Title: Invitations
Author: honeyandvinegar
Pairing: Casey/Zeke
Rating: NC17
Synopsis: Four years after Zeke breaks Casey's heart, Casey get an invitation.
Disclaimer: I own nothing--all fantasy on my end.
Author's Notes: Inspired by a prompt I did for naemi, in my "28 Ways-Zeke" post on livejournal.

Stokely finished a few burgers and slapped two more on, her breath being a mix of frosty clouds and smoke climbing over her face. Casey walked out of the kitchen carrying the tray of marinated chicken, smiling. “Took Stan a minute to find it.”

“Of course,” Stokely said, unable to hide a small grin.

Casey smiled. “He's a good guy. You two are perfect together,” he said, digging out his cigarettes and lighter. Stokely visibly blushed, something rare but thrilling for Casey to see.

“I know... I complain about him, he's just so--GOOFY sometimes. But I love him,” she admitted. Casey smiled around his cigarette, cupping it to the flame. Stokely eyed him suspiciously. “So uh... thought you smoked a cig 'once in a while',” she teased.

Casey looked up at her, blinking. “Well... yea. I've just been really nerved up lately. I was up to half a pack a week last Tuesday.”

“Ohh boy,” she said, chuckling. “Don't kill yourself there.”

“Eh... walking in Boston can kill you with the air alone,” Casey said, leaning back on the picnic table and inhaling sweet smoke.

“I figured you'd be nervous. I dunno...” she started, shaking her head. “Don't get me wrong--I DO like Zeke, but... I can't tell you how pissed I can get at him.”

Casey's mood went somber; it was also rare for Stokely to just talk like this. “Yup,” was all he could reply with.

She glanced to him as she put the chicken down to cook, brushing them with the mixture of herbs and oils. “Stan's been really close with him. There I was, ready to write him off when we found out about what he did, and he makes friends with him like nobody's business. Maybe it was going to a new school, and he wanted the familiarity with Zeke going there too.” She went to explain. She took another deep sigh and shook her head. “I didn't WANT to hate him. I KNOW he's a good guy underneath...”

“You don't have to justify anything with me, Stokes. I know, okay?”

“Yea... I know,” she said. A sudden crash came from inside, Stan yelling and hollering about 'stupid cardboard fuckin' holders!!' making them look over with startled expressions. Stokely sighed, unable to hide faint amusement. “Hey... can you get this? You're not bad at grilling.”

Casey nodded to Stokely, standing up and taking the spatula from her. “Sure.”

“I just need to get the other stuff ready... and save Stan apparently. He's thinking the 'bartending job' he's gonna do is SO fucking overwhelming,” she said with another roll of the eyes.

Casey laughed, turning to the burgers and chicken breasts on the grill to turn. “Bartending... pulling out a beer from a cooler,” Casey said.

“Yup. Big time deal,” Stokely replied as she went into the house.

Casey snickered and began the job of assessing the food. He wasn't that bad at it; he'd gotten practice borrowing the neighbor's grill for a barbeque that past summer. Jake had helped, but Casey had a knack for it. The job was half done anyways by Stokely, the TRUE pro.

The burgers were finished, the chicken just starting to go tan when a rumbling came from the front of the house. Casey froze a moment, recognizing it--or thinking he did, seeing as he heard a new, loud female voice come from the front of the house. “JESUS, you need to slow the fuck down!”

Maybe Kris' car was louder than Zeke's GTO. Casey relaxed a little, leaning back and taking a long, languid drag from his cigarette. As he heard Delilah continue her bitching, Stan came from the kitchen with another smaller cooler. “Well they're here.”

“Good. I haven't seen Del in ages.”

“Hah... might not want to see her NOW, though. I guess Kris tried working on his car, fucking it up.”

“It did sound loud,” Casey remarked.

Stan stood up, brushing his hands on his jeans. “Oh... no, it looks like Zeke drove them,” Stan said in a cautious tone.

Casey swallowed. “Oh. All right,”

“Do you SEE NOW why you should not try to fix your own damned car, Kris?” Delilah's ranting, coming MUCH clearer now, rang through the house.

“Hah... yup, he did,” Stan said, going back inside. Casey smiled weakly, trying to relax his nerves. His hands clasped at the elbows, staring into the sizzling meat and vegetables cooking in front of him. The door opened and his heart skipped a beat...

“Casey, hey!”

Casey felt his arms go jelly like; never before had Delilah's voice been so lovely. Perhaps he had to see Zeke sooner than later, but at least she provided a delay. “Hey Del,” he said, turning with a smile. He was amazed to see how much she had stayed the same. Her hair was the same length; same classy clothes, bright smile. She walked over and gave him a tight squeeze, cooing into his hair.

“Hi, sweetheart!” she said cheerfully; it was the typical 'Delilah Brand' of cheer, never knowing if it was being forced or not. Casey ignored it and smiled wider.

“Hi! It's been a while.”

“God, I know... KRIS!” she suddenly yelled into the half-opened doorway.

As Casey poked a finger in his ear, taken aback by her loud voice, a man... someone who looked a LOT older came to the door and opened it. He already had a beer in his hand, heavy eyebrows rising. If this weren't so weird, Casey would have started laughing non-stop. Who... WAS this guy? He really wasn't dating Delilah Proffit, SURELY not. Casey had expected some six-foot-six guy, complete with a six-pack worth of tight abs, wearing a carefully chosen outfit to match 'his girl'. So far this guy emoted nothing more than slob; his plain t-shirt and opened flannel covered a good-sized beer gut, and his jeans were loose and baggy. It looked like he didn't know how to shave properly, either. Casey REALLY didn't want to be mean, but...

“Yea?” he uttered.

“This is Casey,” she introduced. She pasted on the famous smile, putting her hand on Casey's shoulder and motioning the other Kris' way. “This is Kris, my fiancé.”

WHOA. As far as Casey had been told...

“Man, we ain't engaged, Del!” Kris scoffed out with a small chortle. Casey blinked a few times as Delilah crossed her arms, looking perturbed.

“We may as well be. You just need to get off your ass and propose already.”

“Pssh... sure,” Kris said. He nodded Casey's way. “'Sup?”

“Not... much,” Casey stated, biting his lip from the inside to keep the amused smile off.

“Kris works downtown, helps manage the Wendy's on Bell Ave.,” Delilah said.

“Hey, cool.”

“I'm not manager yet, just training.”

“Well, training to be one is good,” Casey added. Anything to stop the sobs of laughter in his chest; Kris gave him an odd look.

“No man, like... I'm training other guys and... stuff.”

Oh God. He had to get out of here before he bust a gut. “Cool, cool... I'm gonna go inside, let Stokely take over here,” Casey said. “Nice to meet ya, though.”

“Yea, sure,” Kris replied.

Casey went past him into the house, now wearing a goofy smile and walked into the kitchen. He saw Stokely, rummaging around in the pantry. “Stokes...”


Casey glanced over his shoulder to where he'd left Kris and Delilah. Leaning in to her he hissed, “Is he for fucking real?”

