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.

“Fuck, hand me that thing!”

Casey chuckled, grabbing the long handled knife from the table to give to Ben. “Is it really worth this much for a beer?” he asked, watching Ben chip away at the ice-covered bottle.

“It's the last fucking one, so yea,” he said, laughing and grunting at the same time. Casey was almost finished with his own as Stan and Zeke came in, looking a bit flustered and giddy.

“What's up?” Casey asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Maaan... Cherry's a nice, nice girl,” Stan drawled, leaning onto the kitchen table. Casey grinned from ear to ear.

“The private showing went well, huh?” Casey asked.

Stan's eyes widened as he nodded slowly. “Uh huh...”

“Fucking BEER!”

“What's up, man?” Zeke asked. Ben simply grumbled in reply.

“He's really thirsty,” Casey answered for him.

“Dude, there's some beer in the fridge,” Stan told him, outright giggling.

“That shit's pisswater...”

“HEY! That's the stuff I got!!” Casey cried out, slapping Ben on the back.

Ben looked up and wagged a finger at Casey. “It's PISSWATER. Learn how to buy beer,”

“Aw it ain't so bad,” Zeke said.

“Piss, piss, piss...”

“Sounds like you've had enough beer there, Benny,” Stan said, belching.

“Maybe everyone has,” Casey said. He stepped forward and put his beer on the table then returned to Ben, standing behind him and shaking his head. “You're gonna break that knife...”

“WHOA! Ben, watch yer ass there!”

The sudden yell coming from the door of the kitchen made Casey whirl around. Kris stood there with a stupid smile on his face, looking at the both of them.

“Huh?” Ben said, turning his head to see what was happening. Casey's eyes darted back to Ben, crouching on the floor then back to Kris. Realization hit, Casey's head whipping back to glare at Kris and--


“What the fuck... I mean it, what the FUCK!” Casey nearly screamed, rushing to Kris. “When do you fucking shut the fuck UP??”

“Whoa, man...” Zeke muttered, stepping from the wall he leaned on. Casey ignored him and everyone else in the room as he got to Kris' face close.

“You've been an absolute fucking PRICK since you walked in the door--got something to fucking prove?” Casey yelled. Kris cringed then scowled, putting his head back.

“What the shit... are you talking about, I was just fucking joking-" he stated drunkenly; Casey didn't wait for him to keep talking as both hands slapped on Kris' shoulders and pushed, hard. Kris stumbled back a bit with a look of surprise on his face.

“WHOA-" Stan called, pulling himself to a stand.

Kris wasn't shocked anymore, but angry. “Fucking asshole!” he yelled, shoving Casey back. Casey stumbled further, knocking into Ben who was standing now.

“Shit, what's going on??” Ben said as both Zeke and Stan made a move to intervene entirely; Casey stepped away, fists out...

The next few moments were a complete blur of movement and sound; Casey felt one hand grabbing cloth, the other clenched tight and hitting soft, warm flesh. Once then twice, then uncountable; people yelled around him as he realized that the hands doing the fighting were his own.

“Fuckin'-!” he bellowed, having to step away. Kris flopped back, hitting a small spice rack hung behind him and making a few jars fall onto the floor, along with his ass hitting the linoleum in a loud thump. Casey panted and seethed, eyes set on Kris' bloody lip. “Case... Case, c'mon, man.”

Zeke's voice barely registered. Casey closed his eyes and turned away, then blindly walked towards the living room. Just before he passed through the archway, his phone rang. He paused and took it out of his pocket with a shaking hand. “Hello?” he said into it, voice shaking.

“Hey... Casey?”

“C'mon Kris, get up,” Stan was saying behind him. Grunts of pain and drunken mumblings filled the air; Casey didn't turn around to see what was happening, opting instead to walk away.

“Hey Case, what happened in there?” Joel asked, looking worried. Casey ignored him, breathing hard as he hurried upstairs to Stan and Stokely's bedroom.

“Casey, what's wrong??” Jake was asking, sounding worried as well. Once out of range of prying eyes, Casey shut the bedroom door and put his back to it, chest heaving.

“Oh my fucking God...” he breathed out, feeling numb.

“Hon... tell me what happened.”

“He's such... God, he's such a fucker...”

“Are you still at the stag party?” Jake asked. Casey mumbled out an incoherent 'yes', but Jake seemed to understand. “What did he do,” Jake stated, more than asked.


“Zeke... was it Zeke?”

Casey was confused for a moment before he shook his head. He walked over to the bed ahead of him and sat, feeling like his body had turned into gelatin. “No, that fucker, Kris,” Casey said. His throat tightened; fuck, he did NOT want to cry. “Jesus Christ, everyone was being so cool, Jake. So fucking cool...”

“C'mon sweetie, just tell me about it all, okay?”

Casey scrunched his eyes shut tight. “I'm NEVER just 'one of the guys', but tonight I was. Even ran into... this one guy, Ben, who knew me from school. He'd been an ass before, but he was being so cool to me. We talked about like... the Yanks and the Sox...”

“I'll never get that about you,” Jake joked. It lightened Casey's mood, but not by much. He swallowed and shook his head.

“I was one of the guys, just a normal 'Joe', but every t-time Kris fucking opened his mouth...” Casey stammered out. The tears were starting to sting his eyes again. “I was the 'Gay Boy', getting introduced to people I even KNEW, like Ben, as the gay guy...”

