They walked back to the gate in a comfortable quiet, side by side, and climbed back over with little fanfare. No cars rumbled along the main road ahead of them and for the entire length of that quiet street, only two lights still winked at the night. Only at the end of the road where their ways would part did they pause.
Seemed like a goodbye - one that Casper was irritatingly reluctant to make - but before he could hastily get it done before he got maudlin about things, Cain asked if he could walk him home.
Casper probably only agreed because he said can, rather than make any implication about Casper’s ability to walk himself home, but ... stupid how hard that smile was to suppress as they started the walk, Cain swinging the Chinese bag by its handle and just ... just smiling. The whole damn time he didn’t stop looking like he didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
How come he ever deserved that?
They got talking about books on the way back. Turned out Cain was just as much of a voracious scifi nerd as he was, even if he angled more to literature while Casper went to fantasy and horror. They had so much common ground that it had to be fate meeting like this. Just in the fifteen minutes, Casper agreed to lend him his favourite book that Cain had never read next time they met, and Cain promised to have at least mostly finished it by their next date.
They arranged that second one too, watching a film based on a book they both loved, but Cain stuck to whatever surprise he had planned for the first and that made Casper so stupid fuzzy warm that by the time they got to his rundown building and stopped outside the door, he had his scarf pulled up to his eyes to hide this stupid smile. He hadn’t even meant to take the guy to his fucking building. He just walked there, but at least he wouldn’t know which flat it was.
Cars roared past while they stood at the foot of the crumbling high-rise. A gang of kids all in tracksuits on stolen bikes hung out down the road. He knew those ones, the ginger and the skinhead and the really tall gangly one. Jack caught them heckling once and even though it had been a long-standing thing of them heckling Casper and him selling them underweighed grams after heckling them back, he went off so hard the kids had been terrified of him since. Shame. They’d made him some good money.
There’d been a lock and a keypad on the door once, but it had broken before Casper had moved in and no one had ever fixed it, so if anyone ever wanted to walk into the lobby with its threadbare floral carpet and peeling wallpaper, they could. Casper had come back from work and found hobo’s sleeping down there more than once, and he usually gave them a cigarette if they were awake and wanted one. Least he could do seeing as he pretty much never had food.
What was Cain’s place like? Solid gold fucking doorknob, probably, but his lip didn’t curl, no judging glare at the plant pot overflowing with sodden cigarette butts beside them. Would he even show it if he was judging it? No way of knowing. No way of knowing with any of this, and it was so, so easy to fake.
There was a light above the door. A good bright one, and in that light, Casper got his best look at Cain’s face yet.
His eyes were the same nutty brown as an acorn, all full of deep amber rays.
At the obvious there’s no way I’m telling you which flat I’m in pause, Cain leant against the dirty white-washed wall and watched Casper with a soft smile on his lips.
“Dare I say I already can’t wait until I see you again?”
Perhaps he shouldn’t have. It was probably a lie anyway. Casper rolled his eyes and pretended to dig around in his pocket for a key. The tight aching muscles had persisted, and so had the shiver. Lethargy gripped his mind in its spectral claws. Sharp. His tongue felt inches from tumbling over the edge to some viciousness he only meant when he felt like this.
“Do you want to stay?”
“Do you actually want me to? And no is completely fine, Casper.”
Definitely not. But Cain questioning it brought him up short from insisting. “I...”
Cain’s fingers grazed his cheek. The scarred one, even though he had to reach across to it. “I’ll see you in then go home. I, ah—“ He glanced down at his watch. “Ah, I have to be up in three hours. Lovely. And honestly, Cas ... I don’t think staying’s the best thing for—“
Casper snatched his hand up to his chest, stomach turning. The indigo haze of a storm brewed in the back of his mind. “Not the best thing? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh cock.” Cain’s face turned instantly contrite. “I mean me. I’d—“
“You mean you’re going to come up and fuck me and when you fucking leave, you’re gonna laugh and piss off when I inevitably ask for money, right? What else could I possibly want you to come up for, right?”
“No! Cas, I—no. I mean I won’t and like I’d just bloody leave if I did anyway and I’m—I can’t believe something like this is actually happening to me and I don’t want to cock it up. I told you, Cas—“ Cain stepped forward and cradled his jaw in his hands, shocking cold, so wrong with the passion lighting up his eyes, a strain in the panicked deluge of his words— “You’re something special. It’s—It’s fate, or something, but I’m—I—“
The river of his words stemmed at Casper’s rasp, and perhaps now those wide eyes took in how Casper’s face trembled. He wanted it to stop, for it to just do what he wanted and bare his teeth or spit on him or fucking something, but he could barely stop it from crumbling entirely. Fuck, he needed to just tear away and stop looking at Cain’s fucking face, but his hands were like ice against the burns searing his mind.
So many things that bridled against his tongue, but in the end, only one mattered.
“I’m not special.”
He was roach boy. Nothing but filth.
Cain didn’t say anything. He just bundled Casper up in his arms and kissed him until he couldn’t breathe, until it all got too much and he tore away just to press his face into Cain’s shoulder and shudder with all the shitty chaos of anger and self-loathing and suffocating apathy and how his heart beat so hard he couldn’t take it.
His body ached so fucking much and everything was so fucking cold.
“I’m sorry,” Casper croaked. The soft cotton against his mouth almost swallowed it. “I’m having a really bad time right now.”