Stokely outright giggled, bringing out two big bags of chips. “Like we'd said- real piece of work.”

“No shit...”

“Stokes, Stan needs you upstairs. Something about finding his lucky shirt.”

Casey's amusement snuffed out completely. The pantry door blocked the view of the doorway leading into the living room, but he didn't need to see who it was; the voice was enough. Stokely took a quick glance to Casey before shutting it, letting Casey's eyes fall on Zeke. “Oh... yea, the game should be on soon, huh?” she muttered, not looking at either of them. She pretended to be engrossed in the bags of food, walking away slowly to the table.

Zeke's eyes fixed themselves on Casey as he nodded. “Yea... he--can't find it.”

“Okay,” she said, walking past Casey and into the living room. Casey watched her go, staring at the sweater she wore until it disappeared. He was left with the curtains of the window ahead, the cold street just past it...


Zeke's feeble greeting made Casey turn his gaze back, not really resting on Zeke whatsoever. His eyes felt like they were shaking all on their own, not ready--not ready right now. Thing was, he didn't have much of a choice. “Hey,” Casey returned; he turned away, going to the fridge. What for, he didn't know. 'He didn't change much. Thinner, eyes not as bright...' he thought nervously.

“How's, um...” Zeke said. He didn't sound like he was going to finish his question, whatever it was, and Casey wasn't going to try to direct him. “Boston?” Zeke uttered after a few empty moments.

Casey settled on sliced cheese, still not sure on why. “S'good,” he muttered, peeling away the plastic wrapping.


“Casey, something's burning,” Delilah called.

“Christ,” Casey said, putting the cheese on the table.

“Need help?”

“No, I got it,” Casey said; the first real sentence he'd spoken Zeke's way in over four years. It made him shudder to walk out into the open air, but not because of the cold outside. Kris was heading into the kitchen now.

“Zeke, don't see a beer in yer hand, man!”

“Hah... sure, Kris.”

Obvious slapping of hands and general 'guy-ness' going on now inside- Casey lifted the cover of the grill, quickly flipping the chicken before it charred completely. Delilah wouldn't stop staring at him. He ignored it, reaching into his pocket to drag another cigarette to his lips.


“YEA! Aw, YES!”

Casey wanted to tell Kris to shut the fuck up. Casey didn't follow basketball, and didn't know which colleges were playing this game, or whom Kris was blasting out loud cheers for. Delilah wasn't looking very pleased with him, always flinching away when he'd suddenly jump from his chair and cheer. “I got a bet running on these guys, they're making me RICH!” Kris now informed everyone.

Stan sat across from him, Stokely next to him and looking through a catalog. She kept pointing out pages to him, discussing over options. Casey was WAY more interested in this, and decided to direct some sort of attention away from this fucking game. Seeing the cover he smiled. “Is that where you're going on honeymoon?”

Stokely smiled, deserting Stan's barely-paying-attention status to get to Casey's side of the room. “My parent's wedding gift,” she said, opening the 'Discover Mexico!' travel magazine. “Cancun... fuck, I've never been out of Ohio.”

Casey chuckled, leaning in to listen to Stokely's excited banter on places they'd go, things they'd do. As she talked about boating, Kris' attention was caught.

“Dude, my friend went to Cancun. Went on a 'booze cruise', had a blast.”

Stokely glanced up then chose to ignore this; even Stan didn't acknowledge it. Nobody seemed interested in throwing up over the side of a boat. “If there was anywhere I'd go, it'd be New Orleans,” Casey said.

Stokely's eyebrows rose. “My aunt and uncle went there once, it's gorgeous.”

“I know- I'd KILL to get shots of the graveyards at night,” Casey added, causing Stokely to coo.

“Oh my God, that'd be awesome.”

“Some of the graveyards in Boston are really old; I found one near where I live in Cambridge... God, it was amazing,” Casey said. As he described in detail to Stokely (who seemed to be the only one interested; Kris had started groaning loudly about a missed shot, but Stan seemed pleased), Zeke returned from using the upstairs bathroom. By now Casey had managed to keep his distance, giving pleasantries enough to be comfortable--to keep the OTHERS comfortable. Casey had started talking about one grave he'd found, an interesting case that seemed to belong to a 'suspected witch' when the volume on the TV rose. Glancing over, he saw Kris holding the remote, grumbling. He stopped talking; Stokely rolled her eyes, standing up.

“C'mon, let's go on the porch,” she suggested. It was past due for a cigarette break anyways; he followed Stokely out and shut the door. The grill still provided warmth, warding off the cold a bit as they lit up. Stokely plopped in a chair, shaking her head. “So fucking rude.”

“Fuck, I don't care,” Casey said as he sat next to her.

“Hah... you try dealing with him all the time. Makes me wish I never called off the 'cold war' I had going with Delilah,” Stokely joked, now smiling a little. “So hey, have you been to Salem??”

Casey smiled wide. “Hells yea,” he replied. Just as her mouth opened to ask a question another yell came from inside, but it wasn't Kris.

“Christ, will you shut your fucking mouth?”

The two of them looked over, frowning; Stokely breathed out a groan. “Jesus...”

“Does that always happen with him?” Casey asked.

Stokely shrugged. “Not like that. He must have just pissed Zeke off big time.”

No sooner had she spoken, the door reopened. Zeke now walked out; he looked blank faced as he sauntered over to the picnic table. After lighting up he nodded to them both. “Hey. You guys had the right idea.”

“What the hell happened?” Stokely asked.

Zeke put a foot up on his knee, shaking his head. “Just being Kris, rude bastard,” Zeke muttered, taking a drag. Casey watched his typical pose, cool and collected as always with an arm stretched to the side along the table. His fingers tapped on the wood, staring at the ground.

“I'm ready to tell Del there to bring someone else; this is ridiculous,” Stokely said.

“He seems harmless,” Casey said with a shrug.

“Yea, but rude; can't fucking stand it,” Stokely said.

Zeke scoffed with annoyance. “Cut him off from the booze, man. Does stupider shit when he gets past three beers.”

The sudden jolt in Casey's arm alarmed him. He straightened it and looked away; Stokely noticed, her eyes searching Casey's face. “You okay?” she asked.

Casey's hand went to his eyes, fingers rubbing deep. Tears were welling, and he needed them to go away. “Yea... just the smoke,” he said, making a generic nod towards the grill.

Stokely turned her head away slowly and looked to Zeke. “So um, did you get the raise at your job?” she asked him. Casey realized he didn't know what Zeke did for a living, and wasn't about to ask. Unable to control the small tremble in his fingers he stamped out the half smoked cigarette.

“I'm going inside, it's fucking cold,” he said. He got up and left, not caring if he got concerned looks from Stokely; Zeke wasn't even looking his way as he opened the door and escaped inside. He needed to get upstairs to the bathroom, needing to calm down.

Before he reached the stairs Kris saw him and turned to look at him. “Hey dude... sorry, I need to shut up sometimes,” he said.

Casey had no idea what he was talking about. “Huh?”

