|Title: Tahitian Moon (Act One)
Synopsis: Post-Marybeth world, wherein Casey is murdered by a psychotic alien cult. Zeke has to deal, trying to learn how to.
Warnings: Death of major character, LOTS of angst, heavy violence.
Disclaimer: I own nothing--all fantasy on my end.
Author's Notes: WIP. Big, huge thanks to my lovely, beautiful beta, lisabellex, for putting up with strangely placed commas and buldings chasing Zeke around town. ;)
He was on a beach again. It felt warmer than the last time, even though it was deep into the night. No breezes came from the ocean to cool the sweat on Zeke's bare shoulders and chest; in fact, the small amount of sea spray that did find him felt like the water had been boiled somehow.
He took a long, shuddering breath. He knew he was waiting for Casey again. He'd left him at a beach the last time, and even if this one seemed different, Casey had to meet up with him again. Zeke didn't know how long he'd been waiting, but the sand he sat upon felt hard, and was making an ache swell in his back.
His eyes suddenly darted upwards, alerted to a small light in the sky. It wasn't a star or the moon, but what looked to be a small fire. It hung in the air as if floating, creating a tiny reflection in the water below. Zeke scanned the horizon and realized…
'There's a mountain in the sea,' he murmured to himself. He stood and stared at the darkened outline of what had to be a large rock formation protruding from the water. It wasn't that far off, but far enough. Before he could sit back down and forget about it, a wave suddenly splashed further than it had before, ending at Zeke's toes.
The seawater was boiling hot… Zeke cringed and leapt back, feeling afraid. The hot saltwater slid back like a retreating blanket; he glanced to the wet sand it left behind and gasped.
A long trail of black stones lined a path from the spot where he was standing to the water. He crawled over to the nearest one and blinked, seeing it shine in the dim moonlight. 'It's a pearl. A dark, black pearl…'
He laughed aloud. He didn't know why; perhaps Casey would rise up from the water soon to show off his new collection of ocean gems… but…
The water was way too hot for that. Zeke shook his head and picked up two of the pearls, just as another wave hit. This one was bigger and much more forceful, smacking Zeke's body upwards and onto his back. He screamed out, feeling like his skin was being burned off of his body.
There was nothing he could do to stop it; the ocean was too powerful, and he found himself being dragged out to sea with the wave's exit.
Getting pulled under, Zeke fought to reach the surface; the pearls in his hands prevented him from swimming effectively. He could not, however, let go of them. 'Can't let go,' he thought with desperation. Just as he was resigning himself to drowning, his feet were grabbed from below. Panic swelled as he tried kicking the thing-- whatever it was, away, but stopped when he realized that whatever had grabbed him was pushing him up, not pulling him down. The water grew cooler at the same time and Zeke relaxed, finally finding the surface and air. He gulped it in hungrily, choking and coughing.
A head rose in front of him and Zeke smiled. 'THERE you are!' he said with relief.
Casey was smiling at him, paddling his hands smoothly and keeping himself aloft; the soft, calm waves moving them in slow motion. 'You found them. Good, I'd dropped them there for you. KNEW you'd get lost.'
'You never told me where you'd be.'
'Yea I did… I said I was in Morocco,' the boy replied in an odd, mysterious voice. 'Like in 'Casablanca', I'm Rick, in Mo-RO-cco,'
The strange emphasis on the word made Zeke frown. 'You never fucking said that,' he retorted angrily.
Casey bobbed his head from side to side, giggling away. 'It's a joke!' he laughed out. 'Now hurry up, or the sharks'll get you.'
Casey had giggled through the words, so 'sharks' didn't seem too threatening to Zeke. They began swimming together, Zeke following Casey carefully. 'Can we roast a marshmallow at the fire?'
'Did you bring any?'
All at once, everything faded to gray; the dark sky seeped down, and everything went black. Zeke felt his eyes roll around as he was brought back to consciousness, no matter how hard he fought it. He whimpered a little past his pillow, wishing his sleep could have gone deeper instead of being interrupted by the way-too-early wake up call of his alarm clock.
“Christ…” he mumbled. Now Morocco? 'No one said that dreams had to make sense,' he thought… though again, somehow it did. All of that drifted away as he leaned up, seeing the time at four-thirty.
'Oh yea… we're leaving now,' was his last bleary thought as he got up from his bed. He felt almost sad to leave it, knowing he'd not return to sleep here for however long.
The sky was still dark as the last bag was shoved into the trunk of the GTO. Zeke crammed it in amongst all the other things he was taking along, plus the random junk already there. Once able to shut it, he turned and looked to the porch, where Vicky was emerging. She wore a sad expression as she locked the door. “Ready?” Zeke called out.
She nodded slowly yet didn't look his way just yet. She stared at the door and hoisted her purse onto her shoulder. Zeke sighed and went to the driver's side, waiting. Vicky finally tore herself away and headed down the stairs.