“Ohh shit,” Jake sighed into the phone. Casey went quiet a moment as Jake gave a few sighs of woe. “I'm sorry, babe. But it's not you--it's his own ignorance. It's just as bad as people calling someone their 'black friend'. You've heard Nick's stories on THAT.”

Casey nodded a little. “But I don't WANT to be a part of someone's fucking stupidity or ignorance.”

“Neither does Nick, but the poor guy gets it in droves.”

“I know...”

“They were cool with you after the idiot went off on your 'gayness', right?”


“Then who cares, hon?”

Casey shuddered out a breath and bit his lip. “Jake...”


“I just... kicked his ass in the kitchen.”

It went quiet a moment, Casey listening to the static of their phone connection. Finally, Jake stammered out an answer. “Um... what?”

“I dunno what HAPPENED, he made a crude joke and I fucking snapped.”

“And you kicked his ass??”

“Yea, I did. Fuck...”

“Casey... that's awesome,”

“Jake, c'mon. You KNOW I hate this kinda shit.”

“Yes, yes, but STILL; Casey, when was the last time you actually hit back?”

“I started it, actually,” Casey moaned out, rubbing his face. “I pushed him and yelled at him, I was just so fucking angry. I'd put up with his shit all night--”


Casey's eyes opened, stopping the conversation. “Um... hold on,” he murmured into the phone. He pulled it away from his ear and swallowed. “Yea?” he answered. The door opened slowly, and Zeke stepped in.

“Hey... you all right?” he asked.

Casey looked away. “Just leave... me alone for a minute, okay?”

“All right; Stan's bringing Kris home, he's the most sober.”

“Okay. Thanks, Zeke.”

“Sure. I'll be down the hall,” Zeke said, leaving and shutting the door behind him. Casey breathed out a small moan, bringing the phone back up.

“Sorry, just...”

“That was Zeke again?”


“How's THAT going?” Jake asked.

Casey's fingers trembled along the rubber sole of his sneaker absently, swallowing hard again. “It's okay. We're not best buds or anything; I told him that the first night we ended up here,” Casey explained. “But we're cool. It's easier now.”

“Good. I think you need a bit of 'building bridges', even if it's just to wave at each other from either side,” Jake said.

Casey smiled; Jake was always so good at saying the right things at the right times. “Yea.”

“Besides all that, guess what? Made it past the first round.”

Casey's eyes widened, his smile perking up more. “You did? Oh my fucking God... I totally forgot... oh Jesus, I'm sorry!”

Jake laughed heartily. “It's fine, Case. You're a bit preoccupied, I understand!”

“Still--oh Jake, I'm so proud of you,” Casey wistfully replied. “How many more to go?”

“Well, there's one on Monday, the second round, then Thursday is the last one. There's gonna be a few dinners and celebrations going on between all that. They're treating us like fucking kings, Case,” Jake said in an excited tone. “Even if I don't make it, it's been a HELL of a ride so far.”

“Sounds it! Oh I'm so excited... I really am.”

“Me too,” Jake said.

Casey was about to say more when the sound of loud voices came from downstairs. One of them was clearly Stokely's, a shout of “HUH??” coming all the way upstairs. “I should probably go; Stokely's back and I have no clue what they're telling her downstairs.”

“Hah... probably letting her know what a kick-ass young man you are.”

“Shut up,” Casey mumbled, rolling his eyes.

“Sure thing, babe... I'll call you either tomorrow or Monday after the second tryout.”

“Okay... bye, hon.”

“Bye sweetie.”

Casey clicked 'off' and shoved the phone into his pocket. He suddenly didn't feel like moving; it didn't matter as another knock came from the door. “Yea?” he called.

“Casey?” Stokely said, opening the door. Casey looked up and watched her walk in with quick steps. She placed the bags she carried next to the bed and blinked wildly at him as she sat. “Jesus... what happened?”


When Casey and Stokely went back downstairs, they were instantly greeted by an awkward looking reenactment of Casey and Kris' scuffle. “Jesus, the fists went FLYING, Kris didn't stand a fucking chance...” Ben was saying while punching the air.

“Dude, Case, you all right?”

Everyone's attention turned away from Ben recapping of events to Casey, now stepping off the stairs. “Jesus, I'm fine,” he said, leaning on the stairs railing.

“That was cool shit in there, Case,” Ben said, smiling.

“No it wasn't, I feel shit for doing it.”

“Don't be! If I had to count the times I've wanted to do that to him, I'd be here all night,” Joel said, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

Casey shrugged. “I need a fucking cigarette,” he mumbled, going to the door of the kitchen and heading out. Stokely was in there, putting boxes from her party away in the fridge. Looking up she smiled.

“You okay... like, really okay?”

“Yea, I will be,” Casey replied. Saying no more he stepped out into the chill, shutting the door behind him--or he would have anyways, if the foot keeping it ajar hadn't shown up. He looked up and saw Zeke coming out with him. “Oh... sorry,” Casey said.

“It's okay,” Zeke said, getting out and closing it himself. Casey flopped into a chair and got his cigarettes out, more than ready to drug his nerves calm. Zeke sat in the chair across from him and lit up as well. With the first breath of smoke inhaled, Casey looked up and found Zeke staring at him.