“Y'know, when I just said the shit about you... and your--”

“He wasn't even in the fucking room, Kris,” Delilah moaned out, sounding defeated.

“What?” Casey spat out, growing annoyed.

“Oh... huh, yea,” Kris muttered with a dumb smile.

Casey's upper lip curled; he didn't have to know what specifically the guy had said, taking a good guess already. It was just a matter of time before stupid shit was spat in Casey's direction.

Casey felt an even deeper quake inside his chest, making him turn away completely and head upstairs. He was ready to burst; he didn't care if his face wore proof that he'd been crying. He'd be quiet enough for now, and maybe the stupid fucker would leave before he came back down.

Once the door shut he let it go. He got to the toilet and sat on the lid, burying his face in his hands. His breath came out in quick rasps, small, stinging tears trailing along the rims of his eyes. They wouldn't fall, they just stuck there, making him rub them away. “Jesus...” he whispered.

He felt weak, numb and defeated. The last time this had happened was when he'd misread signals from a classmate back in college, and asked him out... ending up laughed at, incessantly. He'd been talked about with three others in the class afterwards, the guy amused and even offended at Casey's 'advances' enough to blab about it. It was just as humiliating as getting his head shoved in a toilet in tenth grade. It had been forgotten quickly, thankfully, the end of the semester closing the book on it.

Since then, fuck... he'd been so empowered. Confident--willing to stand up for himself and his right to success. He WAS successful, wasn't he? He'd made it to the top of his game, while idiots like Kris fumbled through life working for lame fast food chains. He shouldn't have been this upset. Then again, he'd left the porch heading upstairs to do this before Kris had opened his big mouth. Someone else had already done that...

“Cut him off from the booze, man. Does stupider shit when he gets past three beers.”

Zeke had had much more than that that night, leading them both into a four-year silence after the sharp, vile words the morning after.


The afternoon was worn away now, night creeping in. Casey would have left by now, if it weren't for Stokely's asking him to stay. Why HE should be the shamed one, the one to run off was beyond him now. He thanked his lucky stars that Kris was starting to get too wasted to stand on his own, making Delilah grab her purse.

“C'mon Kris... maybe we should get moving,” she said. She looked to Zeke and sighed. “Think you could get us home?”

Casey was relieved to see Zeke's nod and his reaching into his pocket. He stood, keys in hand when Stan piped up. “Will you be able to come back, Zeke?” he asked.

Casey wanted to shoot him a dirty look as Zeke shrugged. “Spos' I could,” he muttered, going to the door.

“Cool,” Stan said, turning back to look at the television.

Casey didn't dare look around as the three of them left, Delilah giving hasty goodbyes to everyone. The door had just shut when Stokely rounded on Stan, crossing her arms.

“Asking him back?? For what, the night's dying down anyways!”

“What? What's the problem??” Stan asked.

Stokely pursed her lips angrily. “Ask Casey, he might be able to remind you.”

Stan paused, blinking fast as he looked over at Casey. “Well... I mean, we've all been pretty cool tonight. I didn't see reason to call it a night...”

“Of course not,” Stokely grumbled. Casey looked between them, feeling morose.

“It shouldn't be like this,” he mumbled. Stokely frowned.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

Casey poked a seam in his jeans, shrugging. “You guys should be all sorts of thrilled and happy, getting married- not worrying over me and Zeke like we were arguing toddlers,” Casey said. He went to say more, but Stokely interrupted.

“It's not YOUR fault with what's gone on. Zeke sealed the deal way back when.”

“C'mon, guys...” Stan said, sitting up a bit.

“Maybe I just should... I dunno...” Casey started; it earned a dark look from Stokely, who sat up straighter.

“Don't you say it. You're our friend and you're HERE because we asked you to be.” Stokely warned.

Casey should have known better than to try to get past Stokely's intuition and it DID ease him a little to have her say these things. “I know... sorry for getting all dramatic.”

“It's okay.”

“Guys... can I just say something?”

Stokely looked like she was boring holes into Stan now; Casey didn't care. “Go on; it's your house.”

“Casey... I KNOW he hurt you. I was the first person to find out about it all, and I was mad too. Zeke didn't have any right to do what he did,” Stan started, stammering a bit as he spoke. “But you don't... know. He's been torturing himself over it all since it happened. A lot of things he just- does to himself, it scares me at times.”

“Knew you'd take his side...” Stokely snarled out. Stan shot her a look.

“I'm not 'taking sides' here, Stokes. I'm just telling you guys, telling Casey- cos' he probably thinks Zeke doesn't care.”

“He doesn't care enough to tell me himself.” Casey blurted.

“You know how Zeke is--”

“Yea, I do. I know EXACTLY how Zeke is," Casey interrupted Stan. "He says and does shit, never apologizes, then expects someone else to pick up the slack for him; just like you're doing for him now. Yea, you're a good friend like that, and it's cool of you to try and fix things. Thing is, there's nothing to fix,” Casey said firmly. “Because I just don't care anymore.”

“Well said,” Stokely added.

Stan looked to his lap, looking to be in deep thought. “He wanted to apologize... but you'd said not to bother talking to him again...”

“So he couldn't have ignored that, maybe at least rushed an apology to me on the phone, hoping I didn't hang up on him? Cos' he DIDN'T Stan, he never tried to contact me, e-mail me, whatever. He let it all go, and like hell if that's justified by my fucking anger at him. He could have tried, and he didn't.”

“I know.” Stan said. “I just wish that... things were like they were. You guys were my heroes, y'now? We were all like brothers... and sisters,” Stan said, darting his eyes to Stokely, who wore a blank expression.

“We were,” Casey softly replied. “We're not gonna be that way again, Stan. It's something you have to accept.”

“Casey...” Stan started. He was interrupted; Casey's cell phone was ringing in his pocket. Casey realized it was eight o'clock...

“Gotta take this,” he said, standing up. He left the quiet room and walked to the back porch. Once settled into a chair he clicked 'talk'. “Hey.”


“You in New York?”

Jake sighed, sounding tired. “Yea. The buses ran pretty quick too, so we made good time,” Jake said. “Enough on that, the city's the city--are you still at your friend's house?”

Casey rubbed his eyes. “Yea.”

“You... don't sound very happy about it,” Jake replied.

“No, I don't. Well, that's not fair. I'm thrilled to see Stan and Stokes, even Delilah. She left a bit ago with her--oh Jesus,” Casey said, unable to hide a chuckle. “Her boyfriend is just... he's a total idiot.”

Jake laughed. “Ut oh...”

“Yea; a total 'man' about things.”

“Ohhh Christ.”

“Uh huh- got entirely wasted, had to go home. Zeke had driven them so he's gone for the moment.”

“Ahh. So... he showed up.”


A small silence resumed, Casey's small smile leaving. “Are you okay?” Jake asked softly.

“I don't know, Jake,” Casey said, his eyes closing. “I think Stan thought that when we ALL got in the same room together, me and Zeke would be cool again. He's not taking the four year silence into account.”

“Yea... it's one of those- 'things' for friends to try and get people patched up, especially when it involves them,” Jake said.