“You all right?” Zeke asked.
“Yea,” she feebly replied. “Just… guess I didn't realize I'd miss home this much.”
Zeke shrugged and made a small smile. “I'll miss it, too.”
Vicky smiled and looked to him, shaking her head. “Well, it's time for both of us to go on adventures, isn't it?”
As Vicky walked around to the other side, the sound of a car pulling up made Zeke turn to look. He groaned with half-frustration, half-pleasure in seeing Delilah's Jetta; she wasn't the only one in it, as three doors opened with the engine still running. “Don't you guys have class?” Zeke called out to Delilah, Stan and Stokely, who were now heading down the sidewalk to the drive.
“It's six in the fucking morning, we have time,” Stan replied. “Hey, Mrs. Tyler.”
Vicky nodded and smiled. “Hey there, Stan… hi, girls,”
They regarded her with small smiles, with the exception Stokely. Zeke leaned on the car, crossed his arms and sighed long and loud with mock exasperation. “Come to see me off? I was gonna drop by your place anyway, Rosado.”
“What for?” Stan asked.
“Here,” Zeke said, taking an envelope from his back pocket and handing it to him. “It's the key to my place. Keep an eye on it for me, and uh… use it for whatever.”
Stan's eyebrows rose in interest as he took it. “If you're sure…?”
“Yea,” Zeke said. He then looked just behind Stan, finding Stokely standing with a blank, unreadable expression. She puffed at a cigarette, seemingly uncaring. “Long time no see,” Zeke said.
She shrugged. “Yea… will be another long time, too,” she replied.
“Oh Stokes…” Delilah huffed out.
“What, he's just fuckin' taking off,” Stokely said in a slightly sullen voice.
“She's taking it hard,” Stan said. He stepped back and put an arm around her, squeezing her tight. “She'll probably be bawling ten minutes into her Lit class.”
“Fuckin' won't,” Stokely grumbled.
Zeke almost smiled; there were tears in her eyes already. “I'm not leaving forever, you dumbass,” he said.
“Zeke… you take care, okay?” Delilah said, stepping from next to Stan and taking Zeke in a tight hug. Zeke hugged back as she moaned out a sigh. Pulling away, she bit her small smile. “Don't get into any trouble. Got that?”
“Right,” Zeke replied.
“Sure, Del-- he'll get twenty miles away and do something fuckin' nuts,” Stan said with a laugh. He was next to give Zeke a hard, friendly hug. “Don't change, man.”
Zeke nodded and bent away from him, looking to Stokes. “You gonna give me some sugar, Sugar?” he asked.
Stokely rolled her eyes and begrudgingly stepped over. Her arms were limp as they slid over his shoulders, barely holding him back. Zeke clucked his tongue as he squeezed her, hard. “I'm gonna call and stuff, all right?”
“Whatever,” Stokely said; Zeke had to brace himself with the teary voice she had… already. She broke away and immediately turned, her hand going to her eyes as she walked off.
“She'll be okay,” Stan said. “You get goin'. Have a great time. Bye, Mrs. T.”
Vicky smiled and made a little wave. “Bye Stan… you be good too,”
“Thanks, man,” Zeke said, giving one last slap and hold to Stan's extended hand. Delilah smiled and took Stan's arm.
“Let's roll. Bye, babe,” she said, waving Zeke off. Stokely was already sitting in the idling car, flicking her cigarette out the window as the other two climbed in. Zeke watched them go, his lips gone into a tight line and fists clenched hard. The moment he got in the car and got them out of the drive, he was truly gone.
“Take this, all right?”
Zeke looked to Vicky's hand, finding a cell phone being offered. “Oh… all right, cool.”
“That way I can keep up with you. I've already programmed my cell number into it, and I'll be handling the bill. No worries,” she said.
Zeke nodded and pocketed it; his eyes looked up towards the last door leading to Vicky's gate, one he couldn't go through, and swallowed. A week ago, he'd pictured himself barely slowing down to push his mother and her luggage out in dropping her off. But now… “Thanks, Mom,” he said.
“For coming to see you? It was long overdue,” she said. He half-smiled and shrugged.
“Yea well, you did,” he said. He had a hard time looking at her directly, but he forced himself to. Oh God, the waterworks had started on her end, making his own start to overflow. “I'll be all right. Promise.”
“I know you will,” she said. Biting her lip, she grabbed Zeke and pulled him into a tight, warm hug. “God, I'm gonna miss you, Zekie.”
“Yea… I'll miss you too,” he admitted, holding her back just as tight-- tighter, even.
“If you need anything, call. I'll put shit on hold from now on for you-- I owe that much.”
“Okay,” Zeke said. They moved away from each other; Zeke forced a smile on and chuckled. “We're kinda a mess right now, huh?”
“It'll get better.”
“Yea. It will,” he said. “I'll see you then.”