“What?” he asked tentatively.

“They're right. That was cool shit.”

Casey frowned and stared at his feet. “Yea, every guy gets off on seeing some little twerp fucking crack.”

“Do you even know how many guys Kris has fucked with? In bars, wherever?” Zeke started, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his thighs. “He's a shit-talking ass who doesn't get stepped to because he's this big oaf; he might be all talk with barely any action, but it doesn't matter. The guy puffs out his chest and gut and people back the fuck off.”


“Jesus... Casey, I've seen weak-assed slapping punches, and I've seen people in the ring; you were fucking Ali in there.”

Casey had to laugh wryly, looking back up at Zeke and taking a drag. He breathed the smoke out slow as he spoke. “Was not.”

“You fucking were, sure as shit. I was waiting to see you all bobbing on your feet like a butterfly and everything,” Zeke said, smiling.

Casey rubbed the back of his neck; his heart felt open, naked, like he needed to keep talking to let it pour out. He knew how something like that could betray him and make him feel weak, but he had to say something, just this once.

“I'm just... I haven't let anyone push me around in years. I learned a lot in college; yea, some people still tried to be asses to me, but I let it slide. Now... I can't let things like that go,” he told Zeke. He stopped his nervous motions at his neck and sat up fully, not really looking at Zeke. He focused on shadows over Zeke's shoulder, feeling distant. “I'm not the same as I was back in high school, and sometimes I miss it... but not really.”

“Yea. I see it.”

Casey moved his gaze to Zeke and nodded a little. “Yea,” he replied. For just one small moment Casey felt the old urge to smile wide and start talking about... anything, random crap, chattering on like he used to. It was something Zeke always let him do back in school, chatter on and on about fun, meaningless things. He wasn't that boy anymore however. He missed it...

“Hey um... Case?”

Stan was back from driving Kris to Delilah's; Casey turned in his chair. “Um, yea?”

“Del's on the phone,” Stan said. A pit grew in Casey's stomach as he stood, walking back inside. Stokely looked amused as she handed him the phone.

“Hello?” Casey said.

“Jesus, Casey? It's Del.”

“Uh huh, I know.”

“I just--fuck, I wanted to call and apologize to you for what Kris did,” she said breathlessly. Casey heard distinctive sounds of someone getting sick in the background as Delilah sighed. “He's got to learn to shut his trap, and I don't want him making fun of you.”

“Del, I'm sorry. I really should've tried to control myself, I just snapped...”

“I know, hon. Don't worry about it. Seriously, he NEEDED it.”

Casey scuffed his shoe along the linoleum, seeing herbs from the jars that toppled still scattered on the floor. “Okay.”


“Yes, okay,” Casey said, trying to smile.

“Good- I'll see you later, probably Tuesday when we all go out to eat. I'm treating everyone.”

“Oh, all right,” Casey said, biting his smile. Just like Delilah to make plans for everyone without asking.

“Good! See ya soon hon- I'll have Kris call to apologize soon.”


“Good-BYE, sweetie,” she said, hanging up fast. Casey rolled his eyes and hung up the phone. He looked into the living room, seeing that Ben had started his reenactment up again. Casey heard the others chuckling and asking for more details; he smiled a little and got his keys out. It'd been a weird, almost scary... but good night.


After spending his Sunday with his parents, Casey was already itching to get out and have a good time with friends. He loved his family, but after Grandma Jane stopped by after church for lunch with many fun questions (“Are you seeing anyone special in the East, sweetie?”), he was ready to get out. Stan wanted him to come by and help him with his vows, seeing as Stokely was taking off for the day with her mother.

“Just... keep it quiet, 'k??” he'd asked of Casey, desperate.

He found himself walking into their apartment the next afternoon, meeting a nervous, insecure Stan. “Hey... c'mon in, I just ordered Chinese,” he explained, wringing his hands. Casey almost laughed out loud.

“Stan. You and I aren't getting married. We're just writing your vows.”

“I know, I know. Still...”

Casey settled on the couch, dropping his bag to the floor and crossing his arms. “So,” he started, watching Stan dig out a pad and pencil. “Do you know what you're gonna say?”

“Sort of; I mean I love her, and there's a lot I like about her... I just don't know how to say it all,” Stan said, huffing out a long breath. Casey smiled and leaned forward, ready to give whatever he could. He wasn't some super romantic, but Stan made out like he was such a hopeless case. “Well...” he said a few moments into his making notes. “I mean, I wanna say something about how... she's sometimes so much stronger than me, and how a lot of guys would be offended at it, but I'm not.”

“Well,” Casey said, shrugging. “Say just that, y'now? Talk about her strengths, how she's sometimes your 'solid ground' for you to hold onto when it's rough.”

“Kinda clichéd though,” Stan said with a half-smile.

“Maybe,” Casey said, chuckling.

It turned out that neither of them knew quite what to do; when the Chinese arrived, they'd barely jotted down three sentences. “We need a break...” Stan said, opening the Styrofoam containers. Casey laughed as he came back from the kitchen with plates and forks.

“We've barely gotten through this, y'now.”

“I know... maybe my mind is too scattered right now,” Stan said, taking up a dish and filling it. He chuckled a little as he sat back, twirling lo mein on his fork. “I wonder if there are people online that you can PAY to write things like this for you...”

