“Would you care to share her mouth?”
Jizabel’s gaze is fixed on Cassandra’s face. He is so emotive, so open, as if one who could see into others’ hearts has no need to hide his own. Then again, it seems there is little to hide. Delilah’s high priest lacks the restraint (repression) of a holy man. He wears all his desires on his sleeve.
He lacks any restraint at all, Jizabel thinks, as his attention moves downward. Cassandra’s shoulders are broad. His brocade vest and the shirt underneath are carelessly unbuttoned to show a muscular torso.
And then to the blonde curls between his thighs, where his obedient doll does her duty.
Frankly, the thought of Cassandra’s Letitia going down on him is almost nauseating. JIzabel has no interest in looking down at the waif’s bloodshot eyes and desperate expression, and down to where Cassandra tore open the front of her dress earlier to show off the cruel collar and her flat chest.
“Your toys are of no interest to me,” he finally says. Cassandra thrusts upward; Letitia makes a muffled sound. Jizabel watches. Some flicker of sympathy within him goes out to her. He is a perpetual voyeur, it seems, to his father’s whims and now to Lord Gladstone’s.
But Cassandra has no tether on him. Jizabel could leave the room and the estate if he cared to.
As he hasn’t, he concludes that he doesn’t care to.
Cassandra laughs. His thrusts are harder now. It must be impossible for Letitia to breathe. The smell, too, must be overwhelming, an entirely different sort of miasma from the scents of Jizabel’s laboratory. Does it taste like salt, like sweat?
It must be warm, too.
Cassandra orgasms with a hand in Letitia’s wig and his head thrown back. Jizabel watches his face, the way it contracts, the way his eyebrows furrow and then lift. The way his hair falls back and his mouth parts a bit.
He is so...immodest. But he must want Jizabel here for this. He must want him to see it.
Cassandra finally relaxes his hold on his poor toy, and she jerks backward and heaves for air. Drool and semen drip from her open mouth onto the rug. Cassandra kicks at her; she cowers.
“Can’t even swallow properly. Maybe you’re wise to be uninterested, Death.”
He withdraws a vial from his vest pocket and throws it to Letitia. She opens it and downs the contents with quaking hands. Her cheeks glisten with tears, but Jizabel’s attention fixates on the traces of white that linger around her lips.
You really are a perverted boy, aren’t you?
The rebuke in the back of his head sounds like his father’s voice. But after a lifetime of hearing it, it seems almost to be background noise. He watches Cassandra Gladstone, pathetic megalomaniac that he is, and he watches himself watching and wonders why he hasn’t left the room yet.
Cassandra stands. He takes his time doing up his fly and buttoning his shirt, though he stops halfway. Then with that ever-present smirk he reaches out to toy with Jizabel’s hair where it falls in front of his ear.
“You’re sure? I imagine she’s still hungry.”
Letitia is silent on the floor. The drug is fast-acting and her body starving for it.
“I have no appetite for...that,” Jizabel says, disdainful gaze flickering downward and then back to Cassandra’s lustful, still-flushed face.
“Maybe not,” Cassandra concedes with an easy shrug. His fingers gently trace Jizabel’s cheek and come to rest under his chin. He tilts his face upward.
Jizabel watches himself standing there. He watches himself still. He watches himself enjoying the contact and disdains himself for it.
“But say you take her place? On your knees for me...you wouldn’t even need a wig.”
Cassandra’s pointer finger taps his lip and then he withdraws. Jizabel considers reaching for a scalpel. He imagines wanting to reach for a scalpel.
Cassandra’s smile looks like his father’s.
“You have a high opinion of yourself, Lord Gladstone,” Jizabel says coldly.
Cassandra’s smile does not waver. He glances briefly downward and back up.
“I would have to, to want Death under my thumb. But do let me know when you feel like being honest.”
He leaves the room with a spring in his step. Jizabel is left with the miserable wretch on the floor who seems to be trying to make herself as small as possible, and the bulge in his trousers that seems to be endeavoring to the exact opposite.
Alexis is so predictable.
The mercurial whims of the Cardmaster are a frequent topic of discussion in Delilah. The gossip usually stops when anyone catches sight of Jizabel (or Ida, quick on the draw as she is to defend any perceived threat to the Cardmaster), but he catches snippets here and there, and Cassian has loose lips.
But Jizabel sees the truth. His father is, if not a simple man, then certainly a straightforward one. He has been this since he ordered Jizabel sewn up with his sisters inside him, since he fed his trusting young son the flesh of the being he loved most in the world.
There is something very comfortable in predictability.
His hands are clutching at the stone altar so hard that his fingers are scraped. Perhaps he’ll draw blood; he has before. Bloody fingers to match his bloody back.