She nodded and took up her carry-on bag. “Bye, honey. Remember, just a call away,”
“Bye,” he replied. She began walking off, giving him her somber smile just over her shoulder as she went. He stayed there at the gate watching as she was checked in, had her bag inspected, and then melded into the small crowds ahead. With one last look and a wave, Vicky disappeared.
Zeke pursed his lips a little and turned to the hallway next to him. His steps were slow as he made his way through the labyrinth leading to the main parking lot of the airport. People milled around everywhere; some in the middle of greeting others with squeals and joyful ramblings-on, business-people looking hassled and uncaring, and others still, just like Zeke, saying their emotional goodbyes.
'You're leaving it all, man. It's good… it's a good fucking thing,' he thought and nodded to himself. Right now it stung, but there'd be that moment where everything fell into place.
It came quicker than he realized it would. He got into the lot and went down a few rows of cars until he found his own. With a groan, he climbed inside, keyed the engine and flicked on the radio, and almost laughed out loud as he shut the door.
'…cos' I'm al-ready gone, and I'm fee-feeling strong-- I will si-ing this vic-try song…'
Normally 'The Eagles' did absolutely nothing for Zeke, but if this song weren't coming from a radio station, he'd have put it on repeat. He lit a cigarette and opened his window, leaned back a moment and let his foot fall on the gas. The roar of the engine made a nearby couple look over as they dragged bags behind them; Zeke smiled and put the car in reverse. “Fuck yea,” he growled out.
Zeke tapped his fingers on the window's edge, shaking his head a little. For such a dinky, stupid state, Ohio sure could build up a lot of traffic. Perhaps bordering along the bigger cities was a bad idea.
Now some guy was blinking just next to Zeke, trying to move into his lane from his side on the left. Looking out, Zeke saw police lights way up ahead-- they seemed to be tending to a fender-bender. “Oh, that's why,” he groaned aloud. Well, fuck if he was letting this giant SUV get in front of him. He made his position known with a quick dart of the eyes to the left and a small rev of his engine. If the guy was in the wrong lane to get moving, it wasn't Zeke's job to make life easier for him.
He felt like sideswiping the cherry-red vehicle in seeing him edge closer; the van in front of Zeke had rolled a few inches ahead. “Don't even,” Zeke mumbled. He looked to the dashboard where his frog sat and shook his head. “Some people are just assholes, huh?”
'Oh God. I'm talking to a stuffed animal,' he thought. He was almost distracted from noticing that the van was steadily moving forward. He put his foot on the gas just in time, making the SUV-man halt quickly. He couldn't help feeling an odd sense of triumph, no matter how small and stupid it was. He switched stations on the radio, growing tired of the metal show playing. It wasn't all that bad, just seemed to be making his frustration worse.
The fact that he decided to stop on a 'lite rock' station made him snort; but then, as though the song by 'Mariah Carey' was being performed by angels, traffic began to move a little quicker. Zeke found himself passing the small, insignificant accident soon enough and took a quick look in his rearview. He was glad to see the SUV still struggling to get by. “Whatcha get for having some big-assed car,” Zeke mused aloud. Traffic picked up full-speed now, freeing him from stillness and annoyance. He stuck a cigarette between his lips and shoved the car lighter in. The next sign he passed detailed the upcoming exits, one showing off the town of 'Braysville, Indiana-- 24 m.' Zeke smiled… not that Indiana was going to be his top choice to have to go through, but putting Ohio behind him was optimal.
It was the act of running out of cigarettes that made Zeke stop at the gas station-diner that rested along the long, country road. In doing so, he realized he needed gas as well. 'Five hours of driving, straight… well fuck…'
His legs felt like he was stretching his muscles clean off as he stepped out of the car. He winced a little, shut the door and made slow, pained steps to the entrance to the shop.
The place seemed trapped in time. The small cement walk was level with the old, cracked tar of the lot, and dirt and weeds poked out at every open spot. He kicked at a pebble, sending it clicking and clacking down the walk, knocking into a very old soda machine. It felt like he'd driven back to the past-- at least fifteen years, if not more.
The shop was a little more modern inside, although the small counter that ran along the far side looked even older than everything else. Still, rack upon rack of snacks, candy and whatever else soon seized his attention, making him look around. Besides the small bag of Fritos and a bottle of orange soda he'd brought along with him, he hadn't consumed anything but half a pack of cigarettes. The smell of cooking meat soon made him turn away from the chip rack, however.
One man sat at the counter, drinking coffee and reading a paper. The small rounded swivel chairs looked comfortable, and the food smelled even better. An older woman stood at the stove, flipping shredded steak, onions and peppers around. Zeke's symptoms only grew more intense as she laid a few slices of cheese on the top. 'Oh God. So hungry…'
The woman looked over when Zeke sat down. “Be with ya in a minute,” she told him, wearing a warm smile.
