Well, it's a long chapter ;) And very... intimate, I'd say. I like it, anyway.

Insight 2

Finally they had removed the brace. It had been three long weeks since the last time Casey had stood on his legs. His world had been limited to the yellow room, two bland yet extremely professional nurses, and an army of doctors, each of them specializing in a different cosmetic area. As they had decided to take him off strong painkillers, just so they could examine the healing progress, his body started to hurt tediously, not only because of injuries but also from lack of exercise. Boredom drove him crazy, his muscles required training, and every morning, when he saw those same yellow walls again, he felt like vomiting. He watched movies and read books, but how long can an active young man do nothing but watch movies and read books?

The doctors had given him a choice: a quick recovery with artificial organs, or the long process of putting his original parts together. He'd chosen the second option, staying faithful to his conviction that painful things should be painful. He wanted to understand and remember what it meant to be harmed. Thus he had spent those three weeks in a state of unbearable helplessness, pain, weakness, and boredom, gritting his teeth in blind determination to make it through another day.

Sam hadn't come, not even once. It was somewhat...depressing. Subconsciously Casey had hoped that after what had happened, things would get better. It had seemed that they had reached some kind of a breaking point, whatever that meant. Hell, even Ramson had visited him a couple of times! Everyone had been dropping in, for a longer or shorter while, to say "Hello, how are you" or "Get well soon". Everyone but Sam.

Casey sighed and slowly dragged himself out of bed. Carefully he took off the drip and detached a couple of sensors from his skin, wrapped his weak body in a robe, and set out on the tiring trip to the bathroom. Not that it was a particularly long trip - the bathroom was part of the small hospital apartment - but still it was quite a tough expedition for a body which had got out of its habits.

After the complicated operation of emptying his bladder, which was even more of a challenge than getting to the toilet, he flopped down onto the lid, too tired to go back immediately. He closed his eyes with a sigh and leaned his head back against the wall tiles. He was suffering from vertigo and mild nausea caused by the effort he'd undergone, not to mention the pain of his abdomen. There was still a pipe in his guts, one of many, that was substituting for his urinary tract for the time being.

A sudden click of the door made him stiffen impulsively. A heavy, irregular clacking passed the bathroom and stopped at the entrance to the room. The guest must have been surprised not to find Casey in his bed.

"I'm in here," said Casey plaintively. "I'm...." He wasn't given time to finish, as the door opened and the visitor he least expected appeared, the look of his black eyes slightly incoherent, a half-empty bottle in his hand, and a strange, barely visible shadow of a smile that could mean anything wandering across his lips. Apparently he didn't care about Casey's privacy at all.

"Don't bother," he tossed out, seeing that Casey was going to stand up. "We can sit here, why not?" he said in a hoarse voice, chuckling.

"What...why are you here? Wha—" Casey's thoughts were just as feverish as Sam's blood-shot eyes.

The drunken man leaned against the doorcase. The gaping white shirt, with only two buttons done up, opened, revealing his undone pants button. The pants hung low on Sam's hips, exposing the bent of his underwear. "Why, you ask? I came to check up on you. Right? 'Cause a bad guy shot you, I think." He snorted, spitting over his chin. He wiped it off with a wide movement of his hand. He must have done it before, as the sleeve of his soiled shirt bore a variety of suspicious-looking substances.

"I—" Casey wasn't ready for such a meeting. Yes, he wanted Sam to come; yes, he wanted to talk, to say thank you or something, but not exactly like this. "You're drunk." He stated the obvious, nothing smarter coming to his mind.

"No shit! Really? How could that have happened?" Sam cackled, shifting the weight of his body onto his other foot and pulling up his drooping pants. "Lucky you, then. You know why I get drunk so rarely?"

The prolonged silence indicated that the question wasn't rhetorical, but Casey was too tired and upset to pretend he was interested in an answer.

"Well," Sam continued before Casey reacted, "when I'm drunk, my mind still works pretty well. It's just that my...um, 'inner demons'—" he laughed at the poetical metaphor that came to his mind— "come out." He sniffed loudly and stared at the bottle as intently as if it was the most interesting phenomenon in the entire world.

"You wear your demons on the outside, I'm afraid." Casey made a sour face, disgusted by the state and behavior of his guest.

"Whatever." Sam only brushed him off, unaffected by his subtle irony. "The thing is, when I'm really drunk, I'm honest, more or less. Soooo...it's quite possible that I'll tell you things I really mean." Having said that, he sank down onto the floor and sat with his knees bent and widely spread.