Alexis likes his whip, and he likes his sons’ skin split open for it. Every crack echoes through the stuffy air and resounds in Jizabel’s ears, and then the pain comes. He doesn’t scream. Even the first time he didn’t, couldn’t. It takes his breath away.
“Why have you disobeyed me?” Alexis asks, before he brings the whip down again and the rest of Jizabel’s body screams the agony that his mouth cannot.
Jizabel thinks Alexis knows the answer to that. Maybe he is simply humoring his second-favorite son.
When it is over his back is bleeding and it is difficult to stand. His head feels hazy. He looks up at his father. Alexis’s face is drawn into tight lines of displeasure. He coils the whip back into a harmless circle and observes his disobedient son for a few moments more before turning his back.
In the shadows, Ida slips out after him. Her presence soils the intimacy.
Jizabel manages his way back to his room with his robe loosely drawn around him. The cloth stings horribly on the fresh wounds. The few people he passes turn away in obvious discomfort. That suits him fine. He is Death, a member of the Major Arcana, and yet he has not outgrown his father’s love.
Cassian does not intercept him, and Jizabel is grateful. Nor is the High Priest here to smirk at his misfortune. But then, Cassandra undoubtedly relived all the other whippings with him when he looked into his mind.
If it were a different kind of person, perhaps it would be infuriating and humiliating to have someone else peer into his past. But Cassandra is so transparent, his intentions so open.
He is easier than Alexis.
Jizabel throws open the window in his room and sinks into a chair. Blood is seeping into the robe and stray rivulets still run down his back. He should treat the cuts.
Lacerations last longer than caresses. Infection is a better companion than infatuation.
His mother’s brain is greyish in its jar. She floats alongside her heart. Her liver and lungs were too fibrotic for him to care to preserve. Her spinal cord was partially severed when she hanged herself.
Next to her is the sweet dog from the graveyard, Mikaila’s unfortunate prey. He has more color left in him, but eventually it will go too, like all the other lives on Jizabel’s shelf.
He stares at them, illuminated in their jars by the moonlight. They would be company enough if they had any warmth left. He would keep live ones if he didn’t know what his father (has done) would do.
Part of him is sorry, now, that he had to share all them with Cassandra.
Jizabel’s gracious host at the Gladstone estate demonstrates he’s lacking in etiquette toward his guests when he barges in unannounced one morning to Jizabel’s room. Jizabel is dressing and annoyed by the disturbance, but Cassandra as always looks pleased with himself.
“Can I help you, Lord Gladstone?” Jizabel asks pointedly.
“I believe I should be offering help to my guest,” Cassandra says. He steps easily into Jizabel’s space until the ruffles of his cravat are brushing Jizabel’s bare back.
“It would be more civilized to wait for a response.” Jizabel is rifling through the shirts he brought to the manor, but his attention is no longer for them. There is a mirror set into the door of the wardrobe. He sees himself in it, unsmiling, trousers mercifully untented, and he sees Cassandra well-dressed and smirking pressed up against him.
Lewder thoughts grip Jizabel. The mirror is so convenient.
“But you don’t know when to accept help, do you? You don’t know what’s best for you.”
Jizabel barks a single laugh. “Do you want what’s best for me?”
“Heavens, no.” Cassandra’s breath washes over his neck, his ear. “But we want the same thing, Death.”
Jizabel wants to tilt his head to the side. He wants to wipe the smirk (forever) off Cassandra’s face. He almost wonders what his father would say, except he thinks he can imagine it fairly well. His father probably already knows. Jizabel, the twisted son, digging the family grave deeper and deeper.
“Must you call me that.” He says it mindlessly. His fingers tighten on the sleeve of a lilac button-down he favors. He is full of anticipation for something heady and something horrible.
“You don’t like your title? Would you prefer Doctor? Or Jizabel.”
He breathes the name and it sounds filthier than any of the other unspeakable things he’s said. Jizabel cannot prevent goosebumps from rising on his skin, or the little shiver that goes through him. His body betrays him. He cannot glance at the mirror again. He is afraid he will see himself blushing, begging, disgusting, despicable.
His sisters deserve better. So do the myriad other beings he has fed on to sustain his miserable existence.
Cassandra’s fingers are warm on his shoulder and down his back. They find the scabs Alexis left there only a few nights previous. It is a welcome interlude. Jizabel stiffens. The lacerations are hardly subtle, but he would rather they went ignored.
“The Cardmaster is a cruel man,” Cassandra murmurs. “And foolish, to mark up something so beautiful.”
Jizabel thinks of Letitia. Is that how Cassandra wants him, in frills and ruffles, sunk to his knees and desperate for a substance only he can provide?