“Sure,” Zeke said. He snatched up a bedraggled-looking plastic menu from the small stack standing in a rack next to him and perused the meal selections. His eyes shot over to the sandwich section, finding a plethora of choices. Still, the steak smelled delicious.
“Here ya are, Will,” the woman said to the other man, handing him his delicious looking meal, accompanied by a large slice of pickle and chips. He was too busy staring at it to notice that the woman had come over to him. “What'll it be, young man?”
“Oh…” Zeke muttered, waving the menu towards the man. “Um, a Pepsi… and what he's having,”
She smiled and turned back towards the grill. As she began fixing up his late lunch, the man next to him smiled Zeke's way. “Best steak and cheese you'll find in Indiana,” he said. “Good ol' Sarah's a gem,”
The woman chuckled. “No matter how many sweet words you throw at me, you're not takin' Jerry's place.”
“Eh, that man doesn't know how to appreciate your cooking, going on that… what the hell diet is it?”
“Atkins… it's a meat diet, so he can still have my famous corned beef.”
'Will' huffed and rolled his eyes. “Not your strawberry pie, though. What a waste.”
Zeke smiled a little at their conversation, fiddling with his napkin. It became quiet, besides Sarah's small humming as the meat hit the stove in a hiss. Will returned to his newspaper and sighed. “Looks like that crazy case in Michigan's gonna invade the papers for a few weeks,” he said.
“Well, it's big news. It's not every day you have a bunch of crazies doing something like that,” Sarah replied.
Zeke went still. He knew he'd see and hear things like this along the way, but it still took him back to his hometown in his mind. He chose to ignore it, glad for Will's shaking head as his only reply. A few minutes later, Sarah presented Zeke with his meal. “Here you are, son,” she said kindly.
He took it eagerly. “Thanks,” he said. The feel of the thick, warmed bread and the small drip of oil on his thumbs was the most welcome thing he'd had on this trip so far. His first bite was like manna from heaven after weeks of starvation. He calmed himself enough to not look like he'd walked through a desert for days and days.
He didn't notice the man staring at him with an inquisitive gaze until he reached for another napkin. He blinked a few times as Will didn't bother looking away. “Um… yea?”
“Nothing… you just look familiar. Where're you from?”
Zeke swallowed hard. “Um… Dayton… Ohio,” Zeke replied haltingly.
Will nodded, his eyes still narrowed and regarding Zeke carefully. His mouth opened to speak again, when a small gasp came from Sarah. Both of them turned to look, instant concern replacing the curious expression Will had been wearing. “What happened?” he asked as Sarah rushed over to the sink.
“Just a small burn… damned grill,” she said gruffly.
“Want me to kiss it better?” Will asked, waggling his eyebrows.
Sarah scoffed. “Mind your beeswax, eat, and go bug someone else, you.”
Will chuckled and leaned forward, forgetting the small conversation he'd had with Zeke. Now Zeke finished hastily, not feeling like sitting here with these people any longer-- friendly as they seemed to be. When the last of his sandwich went down, he downed the drink, grabbed the paper plate with chips and pickle and went to stand.
“All set?” Sarah asked, returning from washing her hands.
“Yea… do I go to the front counter for gas and stuff?”
“Yup-- I'll take care of that. Your bill for the meal will go with it,” she said. Zeke nodded and followed her to the front, grabbing a can of 'Jolt' along the way. He put it down on the counter and waited while she rang up his bill. “How much gas?”
“Oh, twenty bucks,” he said, getting his wallet out. “And a pack of Marlboro 100s, please,”
“Can I just see some ID?”
Crap. Fucking crap. The fake ID, bearing a fake name, was kept in a separate wallet, which sat in the glove box. Zeke swallowed, simply hoping she wouldn't notice and handed her his license.
Sarah narrowed her eyes to read it; a moment passed as she scrutinized it. When the furious blinking came, Zeke was tempted to run out of the shop. She looked up quick, staring at him with question. Zeke readied himself for the recognition…
So he was surprised to see her turn to the register and ring him up, not saying a word about it. She cleared her throat and turned to the cigarette racks. “So… Marlboro 100s?”
“Y…Yea,” he shook out. In watching her grab a pack from the slot, he held up his hand. “Actually… can I have a… have two cartons?”
Sarah nodded-- knowingly, almost, and bent down to the cabinet below. Reaching inside, she took out his cigarette selection. 'The less of this happening… the better,' he thought. The small smile she gave him gave nothing but simple kindness away to anyone who might've been looking on. It made him feel grateful. “Thanks,” he said. The bill came to one hundred and two-fifty; he put down two bills, a hundred and a twenty then made to leave.
“Sir, your change…?” she said quickly, opening the register.
Zeke shook his head in reply, causing Sarah to blink a few times before nodding.
He left the shop, feeling exposed… but safe.