“I know, I know,” Casey answered, taking out his cloves. He lit one; Jake sighed again.

“I take it that's like... your second pack of the day.”

“Hah... no, not that bad. Yet.”

“I'm sorry you're so stressed out. I really, really wish I was there.”

“I do too. But... New York must be more exciting than a winter cookout.”

Casey was glad Jake took the bait, or at least understood that a change of subject was needed. They talked awhile on New York instead of Ohio, from where Jake was staying (“Right across from the WTC, man... it's really weird...”) to the clubs he and another guy might go to later on that night.

After a few minutes Stokely came out, looking to Casey with a small smile. “Hey,” she hissed.

“Hold on,” Casey told Jake; he put the phone aside. “Hey, what's up?”

“Is that Jake?” she asked. At his nod she brightened, holding out her hand. “Lemmee say hi.”

Casey laughed, putting the phone to his ear again. “Hey Jake? Stokes wants to say hi.”

“Oh! Okay,” he said, laughing along. Casey handed her the phone; she took it eagerly, sitting down and snatching Casey's pack of cigarettes from his armrest. A quick wink went his way as she lit up.

“Hello there! This is the famous Jake, huh?”

Casey sat back and relaxed, letting the conversation Stokely shared with Jake move along. She was saying much more than 'hi'. “Oh don't worry about that; sounds like this might be your big break,” Stokely said. He must have apologized for not coming; Casey was staring at the burning end of his cigarette when he heard Zeke's GTO rumbling from the front of the house. Stokely seemed to notice as well, turning her head. She rolled her eyes and kept talking; Jake at least seemed interested in the honeymoon, Stokely talking about it excitedly.

It wasn't long before a tall figure came from the side of the house; Zeke was smoking a cigarette and coming out to the back to finish it, Casey supposed. He shifted in his seat as Stokely was finally saying her goodbyes. She paused then laughed. “Yea, we're gonna take care of the boy, don't worry,” she told Jake with a wide smile. “Here, lemmee give you back to him.”

Casey reached for the phone, taking it to his ear. “Hey again,” he said.

“She sounds really nice.”

“Yea, she's cool.”

“Get 'em home okay, Zeke?” Stokely asked then. Zeke nodded wordlessly, but Jake must have caught it.

“Guess he's back, huh?” Jake asked in a whisper.

Casey almost laughed; like anyone could hear him. “Yea. I should go.”

“All right; I'll call you tomorrow after the first round of auditions,” Jake said.

“Okay--miss ya,” he said, not daring to look up.

“Same here, babe. Bye.”

“Bye,” Casey returned; he hung up the phone and stuck it back into his pocket. Stokely beamed at him.

“He sounds really cool. Wish WE were in New York, instead of this dump,” she said.

Casey chuckled, shaking his head. “I've been there once. It's nice,”

“Cool... I'm gonna go inside and see if Stan feels like ordering a pizza. You in for that?” she asked them both. He and Zeke nodded; she went back inside, leaving the two of them out there.

It was quiet a moment; it didn't feel that uncomfortable this time however. They'd already had that back in the kitchen hours before. Casey put a leg up, crossing his foot over his knee. Zeke didn't look up as he decided to speak.

“Was that your boyfriend?” he asked. Casey nodded.


“What's his name? I mean, Stokely told me, but...”


“Okay, yea,” Zeke said. He took a heavy drag from his clove, finally daring to speak and look to Casey. “He couldn't make it out, huh?” he asked.

Casey shook his head. “No... he got picked for a modeling try out in New York,” he explained softly. “Too good a shot to miss. It's not that big a deal.”

“Must suck a bit.”

“Yea, it does. He was excited to meet everyone,”

“Ah,” Zeke murmured, nodding. “Got... like, a picture of him?”

Oh, so he wanted to catch a glimpse into Casey's life? Casey shrugged, standing up. “Yea,” he said. His bag still rested on the picnic table where Zeke was sitting; he dragged it to him and sat, making a small move to make sure he wasn't that close. The pictures he'd shown his parents were on the first page of the album; he almost grabbed them when a particularly vicious feel entered his fingers, making him turn to another page. He pulled out a shot of Jake and himself at the club. Alex had taken it, allowing Casey's hands to be free of a camera for once. It WAS his favorite picture; Casey was leaning back on Jake's bared chest, a look of bliss on his face while Jake's arms were wrapped around his waist, head propped on Casey's shoulder. He handed it to Zeke. “Here.” He said.

Zeke took it and peered at the image. “He's a good lookin' guy,” he muttered, nodding slowly. Casey smiled a little, leaning back.

“Yea. That was at the club he works at. Fun place.”

“Sounds it,” Zeke said, handing it back. “You guys serious?”

The question Zeke asked made Casey stop in thought. “I... dunno, kinda. Dunno.”

“Yea. I uh, heard all the reports comin' outta Massachusetts there... all allowing gay marriage and stuff. Not a bad idea,” Zeke said. “If you wanted to do it, you're in the right spot.”

“I'm not getting married, Zeke,” Casey said, feeling tense.

“I know, just sayin'.”

“You don't have to 'just say' anything. I'm dating a guy, doesn't mean I got a ring on my finger,” Casey spat out, snappier than he'd really intended. Zeke wasn't saying anything else, making Casey stand up abruptly. He packed his bag up and went to the door...

Stan and Stokely were in there; they were getting married, one of the biggest events of their lives. It made Casey stop, his hand on the doorknob but not turning it yet. Perhaps he'd have to be braver than he thought he was, but he'd try.

“Look,” Casey started, turning back around.

Zeke looked up from stamping his cigarette out. “Yea?”

“We don't have to like each other. I'm not in some buddy-movie with you right now, and I don't want to be. But we're both friends with them, and we BOTH want them to have a great wedding,” Casey explained. “I don't feel like marring that with my own rash of shit," Casey paused, wondering if Zeke was going to add to this. He didn't seem to have any real expression on his face however, making Casey groan. “Let's just... I can be cool for a week, for them. No matter how I feel, I care about them more than all that. I don't want them watching us walk on eggshells around each other.”

“Okay,” Zeke finally said, his voice quiet but tense. Casey nodded.

“All right. All right,” Casey said, going back inside. Zeke didn't follow until a little while later when the pizza arrived. Casey wasn't hungry but knew he had to at least take one slice. Zeke opted for a few beers, not seeming to be interested in food.


Casey arrived back home, finding that his parents had already gone to bed. It made the house quiet; Casey heard the familiar ticking of the kitchen clock clicking away, sounding louder than he remembered it being. He went to the stairs and headed up to 'his room'. Once there he put his bag on the office chair and stood still a moment.

Well... at least he felt like he'd accomplished something. No matter Stan's trying to explain things and make everything right when Casey didn't care for it, he loved him and Stokely. He'd meant every word he'd said to Zeke, wanting to make the whole situation as comfortable as he could.

