50 Vulture Dreams
A dark clutch grabbed Casper’s chest, and his crouch failing, he fell on his ass in the mud. Something tight and high wound through his voice, straining it to a cigarette-stained grate. “Why are you scared? What the fuck is going on?”
Cain’s features opened, brightened with that drizzling sunshine way all full of concern for Casper – forget the terror: Lost Boy #11 looked scared down in the mud.
It was so, so painfully, beautifully, shittily obvious that Cain forgot it all just because now Casper trembled the same way Cain had when he found Casper hiding out here. Before Casper could squirm away, Cain was there, down on his knees between Casper’s legs and sweeping him up into his arms, out of the mud onto his feet.
Cain’s fingers made damp pinpoints against Casper’s neck and the bare skin at his waist, cold as the drops of water plummeting from the trees. Cain shook, but it wasn’t the cold, never was the cold, and Casper fought down the sickness as he buried his face in Cain’s chest against the damp of his shirt and the marble skin beneath. He smelt like the forest in the rain, but not this shitty part. Alpine forests atop mountains, gasping free in the unpolluted air as chill rain tumbled between their branches to feed the vibrant undergrowth beneath.
So fucking stupid how just being in his arms made Casper feel safe.
“It’s alright, love.” That crooning voice all stained wet at the edges, fingers smoothing Casper’s sodden hair to his head. “There’s nothing, love. I think it’s just me. I think I just scared myself, you know? I love you so much, Cassie, I couldn’t—” A gasp, and there was the choke of tears. “I couldn’t go on if something happened to you again, not this time.”
Casper sobbed into Cain’s throat, the drips of rain off his hair mimicking the tears he could never cry, and Cain hushed him, soft shapes of words against his cheek. What did it mean? Why did he keep speaking like that? Why? Why couldn’t it just be Casper that he spoke to, not whichever unflawed gem he saw slicked across Casper’s face?
“It’s alright,” Cain murmured. “It’s alright, love. Let me take you inside, Cassie. You’re so, so cold.”
And Casper could only nod, cling to Cain as he turned around so Casper could jump onto his back. Because he wanted this. He wanted the bruising grip Cain kept on his thighs as they trailed out of the rotting copse to be for him. He wanted the smile as he rubbed his nose against Cain’s throat to bloom with only his scarred, ugly face in Cain’s mind.
All that sweetness he’d dreamed was for him alone – sugared cupcakes set out pretty for the cockroach to devour – he just wanted it to be real. Why couldn’t someone love him like that? Why couldn’t he live in a paradise with those rolling hills on the horizon and pretty stars unobscured by murky light?
Because he didn’t deserve it. Because nothing but poison lay beneath his skin.
Black bloomed across the sky. Black darker than the gathering night. Black like the void between worlds splashed abyssal across the clouds.
Cain swore, and tension jerked through every inch of him as he twisted. His hands clenched on Casper’s legs so tight Casper might have cried out if his whole body hadn’t seized in a moment of white panic. Darkness writhed about them both as Cain shook, ice gathering across his skin and Casper’s breath, rasping up his throat, plumed white in the air.
Then in a burst of hysterical laughter, the darkness fled. “A vulture. Bloody cunting vulture, idiot fucking thing.” But his body didn’t feel like it’d been a vulture, not with this tension still thrumming through his limbs. And like … Casper was about ninety-eight percent sure there were no vultures around here anyway.
The stark reminder of the magnitude of sorcery – fucking magic sprawled across the sky and Cain gathering the fucking night like that was normal – it all made his stomach twist and his head spin and good fucking thing he wasn’t standing or he’d probably fall over. Smack, face right in the mud.
Cain shivered and hiked Casper higher on his back. “Fuck this.”
Sounded like the kind of high, tight way Jack would say the same thing seeing sorcery like that, that kind of bravado – not really wanting to admit he’s scared, but terrified enough to fuck right off out of the situation. Hearing it from Cain…
Well, Casper kinda wanted some reins so he could snap them and get this piggy-back ride sprinting back inside the manor. But Cain went quick enough himself. The back door slammed behind them and he stopped for a moment to trace something over the wood with his finger. The cold air scared them up the hall at a more sedate pace that calmed Casper’s nerves.
Inside. Safe. His damp clothes stuck to his skin and in the warmth, his shivering changed source to motherfucking freezing. Marble statue boy carrying him through the halls didn’t help a fucking damn, but Casper clung to him anyway. The longer he clung, the more tension seemed to seep from Cain’s limbs until, when he shouldered open the bedroom, he felt all easy and lax and like normal again.
Right up until Cain actually put him down and turned to face him. Water drizzled from the tips of Cain’s hair, strands plastered like seaweed across his forehead and it stuck together as Cain pushed it back over his head. Cain breathed heavily, the only audible thing past the hum of the heating, Casper’s chattering teeth, and the eternal hammering of the rain. The rise and fall of his chest pushed against the translucent veil of his shirt.
Kept dripping though, from the shirt stuck to his skin and the mud-logged knees and cuffs of his trousers and ruined shoes. A drizzle gathered beneath Cain on the polished wood, the soft lamplight casting it a puddle of liquid amber, and a wet splatter shook off Casper as he stood there, shivering like some ragged drowned rat.
It was so fucking cold. A cold like your bones turned to iron and the marrow at the core to ice. It seeped through his muscles in gut-jarring shudders. Casper clutched himself, the sagging fabric of his t-shirt gathering in folds against his skin as he hunched up. Felt like he’d never be fucking warm again. Like whatever ice ran through Cain’s veins had poisoned his soul.
But that just made it the literal manifestation of the metaphorical, right? Real poison in his veins now, not just the thoughts of Cain in his mind. Even now, Cain had on that stupid fucking smile all sweet and slow and hesitant like there was fucking anything behind it but delusion.
Cain shifted, a sort of bashfulness in the way he made the shape of himself smaller, fingers still threaded through his soaked hair and with the other hand, he toyed with the open collar of his shirt. That look was different in Cain. In Cain, that look read comfortable enough to not project dominance on the space, and it came with his chin still lifted, a slow tilt of his head as the smile grew and his eyes traced adoring over the hallucination in front of Casper’s face.
Casper’s stomach turned, a feverish heat mingling with the unrelenting cold in the pit of his gut and sliding up the back of his neck. It wasn’t okay. It just wasn’t okay.
Something built in his lungs and if he had to look at Cain a second longer, he’d scream.
The ice shattered and Casper bolted from the room. Cain’s shout of frustration chased him down the hall.
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