(Somewhere in the fog)
“God damn it,” Zeke muttered for about the tenth time in less than an hour. He could only assume two things: one, he was still in Indiana, and two, he didn't know where in Indiana. He doubted anyone who lived here knew, either. It had to be the most backwoods, backwards area he'd ever been through.
There seemed to be nothing but trees, long stretches of fields and roads and an occasional house, set high up past long drives. The only reason Zeke knew there WERE houses was by catching mailboxes along the streets, just as he'd pass through the heavy fog that hid damned near everything. Otherwise, no one lived here. There was no need for hotels, motels, or even a campground around here, and the realization made him scowl to himself.
He knew he should have ended 'day one' of his trip back in the more urban area of Batesville, which he'd left behind a good hour ago. He had half a tank of gas, and he wasn't sure whether he'd make it out of here on that. With a sudden, heavy yawn, he swallowed and kept going, blinking hard to keep his eyes open.
There had to be somewhere-- somewhere soon that he could at least pull over and get some rest. He'd end up falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into a cornfield or ditch if he didn't. “Getting a map tomorrow… if I find a place that sells 'em…” he mumbled to himself, lighting another cigarette. The smoke managed to keep him alert, so he'd lit one right after the other, after the other…
He turned a corner and groaned. The fog was even thicker just ahead, hiding everything from view. The beams from his headlights looked like solid cylinders, managing to make things a bit easier to drive through. The tall cornfields on either side of him were starting to get to him; his imagination started up a scenario of stopping here to rest, only to wake up tied to a cross surrounded by psychotic 'Children of the Corn'. At least it kept him a little more alert, and vowing to keep going until he saw a tree or two.
The small bump he hit made his Tom Waits CD skip. He'd given up on the radio a good half an hour ago, when every single station had disappeared. “All right,” he said aloud. “If I lose the undercarriage of my goddamned car…”
It was then the heavens decided to end this 'test' of Zeke's will as the fog started to dissipate, and everything became much clearer. The left side of the road turned into a grassy field, with an old wooden fence lining the long stretch of it. Zeke scanned it with hope, until finally he saw he was approaching a dirt drive of some sort… no, a patch, where it seemed many had pulled over. There was room for about three cars.
It'd have to do. Zeke slowed and turned into it, hearing the rocky scrape and pops beneath his tires. He put the car in park then turned the engine off, creating an odd, smothering numbness. His hands dropped to his sides and his eyes stared blankly out through the windshield.
It was pretty; the sky here was even clearer than it was in Herrington, showing off an entire landscape of stars and wispy clouds. It wasn't long before his travel-tired body caved in to sleep, letting his brain go as dark as the night sky.
“Momma! Look, what's that?”
“Justin, come back here!”
Zeke frowned, his face twitching at the sound of voices.
Voices… 'Shit, where am I? Who the fuck is…' were his first thoughts as his eyes snapped open.
“There's somebody in here!”
“Justin! Back here, NOW!”
Zeke turned quickly to the window, looked out and saw a young boy just leaving his window and ambling off. Focusing his eyes as best as he could, Zeke peered into the rearview mirror, finding the boy reaching a woman at the end of a drive…
Well shit. Had he actually parked in someone's driveway? There WAS a small farmhouse, way off past the field he was parked by.
“You stay here,” the woman told the boy in a firm voice. Zeke swallowed as he watched her stalk over, looking angry. In the smallest moment she was there, blocking the heavy sunlight from view. Even though it was obvious Zeke was awake, she rapped on the window with her knuckles, making him wince and hiss. “Who the hell are you?“ she called.
Zeke closed his eyes and went to roll down his window. As it cracked open, cool breezes filtered in, awakening him further. 'Christ, I'm sore…' “M'sorry… didn't mean to…”
“Who are you?” the woman demanded again.
“I just got lost…” he mumbled. With a quick rubbing of his eyes, Zeke swallowed and turned to look at her. “I was looking for a place to stay, was gonna fall asleep at the wheel.”
The woman's jaw clenched a little, arms folding over her chest. “Well, you were shit outta luck-- there ain't any motels or anything in Letts,” she told him.
“Sorry… I didn't mean to park in your drive,” Zeke replied. He was surprised to see the woman's expression soften as she began biting her lower lip.
“It's all right, I guess. Just freaked me out, finding some strange car at my son's bus stop,” she said. “Why don't you get out and stretch your legs? You probably feel like hell.”
Zeke nodded, feeling less of an idiot. He was lucky to have come across a stern, motherly woman, rather than some crazed farmer with a shotgun. The awkward, embarrassed feeling left, to be replaced with a 'shit, I'm gonna fall on my ass' feeling when he opened the car door. His jellylike legs slid out and his feet found the ground, dirt and pebbles crackling under his boots. It was a gorgeous day, anyway, with the sunlight streaming over the long stretch of fields and roads, and trees in the distance swaying in the breeze. Using every bit of strength he had, Zeke stood, groaning with the aches and pains he felt. He took a long, languid stretch, hearing bones crack in his shoulders and back. “I won't be doing this again,” he yawned out.