The next day, Friday, was going to be spent going over plans with Stokely and Stan. He wanted the list of family and friends to be photographed, all in the order they wanted. He'd heard too many horror stories of things going last minute, accidentally leaving out people. When there was tension between the bride and her new mother-in-law, the LAST thing that was needed was to forget including anyone important in group pictures and the like. He'd make Stan and Stokely go over their guest list a few hundred times to make sure they didn't exclude important people, if Casey had to.

He'd be cordial and downright nice to Zeke. He'd give Stan and Stokely the best photographs in the world. Maybe he wanted to exclude himself from the stag party Stan was having that weekend, but he'd do that too. While setting up the sheets on his bed, his mind suddenly recalled one snippet of this night.

“Christ, will you shut your fucking mouth?”

Casey stopped fussing over the blankets, opting to sit and look at the floor. While everyone in that room must have groaned at Kris' exclamation--whatever it'd been, Zeke had sounded downright pissed. Casey went over this in his head as he got out some pajama pants from his suitcase. He didn't know how to feel about it; yes, Zeke had always defended Casey after the attacks, telling Casey that he wished he'd done so sooner. To hear him doing it again made a shiver go through Casey's arms and fingers.

He needed to sleep, but his mind whirred for hours.


He'd woken early the next morning. It surprised him, seeing as he'd gone to bed so late, and KNEW he'd had a fitful sleep. He'd gotten so used to his bed at home, while the couch bed felt like it was filled with rocks. He knew he was just being picky however.

He was sitting in the living room going over his notebooks and planners to ready for today's work. If there was one thing working on his own had done, it was that he'd become immaculate in organizing things. He'd never been a slob before, but he was getting pretty obsessive nowadays. While marking pages green for Stan's family and red for Stokely's, his father came from upstairs, fixing his tie for work.

“Hey son,” he said, walking over. He nodded to Casey's books and smiled. “Getting down to business, huh?”

“Pretty much. I want to make sure there are no kinks here,” Casey said, folding everything up.

“Man... even I'm not as organized as this,” Mr. Connor stated, looking over Casey's shoulder. “And I'm a pretty organized guy.”

“Yea right... I'm ready to tear the computer desk apart upstairs and put everything in its place,” Casey joked.

Mr. Connor knocked on the top of Casey's head playfully. “Watch it, son,” he warned, smiling. Casey smiled back as Mr. Connor went into the kitchen. The smell of coffee was in the air soon, and Casey was thankful. He was going to need it today.


Stan and Stokely busied themselves with writing down Stan's side of the family, with Casey making clear, concise notes for Stokely's on his own page. He finally wrapped it up, making the notes he'd be putting on Stan's sheet as well for the combination of parents and family. “Okay... you're sure this is the right order?” he said, passing along the finished page her way. She took it and nodded as she read.

“Yup... good lord.”

“What?” Casey asked as he waited for Stan to finish writing.

“You're putting a lot of work into this already,” she told him.

Casey shrugged. “This is how I do things,” he said, grabbing up his can of cola.

“It's no wonder you've been so successful,” Stokely said, handing it back. “Everything's damn skippy with that.”

“Good, good,” Casey said, adding the paper to his file folder. Stan finished his page soon enough; while Casey went to make everything complete, Stokely stood up.

“I'm gonna head out to the store. I've got a wicked craving for ice cream,” she said. “Anyone want anything while I'm out?”

“No, I'm set hon,” Stan said.

Casey glanced up with a smile. “I could do with a can of peanuts,” he said.

“You got it,” she said. She leaned down to give Stan's cheek a peck then grabbed her coat to go. Once the door closed, Casey turned to Stan, seeing him with a goofy smile on his face.

“Hey Stan; you in love?” Casey asked with a toothy grin.

Stan laughed, starting to blush. “Aw hell, may as well be. I AM marrying her and everything.”

“Hah, very good then,” Casey said. Stan got up to refill Casey's soda as he finished the last round of names and their order. When Stan returned he wore a half smile, looking at Casey as if he were in deep thought. Casey noticed as he took his glass, cocking an eyebrow. “What?”

“Just... noticing things.”

Casey looked at him edgewise. “Oh Stan, I'm flattered, but... you are getting married...”

Stan burst out laughing, going back to the couch and flopping onto it. “No, no, NO... it's just that--well, you're different.,”

“I've been told that since grade school, Stan.”

“No, I don't mean 'Hey look, it's geeky weirdo Casey Connor'. I'm talking more, 'Hey look, Casey Connor's not taking anymore shit, he's successful and grown up,'” Stan explained.

Casey lowered his gaze further to the page he was now passing to Stan. “You're making me sound like an Afterschool-Special there.”

“Well, if any of those jocks saw you nowadays, they'd realize how much better you have it than they do. You fought your way to the top, man. I've run into some of the guys that were such assholes to you,” Stan said. “All of them are either living in their parent's basements or off credit cards they're never gonna be able to pay off. They act big, but you just... know their lives are shit. It's gotta feel good ...it made ME feel good.”

Stan was really talking right now. Casey couldn't help but feel honored in a way; he sat back, putting a foot on his knee and sighing. “I don't... WISH people to be miserable, y'now. But yea, I know whatcha mean,” he said.

“Yea. So um- what's going on with this Jake guy, anyways?”

Casey laughed. “Everyone's so curious...”

“Well YEA... you get to see me and Stokes get married, I never get to even MEET this guy,” Stan said. Casey put his head to the side.

“He's... a really good guy. I'm wicked proud of him, I hope he gets through the auditions today,” Casey said. “He's earned it. He went through a lot of rough patches with fake agencies and stuff--y'know, the kinda stories you hear about 'exposes' and stuff.”

“Yea... that really sucks.”

“Uh huh. He's too trusting like that. I guess these people are good to go though.”

“That's good. But... well, what about you two, like 'couple-wise'?” Stan asked, looking amused. Casey blushed and began picking a nail again.

“We're pretty good. Not really serious like... proposing or anything.”

“Yea, I guess Massachusetts is way ahead of everyone else there,” Stan added.

“Hah! God, everyone's heard about that, huh?”

“Of course! That's a big deal, y'know, a state stepping to the plate and kinda taking action towards a problem. I sometimes don't... get the idea of being gay, but if you love someone, you love someone,” Stan explained. He looked to Casey then with a smile. “Do you love him, Jake meaning?”

Casey paused, stopping his nervous habit at his hands. “Well, I dunno. Like I'd said; not very serious.”

“Hey man, no pressure.” Stan said brightly. “I'm not even sure if I'm ready, and it's happening in a week,”

“Better gear up,” Casey said, glad for the subject change. “You've done it now.”

“Fuck, I have, haven't I??” Stan said with nervous chuckles. He covered his face in his hands and groaned dramatically. “I dunno what I'm gonna say at the altar. Stokely said she was making her own vows... so of course, I gotta do it too.”

“Aww,” Casey cooed.

Stan looked over at him with desperation. “D'ya think... you can help me with that?”

“Hah, write your vows y'mean?”

“No! Just help me with words and stuff, make it really special. I KNOW what I wanna say, just not sure--not sure on HOW to say it.”

Casey smiled and nodded slowly. “I'm no English major, but I'll try,” he replied.