“STAN!” Casey cried out, laughing hard. “That's fucking terrible!!”

“I KNOW, I mean... I wouldn't DO that, just wondering.”

“Riiight,” Casey drawled, giving Stan a cock-eyed look. They began eating hungrily, Casey realizing that he'd only grabbed an apple for breakfast that morning. Having some nice heavy food was exactly what he needed. “So,” he started after taking a large sip of cola to wash down his last big swallow. “What are you wearing for this thing?”

“Hah... just a regular suit with a red tie and red vest to match Stokely's dress. I didn't wanna go for the whole 'tux' thing. I hate tuxes,” he said, grimacing. “Delilah's dress is red too; Zach's gonna wear the same kinda thing I am, no vest though.”

“Red comes out great on film,” Casey said with a nod. “Sometimes it has an awful glare though; I'll do my best to make sure I get it as perfect as I can.”

“You will. You're good like that,” Stan said, smiling. “Seriously, we can't thank you enough.”

“Stan, shut up,” Casey said, chuckling. Finishing his plate he set it down, groaning as he sat back. “You're my friends so of COURSE I'm thrilled to do this. Honored, like I told Stokes.”

“Yea... just wish others were 'honored' like that,” Stan said.

Casey blinked, hearing Stan's disappointment in his voice. “Y'mean... Zeke?”

“Ya,” Stan said, grumbling and putting his empty dish down as well. He rubbed his mouth a moment before shaking his head.

Casey felt a bit uncomfortable with the questions roaming around in his mind, but settled on one at least. “Why did he drop the whole best man thing like that, anyway? I don't believe the whole 'him not believing in weddings' shit, even if it's somewhat true,” Casey said, eying Stan curiously. Stan glanced up to him and shook his head.

“He's just too insecure, about everything. You know how he'd been in school, all that. He may have reclaimed some of his genius in the end, and fuck all if he didn't do excellent in tech school, but...” Stan said, drifting off slightly.

“How DID he do, anyways?” he asked.

Stan went still a moment, staring at Casey blankly. “You don't know?” he asked. Casey shook his head slowly, furrowing his brow. “Don't see why you would, but... he made valedictorian,”

Casey felt his entire face drop and go numb. For a moment he couldn't speak; his mouth simply gaped open, slowly, no words coming out. Stan nodded knowingly. “Uh huh.”

“Wha...” Casey finally managed to mutter. “Jesus... Jesus fucking Christ...”

“No effort, y'now? That's how Zeke is. As long as he flips the switch, he can do anything he wants. He overloaded himself completely, took everything in math and science and extras... the first semester wasn't so great, though. It took a lot of 'bitch-outs' from my end to make him wake the fuck up. He recovered in the middle of it, and then just sorta went nuts with it all. He got completely absorbed in his studies and stuff. I was glad to see it but... he was almost manic about it.”

Casey was in shock; he just couldn't understand... “Stan, he can get into ANY school with that, doesn't he realize that? It's been awhile since you guys graduated, but he can DO it. Why...” Casey said, drifting for a moment. “Why is he not doing that?? Why is working in a liquor store?”

“He told you that, huh?”

“No, I got to see him there myself; I just... I don't get it,” Casey said, suddenly standing. He went into the kitchen to get another drink, almost grabbing a beer. He looked out on the porch and was reminded of the pack in his pocket. Without another thought he grabbed a can of cola and went outside, eyes shocked wide open and hands fumbling with the cigarettes and lighter.

The door opened and Stan emerged, looking thoughtful. “Still can't believe you're smoking,” he said, smiling a little as he sat.

Casey shrugged as he inhaled the drug he'd needed so badly the last few days. As comforting as it could be, his mind would still whir... as it was, right now. “Stan... I just...”

“Don't tell him I told you this...” Stan said.

“Why not?”

Stan shook his head, leaning onto his thighs with his elbows. “Not... the Valedictorian bit. Though he'd probably want to keep that quiet, too,” Stan told him. “Case, I worried about him. I still worry about him. I know it's looked bad to you, how I stayed friends with him after what had happened with you guys. Like I'd said the other night, I was pissed when I'd found out,”

Casey stared at Stan a moment, a pit sitting in his stomach. The thing he'd wanted to know most from Stan spilled out of his mouth in question. “Stan... how... did you find out?”

Stan's lips parted, eyes set on the brick of the porch. “The first few weeks, after you'd gone- Jesus, he was drunk or high every night. Even when school had started, he was back in his old high school routine of showing up late or not at all. I'd have to show up at his house to get him out of bed some days, yelling at him. I was so angry, cos' I didn't know WHY he was doing it. He'd talked about getting his school life back on track his senior year, how he wanted to go to college... all that.”

“Yea, I know--but that's not what I'd asked,” Casey said, insistent. Stan took a deep, deep breath before continuing.

“Stokes was getting annoyed, me always having to hang out or drag Zeke around. We both didn't know,” Stan said. “Finally, one night she and I were hanging out, watching movies and stuff at my place when Zeke called. It was about eleven; not a big shock, wasn't THAT late, but still... it wasn't how late it was, but how HE was. I could tell he was so fucked up on something, dunno what it was to this day.” He explained, pausing for a moment. “He was asking for your number out in Boston. I honestly didn't know it. I think Stokes did, but I wasn't about to bug her about it. She'd had her fill of Zeke and his shit. I didn't even want to give it to him; he was just rambling and fucked up. He finally said he was sorry and hung up. I couldn't concentrate on the movie we were watching after that.”

