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.

If things weren't so bad off with he and Zeke, Casey would have asked him to bring a few pens of scat along to the rehearsal. Seeing as he was the reason for Casey's lethargy however, it seemed futile to think on.

Casey pulled into the lot of the butterfly house, yawning. Between his coffee consumption the day before and the stress he felt, not much sleep had occurred the night before. He had yet MORE coffee with him now; bought specifically for the “extra caffeine” it claimed to have. It had already given him a little push... at least he didn't fall on his face in just stepping out of the car.

He got the trunk open and looked over all of his equipment. It was going to take two or three trips to get it all inside, so he hoisted the tripod out first, along with the sturdier pieces he could set up first.


Casey turned, seeing Kris standing just behind him. “Oh... um, hi,” Casey said softly. Kris looked blanked a moment; Casey nearly winced seeing him smile shakily, the cut on his lip stretching slightly.

“Do you need some help?” he asked.

Casey blinked a few times, looking from his trunk to Kris. Nodding, he sighed. “Yea, actually.”

“Cool. Lemmee help,” Kris said, stepping to the trunk.

Casey smiled a little, handing him a few pieces. “Thanks... I thought I'd be doing all this by myself.”

“Eh, I'm just background today,” Kris said with a shrug.

“Well... considering, uhm...” Casey said, pausing to nod to Kris' injuries; he didn't have many, but the bruise at his chin looked pretty bad. Kris smiled a little.

“Yea well- let's just say I was a loudmouthed ass who maybe should cut the beer out of his diet,” he said.

“Still; I'm sorry for it,” Casey said, pleased to see his trunk clear; Kris may have been a jerk before, but he proved useful right now with his broad arms full and tucking things securely.

“It's okay, man. No harm done.”

Casey's smile went a bit brighter; well, this wasn't so bad thus far.


“Shit, is my lens cap still on?”

Delilah giggled, pointing to the camera. “No... you have a visitor.”

Casey looked to the front and smiled. A large, blue winged butterfly was perched directly upon the lens, making Casey chuckle. “Shoot, we can't touch 'em, huh?”

“Let me try,” Delilah said, putting her finger next to the insect. It moved to look at it, making them both smile. The creature then crawled over to her and perched itself on her fingertip, making her coo. “He's tickly,” she said. She drew it back and it stayed, letting her inspect it closely. “This is so cool.”

“I know. I just hope they don't get in my shots all the time,” Casey said.

“Oh WONDERFUL, you're here already!”

Casey turned, finding Mrs. Rosado coming over. He smiled, happy to finally meet up with her again. “Hi, Mrs. Rosado,” he greeted her. She walked right up to him, hugging him tight and kissing his cheek.

“You're such a doll for doing this. I've always loved the photos you did at my son's graduation party!” she cheerfully said.

Casey blushed. “Well thanks--I'm glad I could do this,” he said.

She then moved on to Delilah, talking about their dresses and requests. “Would you help me with my makeup tomorrow, sweetie? I usually don't wear any, I'm HOPELESS with mascara!”

“Oh, don't you worry! You just meet us in the lounge, I'm bringing everything,” Delilah said with a wink. Casey shuddered; the piles of outfits and makeup would drown the entire group, he figured. The two women walked off gabbing, leaving Casey to his work. He suddenly realized he was missing something.

“Damn filters,” he groaned, rolling his eyes. He went to the door of the conservatory and walked through the special “air room”, designed to remove stray butterflies. Sure he wasn't carrying stowaways, he went out the end door and began passing through the small butterfly museum. Voices carried from a side room nearby--the lounge Delilah had spoken about. He was just about to head to the foyer of the place when he stopped.

“I dunno... Stan, I dunno...”

“Look, enough of this crap. If you don't come tomorrow I'll hang you by your balls in the center of town.”

Casey edged towards the doorway, curiosity filling him.

“You KNOW how I feel about all of this, though. It's only getting worse.”

“You're gonna have to put it aside. You promised; I MADE you promise after you dumped being my best man,” Stan was saying. “Seriously, don't do this to me, to Stokes, even to Casey.”

“I'm dead to him.”

Casey's jaw dropped. He braced a hand to the wall to keep standing. He made him think that. He'd actually made him think that...

“You know that's bullshit, Zeke. Casey isn't like that.”

A small pause followed. Casey heard a loud, groaning sigh come from Zeke before he spoke again. “I wouldn't blame him if he wished it.”

“Zeke... c'mon,” Stan's soft voice replied. Casey heard a patting on the back and Zeke's muffled breathing. “We care about you.”

“Dunno why,” Zeke mumbled, obviously through Stan's shoulder.

“Because we do!” Stan laughed out. “Casey wasn't the only brave one five years ago, y'now. I DO remember someone ELSE saving our ass with his back alley, cheap-assed drug factory.”

Zeke chuckled wryly. “Whatever.”

“So you going in there to watch me stumble on words and accidentally step on a few hundred butterflies or what?” Stan asked jovially. Another shuddering groan...

“I love him, Stan.”