“I like your car!”
Zeke looked over to the boy, Justin obviously, smiling his way while scuffing his feet. “Thanks, kid,” Zeke said.
“Is it a Corvette?”
“Oh… no, no,” Zeke laughed out. “It's a GTO. A LOT different.”
“He likes cars-- doesn't see a lot of them though,” the woman said, smiling a little.
“Where'd you come from?” Justin asked.
“Ohio,” Zeke replied, leaning back on the car. His hand went on automatic, reaching into his jacket pocket for his cigarettes. He stopped and peered at the boy, standing there with his 'Dragonball-Z' backpack and a widening smile. It could wait.
“You must've got way lost, ending up here,” Justin said, coming closer.
“Where're you goin'?”
“Justin…” his mother warned. Zeke smiled and shrugged.
“I dunno,” he replied.
“Justin, c'mon now. Leave the man alone,” the woman said.
“I was just asking…!” Justin said, now scuffing his shoes along the tops of the pebbles. It was then that a school bus was coming down the road, making Justin look up to it. With a groan, he turned back to Zeke. “I got a math test today. It blows.”
“Okay, Justin… you're asking for it,” his mother warned, rolling her eyes.
Zeke couldn't help chuckling. “Eh, you'll do okay, I'll bet.”
“C'mon now, hurry up,” the woman called, waving Justin back over. He trudged over just as the bus stopped and opened its door. “Now don't you worry, you studied all night for it.”
“Yea, yea… bye, Mom,” he said, letting her give him a quick kiss to the top of his head before boarding the bus. The woman smiled and waved; Zeke looked up and found a few kids peering out of the windows at him. He turned away and coughed, eager to have his morning smoke. Once the bus began moving along, he saw his chance and took out his lighter and pack.
“You'll probably want to head that way,” the woman spoke up; Zeke looked over just as the cigarette was lit, seeing her point the way he'd been going the night before. “That leads to Westport. If you need more rest, they've got a few places you can stay.”
“Oh… thanks… any restaurants or anything? I think I need to eat more than sleep,” he asked.
“Oh yea; I'd recommend 'Mill Street Restaurant'. Their breakfasts are a hella-lot better than the 'Denny's' they just put in,” she answered.
Zeke smiled and nodded. He dreaded having to get back into his car, but if it meant a nice plate of food, he'd jump in, happy as a clam. Before he did, he reached into his back pocket to grab his wallet. “It wasn't a motel… but I still used your land here,” Zeke said, opening it and taking out a twenty.
“No, you don't have to do that.”
“Yea, I do,” he said, extending the money out to her. “Get the kid some 'Pokemons' or… whatever.”
The woman rolled her eyes and smiled. “You shouldn't just hand money to strangers, young man.”
“Strangers shouldn't park in a stranger's drive,” Zeke retorted, with his own smile. “Especially when you can get your head shot off for doing it.”
“Oh you can, you can. If you'd stopped just a half mile down from here, Andy Jacobs would have mounted your head on a wall,” she chuckled out. “Count your luck, not what's in your wallet.”
“Eh… all right,” Zeke relented, replacing the money and getting the car door open. “Thanks, though.”
“No problem. Now get,“ she said, making a 'shooing' motion.
Zeke chuckled again and got in the GTO, turned it on and pulled out. A few moments later, he passed by the mailbox reading 'Jacobs', a 'NO TRESPASSING!' sign nailed to it, and realized he didn't know the woman's name.
Even with the aching strain of the past night into morning, Zeke made only one stop before driving another long set of hours. This time, he snatched a map from the corner store he stopped in at. Though the breakfast the woman had described had sounded fantastic, he opted for a small grocery trip instead. He needed some sort of food in the car, seeing as he'd gone and starved for hours.
He'd just finished his bag of sunflower seeds when he saw the 'Day's Inn' sign along the road. He pulled in, not wanting a repeat of his blunders from last night. It didn't matter that it was barely three o'clock in the afternoon-- he needed to stop and rest, even if it meant getting recognized. It was tempting to try and use his fake ID, but this wasn't some bar; if he were turned away from a bed and a shower at this point, he'd break down and cry.
Zeke pulled in, parked and dragged himself to the check-in offices. It was pretty quiet inside; he found only a young woman behind the counter, watching 'Oprah' on the TV set mounted on the wall, and one man sitting in the waiting area, reading a magazine. He approached the desk and smiled, getting the woman's attention.
“Hi… welcome to the Day's Inn,” she said in a bland voice.
“Hey… I'd like a room, please,” he replied just as dryly.
She nodded and stood straighter. Going to the computer, she began tapping keys. “One bed?” she asked.
“Uh huh,” Zeke replied. He sighed as he brought out his wallet, getting his money and license out.