“So... he told you then or...?” Casey prodded; Stan shook his head.

“Two hours later he called again, begging me to come over. I mean... holy shit, Case. He was all over the place. He was crying one minute, laughing the next, begging and begging. Stokes was still over and thank GOD my parents were out, cos' they would've killed me for getting calls so late,” Stan said, his voice quavering the slightest bit. “Stokes came into the kitchen, all pissed off, telling me to tell him to fuck off. He couldn't hear her... then he started saying shit.”

Casey swallowed hard, taking a long, deep puff of his cigarette. “Yea?”

Stan glanced up, looking uneasy. “He just started rambling about how he'd 'fucked you'. We'd KNOWN you guys weren't talking, so I thought he'd meant he'd 'fucked you over'. I asked him how and he just... he said 'into the bed man, into the bed'. I couldn't understand for the LIFE of me why he put it that way until he just started yelling, 'JESUS Stan, I FUCKED him!' Stokes was getting nerved up; she didn't hear what he'd said, just heard him yelling. She grabbed the phone and started bitching him out; I was still trying to fucking understand what he was trying to tell me, but I somehow just knew, just too shocked to realize it. That's when Stokes got really, really quiet. She just stared at me... fuck Case, it was awful.”

Casey's breaths came quick; the pit in his stomach seemed to take over all function in his body as he plopped down into a lawn chair, feeling sicker than he had in weeks. Stan looked up, his eyes soft and apologetic. “Casey, I wished... I wish I'd never found out, actually. I might have been confused to all hell about WHY you guys fell out the way you did, but... I almost STILL can't believe it, to this fucking day.”

“Do you even know...” Casey started, head dropped low with his hand on his neck, rubbing emphatically. “How much I can't believe it myself?”

Stan nodded slowly. “I know, man.”

Casey's hands moved to his face as he breathed, trying to control the spinning sensation in his head. He sucked in a long drag again, letting it out in a shaking exhalation. “You know the worst part?” he asked, finally looking up with a firm gaze to Stan, who waited patiently, unmoving. A wry grin came over Casey's lips, his head shaking from side to side slowly. “I wasn't as drunk as he was. I was just riding a huge buzz and when it all happened... it was a fucking dream come true. My five year crush, all realized.”

Stan's lips parted. “Oh god, Case...”

“Yea,” Casey whispered, feeling the burn of his finished cigarette hit the filter and his finger. It almost felt good at this point.


He'd never told Jake. He'd not even thought about it to himself for years. But after telling Stan, it'd been the hardest thing, ever, to go back inside and help write the rest of his wedding vows. It ended up coming out very good--most likely from Casey's open emotions just being so there.

He was trying his best to drive home, his eyes droopy and growing moist. Snow was falling gently, his wipers on low to brush away the thin, barely there coating every once in awhile. Despite the heater being on high, the chill in Casey's bones was near paralyzing. He didn't need to look to the right suddenly, passing by the small plaza. He didn't need to see Zeke's GTO parked near the back of the liquor store. A mile down the road from the sight, he did, however, need to stop at the side of the road next to a small playground. He sat in the car, staring at the dark view of swings and basketball hoops. After a few moments, he opened the door and he stepped out, then walked along the small path leading to the slippery sidewalk. He managed to reach the swings and leaned onto one of its metal posts. He slid down, crouching into the crunching frost below him, knees already feeling sore.

A cigarette would have been useless at this point; he felt like he'd light his hair on fire with hands that were shaking horribly. The cold air couldn't compete with his nerves, the absolute frustration and anxiety he felt insurmountable and unaffected by weather. He was weak--he was the weak little boy he'd been all those years, trying to walk through the halls in school without getting an elbow to the face, without getting tripped into a row of lockers. He wore bruises, but they were on the inside now, stemming out into the form of tears. Face wet, Casey shook back up to a standing position and turned.

No matter the weaknesses and beatings, he'd never just been a cowering fool. Nowadays, he never let himself be brought down, but he felt himself sinking deep now. It angered him to the core; his boot clad foot suddenly struck the pole, the low groan of a clang sounding off. A few flutters of new snow scattered onto the half-covered grasses below, Casey watching with wide, furious eyes.

“Fucking hate you...” he murmured. He kicked the metal again, almost flailing into it and making Casey's foot hurt. It all felt so ineffectual, so lost and without any purpose whatsoever. He was a little boy kicking a pole in a park because he couldn't go home... he couldn't think of weddings and cameras and smiling faces. He couldn't think of anything but the heart in his chest, breaking all over again.

The kicks came one after the other now, boot slipping slightly each time as he thrust it forward, clang, clang, clang, again and again...

“Case, love you, love you so fffucking much...”

Getting to say it back, getting it all taken back. “DAMN IT!!” Casey yelled, finally ceasing his futile attack.

He cried like that little boy he'd been, and no bandage or kiss to his wounds would help. Perhaps a few glasses of whiskey would help him sleep tonight; the idea of having just the smallest, simplest goal when he got home dried his eyes and made him walk back to the car, feeling numb and senseless.