It took Casey a couple of seconds to recover from his surprise. "Wow." He shook his head with disbelief, irony sparkling in his warm amber eyes. "So you can accidentally say something meaningful 'cause you're drunk and I should feel like a lottery winner?" Things were definitely going wrong. Instead of expressing gratitude, Casey couldn't stop himself from being bitter and nasty. That was how Sam's strange magic worked.

"No, not accidentally." Sam answered slowly, weighing his every word. "This is why I am drunk." He raised his eyes to his interlocutor and by their expression, piercing and pathetic, Casey understood it was the truth. "Vodka kinda...softens some hard corners of mine."

God, how wasted you must be. Casey looked into those amazing, fathomless eyes, the real one almost as unreadable as the black ball, and his face showed gentle sadness.
So they lasted in that silent understanding.

Suddenly a muffled groan slipped through Sam's gritted teeth. "Oh, fuck!" With an energetic yet clumsy jump he threw himself across the bathroom to the bathtub's edge at the last moment before his body contracted in a vomiting reflex. "Huh, shit," he sighed, still on his knees, hanging over the bathtub and wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

"Oh fuck." Now it was Casey's turn to sigh. He stretched his legs negligently and ran his hands through his hair, completely defeated. "That was very honest, indeed. I appreciate it. Really," he said sarcastically into the air, not giving a damn about whether Sam had heard it or not.

"We're even now." Sam didn't turn from the bathtub, just held his hand out behind him and to show Casey his middle finger. They both remembered that night when Casey had been throwing up through the window in Sam's room.

"I see I'm granted one honesty after another," the convalescent jibed, giving Sam's fingers a painful flick. "So, anything else?" he asked with resignation.

From above the bathtub he heard a gibbering "Yeah," but no explanation came. For a long while they sat - or knelt, in Sam's case - in silence, Casey thoughtlessly admiring his fingernails and Sam contemplating minor cracks in the enamel of the bathtub's bottom.

"I...uh," started Sam, drawing wet circles on the nearest wall with water dripping from the improperly turned tap. "I want ya," he finished indistinctly, and he very, very carefully put a wet dot in the center of one circle, as a final touch. He smiled absently, pleased with the effect of his work. He hadn't planned to say anything like that. It had somehow slipped out naturally, and he would regret it later, after he sobered up.

Casey froze, baffled, thinking at first that he had misheard. "What? What did you just say?" His heart fluttered warningly as the spectre of big trouble squeezed it unpleasantly.

Sam meticulously wiped his curlicues from the wall. "Don't make me say it again," he warned, his voice hardly appearing calm and friendly. "I don't like to repeat myself, and I forgot to tell you that when I'm drunk I also become a little bit aggressive."

"Tell me 'bout it." Casey smiled wryly. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"You're so fucking dumb sometimes!" A distinct note of annoyance sounded, echoing in the ceramic bathtub. "It was very fucking simple, so which part of it didn't you understand, you dickhead?"

"You're drunk and you're talking rubbish," Casey said impatiently, but his heart reacted - not exactly the way he wanted it to. He was already feeling the familiar warmth spreading within his body and just couldn't help carrying on with this strange conversation. "So what is it that you want from me now? Wanna fuck me?" he provoked, feeling a kind of perverse satisfaction. As he said it, a gentle rush of blood to his head surfaced on his unhealthily pale face with a bright, fresh color.

Sam slowly turned to Casey, sat down near the bathtub, and drew a solid gulp from the bottle he still held in his hand, spilling the alcohol around from time to time. He didn't say a word, just tilted his head to the side and fixed his intent look on the man in the robe. Casey didn't know the meaning of all this, but there was something behind that strange gaze that was not to be ignored or dismissed with a shrug. He felt uncomfortable, as if a scanner was reading his thoughts. He was ashamed of his thoughts. They were full of his weakness.

"I want you" - the words he had dreamed about so many times and whispered into his pillow during hot, sleepless nights....

He tried to convince himself that it hadn't touched him that deeply, but he failed. The magic spell effectively bound his mind and will. Uttered in a crude, drunk, and disrespectful way, it still had that scary power. And Casey suddenly bore Sam a grudge for that. It felt as if his small, sacred, pure dream had been profaned. A barfing drunk blabbering some stupid bullshit to a cripple in a robe sitting on the can: it was a pathetic parody of his sweet fantasies.

Shaking his head, Casey broke eye contact and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Shit, this is the weirdest confession I've ever heard of," he sighed, trying to defuse the tension. He used the word "confession" deliberately, just to check Sam's reaction, but Sam completely ignored the provocation. Maybe he was just too drunk for its meaning to get through to him, yet Casey's heart worked out a more optimistic interpretation again, despite the reason. "You know, get sober and we'll talk," the blond man added.