Casey froze; every extremity went numb. “I know.” Stan replied. Casey heard them both standing up, Zeke sighing deep.

“I'll be there tomorrow. Whatever.”


Casey snapped out of it enough to scramble away from the door, throwing the one on the opposite side of the room open to get outside, get his filters, come back... he didn't know how to fucking feel...


The makeshift garland of flowers proved to be a success. “Jesus, they're all over me!” Stokely complained, trying to make her eyes go up as far as possible to see the five butterflies perched atop her head. She stood near Casey at the end of the aisle, readying herself for the practice; Casey smirked.

“I'm getting like a million shots of this. In fact, say 'I'm covered in feckin' butterflies,'” he said. She turned to him with a confused frown; Casey had the camera on her and snapped a handful of pictures in seconds, chuckling. She shook her head.

“Thanks a LOT.”

“Get used to it,” he said with a wink. She grumbled under her breath.

“Yay, I hired a best fucking friend as my photographer...”

“Are we ready?”

Casey looked up at the end of the aisle, Pastor Gruel standing in wait with a bright smile. Stan hopped over from where he stood talking to Zach, his steps jumpy and face red with nervousness. Stokely's father walked over and laced his arm into hers, his glasses unable to hide his wet eyes. “You ready, pumpkin?” he asked. Casey smiled broadly at Stokely's heavy sigh.

No.” she grunted out, defiant as always. Mr. Mitchell chuckled.

“You'd better be, Stokely.”

“Now, we'll have the best man come forth first; second will be the maid-of-honor. Stan will walk up with his mother, then Stokely and her father.”

The line formed a bit awkwardly as Casey readied the camera, edging it along the cement floor to get a better view. In his sight he caught Zeke in the background, seated in one of the folding chairs. He was trying to brush off two stubborn butterflies from his shoulder, one yellow the other blue. Casey's lips shuddered out a smile; priceless. Click.

The line was parting, Zach moving forward and being instructed on how to walk. A taped violin recording played the music he was to walk to, setting his paces accordingly. Pastor Gruel gave him an encouraging nod as he stopped at the platform, folding his hands and smiling towards the others. Delilah, in full readiness and style began her walk, going perfectly in time. Stan was running his hand over his face, taking deep, heavy breaths. All the while, Casey kept clicking, making sure every moment was captured on film.

Stan moved forward then. The poor guy's steps were awkward; Pastor Gruel chuckled a little. “Dear boy, what are you going to do tomorrow?” he playfully chided, making Stan blush more, the others laugh and Stokely roll her eyes. Even Zeke wore a bemused grin; and two more butterflies. Another click his way before Stokely went forth, 'Here Comes the Bride' starting to play.

Casey took up the camera and tripod, working his way down the side aisle to the group. He continued his shoot expertly, moving the mechanics of his camera to the precise settings, adding a filter to make sure the glare from the window didn't obstruct or ruin the view... whatever was needed. They got to the part of the ceremony where the vows would be said, put off of course for the next day; still, Stan visibly paled. His eyes darted over to Casey, who winked back. He smiled a little as the practice went on.

A close up of squeezing hands between the future married couple, a weepy father, the excited, winning smile of a mother, the Pastor's glow as he spoke, Zach yawning and Delilah ALREADY getting tears in her eyes... perfect. Confidence filled Casey, even with his droopy eyes and insistent yawns in seeing Zach's. All he knew was that this HAD to be perfect, that it had to be captured with every single detail in place. He knew he could do this; even with his nerves, wanting the best for his friends, he could do this.

It was soon over, Pastor Gruel saying that it had all gone very well. “Would you like one more run-through?”

The choruses of "no, no..." from Stan and Stokely made everyone chuckle heartily. “All right, then; the dinner is taking place at the 'School Street Bistro', correct?” Pastor Gruel said

“Yea; everyone knows how to get there?” Mr. Mitchell asked, drying his eyes with a handkerchief. Mrs. Rosado cooed, putting her hand on his shoulder and patting.

Once everyone confirmed that they'd be there, Casey moved the camera from the spot and went down the aisle with Stan. “You did great,” he said. Stan breathed in shakily.

“Christ, if I'm this nervous now...” he started; his words stopped when he looked up, suddenly smiling. “Dude... check it out.”

Casey looked up; he instantly laughed. “Oh my God.”

“Crap, get like a whole ROLL of film on that,” Delilah suddenly cried out, laughing hard.

Zeke looked up with a glare, his head swarming with butterflies. “Jesus... fuckin' hair gel...” he muttered as Casey rushed over. He removed the filters and looked to Zeke with a smile.

“C'mon Zeke, smile for me,” Casey said. Zeke looked unsure a moment. Recalling his harsh words spoken the other night, Casey's look softened. “Smile for me, Zeke,” he murmured. Zeke stared at him, still looking unsure, until a small smile crept on his face.

Click. Casey lowered the camera and beamed.


“What's the word?? Thunderbird! What's the price? Forty-twice! Quite!”