The game system was old, but after finding it in his closet, Casey took solace in playing crappy old video games. He remembered thinking that this system was so technologically advanced when he'd gotten it; compared to his latest system he had back home in Boston, this thing may as well have been an Atari.

It was nice though, and it filled the silence of the house after his parents had gone to work. He was actually thinking of bringing it home with him when his cell phone rang. Pausing his game, Casey hoisted himself up from the floor and walked over to the table to get it.


“Hey, sweet stuff.”

Casey had to smile, flopping onto the couch. “Hello, hello.”

“Made it.”

Casey's entire body felt like it was glowing. “Holy... fuck...”

“Yuuup,” Jake drawled. Casey sat up quick, beaming.

“Jake, Jesus, oh my fucking God...” Casey blurted. “You're almost there! I can't believe this!”

“Neither can I, babe,” Jake said; though the news was so good, his voice sounded a bit flat. Casey smiled through his frown.

“You sound thrilled,” he said.

“I'm just... nervous. It's fucking scary getting the photo shoots constantly, talking and performing with all these guys, getting LOOKED at... y'now?”

“Like people wouldn't want those problems,” Casey joked playfully, sighing. “No, no, I know what you mean.”

“I SO wish you were here,” Jake lamented. “It'd be so much better.”

“I know. Both of us are pretty nerved up, huh?”


“But you're making it, Jake. Even if you don't get all the way to the top, ya gotta think; the fact that you were even picked for all this will look good on any resume.”

Jake laughed on the other end. “I know... how is it you can make me felt so good?”

“Eh... it's what I do,” Casey said, winking to no one.

“So--whatcha wearin'?”

Casey laughed out loud. “You really DO miss me, huh?”

“Yup,” Jake groaned out.

Casey smiled wide, looking down on himself. “Just pajama pants and a t-shirt; you?”

“That sounds lovely.”

“Uh huh, YOU?”

“Black jeans and a thick sweater. Fucking COLD today; already went out for some breakfast with this other guy Mike.”

“I seeee...” Casey drawled, shifting. “Should I worry about you being around all these fucking gorgeous model-dancer guys or what?”

“Not a minute, babe, not a minute,” Jake said. “Especially if you could um... y'know...”

“Hmmm, what?”

“It's been six days; six days since I've seen my boy, y'know... and I would LOVE the idea of you just...”

“You want me to stick my hand down my pants, don't you?” Casey blurted and chuckled out. Jake groaned.

“Would you?” he asked, sounding desperate.

Casey grinned from ear to ear, brushing the ties of his pants. “Would you??” Casey asked back.

Jake chuckled evilly. “What do you think I'm doing right now?”

“Oooh...” Casey cooed, the thought encouraging his own hand to wander under the cloth between his legs. It was a bit odd to be doing this right out in the open of his parents' living room, but daring all the same. The softness of his cock shifted, getting harder with every soft brush of his palm upon it. “Mmm... that's nice.”

“Isn't it?”

“Oh yes, yes,” Casey replied, outright giggling. His face softened, hearing Jake's long, heavy breath on the other end of the phone.

“Wish you were here, so bad,” Jake groaned out, sounding overcome.

Casey's breathing faltered as his soft touches shifted to a grab, holding the base of his cock and sliding up. He hissed, a passionate scowl hitting his lips. “You hard, babe?” Casey asked.

“Fuck am I,” he muttered. “Thinkin' about you... how fuckin' good you were to me the night before you left... always so good, baby.”

“Mmm,” Casey murmured, biting his smile. “A good rimming never hurt anyone.”

“God...” Jake shuddered out. “Wanna fuck you, so fucking much right now.”

“Fuck... I'd love that too. Love it every time,” Casey moaned. His strokes became more urgent, his shaft leaking pre-come as he spoke. “Gonna come all over myself...”

“Please fucking do... oh honey, love it when you come.”

“F-f-fuck...” Casey shook out the word, opening his legs wider. He thrust his hips upward, teeth clenched and lost inside the swelling need. “Come with me, okay? Please, just... shit...”

Jake's breathing quickened along with Casey's, his stifled cries sounding off. Casey listened hard, hearing the soft slick-slide on Jake's end. Feeling no shame, Casey pushed the phone to his hip to let Jake hear, crying out as well. His hand became soaked, come spurting out sporadically over himself. One moan after the other until he quieted, Casey felt his body relax back into the couch, thighs trembling with aftershocks. He brought the phone back up to his ear, hearing Jake chuckle. “Whaaat?”

“You pushed the phone down to your cock, didn't you?” he asked.

Casey blushed. “Thought you'd like to hear me... like that.”

“Did I ever... such a dirty boy. That's why I love you.”

Casey stilled, going quiet a moment. “Well...” he finally stammered out. “That's what I do.”

“Mmhmm,” Jake sighed happily. “That should last me... until we talk next.”

“Yea,” Casey said, trying to smile. Grabbing the box of tissues from the side table, he began wiping himself clean.

“Well, I should go. We're going out to lunch soon; REAL classy place they're taking us to on 5th Ave.”

“Sounds lovely,” Casey said.

“Yup--can't wait, really,” Jake said. “So, I'll call you tomorrow morn. Sound good?”

“Yea, sure.”

“All right, Case... talk soon, sweetie.”

“Talk soon,” Casey said; he hung up the phone, readjusted his clothing and lay still, staring at the ceiling.