"You realize that when I get sober we won't talk, don't you?" The agent smirked and knocked back some vodka. "I'll get angry and you'll have a hard time. This is as good as it gets: do you prefer my impeccable form, or my upchucked contents?" He chuckled repulsively.

"That's not a choice, really." Casey lowered his head and embraced it with his forearms, entwining his fingers on his nape.

"Whatever. You can't have both, anyway." Sam shrugged lazily and leaned his head against the bathtub.

After a moment's silence Casey asked quietly, almost sadly, "Why me?"

"Dunno." Sam gave him a one-shouldered shrug again and twisted his lips in subconscious disdain. "Shot in the dark, I guess. You're one of many."

No, that wasn't true. Casey could swear it wasn't. "Cut the bullshit," he said decidedly but calmly, without anger. "Why me?"

A hasty commotion and a loud, disgusting puke into the bathtub was the only answer. The somewhat sweet stench irritated Casey's nostrils and his stomach twisted warningly. His general condition was far from good and his head started to spin unpleasantly.

Just when Casey thought his question had been left hanging in the void, Sam stammered, "I wonder—" He hesitated for a moment. "Can you imagine anyone keeping up with me?" He snorted with a laughter as if he'd told a good joke. "Well, you fucking put up with it, I must give you that. And...you can kick my ass. Sometimes. That makes us—" He broke off. "Uh, whatever." He raised the bottle to his lips again and emptied it to the bottom in one huge gulp. "Fuck, I don't remember being that drunk in the last...five years or so!" He burped and threw the bottle across the bathroom. It shattered against the wall and pieces of glass scattered over the floor.

"Shit, man." Casey squeezed his head. He was exhausted both physically and mentally. "You're the most fucked-up creature I've ever met."

"Do you realize you often use words 'the most' when talking 'bout me?" Sam smiled widely. This revelation seemed very entertaining to him.

"Yeah. This is nothing to be proud of, though. You're a freak." And his own words hurt Casey almost as much as if someone had thrown them in his face. It was more and more difficult to ignore the growing awareness that his feelings were ruled by that...primitive psycho. "Do you - have you ever had any friends? Do you know what that even means? Or any, um, normal relationships?"

"Relationships?" Sam smirked mockingly, although it was difficult to state who or what was the subject of this mockery. Well, it could be just a habit; his lips might naturally assume that curve. "I've had a few."

Casey raised his head and looked at Sam with disbelief, his eyes squinted. "I smell a trick," he said hesitantly, resting his chin on his entwined hands.

"There was Cindy, I think..." Sam continued with the same enigmatic smile playing on his lips. "She had a Porshe 911. I loved it. Yeah, I guess that was a good relationship."

"With Cindy?" Casey's brows cocked up in surprise. There was a new landscape revealing itself in front of his eyes. The wild jungle was letting him in.

"No, with her Porshe." Sam laughed roguishly, happy that his joke had worked out. "She had money. A lot of money," he added, his voice growing serious and melancholic. "She was matter-of-fact. And she paid well. I could drive her car sometimes. And she had that ugly little dog that yapped non-stop. I hated it. One day it bit me and I snapped its neck. And then I had to say good bye to the Porshe. It turned out that the dog was quite important to Cindy." Sam chuckled. "Not that I was surprised, anyway."

He slumped lower to a half-lying position, stretching his legs. "And I had Marlene. Oh, well, she had me, to be precise. And she had money too. So again, it was a good deal. She paid for my college. I played piano, you know? Nah, you don't know. No one knows." Sam smiled to himself. "It was cool there. She was good in bed and taught me many useful things. Or not useful, just pleasant. And there I had, um, a 'relationship' too." He accented the word sarcastically. "With her son! It was like...a teacher-student relationship, you could say." Sam snickered, patting his thighs in visible enjoyment. "Unfortunately, she didn't like it at all. It was a real shame, 'cause together they were quite a sexy mix. Well, but she was too conservative, I guess." He shrugged his shoulders casually and belched.

Casey listened open-mouthed, a hot flush burning his cheeks. So this man had a past! Obvious as it was, it was also unbelievably...surprising. Casey had curbed his hopes some time ago that he might be allowed a peek into Sam's life, and now he drank in every word of the revelation. It was something new to learn that there existed people who at some point throughout the years had been close to Sam. Or that was what Casey thought.