Casey chuckled, clinking shot glasses with Stan, Zeke, and Zach at the bar. They drained them quickly, grimaces abound once finished. “Shiiiiit...” Zach drawled with a belch.

Stan slapped him on the back. “Damn, I need more,” he muttered, reaching behind him to his beer. Casey scoffed.

“You're gonna be so married tomorrow.”

“Oh my God, shut up,” Stan said morosely.

Zach 'tsked'. “You ARE.”

“Shut uuup,” Stan warned, slugging back more beer. Zeke lit a cigarette, a smile forming in the corner of his mouth.

“Sure you don't want a cig?” he asked, waving his pack at him. Stan looked tempted for a moment then shook his head.

“No, but bring scat tomorrow,” he said. Zeke chuckled, Casey joining along.

“At least we got a dinner outta this for all our hard work,” Zach said, leaning back in his chair and patting his stomach.

“Yea well... I'll probably be blowing chunks later tonight. Some dinner,” Stan lamented.

“Thanks for the fucking visuals,” Zeke muttered.

“Stan, get IN here!”

Everyone turned, seeing Stokely standing at the door to the bar area. Zeke, Casey and Zach hissed an “ooh...” as Stan stood up.

“We're... not even married yet,” he mumbled, sounding pathetic.

Zach hopped from his chair and grabbed Stan's shoulders, shaking him a little. “C'mon; I'll help you fend her off,” he said; he led Stan away, leaving Casey and Zeke sitting by themselves. Zeke turned away from the sight of poor, stumbling Stan to look at Casey, shaking his head.

“They've been married since high school; dunno what he's talking about,” Zeke said, tongue-in-cheek.

Casey laughed and raised his beer mug. “To Stan; may he survive.”

“Hear, hear,” Zeke said, chuckling as they clinked bottle to mug. Casey took a big sip and smacked his lips.

“Serious... he's getting pretty mental about all this.”

“Oh yea,” Zeke said, looking down at the beer bottle and picking at the label.

“This all has been pretty mental, I'd say,” Casey muttered.

“Understatement,” Zeke replied.

Casey sighed deeply. He really needed to say something, especially after what he'd heard back at the conservatory. It seemed that Zeke had really been so depressed and upset- enough to turn down being a best man, or coming to the wedding entirely. Whether Casey was the entire cause, it didn't matter. The need to make Zeke feel at least a little better was overwhelming. “So, um...”

“Your phone's ringing,” Zeke said, nodding to Casey's pocket. Casey looked down, finding it flashing.

“Oh, must be... oh shit,” Casey sputtered, getting it out and looking at it. “Oh my God... I forgot, his last audition was today.”

“Really?” Zeke said, looking blank-faced. Casey looked around quick.

“I gotta take this outside, too loud here,” he said, hopping down and clicking 'talk'. “Hello?”

“Casey?” Jake's voice on the other end said. It was muffled terribly.

“Hold on one sec, gotta get outside,” he said. He finally reached the door to the front and shut it behind him, taking a deep, cold breath. “So tell me! C'mon!”

“You're impatient...” Jake said, sounding amused. Casey groaned and rolled his eyes.

“TELL me,” He repeated firmly. He was lighting a cigarette nervously as Jake hissed in a breath.

“I'm in.”

Casey's eyes bugged, his cigarette stuck on his lip as he gaped. “Oh my GOD!” he yelled, getting odd looks from some people leaving the restaurant; he didn't care as he continued whooping and laughing. “Jake, I don't believe it!! I don't believe it!”

“I'm a bit in shock myself...”

Casey plopped down on a bench, breathing rapidly. “This is amazing. Oh hon, congratulations! GOD, if you were here...” Casey blathered on, laughing in his words. “Shit, I can't wait to see you again! We're going to have to celebrate somehow, Jesus...”


“What?” Casey said. The line went dead a moment. Casey chuckled, frowning a little. “What...?” he asked again.

“I'm not gonna be home... when you get there.”

“Oh. Well that's okay, whenever you get back we can—"

“No, Case, no,” Jake said; his voice went from calm to grave now, erasing Casey's smile. “I... I'd found out Tuesday. I didn't want to say anything then because--I wasn't sure if this would happen, and didn't want to worry you. But I have to tell you, now...”

Casey's eyes blinked furiously, the pause speaking just as well as words. “Jake... what is it?”

“We're staying in New York, for another week; me and the other five guys who got chosen. We'll be getting ready to... to head off to London by next Friday,” he explained, every word sounding strained.

Every muscle Casey owned tightened. “Lon... London?” Casey stammered.

Jake's swallow was loud enough to hear over the phone. “Yea.”

“But... wait, no...” Casey started, chuckling nervously. He took a deep drag of his cigarette, hand shaking. “They've GOT to let you come back--what about all your stuff?”

“They're gonna arrange to have stuff shipped. The agents here want us there ASAP,” Jake said. His voice was thicker now, obviously tearing up. “Casey, fuck, I am so, so sorry. You were so excited, I WISH you could have been here...”

