46 Bite of Your Heart
“Last…” The word breathed chill air across Casper’s finger and a little furrow dug out between Cain’s brows. “What? Did I—I didn’t do something to—“
This time Cain broke his own words off. The pattering of rain against the window filled the silence as his face fell and drew out to dread. Trembling a little, his fingers moved from the ends of Casper’s hair to brush across his face, and the moment he touched his lips, he flinched. Something unreadable passed over his face, and Cain dropped, groaning, onto his back and pulled the covers up over his face.
“Oh god, Cas.” His words were muffled behind the thick covers, nothing but a tuft of brown hair showing above them, a soft nutty colour against the sunlit white of the sheets. His fingers gripped the edge of the duvet, thick rust still stuck beneath Cain’s neat nails. The crescents winked at Casper, a little reminder that it hadn’t all been a dream.
Shaking his head, Casper tugged at the top of the duvet, but Cain didn’t loosen his grip, just made a sound of complaint and pulled it higher so that even his hair was hidden.
“Cain, come on.”
Still muffled, Cain said, “Leave off.”
“There’s no fucking way you’re getting out of explaining that one.”
“My head hurts!”
So endearing drunk Cain became adorable hungover Cain – nice to know. That purring warmth gathered in his chest again, all delicious and tingly, the sigh of effervescence coming off it lifting a grin to Casper’s face.
With little tugs on the covers, Casper eased himself into the dip in the mattress beside Cain. His skin lay against Casper’s stomach like a warm drink, coffee gone just a little too cool, and all the muscles in Cain’s side went taut as Casper settled against them. Cain’s arm flinched beneath the covers as Casper laid his head on it, the duvet gathered around his throat and under his arm like clouds scented with pine and the softest relic of the way the air tickled your nose while snow fell.
Casper murmured his words just loud enough for them to reach Cain through the covers, putting the teasing lilt in them as strong as he could. “Did you cut yourself shaving?”
“Piss off, Cas.”
“I’m not forgiving you if you don’t tell me.”
Cain groaned, rolling a little deeper into Casper’s body. His long legs curled up, knocking a little against Casper’s, and the weight against him had Casper’s breath catching, some stupid little shiver up his spine. Cain’s knee rested just against Casper’s shins, bone against bone. The closeness – the almost but not quite-ness – of the touch clutched everything still – a suspension tightening his chest that he felt in soft tremors through the contact.
The moment broke on the tart edge of Cain’s voice. Cain was always tart with his words, but Casper had never loved how it sounded quite so much as right now, the middle taut and sulky and cute. “It’s not so bad as you think, you know.”
Casper let his eyes drift to the window, an idle smile playing across his mouth. The loose cotton of the covers snagged on his fingers as he trailed them over the rise of Cain’s nose and the dip of his throat. “I don’t think there’s much left that you can do that’ll surprise me, Cain. Even less if you really want to make me sick with it.”
The laugh Cain barked raked through his ribcage. Bitter, and it clashed violently against this thin morning light. “Cas, love, the things I’ve done would blacken your lungs. If I wore my sins on my skin, the devil that walked the streets would be a creature made of ash and desecration, and all would crumble to ruin in the wake of the miasmic decay that seeps out of my bones.”
Alright, so hungover Cain was a total drama queen as well. Really ruined the effect with the covers still pulled up over his head. Cute.
Casper pulled at the top of the covers again, and this time, Cain let them slip from his grip. His eyebrows drew up in the middle, and as Casper tucked them around his chin, his eyes just about shone, a weak periwinkle gleam in the acorn brown.
Casper plucked at Cain’s lower lip. “Spit it out.”
“Well—“ Cain huffed, his gaze slipping off to the vast window. The breath of radiance across his features as his head tilted had Casper’s breath catching in his throat, and the way the grey light sat beneath his skin like he wasn’t quite human felt like a glimpse of divinity.