“Mmkay… smoking or non--”
“Smoking,” he interrupted.
She tapped away a few moments more then nodded. “It's going to be sixty-five-ninety,” she told him. “I'll just need your ID.”
Zeke nodded and handed her the money and license. She grabbed up a small card and began filling it out. It didn't take very long for her to stop, blink hard and raise her head to look at him with bewilderment. “You're--!”
“Yea, I am. I'm really tired though, can I just get my room?” he interrupted in a tired, worn voice.
She now looked a lot friendlier than she had before. “Oh my God,” she said while shaking her head and continuing to fill out the card. “We never get any celebrities around here!”
“I'm not…” Zeke started. then he stopped, seeing no point in it. “Thanks… but I just need a bed right now.”
“Where're you going? Are you like…” she said, now lowering her voice and giving a quick look-around. “Running away or something?”
“Um…” Zeke blurted. The audacity of this girl was annoying, so unlike the first encounter at the gas station. “I'm almost twenty years old. I'm not… running away.”
“But like, from the law, I mean…”
“I need a room. I need a room right now, before I fall over and sleep on your floor,” he answered with frustration. She seemed to take the hint and snapped out of her odd behavior, filling out the rest of the slip and taking up a keycard.
“Um, it's room number seventeen. Just down the lot and to your left,” she told him.
“Thanks,” he grumbled, taking the key. He shivered a little when she made the obvious move of touching his fingers with her own, lingering for just a second then letting go.
It'd been a long time since Zeke had yelled at an episode of 'Wheel of Fortune', something he couldn't avoid doing when it was on. “Don't buy… what the hell are you doing?” he nearly yelled, watching the idiot onscreen buy an 'I'. Zeke scoffed in annoyance as the buzzer went off, showing the man's wasted effort. “Jesus, fuck you,” Zeke muttered, switching the TV off. He was too tired to worry about people's incompetence, anyway.
He scratched at his scalp, annoyed that he'd forgotten his shampoo and had to rely on the cheap, little bottle offered by the motel. He lay back and stared at the ceiling a few moments, making patterns out of the cracks like he'd always done at home. Figuring he'd have one last cigarette before his early night of sleep, he reached blindly to the side table for them. In doing so, he also found the small photo album of Casey's, which he'd put there for a possible look through, earlier on.
He sighed and took up the Marlboros and the book, tapping the box to the cover for a moment or two. Then, while one hand took a cigarette out, the other flipped the book open.
The blurred picture came first, daring him to flip further to the next page. Taking a quick look at Casey's inscription, he swallowed and pulled the next page open.
He puffed out a small sigh. Stan wasn't that bad a photographer, better than Stokely was, at any rate. It was a shot he didn't have from their Niagara Falls trip, where he was shown from the side in close-up, leaning over a railing and looking out onto the water below. Just past the cigarette in his mouth, Casey was also leaning, gone the tiniest bit out of focus in favor of Zeke's image. It didn't hide his bright smile, nor the deep blue of his eyes reflecting the glimmering water that was below them. Their hair was tousled, and their cheeks a little pink from the rushing wind of that day. Zeke remembered the moment clearly; it was only about fifteen minutes before they'd left, and the two of them were taking their last looks at the reason they'd gone there. Stan had said later that Casey would be proud of the shot.
Casey must've been… Zeke knew he was. It seemed to capture his mood perfectly, with his little half-smile, content as anything to be lost in this water-world with his friend, his boy. There'd been times he'd forgotten that the other three were with them. Even if he'd felt bad about it, he knew why. You just couldn't compete with Casey, on any angle.
Zeke narrowed his eyes and took a deep breath before letting the album go back on the nightstand. He was tempted to keep looking through it, but wanted to save some things for later. This would be a long trip; even if it was to escape these memories, he needed the occasional safety net.
'I told you that we'd get here… isn't it nice?'
Zeke nodded as he looked around the room he'd just entered with Casey, who seemed full of energy. 'But… where are we?'
'Look out the window,' Casey said, turning into a silhouette against the far end of the dark room.
Taking slow steps, Zeke went to the large window and looked out; the sight before him made him gasp. They must have gotten inside the ocean's mountain…
He was having this dream again. He understood that-- 'It's happening again,'
Zeke shook his head and turned to the boy, pain filling him at the sight of his smile. 'I came here… to forget you.'
Casey cocked his head to the side, peering at Zeke with curious eyes. 'Why?'
'Because you're dead,' Zeke replied, looking around. This wasn't fucking real.
Casey's smile was eerie as he cocked his head to the side. 'So?'
'I have to go. I can't do this anymore,' Zeke said. The dream began blurring, as if he were actually ending this in some conscious manner. I'm trying to get out. I can't DO this anymore, I can't…
He was shot back into the dream this time, instead of having it fade out. The pair of hands that came around his chest made his senses clench onto dream format against his will, forcing him to stay-- I want to wake up. This hurts. So fucking much, it hurts.