Casey started breathing fast, Jake's words reaching his brain finally. He let his cigarette drop from his fingers, head shaking in disbelief. “No... Jesus, they can't just... DO that, they have to let you go visit family and stuff—"

“They'd said we could if we wanted to, but... we'd risk our chances of climbing back on a bit, since they're all running on a tight schedule.”

So?” Casey replied, feeling mindless. Jake scoffed.

“Casey, I can't risk that. Only one guy is going back, because his father's really old and he wants to make sure... Casey, I haven't seen my family since I came out. They don't care about me—”

I do!”

“Sweetheart, I know. I'm so sorry. I knew from the get-go this could happen, but I didn't want to put a damper on things.”

Casey squeezed his eyes shut tight, lips parted and panting. “Thanks... thanks for the warning, y'now?”

“Casey... please...”

“No, this is fucking fantastic! I'm not given ANY sort of idea what this is all gonna be about, left in the dark when it comes to 'hey, I might hafta dump you over the fucking PHONE come Friday'--it's all fucking GREAT!” Casey spat out frantically, lips growing moist with tears.

“Hey... you all right?”

Casey's head whipped up, seeing Kris standing there, looking concerned. He shook his head and cringed, standing up and moving away. “Fucking Christ...”

“Casey, please; I don't WANT this, I don't want you so... hurt,”

“Well I AM! Y'know that? What do you expect me to do, yell 'Bon Voyage!' and do a fucking jig?”

“Case, seriously... you okay?”

Casey turned back around, looking to Kris with wide eyes and a sarcastic smile. “I'm sorry Kris, no fucking time to talk--being DUMPED via a cell phone call.”

Kris blinked in wild wonder, mouthing 'oh shit' at this exclamation. Casey whirled back on his heels, starting to pace. “Okay, Case... really, calm down,”

Fuck you. All right?”

“Don't say that to me. I know you don't fucking mean it, but do NOT say that to me.”

Casey began letting out choking sobs, moving to the curb and sitting, curling into his legs. “You can't... do this to me. You can't.”

“Oh fuck... don't say that, please don't. I'm not exactly thrilled by all this myself...” Jake said with a heavy choke.

Casey went silent a few moments, hearing Jake sniffling on the other end. He knew he was being unfair; he just didn't want to care that he was. “I don't... I don't even have a ride home from the fucking airport now... oh god, this is so stupid, I HATE traveling from Logan by bus... I don't know why I CARE right now about this fucking detail...”

“Baby, I already called Alex, he knows, okay? He said he'd give you a ride home.”

“In his fucking piece of shit? It dies every other day!”

“I... don't know what to say here. There doesn't seem to be anything I CAN say to make this better,” Jake replied. Casey laughed wryly.

“Not your JOB to make me feel better; your job right now is to dump me in a FUCKING PHONE CALL!”

“Casey, what the FUCK do you want me to do?” Jake said, his voice rising in volume. “Take a side trip to Ohio? Spend a few days telling you I'm sorry in person??”

Impossible; everything was just that right now, backing Casey into a tight corner. “I can maybe... I can switch flights, go to JFK, we can at LEAST see each other before you go.”

“Jesus...” Jake whined, sounding desperate. “Casey, there's no way. I'm gonna be here doing all SORTS of shit, tied up from sunup to sundown; I can't.”

“Well. Yea. What a GREAT fucking agency this is, ripping you away like this,” Casey said, biting down hard on his lip. “So sorry if I'm not dancing in the streets, here. If that's what you fucking expected... hate to disappoint...”

Another silence resumed between them, both sniffling and sighing out small, sad moans. Casey shook his head, resting it on his wrist. “Sorry to be the jilted ex. Sorry I can't... I'm not happy for you right now, and it's fucking shitty of me, but I'm not.”

“I know, hon. I know; I didn't expect you to be thrilled about all this.”

“Good. Cos' I'm not,” Casey sobbed out.

“Listen... I have to go. We're going out to have a dinner--”

“Big celebrations, I'd bet.”

“I'm going to call you again, okay? When you get home. You're gonna be busy tomorrow.”

“Yup. Shooting a fucking wedding, that's gonna feel fan-fucking-tastic.

“These are your friends, Casey. Even if it's just watching them make their vows, you're gonna get all weepy over THEM, not me.”

“Like I said... it's not your job to make me feel better.”

“Casey... I hafta go. I'll call you, okay?”

Casey shuddered out a breath; he wanted so badly to hang up on him, but he'd never done it before, and wasn't going to start now. “Goodbye.”


“Just SAY it.”

“Goodbye, sweetie.”

'Fuck you,' Casey mouthed, clicking the phone off. He sat for a moment, staring at the green light upon the face of it, reading 'CALL ENDED', until it clicked to black. His first instinct was to throw it to the pavement, smashing it to pieces. He let it drop from his hand instead, bringing his fingers to his face and rubbing hard. “So that's it, eh? That's it,” he mumbled to himself.

“Are you okay, young man?”

Casey looked up slowly, finding a woman he didn't know peering at him curiously. “Don't... bother me right now.”

“Um... is there anyone I can get for you? Do you have a ride home?”