Jesus fuck, Roach Boy, why don’t you just get down on your knee and serenade him? This was stupid, but it was early and quiet and the silence full of nothing but white noise and the slight murmur of Cain’s pulse beneath his ear. Excuses.
“So,” Cain said, “well, I went out and got pissed—“
Casper snorted. “Obviously.”
“Yes, obviously. But I did that first. Then—well, I’m a fairly, ah … well known face amongst people like me—“
Grinning, Casper plucked at his lip again. “Rich kidnappers involved in Fortune 500 companies?”
The glower Cain shot him broke up as soon as his gaze snagged on Casper’s grin, although he managed to keep the arch tone when he replied, “No. Sorcerers, you twat. And sorcery is a bit of a cutthroat field, so when some…” Cain’s nose wrinkled a touch, “some pathetic no-name sorcerer caught sight of me stumbling drunk, they decided it was a rather good time to get a shot in. Unfortunately for them it wasn’t.”
“Fucking hell.” Casper wriggled in closer to Cain’s side to get a better look at his face. “What’d you do, rip their throat out?”
“God no! I just rotted their brain straight out. I mean it was a little weak on precision with how pissed I was, so it was more like skull and shoulders, but you get the idea.”
Casper wasn’t sure if he did get the idea. Probably because of how mind-boggling it was that Cain had been that drunk, and as far as Casper could tell, not even taken a wound from another sorcerer getting the jump on him. Plus he wasn’t even getting into whatever the fuck this rotting was.
“And the blood?”
“Well I ate his heart, obviously. No point letting it go to waste.”
A chill trickled down Casper’s spine. He was serious. That blood-soaked nightmare of last night took another edge now – a vision in guttering black and crimson, ribs an eviscerated cavern and streetlights flashing against slick white as Cain’s teeth tore through flesh.
Casper choked on something. Air or this knotting tightness in his throat. Cain’s eyes trailed back to him from the window, and the easy expression faltered as soon as he caught Casper’s face. His arm slid around Casper’s shoulder and his fingers – fingers that had dug through bone and tendon and sunk into soft, throbbing tissue – pressed against Casper’s shoulder.
“Cas, are you alright?”
The words came out croaking, strangled. “How is that obvious?”
A frown drew Cain’s brows together and he shifted back from Casper a little. “Well, they were bloody attempting murder for mine, so excuse me if it didn’t exactly bother—“
“But—“ Casper rubbed his hands over his face. Shit. That fucking image wouldn’t go away. Cain shuddering with laughter as the blood spurted over his chin. “What’s the fucking point?”
Cain considered that for a moment, a flicker of loosening around his brow and a slight parting of his lips as if Casper had just posed him some academic uncertainty. “I mean… I suppose it might not have been worth— Oh, wait! Bloody hell, did I—“ Cain burst into laughter, and he drew Casper in closer, fingers toying with the ends of Casper’s hair. “Did I not tell you?”
He definitely should’ve jerked away from that touch. Hundred percent. But the way the chill off Cain’s fingertips tickled his skin, brushing against the soft hairs that curled behind Casper’s ear…
Casper settled for the glower, and even that didn’t come out very well considering that Cain just laughed again. Sunshine danced in his eyes as he smiled down at Casper. “My deepest apologies, love.” And no matter how grave that tone, he didn’t sound sorry at all. “I think I got a bit pissed to finish your intro to sorcery back when.”
“What, is it wizard etiquette to pull a Hannibal on your mortal enemies?”
“Sorcerer,” Cain said lightly, “but no, so I told you before that sorcerers are born with a given magical capacity?”
Casper nodded, rubbing his cheek against Cain’s arm. A little warmth had lifted again in his chest, something that pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth and cast a soft smile over his lips. The slow measure of Cain’s voice twined so lovely with the rain, and the tingling mint of his breath drifted over Casper’s nose and lips.
God, this was going to be easy. Pretending with Cain was like breathing.