'You can't leave me… cos' I won't let you,' Casey whispered, tiptoeing to breathe the words into Zeke's ear. 'Don't think about it. Just let me.'
'Let you… what?'
Casey's hands pressed hard into Zeke's bare skin, pushing Zeke into awkward, backwards steps. Zeke almost jumped as he felt a sudden bite fall on his shoulder. He whirled around on his heels and grabbed Casey's wrist angrily. 'Don't! That fuckin' hurts!' he yelled.
Casey was smiling, his eyes full of an odd mischief. 'You want me, Zeke?' he asked. Before Zeke could form an answer-- impossible to do, it felt-- Casey began stepping back in small sways, making Zeke follow him. As if in a trance, Zeke stared at the boy in wild, painful wonder.
'Don't make me… I wanna go away from you, get away from you,' Zeke said with desperation. The world shifted as he was sent to his back with a hard push from Casey. He didn't know where the bed had come from, but he was soon pinned to it by the boy who crawled over him, now suddenly all naked skin and playful smiles.
'You want me, Zeke?'
This wasn't fucking FAIR. 'Stop it.'
Casey shook his head and bent down, putting his elbows to Zeke's shoulders and shaking out a breath. 'You do… and it won't ever stop.'
Zeke began crying, not bothering to hide his tears. 'Please, Casey… go home,' he pleaded.
Casey wasn't listening. His soft lips fell on Zeke's chin, sending shockwaves through Zeke's body. He panted and swallowed, so tempted to grab Casey and pull him away. His fingers laced into the boy's hair, jerked him back and flipped him over, putting him on top. No matter how mindless this was-- or how Zeke didn't want this, it didn't stop him from diving into the boy, wanting to devour him with hungry lips and tongue.
All chokes and gasps now, Casey squirmed underneath Zeke's body, rubbing against him with tight, tiny jolts. 'Miss you so much, Zeke,'
'Miss you… miss you,' Zeke shakily replied, still mouthing along Casey's neck and shoulder.
How Casey had grown so strong, Zeke didn't know-- but he was shoved off and slammed back on the bed, pushed there by small, rough hands. Casey crawled upon him again and put his face close to Zeke's. 'Wanna fuck me again?'
'Go ahead, Zeke. I liked it,'
It was an absolute shock, the way Zeke's eyes opened wide, bringing him out of his dream world entirely. They darted around the room in a desperate search for what he'd just had-- Casey HAD to be here; he'd felt him, he'd touched and tasted warm skin…
But he was only touching his own warm skin, realizing it when he looked down between his legs. He winced and irked out a groan, feeling sick. He couldn't remember the last time he'd done this-- and it hadn't been like this, a full-fledged jerk-off session, right in his sleep. The worst part was… he couldn't just stop. He made his grip a bit stronger, his hand already feeling sore along with the muscles in his legs and arms. Pressing his feet hard into the backboard of the bed, Zeke pushed against it, bracing himself for the inevitable
With his teeth biting down onto his lower lip, hard… 'Fuck, I can taste him…'
His jaw unhinged as he came, soaking his hand and the sheet covering him. He slammed his foot hard into the wood a few times, wanting to scream. Nothing was fair, nothing at all. His head spun as he slowly sank back into the bed while his hand slowed to a stop.
The dreams wouldn't end-- they taunted him mercilessly, giving him either brief smiles and comfort or absolute dread. Right now, he was filled with the latter. Bleary eyes looked to the clock, reading it at three-fifty in the morning. He turned his head away and stared at the low light coming from outside, running along the TV and shelf.
He desperately needed a wall to punch holes into, but he settled for turning on the TV, not caring what played. The 'Home Shopping Channel' was showing off a set of sapphire-rhinestone earrings. By the time they'd moved onto the next offer, he'd fallen asleep again, teary-eyed and angry.
After the middle-of-the-night disruption, another shower was in order for the coming day. On a positive note, Zeke had woken good and early, due to his going to bed early the previous day. He was rested enough to wake at seven, clean up and grab a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee from the continental breakfast set-up in the lobby. He was glad to go unnoticed, and, as an early bird, got to sample some of the better choices of food.
He brought everything back to his room and took up his map. While enjoying the surprisingly good coffee, he scanned the Midwestern states. He was already sick of Indiana, and was glad to see that he was just over an hour's drive to the highway that would lead him into Illinois.
While looking along Route 70, Zeke had to groan to himself. Of course there would have to be a town named 'Casey' along that way. Zeke huffed in a breath and puffed it out. Maybe going in a more 'southerly' direction would be best. There was a plus to going south; he could get through Illinois quick enough, if he did things right.
“I'm not gonna like anywhere I go, am I?” he asked aloud, muttering as he sipped his drink.
Like the story? Leave feedback!
Back to the fics