As kind as she was being, Casey almost spat out angry words; he didn't get the chance as the door behind them opened, and Zeke stepped cautiously outside. “Case?” he said softly, hand pushing the door closed slowly.

The woman bit her lip and walked off, giving Casey a look of concern before heading back inside. Zeke walked over, still making guarded movements. “Hey. What's... going on?”

“Shut up,” Casey muttered angrily for absolutely no reason. Zeke swallowed.

“Kris said... that you were out here and that--”

“'Kris said', great--so he's just in there blabbing this shit to everyone,” Casey said bitterly.

Zeke shook his head. “Naw... believe it or not he only told Delilah. She got me.”

“Oh GOOD, soon I'll have some gigantic 'pity-party' thrown for me. Fuck Stan and Stokes and their wedding, it's “Let's All Feel Sorry for Poor Casey Connor” day,” Casey said, sobbing a few times as he spoke.

“I'm not getting married. I got some time.”

“Oh what, time to spend with lil' ol' me?? Aw how nice, everyone can sit around and DOTE on me...”

“JUST me, Case. Everyone else is inside.”

“Yup. I should go home,” Casey suddenly blurted, standing up on unsteady legs.

Zeke stood up fast, shaking his head. “No, you're not just gonna run off. You don't have to go back inside, but just stay put a minute, all right?”

“What do you care?!” Casey yelled, turning on his heels to look at Zeke with fury. “After what I'd said the other day to you, how I wouldn't even go to your fucking FUNERAL, and you're gonna stand there and be some shoulder for me to cry on?”

“You were angry Casey. I can take it.”

“OH, but what if I meant it, Tyler?? What if I MEANT it?”

“You didn't,” Zeke stated plainly, calmly.

Casey blinked at his wet eyes fast, looking from Zeke to the side, back to Zeke, the ground... “I feel... so fucking lost right now. I feel so fucking empty and cold and just plain WRONG...” Casey admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. Zeke stepped forward, sighing as he put a hand on each of Casey's shoulders, bending his head down to look at him.

“You wanna just go to my place? Hang out, have a couple beers?”

“So sick of beer...”

“I got strawberry soda, too.”

Casey stilled in thought a moment. It was one of his favorites... Zeke KNEW that. It made his face crumble into tears again, not bothering to hold back as he put his head to Zeke's chest. “I'm so f-fucking sorry, all the shit I said to you I DIDN'T mean shit, I was just so goddamned MAD, I couldn't think... I couldn't think...”

Zeke said nothing; he let Casey cry into his jacket and pulled him in closer, patting his head.


“God... wish they weren't worried and shit,”

Zeke shrugged, throwing his coat onto a chair. “It's okay, Case. They're your friends.”

Casey looked away while shrugging off his coat. In looking around, he still felt odd to be here. Zeke seemed to notice, nodding towards the living room.

“Go on, relax; I'll get the soda,” Zeke told him.

Casey nodded, walking into the room and sitting on the couch. The old comfort of it suddenly hit him; it was such an old, creaky thing, the fabric of it worn and faded. Once you sat in it however, you just couldn't get up, hence the name bestowed upon it: “The Couch of Death”. It made a ghost of a smile appear on Casey's lips for a tiny moment.

Zeke soon returned with a tall glass of bright red soda. “Here,” he said, handing it to him.

Casey took it and sipped, feeling even MORE relaxed with the cool, crisp liquid. “Thanks,” he said, watching Zeke go over to the cabinet across the room. “What're you doing?”

“Getting a movie,” Zeke said, sorting through a stack. Casey scoffed.

“Not really in the mood for that,” he replied.

Zeke wore a mysterious smile, turning around. “I think you'll change your mind,” he said, going to the VCR and popping it in. Casey put his head back, uncaring. If Zeke had a whim, he had a whim. Zeke sat on the couch, still grinning.

“Well... what is it--” Casey asked, just as the screen of the television flickered. He watched on, face relaxing as a sudden vision came on, showing--dirt?



“How do you turn this thing on?”

A pause followed; Casey blinked his eyes furiously. “This isn't...?” he started, stopping when Zeke nodded slowly.

“Yuuup,” he drawled, smiling wider.

Casey's expression softened, lips parted slightly and eyes turning back to the screen.

“The thing IS on, Stan,”

“Well shit...”

“I thought this got eaten by Delilah's VCR?” Casey said with a growing smile.

“I know how to fix broken tapes,” Zeke said, shrugging.

Casey glanced to him, amazed. “I thought I'd never see this again...” he replied wistfully.

“I gotta piss, hold my pole.”

“Zeke, that sounds so WRONG...”

“Fuck off, hold the damned thing.”

Casey began laughing out loud, putting his knuckles to his teeth as he watched Delilah take the fishing pole with great distaste.

“HATE this shit. Give me a camper with running friggin' water and OH...”

“Here we go,” Zeke uttered, chuckling under his breath.

“REEL IT!! Delilah, reel him in!”

“Zeke, come BACK! I don't--OW!”

“Don't grab the LINE!”