Well fuck.


“Get whatever you want, sweets,” Delilah said as the waiter handed everyone a menu. Casey wasn't so sure; he felt like he had to pay already just to SIT in this place. Opening the menu, his eyes bugged out.

“High class shit,” Stan muttered next to him.

Casey nudged him. “Check it out- four bucks for a mineral water. I'll take six,” he hissed to him. Stan chuckled, nudging him back. Stokely looked out the window past the small dining area outside towards the street.

“Should we wait for Zeke to show up? Jesus...”

Delilah 'tsked'. “Maybe not; he called me tonight, said he might be late,” she explained.

Casey glanced up to her, watching her study the menu. “So um... how's Kris?” he asked. Delilah corner-smiled.

“Sore,” she replied; Stan scoffed out a held back laugh while Casey groaned.


“Now, now, Casey,” Delilah chided, wagging a finger. “You get yourself something to eat.”

'Something to eat' was more like buying a yacht. Even with Delilah's encouragement, he chose the lightly priced salmon dish and folded his menu. Once everyone was ready and ordered drinks--Casey almost laughing aloud when Stan whispered "twelve mineral waters, please," while Stokely ordered a Midori sour, they settled into light conversation. Casey sipped his water while Delilah prattled on with Stokely about their dresses, and Stan and Zach chatted idly about the game on tonight. Casey could have joined in, but kept looking out the window with a faraway gaze.

Where the fuck was he?


“I guess he worked late... or something,” Delilah said as she clutched her coat close. Casey lit up as everyone walked out of the restaurant together, looking past Stokely and Stan towards the street.

“I don't THINK he was working tonight...” Stokely said, grabbing her own cigarettes. As she smacked at the pack, Stan shrugged.

“Eh, he's just a grump. So... Zach, Case--wanna go out to get a few drinks? I'll buy,”

Zach shook his head. “Love to, but I gotta get some rest tonight. Dad wants me to help him with his car in the morning before work.”


“Yea...” Casey said, thinking. “I'm pretty tired too,”

“That's okay. Just come by tomorrow night- it's uh... my last REAL night of freedom.”

“Shut up,” Stokely croaked out, blowing smoke in his face.

“C'mon Stokes- let's let Stan have the night to himself.” Delilah said.

Stokely nodded but pecked him on the cheek before leaving with Delilah. They all parted ways, Casey getting into his car and turning it on.

He wasn't tired at all.


Just pulling up to the house made Casey shudder from the inside. It wasn't different in any way, unchanged even from their experiences here with MaryBeth. He let the car idle a few moments, staring up at the door; the porch light was off, but the GTO was in the driveway. Mustering up every ounce of courage, Casey opened his car door and stepped out. Walking up to the porch, Casey gazed at the windows looking for any sign of movement. Only a small, dim light came from the far corner of the living room that he could see.

The stairs creaked underfoot, making him feel highly visible and open. 'No turning back now,' he thought as he went to the doorbell. He pressed it then stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets, trying to ward off the cold. He swallowed in hearing heavy footsteps; the knob turned and door opened. Looking up, he found Zeke standing there, eyes in slits, looking at Casey as if he didn't recognize him.


Casey blinked at the sound of Zeke's voice, gone thick and crackly. “Hey... just dropped by, wondered where you were,” he answered.

Zeke leaned on the door; he had to have been cold as Casey noticed him wearing nothing but a pair of boxers. “I've been here.”

“Did you work...?”


“Can I come in, it's fucking cold,” Casey blurted impatiently. Zeke shrugged and opened the door wider, letting Casey step inside.

It was all as he'd left it that morning; the walls seemed darker, floor dustier; otherwise it was still Zeke's house. He didn't know why he'd expected differences, but...

“Didn't have to come by... I'm fine.”

Casey looked away from the door to the kitchen to Zeke, seeing him sit on the couch. He grunted as he grabbed his cigarettes, took one and lit it. Casey felt entranced a moment, if not a little disturbed. Zeke looked up to exhale, catching Casey's gaze. “What?”

“Why didn't you show up tonight?” he asked.

“You asked that already.”

“Yea, you said 'I was here'. That doesn't answer my question,” Casey said, his eyes suddenly darting to the table in front of Zeke. He looked back, not wanting to seem obvious in staring at the near-empty bottle of gin.

“Answers it 'nough, Case. Really, I just didn't feel like being part of Delilah's little... 'charade',” he said with a heavy grunt, settling into the couch further. Casey was starting to wonder why he'd actually bothered with this. After talking with Stan yesterday afternoon...

“It was still rude. Stan and Stokely are your friends; they wanted you there.”

“Yea?” Zeke drawled, tipping his head back and staring at Casey with a dry expression. “They don't really need me, Case.”

“You need them,” Casey said suddenly. He grew nervous; shit, he couldn't explain why he'd said that, he'd promised...

“They're awesome people, Case, don't get me wrong,” Zeke said, shrugging and taking another drag. “That's why I ain't gonna bother 'em much after this whole 'nuptials' business. I'd be dead weight to them.”

“Glad you think so highly of yourself,” Casey said, frowning.

Zeke made a wry laugh, shaking his head. He leaned forward onto his knees, looking at Casey with that awful sarcastic expression that Casey loathed. “My crap, not yours, Case,” he replied, near waggling his eyebrows as if proud. “So you sit home, drink, and just wallow in misery. What a way to live, Zeke.”