“Very good.” The words were so darkly indulgent that a shiver ran down Casper’s spine. “Now, this is the truth for many, but not for all. Not for those with knowledge of it. See, there is a way to steal power from another sorcerer, and that way is to—“
Casper finished the words on an outdrawn breath. “Eat their heart.”
Cain’s fingers trailed back through Casper’s hair. The morning sun cast his skin to marble, and it glistened with the stuttering hologram Casper’s mind pasted across his face. Blood, sputtering from between his teeth cast brilliant claret by the rain-clogged sunlight, trickling over his lips and down his cheek and pooling on the pillow between them.
Before he’d thought about it, Casper tilted his head up and pressed his lips to Cain’s. Just quickly. They were warm. Dry and smooth, and mint tickled Casper’s tongue as Cain gasped. His eyes were wide when Casper pulled back, a little tinge of panic as they darted over Casper’s face. Sweeter was the flush of pink in his cheeks.
“Cas—“ Cain’s voice was strangled. “You—“
Which was totally a sensible reaction because Casper didn’t know why the fuck he’d done that either. Casper swallowed hard, racking his brains. Something to fit The Plan.
“You, um...” Casper tapped his lips. “You remember, right?”
No reason to think Cain would, but ... it was just impossible that the kiss wouldn’t etch indelible across Cain’s thoughts, a stain amongst the slithering insubstantiality of the night. Just the way Casper could still close his eyes and feel the shower heat against his skin.
And he did. With his features taut with hesitation, Cain gave a short nod. “I—“ He coughed, his eyes flickering away. “I didn’t know if—“
Casper drew himself closer. Stubble pricked his hand as he cradled Cain’s jaw. The hitch of Cain’s breath knocked between their ribs like a promise murmured in the soft of night. Mint danced across Casper’s lips while he spoke, his hoarse voice no more than a whisper. “That’s so it’s real.”
Some choked sound burst from Cain’s lips, something almost like a sob as his fingers dug into Casper’s shoulder, pulling him closer still. Black-gold, Cain’s eyes danced across Casper’s face, a breathless daze that returned like a prayer to his lips. His lips. Always his lips, and a wrench drew through Casper’s chest when the next gasp of that mint was so close the damp of Cain’s breath chilled his tongue.
“Cas...” Such an ache in Cain’s voice, wretched. “Cas, can I—“
No. No. No. Don’t be a fucking twat, Roach. Just say—“Don’t think I’m doing it again once we get up.”
Cain’s shaky nod put his forehead resting against Casper’s, dry weight that had Casper’s eyes fluttering closed. The leg that had been a promise in the way Cain’s knee knocked his shins delivered it now, toes pressing between Casper’s ankle and forcing a space for Cain to sink into the whole length of Casper’s body, his thigh, lithe and muscular, pressing up between Casper’s legs.
It drew a whimper out of him, some breathy fuck-off moan that wrenched right out of the pulse of heat low down in his gut. It’d be nothing more. He knew it’d be nothing more, not with Cain, but right now, it was fucking bliss.
Heaven in bitter not-pine and the mint drifting on Cain’s breath as he whispered, “I suppose I’d better keep you in bed forever then, my love.”
What right did Cain have to have eyes so much like a shell promising life to the ground? Hope danced in that brown, and it stayed. It fucking stayed so goddamn bright no matter how Casper dug his teeth in and tore it away, no matter how many times he cried over the black-haired boy dying in his bed and broke as the next one asked his name—so how did he keep staring at Casper like there was a meaning? With the trembling way his lips drew into a smile and how his arm crept so slow around Casper’s shoulders like motion would be the bullet in this stained glass window painting a dream – it was hope pinned to the vacuous mouth of a black hole with a prayer that Casper would go against his very nature and do anything but consume – drink up goodness and hope and the soft morning light that always rose in Cain’s eyes.
Like the roach, Casper would survive even as nuclear winter scoured the earth even if he had to crack apart his ribs and wrench out his own lungs to do it.