Casey watched as he stood in the background, holding his own rod and reel. Delilah started yelping and grunting, pulling desperately at the gigantic fish now flopping in the shallow end. “CASEY! Oh my god, HELP!!”

Casey now threw down his own pole, rushing over and getting into the water. He pulled it out, looking at it in awe.

“Jesus, this thing is HUGE!”

“I caught a huge fish!” Zeke yelled from off-screen. Delilah gaped in shock.

I caught it!”

Stokely was snorting in amusement from behind the camera as the fish began flopping crazily, jumping out of Casey's grip. “Shit!!”

“AUGH!! No, get it away, get it away!!” Delilah screamed, the fish landing at her feet.

Both Casey and Zeke watched on, chuckles growing in volume and pitch. “Here comes the hero,” Zeke said.

Casey was grabbing at the fish, slipping out of his grasp when suddenly, Stan came out from nowhere with a huge stick.

I got it!” He yelled, striking the fish. Stokely was screaming with laughs now as Delilah screeched, catching a spray of fish guts on her white shorts.


While Delilah pushed Stan's shoulders, Zeke walked past them to the mashed fish. He stood up with it, holding it proudly and winking to the camera before walking off, Stan trying to get away from Delilah's raging. Casey went back to his own pole, chuckling in mad titters, obviously watching Zeke.

“Y'now what?” Zeke suddenly piped up.

Casey looked over, watching him sip his beer slowly. “What?”

“I never had to piss.”


“Nope; felt a tug and decided to let Delilah do the work.”

Casey's eyes widened. “Oh my fucking god... you DICK!” Casey yelled.

Zeke burst out laughing, continuing to watch the video. Casey looked back as well, feeling a warm rush in his body, possibly for the first, real time in a while.


“Zeke... that was awesome.”

Zeke smiled, taking the video out and putting it back. “Eh, I wasn't willing to count it lost. Not everyday you have shit like that caught on tape.”

“I know,” Casey chuckled out, finishing his second glass of soda. “I'd totally forgotten about that flaming marshmallow nearly burning down our tent.”

“Uh huh; Stokes has gotta watch that arm.”

“Jesus...” Casey breathed, relaxing his stomach still aching from heavy laughter. “Thanks for that.”

Zeke returned to the couch, the TV barely whispering a news program as he sat. It was quiet for a moment; Casey focused on what looked to be a report on bugs destroying crops when Zeke cleared his throat. “You were right, y'now.”

Casey turned back to look at him, frowning. “About what?”

“I'm thinking about applying to schools. I know I can get in a good handful.”

“Oh!” Casey gasped, brightening further. “Good, that's awesome!”

“Calm down, though... I gotta think a while on it.”

“Well... YEA, but...”

“Tell me about Boston,” Zeke asked.

Casey smiled a little. “Why?”

“Lots of good schools out there; I was looking at some even before graduating high school.”

“Oh? Thought it was all 'just goin' to tech school' for you,” Casey said, arching an eyebrow.

“Eh... I knew I'd be bored and hafta move on. So c'mon, sell me this east coast shit,”

The old excitement of getting to just talk ran rampant suddenly; Zeke was sitting back and absorbing every word. Casey went on about the historic elements of Boston, Fenway Park, the hundreds of colleges, the beaches of Cape Cod, witches and awesome Halloween parties in Salem... Zeke's smile only grew more and more as Casey spoke before nodding.

“Looks like I'm gonna HAVE to end up there,” he said. Casey was smiling so wide it hurt.

“That'd be very, very cool. I could show you around town.”

“Great, I'd be a fucking newbie.”

“Aw, even I needed a guide. Boston is great but it's TERRIBLE if you're actually looking for something in it. The streets make you wish you were driving twenty-four hours straight around New York City,” Casey explained.

“Sounds great,” Zeke grumbled, still grinning. “I take it you know the club circuit.”

“Eh, some,” Casey said, his expression shifting from happy to blank. He coughed lightly into his hand as Zeke sighed.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

“It's okay.”

“So um...” Zeke started, his voice sounding strained and somewhat insecure. “Did you like... did you love him?”

Casey stared at the floorboards, entranced by the wood and the question; Zeke honestly wanted to know. “I dunno,” Casey grumbled out, shaking his head. “I really fucking cared about him, I know that. I still do--the fuck am I saying, 'cared',” Casey said with a small laugh. He scuffed his shoe along the table leg in front of him, feeling absent and confused. “I feel shitty... y'now, this was his big break. I'm sure I ruined tonight for him. I just...”

“Yea well, he'll probably have a good night anyways, Case. I got YOU laughing, didn't I?” Zeke added. At Casey's small nod Zeke sighed. “So I'm sure he's out celebrating, putting off all the sad crap the next time you guys talk.”

“I hope so--really, I do,” Casey said. “He's deserved this. God, he's such a good guy, y'know? I was nervous about all this, but NEVER doubted him, really. I just KNEW he'd get picked. Lord knows I fell for the guy just seeing him dance, but... did I love him?” He paused now, deep in thought. Zeke sipped quietly at his drink while Casey pondered. “I... I think I loved the idea of him. He was someone who cared about me and well, someone I could care about. Lots of jerks out there. I got jilted a whole load of times. Whether I was that weird 'alien killing kid' or just laughed at when I'd read signals wrong... he wasn't like all that. He could charm the pants off of anyone.”