"Oh, I had more relationships. But not all of them were as good. Horace, for example. God, he was ugly. And he had a huge dick. It fucking hurt, you know? 'Cause he was impatient, son of a bitch. He liked it rough. I didn't then, but...he had a lot of money, of course, and he had some good connections. He could pull me out of troubles, and I wasn't one to avoid them." Sam closed his eyes for a moment and lightly knocked his head against the bathtub a few times. "He couldn't help me with the last trouble, though - when I kicked him in his face, took his money, and legged it. I'm pretty sure it's still somewhere in my impressive police record."

Casey's eyes opened wider and his face clearly showed his inner state. He was stunned and overwhelmed, for not until now had he understood what the whole story was about. The obvious conclusions were so exotic in comparison to his lifestyle that his subconscious fought a heavy battle not to accept them till the last moment.

"You—you were—" he stumbled, trying to express his thoughts in words.

"Yeah," Sam confirmed, guessing Casey's intentions. "I did it for money. And a comfortable life. It was...it was a good life, if you know what I mean." Sam smiled, his eyes still closed.

"No, I don't. A good life? You were a fucking whore!" Casey's voice was cold and full of unintentional contempt. The new light cast on Sam's past exposed the dirty facts that Casey would rather have stayed unaware of, because they made his own situation complicated. Like how was he supposed to deal with Sam from now on? How should he react?

"Oh, how harsh!" Sam twisted his lips mockingly. "You might have hurt my feelings. Well, if I had them, of course." He laughed. "Besides, I prefer the term 'kept man'. It's more...sophisticated. And true."

"Since when do you care about being sophisticated?" Casey made a wry face.

"Since I stopped being a whore, I guess." Sam's voice was calm, a bit tired. "'Cause I was one before. Before I got smart enough to land on my feet. So I see the difference. And you don't."

"What's the difference, then?" There was more aggression in the question than a real need for an answer.

Sam didn't take the bait, though, and answered honestly. "Everything is a difference. The only common thing is sex. But when I think of it—" he hesitated— "even sex is different."

"Okay." Casey drew his brows down. He was trying very hard to assimilate these revelations, but for the time being he had absolutely no idea of how to master the situation. Someday maybe he would be ready to take it all in, and maybe even hear more, but for now it was enough. Now he desperately wanted something...normal. The tiniest thing that would connect the world of his experiences with the life of this fatal man. The smallest thing they had in common. "Okay, I get it already. I mean, I don't , but this is as much as I can figure: a relationship simply means fucking to you. And money, of course. I don't even know which is worse." He shook his head.

"Um, that's an outdated theory," Sam cut in. "Now I have money. So it's basically about sex." He chuckled happily.

"So tell me," Casey ignored Sam's attempt at a joke and changed the course of the conversation a little, "how did you manage to make friends with Simon? Or more like, how did he manage to do it?"

To Casey's surprise and confusion, Sam whooped with uncontrollable laughter. "Ooooh, babe," he grunted, slipping completely down and spreading out shamelessly on the floor. "Listen carefully, 'cause this'll be good! It was just as usual: I fucked him."

"For Christ's sake!" Casey bristled impatiently, rolling his eyes. "Be serious."

"I am."

He was.

"Shit. You're kidding me!" The very thought that he might treat this confession seriously filled Casey with dread. But inside he already believed. After all, nothing could be normal when it came to this guy.

"No," Sam denied politely, but firmly. "I did fuck him. Three times." He knitted his brows, trying to remember something. "Um, four, actually."

"What? Are you crazy? He's your brother!"

"He wasn't then. To me, he was just some guy. I felt attracted, he felt guilty...boom!" Sam clasped his hands and threw them apart as if from an explosion.

Sam's attitude boggled Casey's mind. What he'd heard absolutely exceeded the limits of his imagination. "Guilty? Of what?"

"It's a long story. I don't think I want to talk about it now." Sam shrugged and crossed his hands behind his head. "I think I might have been in love. Or maybe I just like to think that."

"You?" Casey snorted. God knew why, but the idea of Sam being in love seemed to him even more sick and unbelievable than the rest of the story. "And how did it feel, being in love?" He smirked with unconscious superiority.

Quite unexpectedly, Sam stiffened. Slowly, he opened his eyes and shifted them to the man sitting on the toilet. That question shouldn't have been asked. It forced Sam to realize that it felt...well, just like now.

"I don't remember," he answered flatly, unconvincingly. He didn't like the feeling that was assaulting him, and his body couldn't handle it either. He grunted when returning nausea roused him and forced him to turn his stomach inside out once again. He hung there on the edge of the bathtub, exhausted and panting. He drew a whistling breath with an effort and tried to relax his body, tortured by vomiting. There wasn't anything left in his stomach after the previous series, so only violent contractions racked him, forcing his guts to throw out nothingness. "Oh fuck," he moaned huskily, his head hung low and his forearms resting on the bathtub's edge.