Long fingers scratched through the back of his hair, just beneath the band of his beanie. The other hand pressed on the middle of his back, holding him close. “It’s alright. Come on, you should sleep, Cas. You look so tired...”
Well he was doing fucking great if strangers were telling him he needed to sleep. Not to mention the swerved breakdown. Enough of this. Casper pulled back and rubbed his hand over his eyes. Dry. He sniffed anyway. It felt like he should. Cain’s face was too sad to look at so he looked at the floor instead, stuck his hands in his pockets to hide how fucking bad they shook.
“Why don’t I come in for a bit? I can warm your food up for you and—“
Casper glanced up. Such earnestness in that face. Why did he care so much? How could anyone care that much? A wave of sadness lifted in his chest and Casper turned away. Why didn’t Jack care that much?
“No. You’re—you’re right. I need to ... sleep. You’re the one who said you have to get up in four hours anyway.”
No fall in his face to that denial. How ... refreshing. “Then I’ll see you again soon, Cas. You’ve got my number, right?”
“Yeah, I already blocked it in case you work out what my real one is.”
“You—Oh.” Cain rolled his eyes. Passing headlights flashed dazzling across his grin. “Brat. Well, in the case that you change your mind and unblock my number, I’ll see you next week.”
Next week. Already too long. Which was a stupid thing to think, so his head could fuck off with that. Casper scuffed his feet on the floor and looked out across the street. A drunk woman in a dirty tracksuit stumbled down the opposite side of the road. “Next week,” he said. “Sounds good.”
Cain’s shoe clicked against the paving slab. A step closer, but another past him, further away. “Goodbye then, Cas.”
Casper shifted, foot to foot, and slid his eyes back the other way. Reflected in the glass door, Cain had paused, a smile just visible in his murky features.
Don’t be an idiot, Casper. Just say bye. And fucking look at him.
“Can I—“ Fuck’s sake. “Kiss me again, before—“
Ice cold lips stole his words. A breathtaking shock of electric. Breaking away—
Casper snarled his fingers through Cain’s hair and kissed him with all this stupid, sappy fuzzy whatever fluttering about inside him and making his heart fucking ache. Not that it made it go away. It just twisted in deeper, panting through his chest. Cain’s hands slipped under his hoodie and jumper and t-shirt and with his blood running so hot, the cold burnt. His hands felt so fucking gorgeous, long-fingers curled around his waist and the other sliding up his spine as he bent over him and plunged his tongue into his mouth.
So good. So, so fucking good. His heart was going to fucking give out but what did he fucking need it for with these lips that made his whole body scream alive.
By the time Cain broke away, Casper was on the verge of tears, and the desperate, searching need in Cain’s eyes as he held him close almost sent him over the edge. Just a second of their ragged breaths as they fell into each other’s eyes and Cain kissed him again, and Casper tumbled to the soft surrender.
No one had ever held him this gently and kissed him with so much aching passion in his life.
Not even close.
The next time he broke, Cain twisted his head away, buried his face against Casper’s throat. His breath panted like puffs of ice against his fever-hot skin, and at the very breathy edges, he moaned.
“Right—“ Careful, slow, Cain slid his hands back from under Casper’s top and wrapped his arms around his waist just beneath the coat and squeezed— “Right—“ A shiver, like he was trying to gather himself, like his mind was scattered to the wind right alongside Casper’s. A gap opened in the traffic, like for a moment they stood in a muffled bubble outside the world. Up above them, a polluted glow blotted out the stars but for once the stars were right here, spinning around his head just behind the veil of light.
So goddamn fucking right.
“Right—“ A final time, and with far more certainty— “I’m going to let go and walk straight away because I swear if I look at you one more time, Cas, I’ll never let you go.”
A gasp broke Casper’s lips. No matter how cold he was, the way Cain held him ... safe, secure, the impression of warmth and all its comfort without the presence. So right that he could have been right here a million times before.
Casper’s voice trembled with feeling, a scratched whisper to the veil over the sky. “Don’t then.”
Another shudder. Mouth open with a gasp and slick against Casper’s throat. “I have to, Cas. I’ll tell you one day, I promise, but I can’t do this. Not tonight.”
What would he say if Casper told him he didn’t want to either? I just want you to warm up my food and help me tidy my room and lie down in bed with me with my t-shirt and boxers still on and just hold me while I fall to sleep.
Casper squeezed his eyes closed and lowered his hands. “Go on.” And Casper tried so hard to make his voice smile but something still fell flat and small and sad. “I’ll cover my face while you make a break for it if you like.”
“You should, lo—You—“ Cain squeezed tighter, laughter soft against his throat. “Cover your eyes, Cas.” Just a whisper, his nose brushing behind Casper’s ear. “Just five seconds and I’ll be gone like the wind.”
“Until next week?”
“Until next week. I’ll be back on Saturday. But until then ... remember me like this.”
God, he couldn’t breathe. The city lights slipped across his vision in a haze. Like a dream.
“Three seconds,” Casper whispered. “I’ll count you out.”
“Three seconds. Then cover your eyes and count to five.”
Cain’s breath slipped deep and heavy across his throat. “Two—“
His touch vanished and Casper pressed his hands to his face.
But he wasn’t.
Just the Chinese bag sitting on the floor and that perfect stranger gone like the fucking wind.