“Ut oh,” Zeke murmured, chuckling a little. “Don't tell me Casey-fucking-Connor kissed on the first date.”

Casey turned to him slowly. “Um... YEA,” he said, laughing. Zeke eyed him suspiciously. Casey scoffed and put his head back. “Christ, we didn't FUCK, I'm not like that--I DO wait through a few dates.”

“Aw,” Zeke cooed, sitting back further.

Casey shook his head. “So yea, I liked him, cared for him a lot- maybe loved him 'in a way', but... not IN love...”

“I'm sorry, Casey.”

“Eh, it's okay. I'll fall in love someday soon.”

“No. No, not that.”

Casey looked back at Zeke, frowning. Zeke was no longer smiling. “What?”

“What do you mean, 'what'? I'm sorry,” Zeke said dryly, looking right at him. Casey's lips parted, saying nothing; Zeke bit his lip a moment, shaking his head. “There was this one night, right? I'd gotten so fucking plastered, and I was ready to grab my keys and die. Just die. I wasn't worth shit, y'now? It was a week into classes and I felt like I was already failing. Stan was just starting his 'get off your ass, Zeke' campaign, and all I wanted to do was rot.”

Casey breathed in deep, staring at Zeke with an intense gaze. “Jesus, Zeke...”

“I was ready to... got the keys, went out to the car... and promptly passed out in the seat. Woke up the next morning with Stan pounding on my window; he thought I was dead, stuck a hose in the window... whatever,” Zeke mumbled. “Felt like I did. Opened the door and just tossed all over the driveway. Fuck man, that was some shit.”

“Why...” Casey started, swallowing hard and looking away. “Why are you telling me this?”

Another silence; Zeke looked blank until he shook his head, pressing his fingers to his eyes. “Casey,” he croaked out, the word heavy and desperate. “I'm so... fucking... sorry.”

For a moment, Casey couldn't move; the idea that Zeke was started to cry with him right there in the room was bewildering. He couldn't look over, fearing that if he caught one glimpse of Zeke's teary eyes he'd explode. But just hearing the apology, four years in the making... “It's okay,” Casey barely whispered.

“No... it's not.”

Zeke,,” Casey said firmly. “It is all right.”

Silence reigned, the only sounds being the gusts of heavy, cold wind outside; a dog's bark... wind chimes...

“Casey... do you have any idea how much I've missed you?”

A shuddering breath came from Casey's lips; eyes squeezed shut and tears started to flow. “Yea,” Casey replied softly.

“Okay,” Zeke murmured, coughing and lifting his cigarettes. “Want one?” he asked.

Realizing he'd smoked his last one a small while back, Casey smiled. “Fuck yea,”


The only reason he hadn't stayed overnight at Zeke's was because of the work this morning entailed, and he'd need the sleep. He would have been up all night, talking and hashing, re-hashing... but that wasn't for last night, no. Maybe later on.

You came back late last night.”

Casey looked up from his rushing around the kitchen, grabbing a makeshift breakfast of a plain, untoasted English muffin and a handful of raisins. His mother stood in the doorway, yawning and holding her head. “Oh... yea, I know--I was gonna call...”

“No worries, hon. I think you're past that, though I hate to admit it,” she said; a sudden sneeze made Casey almost jump.


“Yea,” she said, grabbing a paper towel and blowing her nose.

Casey smiled a little. “Was wondering what you were doing home so late in the morn',” he said.

“Feel like crap,” she said, sniffling.

“Well... I gotta run. I'm running late as it is. Damned alarm clock.”

“Oh I've been telling your father to get a new one,” she grumbled.

Casey smiled her way then gave her a careful kiss on her cheek. “Bye, Mom,”

“Bye honey. You do a good... ah-CHOO... ugh, jooob...”

Casey laughed his way to the car, packed all his things and got in. He sat for a moment, staring at the wheel. The smile he wore kept growing; having purged so much pain the night before, he felt lighter than air.


“Oh my god."

Stokely looked up from the mirror, turning to see Casey looking in. Her lips parted as she rushed forth. “Oh Casey,” she said, enveloping him in a hug. Casey outright laughed, moving her away to just stare.

“Stokely, for fuck's sake... Stan's gonna drop dead,” he said, gazing at the black velvet sheen of her dress, the red satiny flower-patterned panel going from the front of her chest to the floor.

“How are you?” she asked in a concerned voice. He sighed and shrugged.

“Stokes, I am okay. You're getting married, so don't even THINK of fawning all over me,” he said, cocking an eyebrow.

Stokely rolled her eyes. “My getting married doesn't mean you're okay.”

“But I am,” Casey brightly replied.

A small smile appeared in the corner of her mouth. “Uh huh,” she mumbled, turning back around to go to the vanity. She stared at his reflection in front of her, smiling wider as she applied blush. “So yea... how'd it go last night?”