Stan smiled and sighed with relief. “Good... oh, good.”


After sorting out photo business and having a nice afternoon just hanging out and watching television, Casey had gone and was now driving down the road leading into town. One, he needed something to eat, and his mother had mentioned making her tuna casserole; in other words, he'd 'eaten at Stan and Stokes' place'. Two, he'd told Stan he would take care of a few cases of beer for the stag party the next day. It was the least he could do.

Beer would come first. Casey wanted to sit down and eat without worrying about other tasks he had to do. He pulled into the parking lot of the new revamped plaza, glancing to the store that sold ice cream. Maybe he'd eat there, seeing as they had killer burgers. Mouth watering, Casey stepped out and rushed to the liquor store. Bells went off like wildfire heading in, bouncing with red bows at the top of the door. Casey realized that Christmas WAS in fact on its way, and wondered if he could trade his plane ticket to extend his time out here. While thinking this, he headed into an aisle towards the back where the coolers were and stopped abruptly. There in the aisle, complete with a price gun, was Zeke. “Oh,” Casey murmured without thinking; Zeke turned his head and found Casey standing there.

“Oh... hey,” he said, standing straight.

Casey blinked wildly. “Didn't know you worked here,” he said, his arms feeling tense at his sides.

Zeke shrugged, looking to the price gun in his hand. He worked the knobs around a little as he spoke. “It's just to keep me busy. I don't need the money, but... I get bored at home.”

'So you work in a liquor store...?' Casey thought desperately. “Oh... I just came to pick up beer for Stan's stag tomorrow night,” Casey explained, going past him. Zeke gave a silent nod as he went.

For a few moments he stared blank faced at the coolers ahead of him. Zeke had never been passive, doing stupid tasks that he didn't want to do. He was bored, so he worked a dead end job? Casey didn't know if he'd done well at college or not, but he'd graduated; despite his high school problems, if he'd done well enough, he could get into a good four year school. Instead, he worked here.

Casey threw a door open and grabbed two heavy cases of beer. The door closed on its own as he walked off, heading to the front. No one was at the register just yet, until Zeke came from the aisle and went behind the counter. “That it?” he asked, running a scanner over the codes.

“Yea, I guess so...” Casey said; he then looked up and stared. “Oh... you sell cloves here?”

For the first time since Casey had seen him, Zeke actually smiled... the tiniest bit, but it was there as he glanced behind him to the cigarette rack. “Yup. Told the boss here to order 'em, that I'd buy 'em if no one else would.”

“Throw one on the order for me,” Casey said, realizing that he'd indeed smoked more than half his pack since getting here.

“Saw you smoking these,” Zeke said, grabbing a pack. “Guess I corrupted you.”

Casey bit his tongue; the silence now swelled between them, making Zeke's smile fade as he got everything into the register. Casey paid and collected the cases into his hands, going towards the door. “Hey,” Zeke called just before he got to it. Casey stopped and turned, finding Zeke standing near the door leading to the registers. “So that's for the stag party?”

Casey looked to the beer cases. “Yea.”

“Oh cool... so you ARE going.”

“Well... yea, of course I am,” Casey said, a bit bewildered.

Zeke shrugged. “I didn't know if you were into that or not.”

Casey had an odd feeling he couldn't describe. Whatever it was had him open his mouth and say, “I'm a guy too, Zeke,” before walking out of the store. He was at his car, putting his things inside when the door to the liquor store opened.


He turned; Zeke was coming over to him, looking hassled. “Yea?” Casey said.

“I know, okay?” Zeke said. “I just didn't know if you'd be up on that... sort of thing.”

“Zeke... honestly...” Casey started, rolling his eyes. “We already know that I can drink Stan under the table. I've been following the Red Sox, especially since their demise at the ALCS playoffs. I know how to be a guy.”

Zeke was wearing a small smile now. “Red Sox, huh?”

“Well, yea. They're Boston's pride and joy,” Casey said with a shrug. “Ortiz alone can swat anything out of the ballpark.”

“Never thought Casey Connor would be into baseball,” Zeke said fondly.

Casey's lips trembled, wanting to smile. “It's gonna be our year come this summer.”

“They all say that in Boston,” Zeke said. He looked back to the store, seeing a car pull up. “Gotta get back. See you tomorrow.”

“Yea... okay,” Casey replied, watching Zeke run back inside. He stayed still a moment, biting his lip in deep thought. The chill in the air finally made him get into the car and drive home. He didn't realize that he'd forgotten his dinner plans until he walked inside the house and was greeted by his parents just sitting down to the tuna casserole dinner. He was too hungry to decline.


Casey wasn't that big a drinker. When he WOULD have one, it was usually at the club, or wine with Jake in the comfort of their own homes. This idea, to him, was ridiculous.

“Here we go!” Stan said, coming into the living room with a large platter, a stack of plates, silverware, a small bottle of syrup and a six pack of beer. “Stokes left me the recipe, so if they come out bad it's her fault.”

Casey leaned over with Zeke, looking at the platter. He was willing to bet they were pancakes, though not much. Stan's cousin Zach, the best man, also looked doubtful.

“Okay, Stan?” he said.

Stan looked over from the Saturday morning cartoon he'd just flipped onto the screen. “Hmm?”

Zach looked to Casey and Zeke, who both shrugged and shook their heads slowly. “Um...” he started. “Pancakes and beer--for breakfast?”

“Damn straight. Stokes would kill me if I did this AFTER we're married, so it's my last shot as a bachelor,” Stan said jovially. He reached over, grabbing a small stack of pancakes and sat back to pour syrup onto them. “Go on now; I worked hard on these.”

Casey sighed with dread, taking a few of the pancakes, which looked a tad undercooked. He saw Zeke swallow hard, collecting his own breakfast. “So uhh...” Zeke started, poking his pancakes with a fork. “Who's coming tonight?”

As Stan rambled off a small list of stag party attendees, Casey was having a hard time not laughing; Zach's plate was empty, his eyes fixed on the horrendous looking circles of food lying on the platter. Zeke was now taking a bite, his eyes widening just a bit as he chewed. Stan stopped listing off names when his attention was snared by a cheesy anime type of cartoon. “Aw, cool!” he cheered. “LOVE this one.”

Casey sat back, not making a big show of himself as he ignored the pancakes on his plate. Zeke looked to him, frowning a little. “Aren't you gonna eat, Connor?” he said loudly.

Stan glanced over. “Yea, give it a go, Case,”

Casey glared Zeke's way, seeing him smile in return. “Where'd the girls go for breakfast again, Stan?” Casey asked.

“Eh, that place Delilah always goes to- it's some café... resort place... thing that does breakfast buffets.”

Thoughts of large fruity muffins, fluffy scrambled eggs, French toast and bacon fluttered through Casey's mind as he took his first bite of mushy pancake. The beer didn't help much.


Since Casey was the only one who knew his way around a kitchen--if given a map at least, Stan begged him to make most of the food for that night. It wasn't that hard, as most of it was prepared pizzas and the like. Still, it freed Stan of a task for his party, and Casey was glad to do it.