The horrible hungry lecherous part of him is, humiliatingly, not disinterested in this idea.
“When I lead Delilah,” Cassandra continues, “I will care properly for my possessions. I’ll never take a whip to this lovely skin. I would never have to, not when you’ll be nicely locked up for me and unable to misbehave.”
Jizabel wonders how different Cassandra’s caring really is from his father’s cruelty, but he has nothing to say. He doesn’t dare open his mouth. The well of his thoughts is run dry, and he’s afraid that if he allows himself to speak something wretched will come out.
Cassandra presses a single brief kiss to his neck and then withdraws. The contact burns.
“The burgundy shirt,” he advises. “It suits you.”
He dreams of the Scavenger’s Daughter. He dreams of a future that he knows will not come.
He doesn’t think Cassandra would allow him the modesty of clothes. He would want to be able to feast his eyes freely upon all that lovely skin. Perhaps he would undress him himself, make a show of cutting the clothes off his body. You’re free of the Cardmaster, Death, he would say, with that smirk on his lips and the gleam in his eyes.
Jizabel distracts himself wondering whether Cassandra truly imagines himself as above Alexis. Kinder. Shrewder. More deserving. He can only hope he doesn’t fall into the same trap. People are the same. Not one of them is worth anything at all.
The metal of his new prison would be cold at first against his skin. Cassandra would slide it onto his wrists and ankles with a hungry gleam in his eye and lock it into place. It would warm soon enough as it leached heat from his skin.
And where would Cassandra put him, his hard-won prize? Would he leave him on a plinth in his manor’s broad hall, welcoming lord and guests alike? Would he let others see, look, touch?
Or would Jizabel be a private indulgence, kept behind closed doors? Would he keep him in his own bedroom and unlock the shackles with a loving hand to take his fill of his pet—?
All those long hours spent with his body cramping and the restraints chafing his skin would be worth it for a smile. A touch. A crumb of attention to be licked from the floor.
Jizabel could subsist on that. He has subsisted on less.
But truth comes unbidden to further pervert his already-perverted fantasies. Cassandra would not be permanent. Cassandra’s attentions would probably wane in less than a month. He would tire of his toy, as all children do, and move on to a tastier morsel that caught his attention.
Not so dissimilar to Alexis after all.
Lord Gladstone is careless or confident enough to sleep with his door unlocked. It opens with a loud creak and Jizabel instinctively stiffens, though he was hardly attempting a sneak approach. He half-expects that Cassandra’s bed will be filled with other playthings or that he won’t be there at all, still off enjoying all the delights of high society.
But Cassandra is there, and he is alone. The sound of the door seems to rouse him and he sits up in bed. He flicks on the gas lamp on his bedside table, bathing the room in orange light and long shadows.
“Oh,” he says when he recognizes Jizabel’s form in the doorway. “Trouble sleeping?”
His voice carries an audible smirk. Jizabel detests him. The man is sadistic and vain and dull. But he is also there, and Jizabel is too, so he closes the door behind him and crosses the room to stand at the foot of the bed.
Cassandra sits up in bed and studies him. His nightshirt is as opulent as the rest of his wardrobe, with a royal blue trim and clasps left casually undone down to the waist.
Jizabel imagines his heart beating within that exposed chest, his lungs expanding and contracting, his intestines pulsing. Blood and viscera and hatred, that’s what human beings are made of.
“You’re a vision, Jizabel,” Cassandra murmurs, lustful. “Come here.”
He does. He watches his body move until he is straddling Cassandra’s lap. One of Lord Gladstone’s hands snakes protectively around his waist, and it feels like a lock turning on the door. He has resigned himself to this. This is happening. He is letting this happen.
Cassandra dispenses with the thin white robe he wears to bed, and he is naked before the High Priest as he was when he joined the Major Arcana. Somehow it feels the same; perhaps there is holiness here or naught but perversion there. It doesn’t matter. Everything becomes the same in the end.
Cassandra’s mouth makes a feast of his neck. Jizabel tilts his head back and watches it all from somewhere far away. He hears his disconnected mouth make quiet, undignified noises. He feels himself respond to the attention.
To the roughness.
“Are you so shy?” Cassandra mocks, seizing his hair in one hand and tugging it. Jizabel’s cock twitches hard. “Sing for me. Or are you scared your brother will hear?”
Jizabel comes back to himself and glares. Cassandra only grins in response; perhaps that was his aim.
Cain is here, somewhere in the manor. He is asleep, or (more likely) snooping, or paying his own late-night visit to Riff. Cassandra is so confident that he has Cain under his sway. Jizabel has little doubt that he’ll be another one of the many who underestimate his dear brother.
