A little clammy, but nothing Casper minded too much.
Hey, maybe if he let his mind slip away to a daydream, it’d be like he was here forever.
And it sort of was, for a bit, until the alcohol ghosts lingering in Cain’s system demanded exorcism.
Eventually, the retching stopped. The flush of the toilet didn’t quite drown out the low, miserable moan that followed. Casper smiled behind the covers and waited for the flow of water to finish before he called out, his hoarse voice creaky and strange in the quiet.
“You want anything?”
A loud hiccup drifted out the bathroom. “No.”
“You want me to get R2 to get you breakfast?”
Casper snickered and rolled onto his back. The sheets brushed across the nape of his neck and ran silken fingers down his spine. The raindrops made teartracks over the windows, veiling the way the hills trickled away to kiss the nadir of the grey sky. The monochrome brush of the light across Cain’s vast room was tranquil, still. “Want me to come in there?”
“No.” That word came out sour, reluctant. “Want you to go away if you’re just going to be an arse.”
Casper sighed. “Cain, I’m not…” That wasn’t going to work. Casper rubbed his hands over his cheeks, a small groan rattling in his throat. “Give me a chance?”
He never replied, but he also didn’t say leave, so Casper lounged amongst the sea of sheets watching the maze the rain made across the window. Waited in the peace and the warmth until, eventually, the door cracked open and Cain slipped out. He crept across the room as if even the creak of his bones would wince through his skull, and his breath smelled of mint when he crawled into bed. A weariness gathered across his features, vivid in the droop of his eyes and the hollows of his cheeks.
Shit, he really was fucking beautiful.
A pout gathered on Cain’s lips as he drew the covers around him, and Casper let him have more than usual to bundle all the way up to his shoulders and above his head. Fucking adorable.
“What are you looking at me like that for?” Cain asked, a petulant note in his voice.
And this time Casper listened to The Plan. He folded his arm behind his head and grinned down at Cain. “You kinda look like if snowmen had supermodels.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
The grudging twitch around Cain’s lips said it didn’t matter too much to him anyway. Just looking at him put warmth in Casper’s belly like a cat curled there, purring vibrating out to the tips of his fingers and curling his toes. His lips tingled, the memory of the kiss and the bitter taste of not-pine fresh as the day seeping into the room.
He wanted to regret it, but … even if Cain remembered, it only helped. It’d been sweet and soft and lovely, and all the things Casper should pretend to be.
The warmth bloomed higher, and Casper had to bite his lip to stop himself grinning.
For a long time that was that. The quiet and Cain’s dark eyes holding his, up until Cain flopped onto his back, hand across his forehead in that woe-is-me faint. “I’ve never been very good at apologising you know.”
Oh, so Casper was getting an apology now. Right when it didn’t even matter. He shook his head, nestling his face into the pillow while Cain talked.
“I never realised it until she … she pointed it out. An old girlfriend,” Cain added as Casper opened his mouth. “Nothing important.” Sure sounded like something important. “But I never really apologised for anything, not until I … betrayed her. Not in the way you’re probably thinking,” he added, glancing down at Casper with a hint of a wry grimace around his mouth. “Much worse than that, although I did it that way as well – later on when it meant much, much more.
“When I told her the … decision I’d made with you, she just looked at me and she said, ‘You never say sorry for anything, you know.’ At the time, I argued – I shouted at her a lot, and she made it so bloody easy because it was the only way to cow her in an argument or she’d just get hysterical.” A bite of humourless laughter and Cain shook his head, fingers pushing back through his hair.
“Anyway—“ Cain rubbed his hand over his eyes, wrinkles creasing through his brow. “Well, later, I realised she was right. My every action is a … choice. A calculated choice. I’ve done some horrible, horrible things, Cas, but they have always been the decision I made, and I’m not inclined to doubt my own decisions, only recalculate.
“I regretted almost losing her because of that … that mess of hubris and pathos, but still not the actions that caused it no matter how awful they were. I’m never sorry. I never truly regret anything. Not … Not until I met you, Cas.”
Slow, with a long shuddering breath, Cain’s attention shifted wholly to Casper. It was in his eyes, in the part of his lips and the ducking of his head, in the fingers trailing frost along. It was absolute. Undivided. A breathless passion stained his eyes with glittering gold, and awe seemed to live in the part of his lips.
It was tired now, a little blackened at the edges by the touch of wolfsbane, but it was enough. Still twinkling and wonderful and white enough to squeeze Casper’s ribs so tight he forgot how to breathe.
When Cain looked at him like that, everything else fell away. Cain’s attention demanded absolute reciprocation, and the chill in the air around him that brushed Casper’s lips like snowflakes took no quarter.
“Every time I hurt you, I’m sorry, Cas.” It was little more than a murmur, but it came loud as if Cain’s lips brushed against his ear. “I do things without thinking, and I’d do anything to take them back because they aren’t my choice. They’re—they’re all this feeling that rages through my bloody mind every fucking second I’m with you and every one that I’m not.
“You drive me crazy, Cas…” Cain’s hand slid up Casper’s chest, past the edge of the covers so his cool fingers pressed against Casper’s throat. “You drive me absolutely bloody fucking mad, and god, this you is worse than every one that’s come before.
“You’re like”—Cain shook his head, words breaking off in a laugh while his eyes flickered away—“like the punishment I’ve always deserved, Cassie, but right at the same time, you’re the blessing I’ve craved for years, and I’m sorry I shouted at you. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling, but I know it’s not good and I know this isn’t just what I’ve done. It’s bad and it’s black and it’s eating you alive and I just want to do something to help, but you just get under my skin so bloody bad, Cassie, and I’m sorry.”
Cain brushed a lock of hair back from Casper’s forehead. Wet eyes and wetter words. “I’m going to do better. I’m sorry.”
They were simple words but … they were the right ones. Maybe it was because in Cain’s gleaming eyes, there was something that Casper had never seen in all the times the same old spiel poured from Jack’s lips. No self-loathing, just sincerity and a quiet determination.
Cain’s fingers fiddled with strands of Casper’s hair, and he wore the same hopeful smile as he had when Casper had stepped into his study with the cake and the hot chocolate before he’d doused all that kindness in black acid.
It wasn’t fair, but maybe now … it sort of wasn’t fair for the both of them. What kind of world was it where he felt sorry that his kidnapper was cursed to love him?
Casper forced all this sappy wet down out of his chest. Didn’t matter if it was the right thing, did it? Interesting, sure. An excuse for Casper to play nice, yep. Touching? Not a chance in hell.
Casper smiled, tilting his head into Cain’s touch. Something like surprise flickered across Cain’s face as he did, and it passed into the first breaths of something golden.
It was even better seeing that expression when he wasn’t smashed.
“I’ll forgive you. But”—Casper cut Cain off with a finger against his parted lips, grinning—“you have to tell me what happened to you last night.”