“You left with Zeke.”

Casey looked to the side with an enigmatic smile. “We're cool.”


“Yea. We really are.”

Stokely's eyes closed a moment before reopening, looking a little glossy. Casey began unpacking his bags as she turned to him. “What happened?” she asked, curiosity dripping from her voice. Casey laughed.

“We talked; hung out... he'd fixed that video of our camping trip, the one we took after graduation.”

“REALLY? Shit, I thought we'd lost that forever!”

“Oh no, no--Zeke the genius strikes again,” Casey chuckled out.

“The genius, huh?” Stokely said in a sly voice.

“Yea...?” Casey drawled.

Stokely smiled knowingly, nodding. “Yea, you're cool...”

“Okay, got the makeup!” Delilah's voice suddenly announced as she burst through the door. “OH! Casey, honey! How are you?”

Casey was immediately crushed in a tight hug, the large handle to Delilah's enormous makeup case poking his back, hard. “Gah... I'm okay, lemmee breathe.”

She drew back, shaking her head. “When Kris told me what happened, oh my god... are you all right?” she asked, worried.

“Fine, Delilah- I'm fine.”

“Okay- you don't need him anyway, you've got us!” she cheerfully replied.

Casey smiled as now MORE girls piled in; Stan's mother, Stokely's two cousins... he worked on the settings of his camera, ready to take pictures. His eyes would work for the rest of the day if he went deaf; a small consolation as he winced over and over again at the high-pitched excited squealing.


Casey didn't know if bringing his camera into the room where the men were gathering was a good idea, finding what he did. “Is he okay?” he asked in concern as he stared at Stan lying on the floor, face red and feet propped up on a footrest.

“Um... yea. Stan?” Zach asked.


“You okay?”


“He isn't going to talk, he said. Not until he walks down the aisle and does the vow thing. He's not feeling so good,” Zach said, trying to hide a chuckle. A low humming came from the floor, Casey peering at Stan curiously.

“Stan--are you meditating?” Casey asked.


“Oh, right- forgot.”

Zach poured Casey a glass of champagne from the small counter and handed it to him. “You okay, man? Heard about the crap from last night.”

“Yea, yea, I'm cool,” Casey answered, sipping. Zach clapped him on the back softly.

“Okay,” he said. “You look a lot better than HE does right now, anyways.”

Casey chuckled. “Stan? Do you mind if I get some pictures?”

“For heaven's sake, son, get off the floor.”

Everyone turned, finding Mr. Rosado coming in; the man groaned heavily. “Hello boys.”

“Hi,” Casey and Zach said in unison. Mr. Rosado walked over to Stan and prodded him with his foot.

“C'mon, boy, it's picture time.”

“Daaad...” Stan whined past another low hum. Mr. Rosado grunted and he kneeled down, tugging at Stan's shoulder.


Casey chuckled as Stan moaned loudly, sitting up. “I'm just trying to relax! Jesus, at least I haven't fainted, like SOME people I know.”

Mr. Rosado pursed his lips. “The longer you lay there, the more lightheaded you're gonna get.”

While Stan grumbled with annoyance, the door opened again. Mr. Mitchell appeared; he looked red faced and cheery, slightly overcome. “Hi everyone,” he greeted them all. Walking over to Stan, he extended a small cup and smiled. “Here you are, son.”

“Thanks,” Stan said, taking the glass of water.

“Knew you'd need it.”

“So Case...” Stan said, taking a sip and relaxing. “How's everything with the girls? Is um... Stokely okay?”

“Oh yea, she's fine.” Casey answered.

“Oh,” Stan said, sounding defeated. Zach snorted; Mr. Mitchell sat with a deep sigh.

“Don't you worry, son. I'll be willing to bet she's near passing out herself; she just won't admit it,” he reassured.

“You got yourself a girl of steel there,” Mr. Rosado said, bringing Mr. Mitchell a glass of champagne. He clicked the glasses together and grinned. “Wish my boy was like that right now.”

“Humph,” Stan said, looking morose. Casey shook his head and went over to him.

“You're gonna be fine, y'now. If anything, think of the fucking partying that's gonna happen tonight. I can't wait for that myself,” Casey said, nudging him with his knee.

“I know. I just don't... wanna mess this up.”

“You're not gonna.”

“Zeke here?” Stan asked, peering to Casey curiously.

“Didn't see him yet, no.”

“You guys um... were you cool last night?”

Casey nodded, smiling. “Yea. Things are cool,” he replied.

Stan's face relaxed, lips twitching. “Really? Things are cool...? Not just 'yea, we're being polite'?”

“Yeees, Stan,” Casey said, chuckling heartily.

“Okay... that really makes me feel good,” Stan told him, taking Casey's knee and shaking it. “Fuck, that makes me feel good.”

“ALL right, picture time. Get up, boy,” Mr. Rosado announced.

Casey smiled and stood, getting everything ready. The fact that Stan hopped to his feet looking much happier made his heart feel warm.


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