Normally Casey would feel sorry for someone in such a state. But now he just feasted his eyes, with the perverse pleasure of being the master of the situation, which was an exceptional case considering his all encounters with Sam. He observed the exhausted, pathetic man dispassionately, like a curiosity from the world of nature, with no intention of granting help or even sympathy.

After a minute or two Sam collapsed heavily onto the floor, sucking in air with a loud wheeze. He looked miserable but his eyes were full of irony. "Having fun?" He smirked weakly.

"Yeah, kind of," Casey answered seriously, looking Sam straight in the eyes.

"At least one of us is," the drunk man snorted.

"Why did you tell me all this?"

"Cause you wanted to know. Am I right?" Sam's lips twitched in a small, knowing smirk.

"Yeah, I think I did." Casey wasn't going to deny obvious things. "But I want many things and you don't seem so willing to grant my other wishes."

"Nooo...." Sam looked at Casey with disbelief, guessing the other's way of reasoning. "You didn't think I had to spill my guts to you, did you?"

"Well, honestly, it crossed my mind."

"Missed, then. I say it 'cause it makes no difference to me if you know this or not."

"Yeah, right." Casey twisted his mouth in scorn. "Is it your pride that makes you so—" He stopped and bit his lip before he finished the sentence. "I don't even know. Bristly?"

"Pride?" An ugly grimace curved Sam's pretty lips. "I wasn't raised to be proud. Well, I wasn't raised at all, actually."

It sounded a bit sad. Or maybe it was just Casey's overinterpretation. "Bullshit." He waved his hand dismissively, straightening his body and leaning back. "You are too fucking proud to admit that you need something."

"Don't confuse pride with self-confidence, smartass. I'm not proud, just selfish. And, well, somehow disabled, I suppose."

Casey didn't answer, just raised his brows and pouted his lower lip in an expression of thoughtful interest. Sam wasn't stupid and Casey, as hard as he tried, couldn't bring himself to look down on the man or pity him. Even drunk, Sam had an amazing inner strength that made people step back. Casey wanted to despise at least the "kept man", hustler, whore, or whatever, but somehow that wasn't easy either. The poverty of his own life experiences and intensely moderate number of blows taken from fate made such an attitude a bit out of place.

With a thick cloud of different thoughts and contradicting feelings in his head, he asked the best possible question: "Do you have smokes? I need a smoke."

After a moment of surprise, Sam burst out laughing, and the situation lost its grave dramatic effect. "Sure," he chuckled, and supporting his body with his feet and his head, leaning against the bathtub, he raised his hips and pulled a crumpled packet out of his pocket. He threw it to Casey, saying, "The lighter is inside."

Casey took his time with the cigarette. Gazing mindlessly at the cloud of smoke, he let his nerves and wobbly moral backbone go back to a relative balance. Finally he managed to stop analyzing. He forced himself to push all the chaos out of his mind and looked at Sam attentively, without prejudice. He registered the greasy hair and dark circles round tired eyes; trembling hands played with the corner of the crumpled shirt. Then, suddenly remembering that they hadn't even touched on the crucial subject, out of the blue he said simply, "Thank you, Sam."

"For what?" The agent looked up, obviously confused.

"For ay—" Casey paused, straightened up, and undid the robe's belt. Maneuvering carefully so as not to burn anything with the cigarette he kept between his fingers, he opened the cloth, revealing his massacred belly. "For this, I guess." He smiled slightly, exposing his wounds and not taking his eyes from Sam's face, suddenly focused and very serious.
Casey wasn't intending to be particularly malicious or cruel; besides, Sam was the last person likely to be moved by such a cheap act. Driven by a strong need, he just wanted to share his pain, weakness, and defenselessness in the most direct way he could. No words could do it better. Revelation for revelation, he thought. Pain for pain.

"I—" Sam couldn't decide how to react, uncertain of Casey's intentions. "I'm sorry," he said finally, being merely honest.

"I was serious, Sam. Thank you for that decision. I don't know if anyone else could have made it."

"That doesn't sound very flattering." Sam smiled bitterly, still staring at Casey's torn body, only partially covered by dressings.

"Hell if it is! But it saved my life. That makes me a fucking hypocrite, I guess, but now I'm glad you're like this."

"Quite selfish."

"Yeah. It seems I've landed in your hell after all." Casey dragged in a solid portion of dense, acrid smoke and flicked the ash onto the floor.

"Welcome, then. I guess we all have this dark side in us."

A grey cloud escaped Casey's pale lips. "M-hm, probably."