“Give me something to sing about,” he says evenly. Cassandra obliges.
He seems intent on devouring every inch of Jizabel’s skin. Maybe he wants to leave marks that even Cain and the Cardmaster will see. He sucks at his collarbone, his shoulder, his nipples. Jizabel’s breath comes out broken and low. His cock is hard between their stomachs, but Cassandra doesn’t deign to touch it.
Cassandra keeps the necessary implements within reach of the bed, libertine that he is. Jizabel is almost surprised he bothers with preparation at all. But then his fingers are slick and hot and probing at him and Jizabel’s thoughts scatter.
“So soft and open.” Cassandra penetrates him. It is not comfortable. Jizabel grips his shoulders and forces himself to breathe in and out. “I know you’ve never done this before. You’re just a natural.”
It does not feel good, but Jizabel hardly minds. He is here being humiliated and spread open by this disgusting leech of a man, or he is bending over for his father’s whip. It is the same. Love is love.
But for all of Lord Gladstone’s cruelty, he does have some interest in Jizabel’s pleasure, and more than some experience in this. His probing fingers find what they’re looking for, and suddenly Jizabel is shuddering and pliant for him.
And then he does moan, disgusting little noises, as Cassandra abuses that sensitive bundle of nerves inside of him. His fingers are relentless, prodding and stroking, and though the discomfort is very much still there it is...less.
He watches his body enjoy it and thinks of his sisters, in the ground and inside him, and of the sordid uses to which he has put their sacrifice. He watches Cassandra fit three fingers into him and then withdraw them all wet and sticky and leaving his hole fluttering and empty. He watches Cassandra’s smile sharpen as he pulls off his own nightshirt and shows off the hard organ throbbing between his legs.
Cassandra slicks himself up and murmurs more empty words, and Jizabel lifts himself up and positions himself, and wonders what Alexis would think—
Cassandra moans too, and Jizabel finds he does not hate the sound, though he hates himself for that. Cassandra’s pupils are huge and his eyes look wild in the lamplight, and he seizes Jizabel’s hips with new fervor. He rocks up, hard, hungry.
“You’re tight, Jizabel.”
He feels tight. He feels tense and aching and too-full. His body is protesting the intrusion. He thinks of being a child and sinking his arms into the torso of a corpse.
His cock is hard and red and leaking between them. It bounces as Cassandra thrusts.
Cassandra grazes that lovely spot inside of him, and angles toward it. It feels good, but not good enough. Jizabel is disgusted with himself and fed up with this and wishing he had let stupid fantasy stay fantasy. He moves his hips in response to Cassandra, trying to draw what pleasure he can, trying to end it. Cassandra latches onto his neck again and massages at one cheek of his ass. His fingers stroke Jizabel’s rim where they’re connected, and for a few moments Jizabel is afraid that he’ll try to fit them inside too.
For Cassandra the reality is apparently quite adequate, because soon enough he’s moaning and swearing into Jizabel’s shoulder and his cock is pulsing inside him.
He’s no longer tumescent, but Cassandra stays inside of him and wraps a hot hand around Jizabel’s own cock. He jerks him off quick and hard, like a chore, but Jizabel is not complaining. He is saying nothing. He is still making noises and still hearing himself make them, but from far away.
When he comes, Cassandra smiles. His hand tightens enough to be painful for a few instants.
“Such a good boy, Jizabel,” he murmurs in his ear, and Jizabel
Cassandra’s brain is a lovely thing in his hands, greyish-pink and wrinkled and light. How large and commanding the man used to be, and now he resides lifelessly in Jizabel’s gloved palms. Is the whole of him really folded up inside all of those crevices? Are the memories of that last surgery in there, and Jizabel riding him, and every sordid memory before it?
Are all of Jizabel’s in there, too, from when Cassandra watched them all? Could he cut it open and find something? Could he pull out the warmth and the sweet words and the horrible (wonderful) feeling?
But he holds the brain in his hands, and he doesn’t understand what death is, and he much less understands what life is.
In the jar blood leaks out and turns the liquid yellow. He holds it for a while longer and watches the organ drift in its container. He knew things would end this way, but somehow he’s unsatisfied. He thinks about that other future where he is confined to the Scavenger’s Daughter, Cassandra’s toy rather than his father’s. It is perhaps the closest thing to a happy future he has ever allowed himself to imagine.
But he has work to do, and there are no more answers to be gleaned from staring at the remnants of a dead man. He turns to his shelves. Cassandra doesn’t deserve a central place. Certainly not next to his mother. But he deserves a place, so Jizabel slides him on the bottom shelf.
Then he turns his back.