“And you give fuck-all why, Casey? You got stock in this or somethin'?” Zeke replied, almost chuckling.

Casey's face burned with anger, and didn't know if he'd be able to hold back. “I did once. I helped you catch up on classes... gave a shit, remember??”

“Eh, that was before I told you to fuck off.”

“Yea, so WHY am I standing here? Because maybe I want to not GIVE a shit about all of that, kick your ass a bit to get OFF of it and do fucking something!” Casey nearly yelled.

Zeke rolled his eyes. “You don't give a shit. 'Not some buddy movie', remember?? Shit, man...” Zeke said, leaning forward to ash into an overflowing ashtray. “Let's not make this some fucking intervention crap, because I'm not in the mood.”

“Heard you made valedictorian,” Casey said, crossing his arms.

Zeke stilled, the cigarette hanging from his lips a moment before recovering that smile. “Shit, man...”

“You don't achieve something like that and go off to sell BOOZE, Zeke.”

“Hey man, I get a fucking discount at least.”

“Fucking serious... GOD Zeke, do you even realize what you're fucking passing up?”

“Remember what I said to you?”

“Said what--Jesus, what the fuck...”

“'Fuckin' love you, Case,'” Zeke said in a hiss.

Casey's insides quivered. Hoping it was just some ridiculous stream of consciousness, he swallowed his nervousness. “If you don't get out soon, no one's gonna care what you did; they'll see it all as a waste, and that PISSES me off...”

“Don't remember much about that night, fill me in. I was so fucking drunk,” Zeke said, picking up the bottle. As he filled a glass, Casey fought for words, growing agitated. “You know what I'm fucking saying to you.”

“Want a drink, Case? Maybe we can relive fucked up times--"

“FUCK you!” Casey finally exploded, arms uncrossing and going stiff at his sides. Zeke took a sip and ignored him, looking distant and staring into the glass. “Stupid fucker, I swear to God...”

“YES, Casey. Glad to see you accept some things here,” Zeke said in an angered tone.

Casey was ready to burst; he walked over briskly, standing in front of Zeke. “You're a stupid fucker because you're a fucking genius, and you won't own up to that!”

“I'm a stupid fucker in general, Case.”

“You're NOT.”

“You just SAID I was, Casey!”

“Stop this shit, man--you wanna tell the world to fuck off you can try. Can't tell ME that, cos' I know you Zeke. I think I know you better than you know yourself,” Casey told him firmly.

Zeke stared him down, a vicious gleam in his eyes. “Then why'd you let me fuck you, prophet?” Zeke growled. Casey froze, pursing his lips. Taking a great swallow he started shaking his head.

“Fine then. You get your fucking way, Tyler. Sit in this house 'til you fucking ROT out your fucking brain drinking yourself to death. See if I come to your fucking funeral; just SEE if I do.”

“Wouldn't be able to; I'd be dead, moron,” Zeke replied, cocking an eyebrow.

“I take it all back. You're a fucking asshole, not worth my time, and after this wedding business is done I don't ever intend on even just thinking about you.” Casey callously stated. “They're the only reason I'll bother wasting film on you; you're not even worth the memory.”

With that, Casey turned on his heels and rushed to the door, threw it open and stepped outside. It slammed behind him, his entire body so numbed he didn't realize how hard he'd closed it. The trembling feel of the porch from his force combined with his own lack of equilibrium made him stop to try and balance himself. This all hurt so badly, making him wonder how he was going to get through it all.

A sudden crashing noise behind him made Casey nearly jump. He didn't turn around, too scared to; it was dead quiet a moment before more sounds came forth.

He was crying. It started quiet as Casey stood still, listening. His frosted breath wafted around him in slow moving clouds, shaken out as shock filled him, hearing Zeke's crying explode in a yelling wail. It was then turned to muffled weeping, sobs...

A loud creak and stomping footsteps, each stair sounding like it was going to smash apart with Zeke tromping up them loudly. Casey waited until he heard the upstairs bedroom door slam before he stepped off the porch and got back to his car, taking off top speed.


Thursday, the last day before the real work began. Casey treated it like business--all business.

He spent most of the morning going over the plans, lists and “maps” he'd been given of the butterfly house to familiarize himself. There were markings he'd made in every spot, writing small and with specifics: 'front shot', 'ring pics', whatever tags he needed along with the settings of his camera on each picture he planned to take. He took only one fifteen minute break to brew more coffee and take a quick piss from the three cups he'd already had.

His eyes were starting to ache around two in the afternoon; looking to his watch he couldn't believe how much time he'd spent on this. He gazed at each page he'd jotted notes on, realizing the job was done. He put them down and stood up, not knowing what to do next...

His mother would be pleased to come home and find the kitchen floor swept and mopped, dishes done, and the bathroom scrubbed clean. Her car had just pulled up when he'd finished.

After getting her praises, Casey went out. He simply drove around, smoking cigarette after cigarette, the town not having enough roads to drive on. The highway took him two towns over which consisted mostly of country lanes and farms. It was pleasant; he stopped once to pull over and watch the gleaming sunset, descending behind a small sloping hill and a deserted barn. There were no noises, no cars passing, no people walking about; just Casey and the beautiful, fucked up world.


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