The large frozen pizza Casey had put in was going to be awhile; he chose to go outside for a smoke, relaxing a few moments. He then realized that Jake hadn't called yet; he worried, wondering if the auditions had gone all right. Getting his phone out, he dialed up Jake's number and sat back, waiting. It rang and rang until the message box clicked into gear. Casey sighed and listened to Jake's recorded voice, the beep making him almost jump. “Hey... Jake, it's just me,” Casey said. “Just calling to see if your auditions went okay. Call me when you get the chance, babe--bye,”

Casey hung up the phone and put it back in his pocket. He put his head back, resting on the rail of the chair just as a car pulled up. He didn't have to ask who'd shown up, as Kris' hollering at the front door already made him cringe.


“I was fuckin' GLAD to get outta the house, man. Delilah made it look like a total pink bomb went off.”

Casey was nursing his first beer of the night, trying to ignore Kris' description of Stokely's party décor back at Delilah's place. As far as he knew, he and Delilah didn't even live together. It was a titch annoying that he'd complain, when it wasn't his place to do so. Zach didn't look very pleased himself; he sat by Casey, taking a deep, hollow breath. “Is he always this loud?” he hissed to Casey as Kris was now flipping through channels, remarking loudly that Stan needed to get “At least ONE porn network, man!"

“'Fraid so,” Casey lamented while sipping. “And I've only been in town for one day,”


More knocks came from the door then. Stan rushed out from the kitchen to get it, greeting two guys coming in. Casey figured they were from Stan's college, seeing them greet Zeke, who was returning downstairs just as they hung their coats by the door. For a moment, Casey didn't mind if Stan OR Zeke came to sit by him; as nice as Zach was he wasn't Casey's 'friend', and he was starting to feel a bit left out.

“Hey, man!” Kris said, standing up in a drunken, wobbly stance to greet the two newcomers. Casey sat back and tried to get absorbed by the 'Cops' episode playing on the television. Just as two girls were busted for prostitution in L.A., Kris had brought the two guys just past him towards the chairs. “Oh, hey! Yea, this is Casey.”

Casey's eyes darted up, seeing the two guys looking at him and nodding. “Hey,” one of them said.

“Hi,” Casey returned politely.

“Yea, he's one of Del's exes, man; gay now, but that's okay.”

Casey must have paled considerably; before he could get entirely embarrassed, both guys looked at Kris with cocked eyebrows. “Uh... sure man,” the one who'd spoken before said.

“No dude seriously, it's okay!”

“We know,” the other replied, sitting down. He looked at Casey and smiled a little. “Kris is such a loud mouth.”

Casey nodded slowly; any more intros like that and he was going to scream. Before he could try and watch TV again, the guy nudged his leg.



“You um... don't remember me, huh?”

Casey blinked. “Not... sure I do.”

The guy smiled and shook his head. “I went to Herrington High--Ben Mailer.”

“Oh,” Casey said, scrunching his eyes a little to think.

“Yea I uh... gave you a bit of shit every now and again. That's what I got hanging out with Gabe.”

Now Casey recognized him; perhaps not by fists but by laughter. Casey had become very astute in recognizing a jock or other tormentor by their voice and laughs when the occasion for teasing arose. “Oh. Okay,” he said, annoyance in his voice.

“Yea; it's not something I'm proud of. Stan said you were coming, and... well, I was glad for it. Kinda wanted to apologize for the shit I'd do in school,” he said. He DID sound very honest, and some of the annoyance Casey felt slipped away as Ben continued. “Never liked that kinda stuff, and y'now... college changes people sometimes.”

“Yea,” Casey replied. “Where'd... you go?”

“Ohio State; good school, got in on a few football scholarships,” he explained. Casey listened for a bit on Ben's school experience, while sharing his own. Mentioning Boston brought up the Red Sox, as Ben was also a big fan of baseball... with a few complications.

“Ut-uh, nooo way, man,”

“Dude, they're getting fuckin' A-Rod, man!” Ben exclaimed.

“Well of course, New York pays out WAY too much! Any player would be insane not to join up!”

“Yea and the Sox are gonna go down--again!”

Casey laughed and wagged his finger at Ben, clucking his tongue. “Don't make me bring up the 'Martinez-Zimmer' incident this past fall.”

“Oooh... you fucker.”



Everyone in the room winced and glared Kris' way; Stan, trying to be gracious by the looks of it, put his hands on Kris' shoulders and slapped them. “Sit down, Kris. I don't even know if I'm getting one,”

“Yea ya are! Zach told me you were--”

Kris!” Zach suddenly yelled, looking wide eyed with anger. Everyone in the room hissed a bit as Kris guffawed.

“Like he didn't GUESS!” Kris laughed out.

Ben looked to Casey with a cocked eyebrow. “Man oh man...”

“Yea. I know,” Casey said, sipping his beer.

Stan tried brushing it off with a laugh, slapping Kris' shoulder playfully. “It's okay,” he said; he turned to Zach quick and mouthed 'sorry' before turning to the door, bell ringing again.

“So anyways... about the Yanks kicking the shit outta the Sox this season...”

Casey turned back to the original conversation, laughing. “Your guys won't even make it to the playoffs.”

“With fuckin' A-Rod?

“With fuckin' A-Rod, man,” Casey said, winking as he sipped again.

Ben scrunched up his face. “Let's see then... Matsui, A-Rod, Jeter...” Ben said, tapping his chin.

Casey leaned in, rolling his eyes and grinning. “Ortiz, Damon, Rodriguez...”

“HEY, Matt!!” Kris suddenly called. The new guy walked in, slapping hands with Kris, looking mildly amused.

“Hey, Kris.”

Seeing as Stan was in the kitchen getting beer for Zach and himself, Kris went around the room introducing 'Matt' to everyone. Casey didn't even take notice until they reached him and Ben. “This is Ben and Casey... Casey's gay, and that's okay...”

“Kris, shut UP already for fuck's sake!”

Casey looked over at the other side of the room, seeing Zeke standing against the wall, arms crossed and looking... shit, he looked pissed. Casey had forgotten he was even here. He rolled his eyes to Zeke.

“Don't... bother,” he said, resigned to the fact that Kris probably thought he was being 'open minded', trying to make up for... well, whatever he'd said that previous night. Matt didn't look like he cared, shrugging Kris off and saying, 'Getting' a beer, man'. Kris gave Casey a stupid smile and walked off in the same direction. Once out of earshot, Ben leaned in a little.

“Don't pay attention to his crap.”

“I'm not,” Casey groaned out, slugging the rest of his beer down.


Cold pizza was never Casey's top choice, but it was all that was left now. He took a small slice and began chewing, enjoying the comfortable quiet of the kitchen. It had started getting loud in the core of the party, with everyone a bit on the drunk side. Yet to be honest, Casey didn't mind it so much.

So far, everyone had been really nice. Casey wasn't used to this crowd of guys, but despite Kris' ridiculousness, everyone was willing to ignore it and get on with the celebrations. In fact... it sounded like the celebrations were about to pick up.

“Ooh... who's coming up the walk?” Ben called.

Casey grinned; here we go. As promised--or, given away by Kris, in this case, the hooting and hollering was starting up, especially when the doorbell rang. “SIDDOWN, STAN!” Kris yelled; Casey went to the doorway of the kitchen and living room and leaned there, smiling wider. A woman had now sauntered in, wearing a very long black coat tied at the waist. Everyone in the room was sitting with guffaws as she put her bag down, smiling at everyone.

“Who's the poor man getting married in here?” she said in a sultry voice. Stan was blushing from ear to ear, his eyes averting each time he dared look to her. Casey almost laughed along with everyone else as Zach slapped Stan's chest and sat back.

“Right here, babe,” he said, chuckling. Everyone started smiling wider, chuckling nervously as the woman pulled the belt open to her coat.

“Name's Cherry,” she said with an evil grin, letting her coat open and go off her shoulders. Casey blinked over and over again as she tossed the coat to one side, landing in one of the guys', Joel's lap. Even Casey had to admit... fuck, she was pretty hot. Schoolgirl-styled outfit; pleated skirt that barely covered her behind, thigh highs, and a tight white button down blouse decorated her body, causing instant salivation from the boys. She put each hand on either side of Stan on the armrests and smiled. “But that isn't important.”

“AW YEA!” Kris suddenly yelled; it didn't seem to matter now as Cherry handed Zach a CD.

“Put this on, best man,” she said with a wink. Once Zach had managed to scramble to the CD player and the music started, it had become quite a blur.

Casey had seen strippers in his lifetime, most of them male. While Jake himself didn't strip on stage, he may as WELL have a few times. Casey appreciated the lengths dancers went to please their customers, more than just 'they got naked and danced at us'. Even without the extreme-hetero-viewpoint, his eyes would wander over a girl just fine. This girl was worthy of that attention; poor Stan looked like he was going to melt away as she was now pressing her thong-clad backside into his groin and stomach, rolling her hips expertly along him with the skirt being pushed way up to her back. At least the music wasn't cheesy; Zach must've made sure this wasn't going to be some super-sleaze act, which Casey could appreciate. She turned her body and now straddled poor, bewildered Stan's lap. “Who'd like to help me with my shirt for the poor boy?”

Everyone began calling out, raising their hands and acting like idiots. It made Casey laugh, his eyes searching out the crowd. He had to smile wider, seeing Zeke sitting quietly, blushing as well. That was the last thing he'd expected from the young man, who was once thought of as Herrington High's Sex God. Cherry then threw something into the throng of horned-up guys, Ben catching it. He held it up in triumph, revealing it as a brightly wrapped condom.

“Good boy,” Cherry said. Her arms went over her head as Ben worked the buttons open, Stan staring at her chest like he'd never seen one before. Perhaps he hadn't, in this case; Stokely wasn't small by any stretch, but this girl... Jesus...

Everyone whooped with delight as the shirt came off, a black lacy bra between Cherry and everyone's eyes. She now ground into Stan, reaching down to the side and making the back of the chair flop down. Completely horizontal, Stan's eyes bugged out of his head while Cherry worked on him. Casey had to clap with everyone as his shirt was removed; this was priceless. If it hadn't been for the 'no camera' policy, Casey would have gotten some expert shots of everything going on. After a few moments of making Stan gawk and writhe, Cherry slid off of him and stood, her motions fluid-like and smooth. Everyone clapped louder as she unbuttoned the skirt's buttons and became completely clad in nothing but a scanty amount of lace.

She was creative enough; the next thing everyone knew, she'd offered dances with them all, offering up 'sweet ways' to take tips. Wallets weren't ever grabbed so fast, bills flying into hands so ready and willing. Casey watched everyone take their turns, placing bills in her panties in various ways; some used hands, fingers, even teeth--though they were used so awkwardly, Casey feared for Cherry's skin. When Kris' turn was up, Casey wondered if Delilah ever let Kris touch her, being that he didn't seem to know what to do with the poor girl.

“Yea, baby!” he cheered, moving with her--or against her, really. Casey thought he might laugh out loud seeing the amused glances she was giving everyone when Kris wasn't looking. She'd try to find a rhythm with him but kept getting bumped with an awkwardly placed knee or foot. He finally managed to stuff a few fives past the strap of her panties, making everyone laugh again when the bills fell onto the floor, Ben needing to pick them up to hand to her. He sat back down, giving Zeke and Zach awkward high fives. Cherry's eyes fixed on Zeke then. “You there, tall dark and handsome; your turn.”

Casey had to smile. Zeke stood up with a groan and walked over. His shy smile faded slightly as he approached her, his eyes fixed on her face and moving down her body. 'Smooth as always...' Casey thought, sarcasm swelling in his brain. He leaned further on the doorjamb, watching as Zeke finally reached Cherry.

Something inside Casey's body froze and stemmed to his arms and legs, making him almost shudder as Zeke wrapped an arm around Cherry's waist. Zeke moved slowly against her, rubbing his thigh between her legs. It was almost romantic in the way he cradled her every curve, so smooth and accurate that even Cherry looked a little taken aback. Casey didn't realize his mouth was gaping open as he stared at Zeke's expert hands sliding over Cherry's hips and down, bills getting folded into both sides of her panties' straps. It had only been a minute but it felt like eons until Zeke stepped away, getting hoots and hollers from everyone.

“Any boys left?” she asked, fanning herself with a twenty dollar bill. Casey was ready to back away from the door and disappear out back for a cigarette, when Stan scanned the room, catching Casey in his sights.

“Casey! C'mon man, get in here!”

As cheers erupted again, Cherry turned to him and smiled. He knew he was blushing, almost as badly as Stan had been when this all started. “Don't be shy now,” Cherry said, beckoning him over with a curled finger. Casey rolled his eyes and went to take a step forward, just as Kris decided to open his big mouth.

“He likes dicks, not chicks!” he bellowed with a heavy guffaw. Casey's eyes closed, mouth huffing out a breath as everyone in the room groaned.

“Kris, shut UP!” Ben yelled, smacking him in the arm. Casey shook his head slightly, taking out his wallet. Cherry looked at him with a sweet smile.

“Don't listen to him, baby,” she said. She really was a nice girl, Casey thought. He pulled out a fifty and knelt down, taking her hand and kissing it.

“To a gorgeous, giving lady,” he said; before anyone in the room was ready for it, he stuck the fifty in his teeth and bent forward. Cherry gasped as Casey tongued the front of the panties open and slid the bill inside, teeth gripping the fabric and jaw working the money tight to her skin. He came up again, letting his lower lip massage up her stomach, between her breasts and off, kissing her gently on the cheek before stepping back with a wink. Cherry laughed haltingly, just as surprised as she'd been with Zeke. The cheers exploded, Zach slapping him on the back as he stepped away.

“The girls cried when you left 'em behind, baby!!” Cherry called, blowing him a kiss. Casey retreated to the kitchen, his face feeling hot and heart hammering; his smile hurt.


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